Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: I met a really nice guy at a child's birthday party. About a week later we ran into each other at a museum. We talked and exchanged e-mail addresses. A week later I e-mailed him and the conversations began. I found out he was unhappily married.

We continued to e-mail each other. During every conversation, he told me how much he wanted to remove himself from his marriage; however, he didn't want to leave his children. He asked several times to take me to lunch or dinner. Because he was married, I refused.

Then last January, he asked if he could take me out for my birthday. I agreed to lunch. We had a wonderful two hours, and I kissed him at the end of lunch. What a great kiss it was! In March, he moved out of their home and into his own place. Then he filed for legal separation. (I saw the paper with both signatures.)

Since his move, his wife has begun to question him about seeing other people. According to him, she doesn't want him back, but she doesn't want him with anyone else. She insists he keep the children every weekend and any evening he isn't working.

Over the past month, our communication has declined. He's exhausted from working two jobs and spending every non-working moment with the children. He says repeatedly that he wants us to continue seeing each other, but he no longer has the time to see me or even e-mail me. Frankly, I don't see his wife changing her pattern anytime soon.

Last weekend, he told her he couldn't pick up the children on Friday night because he had "other plans." When he arrived at his apartment, she was sitting in the parking lot and insisted he take the children. He refused; she became angry and violent. He did not pick up the children that evening, but picked them up bright and early Saturday morning. What do you think is best for everyone involved? -- HIS FRIEND IN VIRGINIA

DEAR FRIEND: Right now, your new friend is in "no man's land." He's not exactly married, but he's not free either.

What's best for everyone involved? Marriage counseling for the man and his wife to see if they can resolve their differences. If they can't be resolved, then a divorce.

As for you, keep your distance and stay out of the line of fire. He may be separated, but he's still a married man. If you're looking for a future with him, it could be years -- and a lot of frustration and heartache -- away.

DEAR ABBY: What do you think of a woman who accepts a marriage proposal at her deceased fourth husband's memorial luncheon? And are we, her circle of friends, wrong to be shocked, scandalized and disapproving of this? She says it's "God's will." Does God run a dating service? Please advise. -- ASTONISHED IN GOODYEAR, ARIZ.

DEAR ASTONISHED: Unless the man who made the marriage proposal was one of the waiters, it's safe to assume that the grieving widow and the suitor are well acquainted. Have you never heard of a "match made in heaven"? If you are truly her friends, try to be less judgmental and happier for her.

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.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby