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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have the same problem as "Troubled Wife in Riverhead, N.Y." whose husband refuses to attend work-related social functions with her because he doesn't feel comfortable mingling.

My solution is to find a co-worker who might not have a "date" either and go with him or her. I have found that, especially with people who have recently become single and are tentative about facing social functions alone, it is a welcomed invitation. Should anyone ask why my husband is absent, I simply say, "'Betty' and I decided to make it a girls' night out" and leave it at that. -- SOLVED MY SOCIAL DILEMMA, EASLEY, S.C.

DEAR SOLVED: Way to go! An added bonus is that you don't have to worry about entertaining your companion, because he or she already knows everyone. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I agreed a long time ago that there would be things we would do solo in our married lives. We do not attend work functions together. It saves me from having to worry whether he is enjoying himself, and I can fully enjoy conversations about work or work-related topics without feeling guilty that he's not involved, bored or uncomfortable. My husband is fun to be with. I am ever-so-proud to be with him -- just not every minute. -- SUE IN ALDEN, N.Y.

DEAR SUE: I'm pleased you found a solution that works for both of you. However, not everyone is as self-assured as you.

DEAR ABBY: "Troubled Wife" should leave her husband at home as you advised. However, she should recognize that he's sabotaging her career. His refusal to attend company parties is a not-so-subtle form of abuse that may eventually make her economically dependent on him.

Her husband's economic sabotage is a clue that she may need to be financially independent in the future. If I were her, I'd set aside a retirement and savings account of my own.

She doesn't really need a husband as an accessory. A purse and shoes to match are sufficient. -- FEMALE PH.D., SAN PEDRO, CALIF.

DEAR FEMALE Ph.D: Now, now! But you're right -- in the business climate of 2002, it's no longer mandatory that a woman be joined at the hip with her spouse.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a professor of management at an Ohio liberal arts college. For 15 years, I have given students a writing assignment that's virtually identical to the issue raised by "Troubled Wife." My purpose is to check for gender bias. I give them all the same situation, but for half the class the working spouse is a woman, and for the other half, it's a man.

When I started doing this, if the working spouse was a man, about 60 percent of my students would say the wife should be required to attend. However, only 40 percent would require a husband to attend his wife's business social events.

Today the figure is closer to 50/50. My current business students appear to be indifferent to whether it is a husband urging his wife to attend or vice versa.

I see this as progress. -- GLENN BLAIR, MEDINA, OHIO

DEAR GLENN: So do I.

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 $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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