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DEAR ABBY: Over the last three years, my best friend of 15 years, "Hazel," has engaged in some disturbing Internet dating behavior. Several months ago, she answered a classified ad on the Internet in which a man was looking for women who enjoy "domestic discipline." (In other words, "spanking.") Not only did Hazel go to meet this man in person, but she married him after knowing him for only three weeks!

When I met him in person, every alarm God ever gave me as a woman went off at once. He was very aggressive and began making inappropriate comments in front of me about spanking her after knowing me for less than 10 minutes.

Hazel keeps pressing for us to "get to know him," but every time I think about it I feel ill. My husband and I are conservative people. We would never associate with someone we knew openly practiced deviant behavior.

However, I am concerned for my friend. I'm afraid he may abuse her. I don't want to associate with him, but I don't want to lose Hazel. Can this relationship be salvaged? -- SHOCKED IN TEMPE, ARIZ.

DEAR SHOCKED: Yes, but it won't be a foursome. It'll be "just the girls" when you can both spare the time -- and I have a hunch he may be keeping your friend pretty busy. You don't have to approve of her lifestyle to make it very clear to her that you are only a phone call away if she needs you -- and that's what I recommend you do.

DEAR ABBY: My heart is aching. How should I tactfully suggest to my husband that we need marriage counseling? I don't want to provoke an argument about it, which I am afraid will happen.

We have just grown so far apart, and it's only been eight years. Everything is so negative, and I'm afraid I don't even like him anymore. I think we would be OK if we could get help. But I don't know where to start. -- FEELING ALONE IN WESTERVILLE, OHIO

DEAR FEELING ALONE: Tell your husband that you are concerned because HE doesn't seem to be happy. Tell him that you feel you have grown apart, but do not understand what has gone wrong. Tell him that you long for the relationship you had when you were first married, and that you would like for the two of you to get some marriage counseling.

If that provokes an argument, stay calm and explain that you aren't being accusatory or saying it to upset him -- just trying to bring the two of you closer again. If he refuses to go, then go without him. Counseling will help you decide the next step to take.

DEAR ABBY: Thirty years ago, as a Christmas gift, a friend gave me an oil painting that had been painted by her mother. I was recently told that my cancer is terminal, so I have begun "housecleaning."

Would it be all right for me to return the painting to my friend with a note expressing my delight in having once owned it? No one in my family has a desire to keep the painting. -- PREPARING TO GO IN DENVER

DEAR PREPARING TO GO: I am sorry that your prognosis is not what we would have wished. By all means, return the painting to your friend. It may have sentimental value to her -- not only because the painting was created by her mother, but also because it belonged to you. When you do, write her a note and tell her that the painting has brought you a lifetime of happiness, and you only wish you could have enjoyed it longer.

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 $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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