DEAR ABBY: My husband berates and belittles me constantly. He calls me “worthless, stupid, lazy, no-good and crazy.” He controls my every move and follows me around the kitchen when I’m trying to cook. I got so nervous last week that I dropped a kettle of soup and burned myself.

He followed me into the laundry room, watched me load the washer before putting in the detergent, then yelled at me that I was doing it “backward.” He removes the dishes from the dishwasher and rearranges them so they’re the way he thinks they should be. He says I can’t do anything right, and I’m starting to believe him.

I leave the house only to buy groceries because I’m afraid people are laughing and staring at me. I sleep half the day. I used to go out and have fun; now I sit at home with the drapes drawn. I don’t have the energy to clean the house. I cry every day.

Our two boys are 8 and 11. He controls their every move, too. There’s so much stress in this house they are starting to turn against him.

The emotional abuse started a couple of years ago. When I try to discuss it, he calls me crazy and a liar and denies it. I used to be healthy as a horse, but now I have headaches and stomach pains.

Friends say I should leave, but I can’t just pick up and walk out with two sons to raise. He threatens to get custody because I am “insane.” I stay because I don’t want to lose my boys. I’m afraid to see a doctor. He may say I’m crazy, too. Please help me. — LESS THAN ZERO IN ILLINOIS

DEAR LESS THAN ZERO: Please trust me and consult a doctor immediately. Your symptoms are probably stress-related. You may also be depressed from the unrelenting abuse.

You are not crazy, but your husband may be. Once you have spoken to your doctor, contact the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. They can help you and the boys escape. Their toll-free number is (800) 799-7233.

Whether your husband is sick or just an abusive bully remains to be seen. But for your sake and your children’s, do not tolerate this situation. If you stay, he will not only destroy you emotionally, but also your boys.

DEAR ABBY: I live with a wonderful woman with whom I am completely in love. I know she feels the same. My problem is she won’t tell me what year she was born. I know she’s older than I am, but by how much I don’t know.

She told me that in her previous relationships her husband and boyfriend left her for younger women. I’ve told her age has nothing to do with how I feel about her, but she’s afraid that if I know her exact age I will leave. I have done all I can to reassure her, but she still won’t tell me.

What can I do to make her understand that her age is unimportant to me so far as how I feel about her? Or should I just forget about ever knowing her true age? — IN LOVE IN SAN ANTONIO

DEAR IN LOVE: You’ve done all you can. Your lady friend has been “snake bit” twice. So if you really love her and don’t care about her age, drop the subject, since you know it’s a painful one for her. Got it?

TO MY JEWISH READERS: At sundown, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, begins — a time for reflection, prayer and repentance. To all of you, may your fast be an easy one.

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.

To order “How to Write Letters for All Occasions,” send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby — Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.