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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My youngest daughter, "Liza," is going through a divorce that has turned ugly, with her soon-to-be ex, "Dick," choking and threatening to kill her.

The problem is, my oldest daughter, "Mimi," has remained in contact with Dick. She claims she doesn't want her children "to suffer the loss of an uncle they really love." Mimi had promised Liza she would no longer speak to Dick, but when Liza went to her former home to pick up some personal items, she saw on the caller ID that Mimi had been calling there several times a week.

Liza is devastated and feels Mimi has betrayed her. When she called Mimi to discuss it, Mimi refused. Liza then announced that she would never speak to Mimi again.

I feel that Mimi did betray Liza, but I had hoped there would be further communication. Mimi is now avoiding me.

There have been other sticky situations in the past when Mimi has deprived family members -- including me -- from seeing her children as a means of punishment.

I am at a loss. I feel supportive of Liza because I know she really needs me and is being subjected to problems of all kinds from all sides. -- HEARTBROKEN MOTHER IN OHIO

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: What a mess. You have my sympathy. However, Liza may have jumped to the wrong conclusion when she spotted Mimi's number on Dick's caller ID. Caller ID registers the number the call was made from and to whom that number is registered. It does not necessarily reveal the identity of the caller. Rather than Mimi calling, it might have been one or more of her children wanting to talk to "an uncle they really love."

One thing is clear. There is trouble between your daughters. Whether it's recent, or the ill feelings go all the way back to their childhood, you'd be better served to let "the girls" work it out between themselves than to allow yourself to be put in the middle. You can't be their referee forever. You're all adults now, and it's time they resolve their own conflicts without dragging you into it.

DEAR ABBY: I am 19 and have been in love with "Jordan" for three years. I know he loves me, too. My problem is I am not sure where Jordan leaves off and I begin. He is older -- 27 -- and I almost feel like I haven't had a chance to become my own person.

My dilemma is that I'm afraid if I leave him and venture out on my own, I might lose him forever. I don't want to make a mistake. I am also afraid that if I leave him and meet someone, and it doesn't work out -- I'll be left all alone. Please tell me what to do. Everyone I ask has a different opinion. -- CAN'T DECIDE IN GREENVILLE, TEXAS

DEAR CAN'T DECIDE: As risky as it may seem now, take a break from Jordan. You didn't mention whether you are still in school. If you are, tell Jordan that you need time to concentrate on your studies and get involved with campus life. It's the truth. If you are not, then consider taking some classes to further your education and help you develop independently.

Before making a lifetime commitment to anyone, it is imperative to have established some independence both emotionally and financially. If your romance is so fragile that a little time apart will destroy it, then it wasn't strong enough to begin with.

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