Dear Abby:

May I add my two cents' worth to "Miserable Daughter-in-Law in Norfolk, Va.," who complained that her in-laws treat her as though she's invisible when her husband is away on active duty?

To her I would say: "Don't give up on his family, but don't count on them to fill your time. Call the Navy chaplain, the local college or another Navy wife."

During my husband's first long cruise, like her, I was lost.

Then I started volunteering for the Red Cross at Portsmouth Naval Hospital and for Navy Relief in the thrift shop. The more involved one is, the less time one has for fretting over in-laws.

Most important, Navy wives whose husbands are on sea duty are usually very close-knit and supportive of one another. During deployments, such friendships are often closer than relationships with one's own family.

It is the responsibility of the captain of the ship, or his wife, to see that the spouses have points of contact before the ship departs.

A spouse's sea duty can be looked upon as an opportunity to take classes, get together with other spouses "in the same boat," or get involved in all sorts of projects.

If "Miserable" takes my advice, her husband, her marriage and the Navy will profit from her efforts.

Ex- Navy Wife, Pinebluff, N.C.

Although I advised the young woman to network with other Navy wives, I was not aware when I wrote my answer that programs were already in place to help her. Thank you for your helpful letter. You were not the only reader who wanted to help. Read on:

Dear Abby:

I am also a military spouse.

One thing I have noticed is that many wives -- and husbands -- have a hard time adapting to the strain their spouses feel at having to put duty over family.

Thankfully, there are groups out there to help us get through this. One of the best I have found is www.militarywives.com.

The message boards alone are worth more than I can express. In the Coast Guard, each unit has an ombudsman who is in charge of keeping spouses connected. This service is a lifesaver.

The family I have joined here with the military is priceless.

Knowing that my strength adds to that of my husband's, and seeing others going through the same thing, makes it all worthwhile.

Kay In Kodiak, Alaska

My admiration for you, and for other military spouses and families, is boundless.

Dear Abby:

Please urge "Miserable" to become active in her state's family readiness program.

It provides much- needed support for service member families and significant others during peacetime or deployment.

I am part of the Maryland National Guard Family Readiness program and can attest to the help during the deployment of my husband and my son.

Gayla in Elkton, Md.

Bless you for reaching out.

Dear Abby:

I dealt with my in-laws by going to counseling. There I learned to deal with them kindly and respectfully.

Once "Miserable" is strong enough emotionally, she should ask her in-laws why she's not included in their family activities.

Please tell her to rise above the pettiness and remember, people reap what they sow.

Another Daughter-in-Law in Illinois

That's good advice, to which I would like to add: The phone works both ways.

If the parents are not inviting her over, she should consider taking the initiative and inviting THEM over.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate