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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife in Bad Marriage Is Reluctant to Leave Stepdaughter Behind

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together nearly four years. When we got together, he was in the process of gaining custody of his daughter because his ex abused drugs. We have raised "Arlette" ever since, and her mother is out of the picture.

Arlette calls me Mom, and we have a strong bond. Her father and I have a very strained marriage. We separated several times because he was abusive. I have been giving serious thought to leaving him, but because I have no legal rights to Arlette, I stay. I lost custody of my own daughter because of his abuse, and although my older children don't care for him, they, too, have a very strong bond with his daughter.

I'm unhappy and I do not feel this marriage can be saved. I am at a loss, though, thinking about leaving his daughter. She's only 4. How do I move on with my life knowing I won't have a relationship with this child I consider my own? -- LIKE MY OWN DAUGHTER IN FLORIDA

DEAR LIKE MY OWN: Because of your husband's history of abuse, my first suggestion is to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org or by calling (800) 799-7233. Having lost custody of your own daughter because of his abuse, there is good reason to believe he would abuse Arlette if she is left alone with him. While you're at it, consider running this scenario past a social worker who is well versed in the ins and outs of the system.

Read more in: Marriage & Divorce | Family & Parenting | Abuse