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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Prefers Loveless Marriage to Facing Failure With Divorce

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married 23 years. He's 44 and I'm 43. We have a mortgage, several bills, no happiness, no kids. We have one dog whom he treats and talks to like a child, which embarrasses me.

Our marriage is a sham. We do what's necessary to make it look good when we're out, but we're both miserable. We have nothing in common. We tolerate each other. Needless to say, I no longer love him.

He's had several affairs. I confronted him about some of them; however, I said nothing to him about others.

I left him once. He promised if I would come back, he would never have another affair, and he bought me a car and took me on a cruise.

The next time I caught him, I left and threatened to get a divorce if he didn't buy me a house. We were living with his parents, whom I dislike, and all my friends owned homes. He bought a house, and I came back. Big mistake.

Our sex life is awful. When he can perform, I can't stand him touching me. The only way I can get through it is to fantasize about other men.

I have also had affairs. He knows, and I don't care. We take separate vacations every year, and I go away as often as I can. I almost always have a fling while I'm away.

My husband is arrogant, egotistical and not very well liked. The wall that separates us is getting higher. I want out of this sham of a marriage, but he won't consider divorce. To him, it's a "failing" -- he uses the excuse that people never get on their feet after divorce. I suspect he'd rather go on acting than face the fact that he's not confident that he can make it alone. We could split everything down the middle, and he can even have the damn dog.

Abby, I just can't picture us growing old together. I don't WANT to grow old with him. Twenty-three years is enough -- too much.

I don't want a scene. What should I do? -- WANTS OUT IN WESTMINSTER, CALIF.

DEAR WANTS OUT: Resign yourself to the fact that there probably will be a "scene" -- if only because your husband would prefer a loveless marriage to the financial fallout from a divorce.

His "permission" is not necessary, so since you want a divorce, stop playing "Let's Make a Deal" and talk to a lawyer.