Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your reply to "Outcast," who was good to his family, but was treated badly by them, was correct and true. My husband and I have had the same problems. We sacrificed and worked hard to be successful, but we paid the price.

However, your second paragraph stating that perhaps the family will recognize themselves in your column and mend their ways won't work, believe me.

For years we were hurt and perplexed by unfair treatment by my husband's family. We tried to talk about our feelings and were ignored, or else they would smile and say nothing. The problems began to escalate. We finally realized that the problem was family jealousy, and it was incurable. Family jealousy and the pain it causes are the last dirty family secrets that should be exposed.

After much consideration, we asked ourselves if we would be better off with or without family, and how it would affect our children. We decided we would be better off without them. So, without harsh words, and without any more energy devoted to "why are we ignored?" we purposely drifted away.

It has been seven years since our last contact. Our lives are better, and there are no more hurt feelings and anger. We allowed his family to have their shallow victory and moved on. We deliberately left no forwarding address when we moved.

Our children are now happily married. We spend our time in volunteer activities, enjoying our grandchildren and with many devoted friends. Most important, we have each other.

Abby, there are some things that cannot be "fixed." My advice to "Outcast" would be to get on with their lives. If they do not want to break off contact entirely, make the contact infrequent. In other words, take the "Please Kick Me" sign off their rear ends.

Please discuss family jealousy in future columns. It is an ugly and destructive force that adversely affects children if not dealt with. That was our biggest worry as we began to understand why we were being mistreated. -- HAPPIER NOW IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR HAPPIER: You and your husband made your decision regarding family relationships long ago, and I am not about to second-guess it. How sad that there are families who can't get along. I'm reminded of a quote by the author John Miller: "A family will hold together across the years if each member refrains from pointing the accusing finger."

DEAR ABBY: Since I've reached my 80s, my mail is full of ads for health products to help me live longer.

I once had many friends, all of whom were health vigilantes. They shook their heads knowingly as I avoided all strenuous labor and exercise. They made liquid out of good vegetables and spent fortunes buying all the latest supplements. They argued that "organic" was better and "natural" was best. I would tell them that snake venom, poison ivy and manure also were "natural." But they wouldn't listen.

Now my friends are all dead, and I have no one left to argue with. -- EDDY HILL, SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF.

DEAR EDDY: The secret to longevity may be a well-developed sense of humor. 'Tis said, "He who laughs, LASTS!"

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600