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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'd like to respond to your column regarding women who make more money than their husbands. While it may not be the norm for a wife to earn a higher income, it should not enter into the equation of a happy marriage.

When I met my husband 23 years ago, I was a successful business woman. He was a carpenter. He was also a man of character -- and the man of my dreams. When we decided to marry, he informed me that money was not a priority for him. Money was not an issue for me, either. I decided then and there I could always support us if need be.

We are both self-employed. Over the past 23 years, I have out-earned him 4-to-1. What I have received from him is a best friend, a terrific father who has time to coach our kids' sports teams, and a life partner with an army of loyal friends he's had time for and brought into our relationship.

My husband can build anything. He designed and built our home, as well as play structures, soccer fields and sandboxes for our local schools. When the sprinkler system at the softball field needed rebuilding -- he was there. He does all of this for no pay, because he has the ability, the time and the heart.

I am in sales, and I manage my job so well I can be home by 3 each afternoon to spend time with our children. Their dad does most of the laundry and shopping, while I clean and manage the kids' schedules. We enjoy a good life with our priorities in order, even though the balance of money-making is nontraditional.

After 23 years, my husband is still the companion I want with me in any situation. If I were stranded on a desert island or crashed in the mountains of Chile, he could do anything and would make sure everyone was safe. I married my dream man, and it doesn't matter that he's not the primary "breadwinner." It's character that counts in a marriage. Anyone can earn money. -- GRATEFUL WIFE, FAIR OAKS, CALIF.

DEAR GRATEFUL WIFE: No amount of money could buy what you and your husband share -- love and mutual respect.

DEAR ABBY: You recently printed a letter from "Marylou in Houston" about the pain of placing a child for adoption. When I went through this experience, I wrote a poem. You have my permission to print it if you think it will help others to understand the roller-coaster emotions a birth mother goes through making this decision. -- LISA BOTE-PHILLIPS, ALASKA

DEAR LISA: I certainly do think it will help. You said it very well:

ON THE WINGS OF A PRAYER

by Lisa Bote-Phillips

I set you free on the wings of a prayer

To fly through life in His tender care,

You're free from the nest and the ties that are bound

Free from the pressures I carry around.

If I kept you I'd only be cutting your wings,

Not offering the chance a true family brings.

The decision I've made has my heart torn in two,

But I know what I'm doing is the best thing for you.

The sky is so vast, the mountains so high

Take wing and remember: I love you.

Goodbye.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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