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Marriage to abuser has become prison

DEAR ABBY: I’ve been married to my husband for almost 43 years. We haven’t had sex in more than 10 years. He is a nasty drunk, which has grown worse. He is emotionally abusive and calls me lazy and fat.

He hurt his right shoulder three years ago and refused to seek medical attention for it. Two years ago, he had all his teeth extracted. Since then, he has lost at least 50 pounds, which, unfortunately, I seem to have gained. He drinks until he’s falling-down drunk at least twice a week, and he then becomes nasty with me and our daughter. What should I do? – Hopeless in Texas

DEAR HOPELESS: The relationship you have with your husband isn’t a healthy one. Start getting yourself in better physical shape. Once you begin to take care of yourself, the better you will feel physically and emotionally. Begin attending Al-Anon meetings. There are many in almost every community. You can find a location at al-anon.org/info. Al-Anon is an offshoot of AA, and was created to provide support for friends and families of alcoholics. (Your husband qualifies.) After that, start looking for a job so you can gain some independence and eventually leave him completely. The atmosphere you have described is toxic.

DEAR ABBY: I have a sister-in-law, “Greta,” who is married to my husband’s older brother. I have invited her and their family to our home countless times over the past 10 years, giving plenty of time to RSVP. Greta has done the same, and I show up with my ‘brings.” I then help to clean up and am pleasant.

Greta never attends our parties, gatherings, etc. She always responds with, “We have other plans,” or, “We are just going to stay home.” It hurts. Should I keep inviting them? Other family members are annoyed by her excuses. She has never liked me, but she’s married to my husband’s brother, and they have two children I would like to see. Should I stop? – Courteous in Colorado

DEAR COURTEOUS: If you want to see your nieces and nephews, why not invite them out to do something with you? That way, you can interact with them without having to spend time with someone you know doesn’t particularly like you. Greta might also be grateful to have some time to herself. Frankly, it’s surprising that Greta is the one refusing those invitations for her entire family, which makes me wonder how close your husband and his brother are.

DEAR ABBY: Where is the line, and how can I find it, between not judging someone and holding them accountable for their behavior? I know every situation is different, but is there some general guidance you can offer? – Wondering in Oregon

DEAR WONDERING: When you judge another person, it implies that you hold yourself above them. By judging someone, you are not necessarily holding that person accountable. Holding someone accountable doesn’t necessarily mean you’re judging the person, but rather establishing a boundary you feel shouldn’t be crossed.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.