DEAR ABBY: I am a 31-year-old mother of three. I have been married for 11 years and need your advice. I love my husband, "Rick," but I am not happy.
My husband has always gone out on weekends and disappears for hours during the week. When I ask Rick where he has been, he says, "Just riding around," or "I don't know." He blames me for every single thing that goes wrong in his life and complains about everything I do for him. Rick calls me unthinkable names in front of the children. He has also hit me many times.
I want to leave him. I have tried many times, but every time I leave him, I get severely depressed and begin to miss him very much.
The last time I left Rick I ended up in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. What can I do to stay away from him and not lose my mind? Where can I go for help, and who can I lean on for support? I am deeply unhappy and becoming cold and bitter. -- DESPERATE IN ARKANSAS
DEAR DESPERATE: You may think you "love" Rick, but you have described a verbal and physical abuser who also may not be faithful. He has been so successful in chipping away at your self-esteem, he has convinced you that you need him and that tolerating abuse is part of love. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Pack your bags and exit the marriage. The minute the door is closed behind you, ask your doctor for a referral to a licensed counselor to help you rebuild your spirit and your life.