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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I worked the day shift and my wife worked the night shift in a hospital. My "buddy" (I'll call him Ralph) worked the night shift along with her.

Ralph was married, with a young wife and baby. I had never met the wife. After a few months, I realized there was hanky-panky going on between Ralph and my wife. Neither of them suspected I knew.

I was going to make a big fuss and confront them, but realized that people who cheat also lie through their teeth to save themselves. I could have punched Ralph out and thrown my wife out of the house, but I remained calm. Instead, I invited Ralph and his wife to dinner at our home. Next, I told my wife that we were having "surprise" dinner guests.

When the doorbell rang, she ran to answer. When she saw Ralph and his wife, her mouth fell open and for once she was speechless. She remained that way most of the evening as his innocent, cute little wife chatted on about her wonderful marriage and baby and hubby. Ralph and my wife hardly said a word. They appeared very uncomfortable the whole evening.

They both got my message without my firing a shot or his wife being hurt. Ralph went into another line of work two weeks later. -- SKINNED A CAT IN DAYTONA BEACH

DEAR SKINNED A CAT: I'm pleased your story had a happy ending -- for you. Now that you have "skinned the cat," it's time for you and your wife to adopt similar work schedules and begin rebuilding your marriage that became sidetracked. It's not enough to stop the straying; unless you confront the issues that caused it, it could happen again.

DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading the letter from "A San Diego Widow" and had to respond. My husband of nearly 35 years passed away a few months ago. Needless to say, it has been the most devastating loss I have ever experienced.

Within a couple of weeks of his death, a piece of the emerald in my wedding ring broke. The insurance company sent me to a wonderful jeweler to make repairs. I brought along my husband's wedding band, thinking he could make it smaller so I could wear it. Instead, he suggested that he make a heart out of it and, after replacing the stone in my wedding ring, take the broken stone and reshape it into a teardrop hanging from the center of the heart.

I now wear this simple yet beautiful heart next to my own combined with the original stone from my wedding band. Its emotional value is priceless. I never take it off and feel that part of my husband is always with me. -- ONE OF MANY FLORIDA WIDOWS

DEAR ONE OF MANY: What a touching story. And the fact that the stone within the heart is "broken" speaks volumes. Please accept my sympathy for the loss of your beloved husband.

DEAR ABBY: I have a big problem. I was married last August; my wife has an 8-year-old daughter who still sleeps with her. Have you any suggestions about how to get her daughter to sleep by herself without making this child feel abandoned or neglected? -- LONELY HUSBAND IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR LONELY: Yes. Get her an adorable puppy to sleep and snuggle with. That way, she won't be alone.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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