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DEAR ABBY: I need to know how to handle my mixed-up marriage. My husband is a preacher, and our marriage is falling apart. He cares more for another woman than he does for me. Every time we talk to each other, he always brings her into the conversation. It happens even when he's preaching. All I ever hear is that she helped him with his children when his other wives left him!

I understand that, but that was in the past. All I ever asked of him was to be there for me. Our sex life is terrible. He no longer has anything to do with me.

We have been married only 16 months, and this has gone on for half our marriage. It hurts me because I love him so much. What can I do about this? How can I make him understand? -- HURTING IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR HURTING: The time has come to stop reacting emotionally and think rationally. Just how many wives has your husband had? And why did they leave him? Could it be that they were treated the same way he is treating you?

Many wives make their husbands "understand" when communication breaks down through marriage counseling, and that's what I recommend for you. I don't know whether your husband still carries a torch for his former child-care provider or if he's actively involved with someone else. But you need more help than anyone can give you in a letter.

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