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by Abigail Van Buren

Unhappy Wife Must Realize Abuse Is Not Part of Love

DEAR ABBY: I am a 31-year-old mother of three. I have been married for 11 years and need your advice. I love my husband, "Rick," but I am not happy.

My husband has always gone out on weekends and disappears for hours during the week. When I ask Rick where he has been, he says, "Just riding around," or "I don't know." He blames me for every single thing that goes wrong in his life and complains about everything I do for him. Rick calls me unthinkable names in front of the children. He has also hit me many times.

I want to leave him. I have tried many times, but every time I leave him, I get severely depressed and begin to miss him very much.

The last time I left Rick I ended up in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. What can I do to stay away from him and not lose my mind? Where can I go for help, and who can I lean on for support? I am deeply unhappy and becoming cold and bitter. -- DESPERATE IN ARKANSAS

DEAR DESPERATE: You may think you "love" Rick, but you have described a verbal and physical abuser who also may not be faithful. He has been so successful in chipping away at your self-esteem, he has convinced you that you need him and that tolerating abuse is part of love. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Pack your bags and exit the marriage. The minute the door is closed behind you, ask your doctor for a referral to a licensed counselor to help you rebuild your spirit and your life.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 13-year-old who weighs 140 pounds and stands 5 feet tall. I feel self-conscious about my body, and hate it when people make comments about my weight.

My brother constantly calls me "fattie" and other rude names. For example, if I turn down an offer for ice cream in front of him, he'll say something like, "Wow! That's a miracle!"

His behavior really hurts, and although I've talked to my parents about it, they haven't done anything to stop him.

I feel ready to work on losing weight, but don't know where to begin. Is there anything I can say to my brother to shut him up? I'll make good use of any suggestions you have. -- TIRED OF FEELING FAT IN WASHINGTON STATE

DEAR FEELING FAT: Speak to your parents about your desire to adopt healthier eating habits, and ask them to make an appointment with your doctor so you can begin an approved program of diet and exercise.

Next, tell them again how hurtful and humiliating your brother's negative comments are. He may think they're funny, and he needs to be told otherwise. Ridicule never helped anyone solve a problem. Show them this letter and tell them who wrote it. I wish you the best of luck.

DEAR ABBY: I'm confused about something. Would you please explain the difference between an atheist and an agnostic? Some people say agnostics are atheists with no guts. Thanks! -- WONDERING IN CHICAGO

DEAR WONDERING: I'm sure whoever said it was only trying to be funny. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (Tenth Edition) defines an agnostic as "one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the non-existence of God or a god." In other words, an agnostic is someone who says, "I'll make a firm decision when I have proof."

An atheist is one who actively disbelieves in the existence of a deity. He's a person who has already made up his mind.

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