DEAR ABBY: My husband is a cardiologist. We have a daughter, 12, and two sons, 9 and 4. Last Sunday morning, we went to church as a family. Following the service, we started to go downstairs for refreshments when a woman cornered my husband and engaged him in conversation about her husband who is in the hospital. My husband was not his primary physician, but he had seen him once in consultation. I took the children downstairs.

Our daughter had some church activities that took about an hour, so we decided to take the boys for a walk. We stopped at the courthouse and the boys began to play on the steps when a man drove up, stopped, got out of his car and said, "Oh, doctor, am I ever glad to see you! I've been having these awful chest pains. . . ." I took the children while they talked.We picked up our daughter, then some man stopped my husband and said, "Say, Doc. I'll take only a minute of your time." And we were held up for another 15 minutes.

When we finally got home, my husband said wearily, "I can't even go to church on Sunday without being stopped to answer questions from people I hardly know."

Abby, physicians need their privacy, family time and time off. So please ask your readers not to ask their doctors - or ANY doctor - medical questions when they see him/her in a social setting. Thank you. - TIRED DOCTOR'S WIFE

DEAR WIFE: You and your husband belong to a very large club that includes dentists, pharmacists, veterinarians, nurses, lawyers, accountants, etc. If anyone has a prescription for a sure cure, please rush it to me and I'll publish it.

DEAR ABBY: I am in a dilemma that I have been wrestling with for all of 1990.

I have a good friend (I'll call her Tillie) who has three lovely little boys. When the first boy was born, I gave him a very nice gift on his birthday and another for Christmas. When the second child arrived, I wanted to do the same, but I wasn't financially able to give the same quality gifts as I gave the first child.

Now, the third child has arrived, and I cannot afford to give any gifts. Even a lovely card strains my budget.

The problem is that Tillie is very sensitive to the fact that her second and third children have not received the same treatment in the gift department that her first child did. She has told me so on several occasions.

Abby, how can I tactfully stop what I have started without leaving hurt feelings and a damaged friendship in my tracks? - SWEATING IT OUT

DEAR SWEATING: If your friendship with Tillie depends upon the quality of the gifts you give her children, I would say it wasn't much of a friendship in the first place. Shame on Tillie for trying to lay a guilt trip on you. Tell her the gifts have stopped because you can no longer afford them.

DEAR ABBY: I am engaged to be married in the spring. I am 31 years old and my future husband is 30. We both have successful careers and are responsible adults. After much thought and discussion, we decided to live together after we became engaged.

The problem is my mother. She strongly disapproves of our living together for religious reasons. She has taken no interest in our wedding plans - in fact, she hardly speaks to us. She says she will attend our wedding, but I am worried that she may show her disapproval at our wedding. Abby, this should be a happy occasion, but I feel she is ruining it for us.

I respect her beliefs, but as an adult I'm quite capable of making my own decisions. I am fully aware that I am accountable for my actions. How can I make peace with my mother and still lead my own life? - BRIDE-TO-BE

DEAR BRIDE-TO-BE: I can relate to where your mother is coming from because she and I were brought up in the same school of morality. However, her obvious uninterest in your wedding plans, plus her "hardly speaking" to you and your fiance, is her way of punishing you, which is childish and mean-spirited.

Have a private talk with her and let her know that you are aware of how she feels, but it would be so much more pleasant for all concerned if she could find it in her heart to be a little more tolerant and a little less condemning. Perhaps given the opportunity to talk it out and verbalize her anger and disapproval privately, she'll no longer feel the need to give you the cold, silent treatment in public.

People are eating them up! For Abby's favorite recipes, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada), to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)