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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Relentless Badgering Makes Wife Doubt Her Sanity

DEAR ABBY: My husband berates and belittles me constantly. He calls me "worthless, stupid, lazy, no-good and crazy." He controls my every move and follows me around the kitchen when I'm trying to cook. I got so nervous last week that I dropped a kettle of soup and burned myself.

He followed me into the laundry room, watched me load the washer before putting in the detergent, then yelled at me that I was doing it "backward." He removes the dishes from the dishwasher and rearranges them so they're the way he thinks they should be. He says I can't do anything right, and I'm starting to believe him.

I leave the house only to buy groceries because I'm afraid people are laughing and staring at me. I sleep half the day. I used to go out and have fun; now I sit at home with the drapes drawn. I don't have the energy to clean the house. I cry every day.

Our two boys are 8 and 11. He controls their every move, too. There's so much stress in this house they are starting to turn against him.

The emotional abuse started a couple of years ago. When I try to discuss it, he calls me crazy and a liar and denies it. I used to be healthy as a horse, but now I have headaches and stomach pains.

Friends say I should leave, but I can't just pick up and walk out with two sons to raise. He threatens to get custody because I am "insane." I stay because I don't want to lose my boys. I'm afraid to see a doctor. He may say I'm crazy, too. Please help me. -- LESS THAN ZERO IN ILLINOIS

DEAR LESS THAN ZERO: Please trust me and consult a doctor immediately. Your symptoms are probably stress-related. You may also be depressed from the unrelenting abuse.

You are not crazy, but your husband may be. Once you have spoken to your doctor, contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. They can help you and the boys escape. Their toll-free number is (800) 799-7233.

Whether your husband is sick or just an abusive bully remains to be seen. But for your sake and your children's, do not tolerate this situation. If you stay, he will not only destroy you emotionally, but also your boys.