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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: A woman in my husband's office buys him gifts. They run the gamut from little personal things to expensive, imported items.

She says they are to thank him for all the times he has listened to her personal problems at work, along with helping her fix things like her car. My husband goes to lunch and out for coffee and smoke breaks with her instead of the men in his office. He has always been open about this.

I have asked him more than once not to be so personally involved with her, but he insists she is "just a friend." Abby, this relationship is hurting our marriage. My husband no longer confides his feelings to me. He saves them for her.

There she is all day looking great and able to share a quiet, oasis-like environment with my husband, while I am at home with three small children and all the chores.

This woman is married with children, too. I'm fuming because I think the extravagant gift-giving is every bit as inappropriate as the relationship. Am I wrong? -- JEALOUS IN JERSEY

DEAR JEALOUS: You and your husband are overdue for a getaway weekend to rekindle the spark. Marriage counseling could also help guide you through the process of reopening the lines of communication between you and your husband. Some changes need to be made in your marriage so that you are not so threatened and you, too, can enjoy more freedom. You'll both be better for it.

DEAR ABBY: I wrote the following note to my 40-year-old daughter:

"Please tell me how we can improve our relationship. It is important that you know how much I want us to have a more normal mother-daughter dialogue. Please tell me what you would have me do and how you want me to go about it. We need to act reasonably, rationally and honestly to resolve our differences. I pray you will agree. It would be so good for both of us."

My daughter replied:

"You already know what to do. I have been asking for the last 10 years. Pay off my old debts with no questions asked. These accounts are 10 years old. I barely get by with my day-to-day expenses. It is obvious that I'll never be able to pay these off myself. So give me the best Christmas and 40th birthday present I could ever have: freedom from debt, and good credit. Once that is done, we will be able to talk about having a better relationship."

Abby, I have helped my daughter financially over the years. She has never invited me to her apartment or prepared me a meal. She has a master's degree in public administration and works for the state.

We have had counseling. I told her I would be happy to pay a financial planner to help her get her life in order, but I would be doing her a disservice by paying her bills. What do you think? -- BEWILDERED IN FLORIDA

DEAR BEWILDERED: I think you have raised a daughter whose sense of entitlement boggles the mind. What you received was an extortion letter. I hope you won't give in to her demands. The solution you are willing to provide for her financial problems makes much more sense than bailing her out again. Stick to your guns and do not allow yourself to be blackmailed. Whatever is wrong with your relationship will not be resolved by giving her money.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, 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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