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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 50 and have been divorced for two years after a 29-year marriage that was, at times, physically and emotionally abusive. I work full-time and attend college full-time.

Two loving and caring friends have helped me through the bad times with encouragement and advice. I often heed their advice, since most of the time it has been good and held true. However, I recently made a decision that has caused a rift between us and this disturbs me.

My son (age 30) and my daughter-in-law (24) have invited me to live with them until I complete my schooling, and I have accepted their invitation. This eases my financial burden (tuition, books, bills, life) greatly. They both have good jobs, no children yet, and are solid and easygoing. My girlfriends are appalled that I could live with my children who have been married only two years! They feel I would be invading their privacy and giving up mine, along with my independence. I assured them that this is only a temporary arrangement, since I have only a year and a half to finish school. I told them the most important factor is that it is OK with my children and OK with me.

My kids and I have discussed privacy issues and personal issues, and we all feel very comfortable with this. One of my friends said she wouldn't visit me at their home because she would "feel uncomfortable." My other friend told me she just doesn't feel that this is right. I love my friends dearly, but I am getting that eerie feeling of "control" from them that I had in my marriage. Am I right, or just paranoid? I'm afraid of making the wrong decision.

My children and I really do feel comfortable with the whole thing. Should I tell my friends it's time to "let me go" and lead my own life now? My friends also disagree with the friendship my ex-husband, his wife and I have. My ex and I both sought counseling during and after our divorce which uncovered a lot of hurt and allowed a lot of healing for both of us.

Help! These two are driving me crazy! -- JANE IN YAKIMA, WASH.

DEAR JANE: You appear to have your life on track after many unhappy years. Your friends may be well-meaning, but threatening not to visit as long as you live with your son and his wife is blackmail. Don't submit to it. Your relationships with your son, his wife and your former husband are admirable. Unless your friends are willing to stop dictating how you should live your life, now may be the time to start broadening your circle of friends.

DEAR ABBY: I dated "Howard" for eight months. He gave me a beautiful diamond tennis bracelet for my birthday. I broke up with him a month later. Now he's asking for the bracelet back! I don't want to return it. Do you think I have to? -- DIAMONDS ARE NOT FOREVER?

DEAR DIAMONDS: A diamond bracelet is a very expensive gift. Since you had it only a month before breaking up with Howard, the honorable thing would be to return it. Perhaps he'll be lucky enough to find another young woman who'll realize that as precious as the bracelet may be, he's the real "jewel."

Abby shares her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "Abby's More Favorite Recipes." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 per booklet ($4.50 each in Canada) to: Dear Abby Booklets, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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