DEAR ABBY: I am 22 years old and have been married 17 months. “Derek” and I have a 23-month-old son. Derek hasn’t worked for about a year and refuses to help support our family. He also belittles me whenever he talks to me. I am not happy in this marriage, but I am not sure what to do about it.

On our honeymoon, Derek told me if I ever divorced him that he’d make sure he would get custody of our son. And his mom already said that she would tell the judge that I was an unfit mother.

My son is my world, Abby. He doesn’t even let his daddy hold him, so I know he wouldn’t be better off with Derek. But because I am on disability, I don’t know if I have a good chance of getting custody if I leave. I don’t feel Derek loves me or my son.

What should I do? Stick it out with my husband or take the chance of losing my son? – TRAPPED IN NEW HAMPSHIRE

It must have been some honeymoon if that was when Derek began threatening retribution if you ever divorced him. It appears you married a bully.

The answer to your questions will become clearer if you discuss this matter with a lawyer who, I am sure, can explain what your rights are as a mother.

If, after that, you can find the strength to assert yourself, perhaps Derek will consider an attitude adjustment and stop blowing hot air.

P.S. If your baby is thriving, then your mother-in-law’s trumped-up allegations would prove groundless.

DEAR ABBY: I suffered a miscarriage six weeks ago. Since then, it feels like I have suffered one disappointment after another. My sister-in-law – who was supposed to be infertile – is now expecting. The doctors thought she’d had an ectopic pregnancy, so they performed surgery on her only to find that the baby was fine and right where it should be.

I feel so bitter that I am normal and healthy, and my baby died because of random bad luck, whereas her baby is fine after all the trauma she has been through.

I have become increasingly angry and unhappy and can no longer see the positive aspects of my life because I spend so much time focusing on the bad. I want to be happy for her and my brother because, surely, this is a miracle baby — but I just can’t.

I think I need a dose of good common sense and a swift kick in the rear to get me out of this depression. Would you do the honors? – ANONYMOUS IN THE NORTH

You’re half-right. You need a good dose of good common sense. You do NOT need a swift kick in the rear, because the feelings you are experiencing are understandable in someone who has lost a baby – with all the hopes, dreams and plans that went along with confirmation of the pregnancy.

It would be helpful for you to discuss your feelings with your ob/gyn because I am sure he or she will explain to you that a larger number of pregnancies than you might imagine do not make it to term.

You have my deepest sympathy for your loss. Because you so badly want a child, I hope you will continue trying for one.

However, if your anger and resentment continue to fester, the surest way I know to resolve these feelings is to discuss them with a mental health professional. It is normal to grieve, but you must not allow that grief to rule your life.

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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