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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Ollie," and I are in our late 40s and have been married 25 years. The first five were rocky, but we made it work -- and then the children came along.

Ollie has become so controlling I can hardly breathe. I work 55 hours a week. My only extravagance is buying coffee and a snack and lunch at work a couple of times a week. Ollie demands to know where every penny goes and what I'm "wasting" it on.

Abby, I don't do drugs or gamble, and I'm not a shopaholic. But grocery and household costs have risen. Ollie does none of the shopping, refuses to go with me, and denies that prices have gone up. We are not destitute. He has his own business. I am emotionally drained. He refuses to go to counseling.

The moment I get home in the evening, he starts berating me. Our kids are in high school and usually scatter when he starts yelling. He isn't hitting me, but I feel beaten emotionally. I get a lump in my throat and my chest constricts when I try to figure out what to do. Can verbal abusers become physical abusers? I find myself working longer hours so I don't have to come home, but I'm afraid he'll start on the kids if I'm not there. Should I see a lawyer? Without outside intervention, how can we survive? -- TIRED OF THE BATTLE IN MICHIGAN

DEAR TIRED: Yes, verbal abuse can escalate to physical abuse. The stress is taking its toll on you. If it continues, Ollie will survive, but you may not. You feel "beaten" because, emotionally, that's exactly what's happening. You deserve better, but the only person who can make it stop is you.

Your husband will not be thrilled when you finally stand up for yourself, so be prepared. Make a list of his bank accounts, assets, Social Security and driver's license numbers. Then consult an attorney who specializes in family law. Once Ollie has been put on notice that the marriage is over if he isn't willing to get help for his problem, he may be more receptive to counseling. And at that point, you'll have to decide whether you and the children are better off with him or without him.

DEAR ABBY: I was recently invited to a baby shower for an acquaintance. As she opened her gifts, a girlfriend sitting next to her wrote down the name of the gift-giver and the item on a sheet of paper. At the same time, this friend was also penning thank-you notes to each giver! At the end of the shower, the mommy-to-be signed each note, "Love, 'X'" -- and handed them to each giver.

How should a person react to something like that? My first reaction was that this woman should receive no more of my time, since my attendance and my gift were not worth a personal thank-you note and a 37-cent stamp. -- CONFUSED IN TROY, MICH.

DEAR CONFUSED: Could the honoree be functionally illiterate? If that's the case, you should not have been offended. If she's not, however, it's clear the mommy-to-be is socially ignorant, and I'm sure you weren't the only guest who was offended.

DEAR ABBY: Like any other little girl, I have dreamed about my perfect wedding. But now that my boyfriend and I have begun discussing marriage, I realize that I have nobody to fill the spot of maid of honor.

Would it be all right if I asked my older sister (who is already married and is my best friend) to be maid of honor? -- WANTS SOMETHING TRADITIONAL

DEAR WANTS: By all means ask her. It's an honor, and I'm sure she will appreciate it. However, since your sister is married, her title will be "matron of honor."

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