DEAR ABBY: Nine months ago, my wife, “Marie,” left to go shopping and never came back. She took off leaving me and our three sons, ages 12, 14 and 16, without a word. We had been married 25 years.

We had no contact for the first three months, and she has not helped support the kids in any way. She told no one – including her family – that she had left. Friends would see me in public and ask where she was.

Marie has recently started talking about coming home, but I have mixed feelings. I asked why she left. She said she was unhappy and tired of living a lie. What lie? Marie refuses to elaborate.

Two of our sons don’t want her back. They felt abandoned when she disappeared. My other son says he doesn’t care whether she comes back or not as long as she leaves him alone. I keep remembering the quote, “A house divided cannot stand,” and I wonder about us. Please advise me. – LOST IN THE BIG CITY

Under the circumstances, I’d say the feelings you and the boys are experiencing are normal. However, all of you need to come to terms with why your wife and their mother walked out so abruptly. Before she returns, it is important that you understand why she felt that leaving the way she did was her only option.

It will take time for her relationship with the boys to be repaired and for the two of you to rebuild trust. This is not to say that your “house divided” cannot be rehabilitated and even made more storm-proof than before. But don’t kid yourselves: It will take work on the part of everyone.

DEAR ABBY: My son-in-law, “Tony,” is very ill and probably won’t make it. It is a terrible tragedy for our family. He will leave behind a beautiful wife and children.

During his last crisis I traveled across country to support my daughter, “Janet.” My husband, “Doug,” isn’t Janet’s father, and now he says he doesn’t want me going to the funeral. He says I have spent enough time on Tony, and my visit was a “waste of money.”

He says Janet wanting me there is a ploy – that she’s “playing me.” Granted, she had some hard feelings when I divorced her father and married Doug, but we have made up. I feel I need to be at the funeral to support her.

There has been no love lost between Janet and Doug. He does not get along with his own kids from a previous marriage either. But should this interfere with my attending the funeral? Doug says my going would be a betrayal to him and has threatened divorce if I go. How should I handle this? – TORN IN DES MOINES

Although I hate to label anyone, let me point out that by issuing an ultimatum, your husband is behaving like a control freak. If you want this pattern to be repeated until the day one of you dies, stay home and don’t attend the funeral.

Let me also point out that a daughter needing all the emotional support she can get as she buries her husband is not a “ploy.” It’s a cry for help. Your grandchildren might also appreciate having you close.

Your husband is behaving like a petulant child. You have an extremely important decision to make, and it’s about a larger issue than the funeral. Only you can decide the right choice for you.

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.

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