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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 30-year-old woman. I worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital for five years. Last month, I had an affair -- a one-night stand -- with a former patient whom I met in the hospital. It was discovered, and a week later, I was fired.

Abby, I swear nothing inappropriate ever took place while the man was a patient in the hospital. We only talked. Hospital management didn't believe me and gave me no choice but to "resign." Now I hear there are terrible rumors circulating about me.

Fortunately, my husband is standing beside me as I try to get on with my life. I feel like I have committed a felony and don't know how to forgive myself. -- MADE A MISTAKE IN MARYLAND

DEAR MADE A MISTAKE: You don't need me to tell you

that you committed a serious breach of professional ethics. Doctors, nurses, social workers and other health-care professionals must not have a physical relationship with their patients. Psychiatric patients are particularly vulnerable.

You and your husband would benefit from professional marriage counseling. It's important that you find out why you took a risk that sabotaged your professional future and compromised your marriage vows, so that you can understand and be able to forgive yourself.

DEAR ABBY: My son "Rudy" is 42 years old and still depends on me and his sisters to give him money to survive. He is an only son and brother and has always expected it from us.

Rudy never married and recently started living on his own, although he doesn't own much of anything. One of his sisters was generous enough to purchase a home for him to live in, but he refused to move to where the house is located.

He doesn't own a car, and I guess he is waiting for one of us to get one for him. In the past, we have bought him cars and trucks, along with beautiful clothing -- and he has nothing to show for it. All of us in the family have bent over backward to help him get on his feet.

Abby, what can we do to make Rudy understand that he needs to take care of himself without help from us? His sisters have cut him off; however, I am still trying to do the best for me AND for him. Your thoughts, please. -- NO NAME IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR NO NAME: Your son is old enough to be told the facts of life. Show him the help-wanted ads and point out entry-level positions. The gravy train has left the station, and now Rudy must stand on his own two feet.

P.S. He may need professional counseling to break his lifelong dependency on others. Let's hope it's the last thing you'll have to pay for.

DEAR ABBY: I love my wife dearly, but she has chronic bad breath -- and I mean BAD. I have tried talking to her about it; she just shrugs it off or says I hurt her feelings.

Every morning when I leave the house for work, she asks for a goodbye kiss and I reluctantly oblige. Please tell me what to do, Abby. It would be nice to enjoy a sweet kiss again. -- GASPING FOR AIR

DEAR GASPING: Perhaps you should change your approach. Tell your wife gently that you're concerned about her health, and you'd like her to get a thorough exam from both her doctor and dentist. Bad breath can be a sign of serious dental or medical problems and should not be ignored.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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