DEAR ABBY: I have been married to my soul mate and best friend, “Herbert,” for a year and a half. There’s only one downside to our marriage. Herbert speaks horribly about himself several times a day. It began after our wedding and used to be limited to bill-paying time. But over the last few months, he has been doing it several times a day.

He says he’s a bad provider. (He’s not! We’re no worse off than millions of other newlywed couples.) He says he’s ugly. (Again, he isn’t. I find him very attractive.) He says he is lazy and that I married someone who, “if it weren’t for bad luck, would have no luck at all.” The list goes on and on.

At first, I’d disagree, but recently I have gone from arguing with him to suggesting counseling. Of course, Herbert will have none of that. He says we can’t afford counseling, which brings on another round of his opinion that he’s worthless.

Abby, it’s exhausting to defend someone who constantly attacks himself. What are my options here? I adore Herbert, but it would be nice to be able to talk about something other than, “No, you’re not worthless. No, you’re not a bad provider.”

Please don’t reveal my name or location. If he knows I’ve written to you, he’ll start it again. Help! – GOING MAD IN THE SOUTHEAST

DEAR GOING MAD: You have married a man with low self- esteem – a bottomless pit. It would be interesting to know how he was treated as a child, because your husband appears so accustomed to verbal abuse that if he doesn’t get it from someone else, he must do it to himself. Thus, you are forced into the position of having to constantly inflate his sagging ego – which I’m sure is exhausting and frustrating.

The next time he starts in, try this: Say, “I would never tolerate anyone else talking this way about the man I love, and I refuse to tolerate it from you, either. Are you trying to make me respect you less? If you don’t stop, you’ll destroy our marriage.” Then insist on some sessions with a licensed professional to sort this out. It’s NOT too expensive; it’s something you can’t afford to do without. Almost any luxury sacrificed will be worth it. And if he still refuses, go without him. I promise if you do, you’ll gain much-needed insight.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 35-year-old man who recently reunited with his birth mother. I had a very close relationship with my adoptive family and was not desperate to meet my birth family, but I have enjoyed making the connection and like them very much.

I am being married next year, and because my adoptive parents are deceased, and because my adoptive sisters (both in their early 50s) mean so much to me, I plan to have them escorted down the aisle in place of my mother.

My fiancee believes I should also have my birth mother escorted down the aisle. I am afraid this would hurt the feelings of my sisters, who, while being supportive of my new connection, are still a bit sensitive about “losing” me to this new family. What do you think? – MUDDLED IN MISSISSIPPI

DEAR MUDDLED: I agree with your fiancee. Talk to your sisters about this now, and impress upon them that they are not “losing” you to your birth mother. She is joining THEM in your life, and this is a time of celebration that should be enjoyed by all – not a turf battle.

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

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