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Dear Abby: I am a 46-year-old man who has been married for 29 years. I was a father at 18, and have been with "Barbara" ever since because I felt obligated to her and the kids. Our children are grown now, and I am still with her.

Frankly, what we have is more like a chore than a marriage. I won't even go into what I think about her family. I wish I could change and try to love her, but it has reached the point where I make excuses not to have sex. Even when Barbara calls me "Honey," it turns my stomach.

My wife is a good person, and I wish I had it in me to say I love her, but it's just not there. I am repelled emotionally and physically.

I am confused and don't want to hurt Barbara, but I can't say the words or go through the motions. We have discussed it, and she says she will never leave me or divorce me. What should I do?

-- A Mess in Coopersburg, Pa.
Dear Mess: If you are asking me to give you permission to leave a woman who has given birth to and raised your children, and tried to be a good wife to you, I can't do it. You're already living with her as "friends." It's time to recognize that there will be a high price for what you have in mind, and you must decide if it's worth it. Counseling might help you.

A real burner

Dear Abby: I have lived with my boyfriend for five years. "Brian" is a good man and a decent boyfriend. I get along well with his family and particularly his mom. Brian is sweet, sensitive and, for the most part, very laid-back.

My problem is Brian's temper. Although he has never physically abused me, when he gets angry, he completely loses control. He breaks things like phones, radios, doors and anything else around him. It is terrifying to watch. During those times, saying anything to him only makes it worse. Once I tried going out when it happened, and he broke the phone. After these episodes he's always terribly sorry and feels horrible.

I love him and don't want to leave him, but I'm beginning to question how this is affecting me. Abby, is this abusive behavior, and what can I do to help him regain control of his anger?

-- Second Thoughts in Philly
Dear Second Thoughts: Pack your bags and leave now. If you don't, your "sweet, sensitive, laid-back" boyfriend's outbursts will escalate until he hurts you -- or the child you could have together if you stay. You cannot help your boyfriend regain control of his anger -- only HE can do that, with professional help. His destructiveness is intended to intimidate you. Please don't tolerate it out of naivete and affection for his family, because without serious help it will only get worse.

P.S. If there is any chance he could lose control when he knows you are going, either do it while he's out or have a male family member with you.

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