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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My best friend "Diane" and I have known each other since we were children. She has always had difficulty in her relationships with men. In the last three years, she has begun dating married men. She was sure the latest one was the man of her dreams, but it was short-lived and destroyed his marriage. Diane rationalizes what she's doing by saying the men will cheat anyway, so why not with her?

Diane is now in love with someone new. If he leaves his wife and children for her, this will be another home Diane has helped break up. She wants my blessings and for me to get along with her boyfriend. Being a married woman and a mother, I sympathize with the wives of these men.

Why has my best friend become a home wrecker? What can I do to avoid being pulled into this affair without losing her friendship? -- MORALLY COMPROMISED IN MICHIGAN

DEAR MORALLY COMPROMISED: There is no one-size-fits-all answer about why a woman dates married men. Some women do it because they fall in love; others because they don't care whom they hurt to get what they want; while still others see it as a competition they "have" to win -- again and again.

You do not have to allow yourself to be drawn into this. Avoid it by making clear to Diane that as much as you care about her, you don't approve, and want no contact with the new man in her life.

DEAR ABBY: Our son has not spoken to us in 2 1/2 years. This isn't the first time it has happened. When we are asked how he and his family are doing and where they are living, we don't know how to respond. What do we say when meeting someone new and they ask whether we have children?

If we answer that we have one son, a number of questions are sure to follow for which we don't have answers. Can you offer some appropriate responses to these questions that don't require having to say, "We don't know"? -- NEEDS AN ANSWER IN VIRGINIA

DEAR NEEDS AN ANSWER: When someone asks how your son and his family are doing and where they are living, say, "We are estranged." And if you are asked by a stranger if you have any children, look the person in the eye and reply, "I'd rather not discuss it."

DEAR ABBY: I have a neighbor with a lovely family. While I enjoy talking to them, I don't know how to politely tell her to stay home when I have company. She will send her children to my door selling school items when my adult children are here for dinner. She comes into my yard with her kids when I'm entertaining friends from out of town.

I was brought up that if a neighbor has company, you should stay home unless you were invited. I just want some privacy when I have guests. -- NAMELESS IN THE EAST

DEAR NAMELESS: You do have a problem, because it appears your neighbor is someone who never learned boundaries. Unless you tell the woman that when you're entertaining guests, you want her to respect your privacy, she'll continue inviting herself over. And if you prefer that your guests not be subjected to a sales pitch from her children, when they knock, tell them you have company, can't talk to them right now and close your door.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $12 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)