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

by Abigail Van Buren

Guilt Mars Comfort Couple Finds in Each Other's Arms

DEAR ABBY: Is there anything wrong with having a lover solely for the purpose of sex? He is grieving for his late wife (my best friend), and I am separated from my husband. We're both lonely and have supported each other through our pain. A few weeks ago we decided to become lovers.

We both have our eyes open, and we don't expect anything out of this except a friendship with benefits. I am satisfying his needs, and he is making me remember the woman I used to be before I was emotionally beaten down by my husband.

I see myself as enjoying the best of both worlds: I'm finding myself again, and I don't have to answer to anyone but me. So, Abby, what do you think? I guess I'm looking for some validation for our selfishness. -- FRIEND WITH BENEFITS

DEAR FRIEND: Selfishness? You are both consenting adults. You can do what you want. Many successful relationships have begun with two people supporting each other through a painful period -- and I don't consider that "selfish" at all.

What I AM having trouble understanding is why you haven't begun divorce proceedings from your emotionally abusive husband. Once that's started, you should have no reason to have any second thoughts at all.

DEAR ABBY: My husband of 25 years died last year. How long do I need to maintain ties with his family? Must I still give gifts at Christmas and birthdays to all his siblings, nieces and nephews?

What I need to know is how to ease out of this without offending them. His parents are still alive, and the most I want to do is send a card at Christmas. -- READY TO MOVE ON IN CANADA

DEAR READY TO MOVE ON: No law says that you "have to" maintain a gift-giving relationship with your late husband's relatives. It would be nice, however, to send something to the nieces and nephews -- if only a few dollars and some kind words included in a card.

The message that speaks loudest to me in your letter is the one you did not directly put into words -- that after 25 years of marriage to your husband, you had no meaningful connection with his family. An acceptable way to begin stepping back would be to explain to them that, because of your reduced circumstances, you are no longer able to send the usual gifts and will be sending cards during these holidays.

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for all the great advice you have given over the years. I have enjoyed reading your column since I can remember.

When I was in high school nine years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby whom I placed in an open adoption with a great family. I am now in my 20s.

I find that if I mention the adoption, the conversation sometimes becomes awkward. I don't like to mention it with acquaintances because it's something very personal and I am somewhat sensitive about it.

When people ask me if I have children, what would be the appropriate response? -- BIRTH MOTHER IN MINNESOTA

DEAR BIRTH MOTHER: You are under no obligation to give chapter and verse about your personal history to anyone who is only an acquaintance. If you are asked if you have children, just say no because you are not raising any.

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