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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Brian," volunteers for a wide variety of extracurricular activities outside our home. Consequently, he never has time to do things around the house that I need him to do -- and believe me, I don't ask for much.

Last year, Brian elected to take charge of all social functions at his workplace. During the Christmas holidays, he became so immersed in his duties, we didn't even put up a Christmas tree at home. (I was laid up with a sprained ankle and couldn't do it.)

He has also volunteered to make monthly group lunches for his co-workers, yet he never lifts a finger in the kitchen at home. I feel like a broken record begging him to pitch in around the house, but what else can I do? -- WIFE OF VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR IN MARYLAND

DEAR WIFE: Your husband appears to be using outside activities as a substitute for something that's missing at home. It's time you stopped "nudging" him and found out exactly what that is.

You can accomplish it faster through marriage counseling than beating around the bush, so stop nagging and ask your doctor for a referral. If Brian refuses to go, please go without him. You'll learn a great deal -- and that's a promise.

DEAR ABBY: Six months ago, my brother, "Don," and husband, "Bill," worked at the same company. Bill found out that Don was stealing merchandise and reported it. Bill's supervisor reported it to the police, and my brother was charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to some community service.

Don and my parents discovered that Bill was the one who snitched on him, and they haven't spoken to us since. Abby, this is tearing me apart. I want Bill to be a part of my family. He feels he did what he had to do. My family thinks Bill should have kept his mouth shut. What do you think? -- STUCK IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR STUCK: Had your husband kept quiet about the fact your brother was looting the company, he would have been an accessory to the crime. It could have cost him his job -- or even jail time.

If your family persists in labeling your husband the villain, you and Bill should think twice about rejoining "the gang."

DEAR ABBY: I am a teen-ager who recently found out my father had a child through adultery. I feel awful. Not because I found the paternity suit papers while "snooping" through my father's dresser drawers while he and my family were out of town, but because how this must affect my mother, his wife of more than 20 years.

Abby, I can't stand to even look at my father anymore. I've lost all respect for him. We visit the small town where my parents grew up, and I'm sure everyone knows about my father's "secret child."

I haven't confronted my father, mother or sister. I am hurt, confused and angry. They know something is wrong. I feel like I'm having an emotional breakdown. Should I ignore the situation because I have nothing to do with it? Is this even any of my business? -- DISTURBED TEEN IN ARIZONA

DEAR DISTURBED TEEN: It wasn't your business until you made it so. Since you are feeling awful -- and acting out -- it's time to tell your parents what you discovered. Look at it this way: You and your father may both find confession is good for the soul.

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