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by Abigail Van Buren

Husband's Abusive Taunts Wear on Wife's Self Esteem

DEAR ABBY: I married "Jerry" five years ago. I am 37 and he's 26. From the beginning, Jerry has said hurtful things from time to time, like, "Our marriage is over," "I want a divorce," etc. He also refuses to do household repairs. (He moved into my house.)

When Jerry doesn't get his way, he accuses me of being selfish. He wants us to buy a new house. Abby, I am terrified of going further into debt with him. We've been to marriage counseling. We were told the worst thing we could do is to buy another house together. We would only move our problems to a new location.

Yesterday was the last straw. He said, "You may look young, but you're old. No one is ever going to want you for anything except what they can get out of you!"

I have not confided this to a single soul. I'm too ashamed that the man I married could think something so cruel -- let alone say it.

Jerry always apologizes, but I can't seem to get past this. When I think about what he said, I start to cry. (He can't understand why I'm not able to "get over it" and jump into bed.)

Abby, I look a decade younger than my actual age. May I add, Jerry is no Mr. Universe, although he seems to think he is. What do you think of this situation, and most of all -- me? -- CRUSHED IN THE ROCKIES

DEAR CRUSHED: You are married to a verbal abuser. He uses insults and deprecation the way other abusers use their fists. If you continue to accept this treatment, your self-esteem will eventually dwindle to zero -- which is his goal.

You've tried counseling. It hasn't worked. Now it's time to ask yourself, "Are you better off with him or without him?" The answer is obvious to me.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have worked long and hard on our yard to make it a beautiful, peaceful retreat. Last year, we had it landscaped and added a lovely pond with koi fish and a small waterfall. We both work and time is limited, so we enjoy it mostly in the mornings with our coffee.

The problem is since we added the pond, our yard has become a "public park"! Almost every day we go outside and find people in our yard -- even strangers -- asking questions about the cost of the renovation.

We finally put up a fence, but folks have climbed it to look at the waterfall they could hear from the front walk. How can we stop this? I want to put up a sign that says, "If you weren't invited, you're not welcome."

The clincher came yesterday, when I went out early with my coffee to find a neighbor occupying my lawn chair with HER coffee! She said she was glad we had put in the pond because she had always wanted one -- and now she can come and meditate at ours. -- HAD ENOUGH IN SOUTH FLORIDA

DEAR HAD ENOUGH: It's time to speak clearly. If you're feeling generous, designate one day a month for your nervy neighbor to meditate beside your pond (before you PRE-meditate murdering her), and tell her that the rest of the time you and your husband need your privacy.

If you're not feeling generous, post the sign. There may be repercussions, but the option of having visitors should be yours.

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