Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: I am currently stuck and not sure what to do in my marriage. We both work full time, but I am raising our four children without much help from him. I have been very sick this past year and discovered a serious medical condition that needs to be surgically dealt with very soon, but thankfully once I recover, my condition should greatly improve.

My husband fights with me constantly -- which only worsens my illness. He doesn't seem to care about how in pain I am and asks me who is going to do the laundry and cook while I recover, let alone, who is going to take care of the kids? I just sit and cry, not sure what to do.

Should I postpone my surgery to seek a lawyer to leave him, or should I go through it and deal with the aftermath later? I'm mostly worried about my kids while I recover and want to lean on my dad and stepmom (who are wonderful) to help. -- IN PAIN

DEAR IN PAIN: Your health has to be your top priority. You are no good to your babies if you aren't well. Your husband's cruelty is abusive behavior, and you don't have to take it. Schedule the surgery as soon as you can under your doctor's advice. Once you have the surgery date set, contact a good divorce attorney and explain the situation. Get the ball rolling now so that your lawyer can deal with all the specifics while you are in recovery, thereby not slowing down the process. Tell your dad and stepmom what is going on immediately so they can help you now before you go into surgery and can arrange to be there for the kids once you are recovering. I worked in women's shelters and so many are alone, struggling, dealing with abusive partners and do not have the resources that you do. Take advantage of your support system.

You are much better off without him, and I think once you are feeling better, so many wonderful opportunities are going to open up for you and your family. You are employed. You are strong and powerful. You are loved by your family. You can walk away from this pain - all of it - and start anew.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Listen twice as much as you speak. You already know what you are saying, but by listening to others, who knows what you will learn that could be useful to you later.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to nbencivenga@post-gazette.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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