DEAR HARRIETTE: A friend of mine called from out of the blue, saying she was coming to town and asking if she could stay with me for a couple of weeks. Normally I might be OK with that, although it is an extended period of time. But my husband and I have been arguing ferociously of late, and I don't think it is wise to bring somebody into the middle of that. I wish I could say that we are working out our differences, but it doesn't feel like that. It feels like we are clawing at each other over every little thing. I have suggested counseling, but he isn't close to that yet. How can I say no to my friend without hurting her feelings and without saying too much about my marital dispute? -- Not Open for Business, Dallas
DEAR NOT OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Keep it concise when you talk to your friend. Apologize as you tell her that this is not a good time for your family to welcome guests, so you cannot invite her to stay with you. Let her know that if she does come to town, you hope to get together with her during her visit. If possible, meet her at a restaurant for dinner or drinks. Let her do the talking. This will help prevent you from slipping into conversation about your marital troubles.