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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife's Personal Vow Traps Her in Loveless Marriage

DEAR ABBY: I am a 39-year-old married woman who has lost all hope. My convictions and emotions are in severe conflict.

I'm a deeply devout person, which made the divorce from my first husband extremely traumatic. When I remarried, I made a religious commitment that I would make my second marriage work, and under no circumstances would I ever leave my new husband.

Because of that commitment, I feel I must honor my pledge -- even though there is no love, no intimacy and no marriage anymore. My husband has refused me children and provides me nothing but cold, unwanted solitude in our home. It's tearing me apart.

Even though the love is gone (on both sides) and I want out, counseling is not the answer because I have made a pledge to keep my marriage vows.

I know that being denied everything I need and want in life is the root of my constant, severe depression. My doctor has tried to help with prescriptions, but they're not working.

My husband is much older than I am and content to have me "there" for him. I feel more trapped in this marriage than I did in my first. How can I go on with life when there IS no life?

Abby, all I want is to get out of this marriage so I can start over -- but my oath is holding me hostage. Please help. -- SICK AT HEART

DEAR SICK AT HEART: Speak to your spiritual adviser to relieve you of the burden of your well-intentioned but unrealistic oath. It takes two committed people to make a marriage work, and your husband has broken his marriage vows by not fulfilling his responsibilities to be a partner who loves you as he loves himself. Ask yourself if a loving God would want you to remain in a loveless marriage that is a marriage in name only.

Your marriage ended a long time ago -- and since your husband is unwilling to work to revive it, the time has come to accept that reality and move on.