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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have 10-year-old twin boys. "Frank" is popular with the boys in his class, while "Jake" has only one close friend, "Tommy." When Frank is invited to parties, sleepovers, movies, swimming and play dates, Jake is left out and never invited. Tommy is a great kid, but comes from a family that isn't very social. We invite Tommy to our home, but Jake isn't invited back.

I feel terrible when I see how sad Jake is when his brother is constantly going off to do fun things and he's left at home. We try to keep Jake busy with enjoyable activities when this happens, but it's not the same.

While Frank has a right to have his own friends, sometimes I feel I should say something to the parents about how much their leaving Jake out is hurting his feelings and self-confidence. -- HEARTBROKEN MOM IN MISSOURI

DEAR HEARTBROKEN MOM: I don't recommend saying anything to the parents of Frank's friends because it could backfire. Boys that age pick their own friends, and if Jake was forced on them, no one would be happy about it -- including Jake. Instead, continue inviting Tommy over and explore activities outside of school where Jake can shine in his own right. That will do more for his self-confidence than tagging along with his brother where he really isn't wanted.

DEAR ABBY: My son "Marshall" is 36. He's handsome, has a great job, is a wonderful son and would be a tremendous "catch." The problem is Marshall has no interest in marriage or even dating. He was in a relationship six or seven years ago that ended badly. Since then, he has decided he doesn't want any woman getting close to him. He hasn't been on a date since.

Marshall spends his time hunting, fishing and playing/watching sports with his single and divorced friends. It doesn't help that the divorced friends tell him he's doing the right thing by staying single, and how they wish they had done the same thing.

Every time I raise the subject, he tells me he's happy with his life and doesn't want to change. How do I get through to him? My husband says we should let him do what he wants because it's his life. But I have trouble accepting that my son wants to stay single the rest of his life. Help! -- PROTECTIVE MOM IN OHIO

DEAR MOM: That's understandable. You come from a generation in which marriage was the norm. However, in the decades since you were married there has been a slow (but steady) erosion in the percentage of Americans who think marriage is important.

Your son may have much to offer, but if he isn't interested in closeness, intimacy and partnership, he probably wouldn't be very good at it. So trust him, love him, and don't push him. Marriage, when it's a good one, is wonderful. But it is no longer a must, and more and more people are concluding it isn't for everyone.

DEAR ABBY: You often refer your readers who are troubled to doctors and clergy. Another reference to consider is the Human Resource professionals at their workplace. We offer a variety of programs to assist our employees with financial and family issues. We want healthy and happy employees. -- HELPING HANDS IN CORTE MADERA, CALIF.

DEAR HELPING: With mental health services stressed to the max because of cutbacks, this is certainly a worthwhile option. Thank you for the suggestion.

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