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Dear Ann Landers: To the woman who wrote concerning her husband's recent retirement, I offer my deepest sympathy. My husband has been retired for a year, and it stinks.

The amount he receives from his pension and Social Security is a few hundred dollars a month less than his paychecks were. In order to make up the difference, he decided to hire himself out as a handyman. He makes $20 an hour, and has more work than he can handle. It sounds great, but it has created real problems. He considers whatever money he makes to be his alone. The man refuses to part with a dime - unless it's for himself. Every once in a while, he'll have dinner in a restaurant and go to a movie. If he asks me to go along, I have to pay my own way. We have no other social life.

I have an appointment with a therapist next week.

Am I better off without him? I'm not sure. I'd love to be the way we were years ago, but I don't see that happening. Any ideas?

- Sleeping With the Enemy in Baltimore

Dear Baltimore: Your husband may be physically healthy, but his behavior suggests that he has some strudel in his noodle. And what's with you, that you would agree to pay your own way when you go with him to dinner and the movies? Did he do this before he retired?

You say you have an appointment with a therapist. Good! You need to stay in therapy and find out why you have such low self-esteem that you would allow your husband to treat you so shabbily. Since he has been retired only one year, time is on your side. You have too big an investment in the relationship to throw in the towel. Keep reading, and take a lesson from another wife in Florida:

Dear Ann Landers: When my husband retired, I said, "I've been getting up at 5:30 a.m. and cooking breakfast for you for 40 years. Now that you're retired, I'm not doing it anymore." I told him if he needed help, I would teach him. He accepted that, and now, he seems to enjoy it. Now when I vacuum, I do the living room and tell him, "You can do the bedroom." When I change the sheets, he's right there. When I threw my back out loading the dishwasher, he said, "No more of that - from now on, I'll do the dishes." He never knew what the inside of a grocery store looked like. Now he does all the shopping.

I let him know his help means a lot to me. When he doesn't feel well, I take over his duties. I haul the trash and cut the grass. He never fails to say, "Thank you." When I was in the hospital, he did all the laundry. When I got home, he kept us well-fed.

People who care about each other take care of one another - and it's not a duty, it's a pleasure.

-J.M., Boca Raton, Fla.

Dear J. M.: Your letter is a blueprint for a successful marriage. The key phrase is, "Take care of one another." Solid relationships are built one day at a time. I love the way my readers learn from one another.

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