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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Yesterday, while I was moving my husband's treasured antique automobile, I got into a fender-bender. He is so upset he won't talk to me. He says he wants a divorce and I should move out of the house.

When I asked him why, he said, "You ruin everything. You make my life miserable, and I don't enjoy anything because of you."

He never said anything like this before, and I am devastated. When I try to apologize, he says, "I don't want to talk about it, just get out." Help me, please. -- DEVASTATED IN LITTLE ROCK

DEAR DEVASTATED: I hope that by the time this appears in print, your husband will have regained his sense of priorities and is acting like an adult again. I don't blame him for being upset that his favorite toy was damaged. However, he should be thanking his lucky stars that YOU weren't injured. It's far easier to replace a fender and a paint job than replace a life partner, which is what you are supposed to be.

Under no circumstances should you move out. If he wants to end the marriage, let HIM move. And the minute he is out the door, call a lawyer. There's an old saying, "He who moves first, loses." The lawyer will explain it to you.

DEAR ABBY: My partner, "Tim," and I have been together almost two years. He's an accountant -- a buttoned-down type of person who always has to make sure the I's are dotted and the T's are crossed, if you know what I mean. I, on the other hand, am an artist who prefers to live my life in broad brush strokes. My problem is that Tim cannot stop nit-picking and second-guessing everything I do. I love him, but it is really getting to me.

Is there a solution to this? I have reached the point that the next time he does it, I'm afraid we're going to come to blows. -- MR. "J" IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR MR. "J": Your "buttoned-down" partner behaves the way he does because he needs to feel he's in control. The nit-picking and second-guessing give him the upper hand, especially if it makes you redo whatever it was he criticized. It's an obnoxious trait, and I'm sure it is difficult to live with.

Before you "come to blows," however, the answer is for the two of you to get couples counseling, and the place to start is the nearest gay and lesbian center. Do it now -- before you say or do something you'll regret.

DEAR ABBY: I am 35 years old and have been divorced for four years. Hypothetically speaking, if I decide never to remarry (which is tempting), or if I remarry 20 years from now, what is my marital status between now and then?

I consider myself single, not divorced. If I'm still single when I'm 55 -- or 80, for that matter -- I'd hate to refer to myself as "divorced" and give anyone the idea that I was divorced recently. -- SYLVIA IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR SYLVIA: The term "divorced" means that the person was at one time married and the marriage was legally dissolved. This is true whether the divorce was final 20 minutes ago or 20 years ago. When a person's marriage ends in divorce, she is legally a divorcee -- and that includes you. To imply otherwise is dishonest.

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