DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been friends with “Joyce and Dave” for many years. Our children are the same ages and go to school together. We have always enjoyed each other’s company.

I find myself increasingly attracted to Dave, and I think the feeling is mutual. I have great strength of character, as I believe Dave does, but spending time with Joyce and him is becoming difficult.

Dave and I do not speak to each other in any way other than with respect and humor – but there’s an underlying sexual tension I can’t ignore.

I don’t want to spoil our families’ shared times together, but I feel I am playing with fire. What should I do? – CARLA IN PHOENIX

People who play with fire usually get burned. It’s time to take an honest look at your marriage and figure out what is missing. It’s also time to enlarge your circle of friends and cut back on the time you have available for Joyce and Dave. Please don’t put it off.

DEAR ABBY: I identified with the letter from “Private Guy in San Jose,” whose in-laws come for month-long visits twice a year. My mother-in-law used to visit for six weeks or more several times a year, with no date set for her return home 3,000 miles away. I told my husband I could handle her visits better if there were a return date to which I could look forward, but it never happened.

After years of frustration, I finally decided to create my own “escape” date. Six weeks was my limit. After that, I’d leave to visit my parents, thus letting my husband entertain his mother by himself.

It was amazing the speed with which my husband put his mother on a plane home!

Perhaps “Private Guy” could arrange a “business trip” or a visit to his own relatives after two weeks of hosting his in-laws. – PROBLEM SOLVED IN FLORIDA

That’s certainly better than sitting home feeling infringed upon and allowing resentment to build. Even the freshest fish can turn foul if it is kept beyond the expiration date. Thank you for the helpful suggestion.

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating “Steve” for six years. Three years ago, Steve promised me an engagement ring. I am still waiting for it.

I graduate from college in May and I plan to move to the city where Steve lives. Steve says we can’t live together, though, because his parents won’t allow that unless we’re married. But, Abby, we’re both 26!

Steve claims he’s saving money for a ring, but last summer he managed to spend nearly $2,000 on vacation trips and sheets for his bed.

I can’t wait forever. How long is too long? – WAITING IN WISCONSIN

THIS is too long. If Steve was on the level, he would have postponed the trips, passed up the sheets and celebrated your engagement by now. He isn’t ready for marriage. Since you are, I’d say it’s time to move on.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in “What Every Teen Should Know.” To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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