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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I've been married 14 years to "Joe," a man I don't particularly care for. We've had a rocky marriage from the start, and the longer we are together, the less I like him.

We have two children, ages 12 and 15. Joe ignores them and says he can't wait for them to grow up and leave. He claims to love me, but you'd never know it from his actions. He never considers my opinion or feelings -- and I can't stand him touching me. I prefer it when Joe isn't home.

He doesn't want a divorce, but I do. My 15-year-old daughter (by a previous marriage) doesn't care whether I stay with him or not, but our son would be devastated. Even though he and his dad don't do anything together, he says he loves him.

I know that divorce isn't supposed to happen in God's eyes (and I've already been divorced once), but I am miserable and would rather be single than struggling as I have for the past 14 years. I'm getting older -- and nowhere.

Do I sound confused? -- TIRED IN FLORIDA

DEAR TIRED: You aren't confused at all. You've had it with this poor excuse for a man. Offer him the option of marriage counseling, and if he hasn't shown improvement in six months, talk to a divorce lawyer.

Just because you are divorced doesn't mean your son can't see his dad often. And if he doesn't, the fault belongs to Joe.

DEAR ABBY: I couldn't agree more with "Sorry Now in South Carolina," who wrote about her "harmless little flirtation." (There is no such thing.)

A couple of years ago, I began flirting with a "sweet young thing" who worked in the same office building. She was full of personality, charm and good looks. Her welcome responses made me feel attractive.

Flirtation led to visits to my office "just to talk," which led to my calling her at home because we had become "such good friends." This, in turn, led to discussions about making love and an invitation to move in with her if I so desired.

There were absolutely no problems between my wife and me that caused me to behave like this. It was just the IDEA of the thing -- I thought I was "special" to that young woman, and it made me feel good.

When my ego had been boosted as high as it could go, I learned that I wasn't so special after all. It seems this young woman regularly had affairs with married men. I was just another challenge to conquer. She didn't care that she was wrecking someone's marriage, and she had no special feelings for me.

I used to be impressed when someone flirted with me. Now I ignore it and go on my way. I have finally realized that it's dishonest and insincere -- a fool's game. Thank God I wised up before it was too late. -- CLOSE CALL IN VIRGINIA

DEAR CLOSE CALL: You were lucky. Had your flirtation gone further, your wife would have been devastated and your marriage would have been trashed. I have a stack of letters from women whose hearts were broken because of extramarital affairs that began with a "harmless flirtation." Perhaps yours will make some of the office Romeos think twice.

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