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Saturday, April 2, 2005; Page C11

Dear Amy:

My husband and I have been married for about seven years, and all of our friends have been moving from their small "starter homes" into big, beautiful, spacious new ones. We are nowhere near being able to afford a new house, and I get upset every time I walk into one of these gorgeous new homes.

To make matters worse, they proceed to take us on a tour of their luxurious bathrooms, walk-in closets, etc., knowing we are in a small, cramped house.

Do these people not realize they are being insensitive? Sometimes I come home and just want to cry.

I know I'm lucky to have a home and a healthy family, and I appreciate what I have, but for some reason I find these situations particularly difficult. Any suggestions for getting through this?

Feeling Resentful

Once you resent others for having more than you have, it never ends because there will always be someone who has bigger or better toys. You must acknowledge that others have a right to live the way they choose. They also have a right to be happy with their choices.

I think it might help if you get in your car after these visits and say to yourself, "They're saddled with debt, they're saddled with debt, they're saddled with debt." I hope you'll learn to embrace your "small" lifestyle. Small is infinitely more beautiful. Your lifestyle is less wasteful, puts less of a strain on the environment and is more manageable. Before you know it, these same people will be obsessed with "downsizing" -- and, good for you, you're already there.

Dear Amy:

You ran a letter recently from "Broken Wife," who found porn sites on her husband's computer's tool bar.

Before this woman and her husband head off to marriage counseling for his supposed actions, might I suggest that they have their computer scanned for spyware and viruses? Awhile back my husband, bless his heart, came to me because he was getting strange e-mail and his Yahoo Messenger had weird names on it. We found out that our computer had been hijacked and that all sorts of porn and other rather obnoxious stuff was being saved to our hard drive. His e-mail was flooded with messages, and his messenger had "buddies" he never approved.

I'm not saying that this man is or is not having a virtual affair, but given the propensity of Internet hackers, I'd say give this man the benefit of the doubt before condemning him.Virtually Been There

I appreciate the possibility that a hacker might have infiltrated a computer's hard drive, but there is a world of difference between a husband who comes to his wife with evidence of hacking and a wife catching her husband with evidence of porn.

Sometimes the computer needs a virus scan.

Sometimes the computer's owner needs a virus scan.

Ask Amy is written by Amy Dickinson, a journalist who has worked for National Public Radio. Write to her at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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