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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ed," and I have been together for six years, married for two. This is the second marriage for both of us. We have children from our first marriages.

Ed works offshore. He's gone 21 days and here 21 days. The three weeks he's gone, I work, take care of the house and the kids, do the yard work, etc. When he comes home, I want him to myself the first weekend -- I don't want to share him with his friends. I'd like to do fun things with him sometimes, just the two of us.

Ed says I have to understand his friends are important. He says I'm selfish and jealous. He doesn't show affection very well either (except behind closed doors), and I am a very affectionate person. Am I asking too much from him? I am considering counseling, but I'm unsure whether Ed would go. -- BORED AND LONELY IN MISSISSIPPI

DEAR BORED AND LONELY: Counseling is an excellent idea, and if Ed won't go, you should go without him. Asking your husband to spend two days of one-on-one time with you when he returns from three weeks away isn't too much, and it's not selfish. He needs to reorganize his priorities and put you higher on the list than his buddies.

Affection is supposed to be spontaneous, and you shouldn't have to beg for it. What you describe going on behind closed doors sounds more like plain old sex and a whole lot less like affection. Unless your husband is willing to put more effort into your marriage, I can't see you living until death do you part on a starvation diet -- and you can tell both your husband and your counselor I said so.

DEAR ABBY: I know you get many letters from people who are unemployed, depressed and don't know how to climb out of the funk. I was laid off from my management position three weeks after giving birth to my first child. Talk about depressing.

After several months of recovering from a difficult birth, I contacted my local SPCA and began volunteering. Not only do I help by feeding and cleaning the kitties, but I am using my professional skills to help them with photography, graphic design and fundraising. I'm still looking for work and getting occasional interviews. And in those interviews, potential employers always seem impressed with my volunteer work.

I'm writing to encourage anyone who is unemployed to find charitable organizations to work with. Offer your professional skills. It is something to get up for and do during the day. It also looks good on your resume and makes you feel great. -- UNPAID FOR NOW, BUT HAPPY IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR HAPPY: That's a valuable suggestion, and thank you for it. At this point, 13.9 million Americans are unemployed. Many suffer from depression because, through no fault of their own, they have been unable to find jobs. When people feel embarrassed, frustrated and angry, they tend to isolate themselves, which doesn't help and can be unhealthy.

The more connections you make, the greater your chances for finding permanent employment, because in the final analysis it's all about people and relationships. I wish you luck in your job search. Whoever hires you will be lucky to have you.

DEAR ABBY: My brother often tells me that I'll "make a good wife someday." Is this an insult or a compliment? -- BAFFLED IN BOSTON

DEAR BAFFLED: I'd consider it a compliment. An insult would be you'd make a lousy wife someday. However, whether it's meant as an insult or a compliment would depend upon your brother's opinion of the institution of marriage.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)