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by Abigail Van Buren

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.

DEAR ABBY: I found a cute story in The Montrose Daily Press:

It was a perfect day, and four students decided to cut classes. Reporting to school later that afternoon, they told their teacher they had a flat tire. To their relief, the teacher smiled and told them to take their seats.

"You missed a test this morning, and I would like you to take it now," the teacher announced. "No discussion allowed among you. Now write the answer to this question: 'Which tire was flat?'" -- BESSIE MAE, NUCLA, COLO.

DEAR BESSIE MAE: Not only was it a "cute" one, it was a new one.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, who is 15, went to a slumber party last weekend. She told me that it was a normal all-girls slumber party -- they talked, ate, played games, watched videos and finally slept -- except they spent the entire evening totally nude. There were no men in the house, just the eight girls and the host girl's mother, who approved of it. My daughter was so thrilled about it and the girls are talking about the next one.

Have you ever heard of totally nude slumber parties? Or is this some new trend? I'm not comfortable with the idea; however, I feel as long as there is no booze, drugs or sex, I can't come up with a compelling reason to say no. Any thoughts? -- PERPLEXED MOM IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR PERPLEXED MOM: I have never heard of nudity as a theme for a high school slumber party, so your letter is a first.

Level with your daughter. Tell her that you were not raised in an atmosphere that condoned casual nudity -- and you are uncomfortable with the idea of her attending nude slumber parties. Period.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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