Dear Annie: "Libby," a very dear friend of mine, works part time, lives on a limited income in subsidized housing and receives food stamps. Every month, she gives large amounts of money or food stamps to her grown children, who live in very nice homes, drive nice cars and have monthly incomes four times larger than Libby's.

Libby says they tell her of their financial problems and she feels she should offer assistance without them paying her back. Now her grandchildren have caught on. She recently gave her 16-year-old grandson $50 as a bribe to keep him away from an adult party where there was going to be drinking and, I'm sure, drugs.

Libby's always broke two weeks after payday and has to scrape by the rest of the month. Would this be considered abuse? —Worried Friend

Dear Friend: Sadly, it doesn't sound like it. If Libby is of sound mind and simply has a weak spot for her children and grandchildren, there's not much you can do. They are definitely taking advantage of her generous nature, but the decision to break the bank every payday is entirely hers. You might suggest that before offering any money to the relatives, she first put some aside in a savings account and, when she has accumulated enough, in a CD. This way she can provide for her retirement because it certainly doesn't sound as if those children will help support her when the time comes.

Dear Annie: I read your column religiously, and your advice is sound and down to earth. So, is there something wrong with me, or am I just a typical guy?

I am 40 years old and have a lovely wife, three kids and a great job. However, I always find myself looking for other women to flirt with. This does not necessarily mean I want a relationship with any of them.

I know it's unfair to my wife, but over the past eight years, she has gained an enormous amount of weight and refuses to exercise. I offer to help her, but that only upsets her. I believe this is why I find myself looking around. I don't want to leave her, but inside, I secretly wish I could. What should I do? —Totally Lost

Dear Totally Lost: Well, we'll give you points for honesty. We also can assure you that our mail is filled with letters from men who harbor similar feelings.

It is unfair of your wife not to consider how her appearance and attitude affect you, but it is also unfair of you to seek out other women because you don't like what's at home. After three children, your wife doesn't have the body she once did and might be too exhausted to work on it. Please consider counseling. A third party can help your wife understand that her reluctance to take care of herself is having a negative impact on her marriage. A counselor can also help you discover better ways to help her.

Dear Annie: May I offer some encouragement to "Expecting and Stressed," whose mother-in-law is difficult?

My mother-in-law has little to do with me, but I respect my husband for extending honor to his parents. He is able to sleep at night because he knows he has nothing to regret. I have encouraged my husband to take my son to visit his parents. My son is now old enough to see for himself what his grandmother is like, and I never once had to point it out.

When you are with your in-laws, be the bigger person. The rest of my husband's family knows how inconsiderate and self-absorbed Mom really is. I have a degree of satisfaction knowing my impeccable behavior toward her did not drive my husband and son away from me, but drew them closer. —Maintained My Peace

Dear Maintained: Our readers can learn from your outstanding example. We hope your husband appreciates you.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.