DEAR ABBY: I've been married to my second husband for 14 years. He's a great provider, but mentally and emotionally abusive.

I want to leave him, but I'm scared to live on my own. We both work, but he makes a lot of money -- which I do not -- so I guess you can say, financially I'm comfortable. But I'm miserable. I'm so unhappy I have tried to take my life.

He wanted us to be swingers and I finally gave in, and now it's all I hear about. I don't want to do it, but he doesn't care what I want. His kids are mean and disrespectful. We have no kids together (which I want but can't have, and he won't adopt).

I feel like I'm wasting my life. I'm 43. I had to have emergency surgery and almost didn't make it, and he resented me for it. Why can't I leave him? Why am I so scared? I have no other family. -- WASTING AWAY IN THE SOUTH

DEAR WASTING AWAY: You said it yourself: You are scared to live on your own. Some people are afraid of the unknown, and you appear to be one of them. Because your husband has been coercing you into having sex with other men, I recommend you contact a support organization such as RAINN (www.rainn.org); its toll-free phone number is 800-656-HOPE (4673). Someone there can guide you in making an escape plan.

I also urge you to talk about this with an attorney, because you should not be penniless if you leave. What your husband has been doing is a form of spousal abuse, and between you and me, it shouldn't take more than five seconds of self-evaluation to conclude that you would be better off without him.


In-Laws' Criticism Wears New Mom Down

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I recently had a baby girl, our first. We both work full-time, but my husband is gone nights and weekends and I'm the primary parent at home with our daughter.

Something has been bothering me since my daughter came along. My in-laws have never once told me I'm doing a good job as a mother. I'm critiqued every time they come over, whether it be that her hands are too cold, her room is too warm or her nails are too "sharp."

They compliment my husband repeatedly, and he's the first to give all the credit to me, but I feel like they don't think I'm doing a good job and it makes me feel bad. Am I being too sensitive? -- CRITICIZED ALL THE TIME

DEAR CRITICIZED: It is possible that in making these comments, your in-laws are simply trying to be helpful. Instead of regarding them as criticism, take them under consideration.

However, if your hurt feelings persist, you -- or your husband -- should point out to his parents that in trying to be helpful, they have forgotten to be supportive, and mention some of the things you are doing right.

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DEAR READERS: Today, I'm proud to announce the launch of an exciting new scholarship program for aspiring young writers. The Dear Abby College Columnist Scholarship Program and Contest, administered by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Education Foundation, will recognize and encourage the work of undergraduates writing bylined columns for their college newspapers. For more information about the contest, visit dearabby.com/scholarship/interview, or submit an entry at dearabby.com/scholarship. -- ABBY

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