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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Frets Her House Doesn't Measure Up in Tony Suburb

DEAR ABBY: My husband is threatening to leave and my 9-year-old daughter is distraught because I am embarrassed about our home and our cars. We live in an affluent suburb, but we're not one of the rich families. My daughter wants to invite friends from school over, but I'm mortified about their parents seeing our home or cars.

I know these things shouldn't matter. I love my husband, but he says I'm ruining our daughter's self-esteem and disrespecting him by being embarrassed by a life he works hard to provide. What's wrong with me, and how can I get past this? I don't want to lose my family. -- EMBARRASSED IN OHIO

DEAR EMBARRASSED: What makes a home warm and welcoming isn't whether it has been professionally decorated. Your problem isn't that you're ashamed of your house or cars. It's that you lack confidence in who you are. Your feelings stem less from what material things you lack than misplaced priorities.

When your daughter's friends visit, cookies in the oven, a welcoming smile and a willing ear if one of them needs a trusted adult in whom to confide will be more appreciated than whether your couch is new or there's a late-model car in the driveway. Many children from families who supposedly "have everything" are starved for plain old-fashioned personal attention.

I often recommend psychological counseling, but in your case, perhaps you would be better served by talking to a spiritual adviser about the difficulty you're having with appreciating how much you have for which to be thankful.