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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: For the last 12 years, I have been married to a good man and a great father. I have also been friends with a different man I'll call "Sam" for nearly 20 years. Sam and I have been through a lot together. He helped me through a rough teen-age period and my husband's infidelity. I helped Sam through his divorce and his affair with a married woman, who happens to be a close friend of mine.

My husband has never understood how a man and a woman can be "just friends" and never have any kind of sexual contact. But to me, Sam has been like a big brother. I have always defended my relationship with him by saying neither of us has those kinds of feelings for each other.

I believed that until recently, when Sam said something to me that makes me think he does. We were discussing the married friend he had an affair with, and he mentioned that she had asked him if we ever had sex. He said, "No, we never did -- but I wouldn't mind if we did." He then asked me if I ever had those feelings for him. I told him, "No, that would ruin a good friendship."

My problem now is defending my friendship with Sam, knowing he does have those feelings for me. I used to be comfortable around him -- like a buddy -- but now I'm uneasy. I don't want to lose his friendship, but I'm not sure I can talk to him the same way. It's almost like I did have an affair with him.

If my hubby even suspected Sam had these feelings for me, he would insist the relationship cease. Abby, you're the only person I can confide in. What do I do now? -- INNOCENT IN ILLINOIS

DEAR INNOCENT: First, accept the fact that Sam's friendship may have served its purpose. Frankly, that Q and A session was a betrayal of the platonic friendship you have enjoyed with him. That's why you are uncomfortable. Second, set a clear boundary -- and if it's crossed again, say "adios" to this "old amigo," who may never have grasped the concept of brotherly love.

DEAR ABBY: In a response to a recent letter you stated that you had received more than 100 requests to print the 15 warning signs of an abusive partner. Those warning signs are an excellent indicator of someone who is abusive. Anyone in a relationship with such a person would be more than justified in leaving.

What I find interesting, however, is that nobody has given any advice to children who are also the victims of such an abuser. While adults can sever a relationship with an abuser by leaving, a child cannot. The children usually rely on the abuser for the material necessities like food, clothing and shelter -- and this often gives the abuser even more control over the children.

I would like to know what advice you and your readers have for children who are suffering in such a relationship. I would also like to hear from adults who survived such an abuser. How did they do it? -- CONCERNED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR CONCERNED: Many children feel intimidated by -- or protective of -- their abuser and don't speak up. When I hear from children who are being abused, I urge them to confide in a trusted adult. Teachers, counselors, school nurses, coaches, doctors, psychologists, social workers and, in many cases, clergypersons are mandated by law in most states to report suspected child abuse and neglect to child protection agencies, which will investigate and make an appropriate intervention.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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