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Dear Abby: Everyone’s shunning me as husband airs our dirty laundry

The marriage is on the verge of collapse, but he refuses to leave.

DEAR ABBY: My husband of 16 years has been airing our dirty laundry to anyone who will listen, including my 35-year-old son. We live in a small town and have lots of ties here. People who were once quick to come up and say hi no longer do so. In fact, most are avoiding me by heading in the opposite direction in the stores or in parking lots.

I have asked my husband to keep our business between us and not discuss our personal lives with others, but he continues to do it anyway. His mother is the go-to for him and she has now canceled our Saturday outings. I’m so disgusted by all of this that I want to end the marriage.

The home we live in is mine — I paid in full for it before I met him, and it is all I have. I have asked him to leave, but he refuses, saying he’s going to “take me for everything and more.” Should I hire an attorney at the risk of possibly making things worse, or wait until things calm down? — AFRAID AND CONFUSED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR AFRAID: Do not wait for things to “calm down.” In light of what your husband has threatened, it is extremely important that you start talking to lawyers about what’s going on and how to protect yourself. Talk to several because you can gain a wider perspective. While you may not be able to salvage your reputation in that community because of what your husband has been spreading, you will be able to prevent him from fleecing you. Please accept my sympathy.

DEAR ABBY: I have a good friend who wants to help everyone. She has been in a relationship with a man for 25 years. She does not get along with his 40-something-year-old son, who lives with and mooches off his dad. He also has his 8-year-old grandson living there. Because her boyfriend has always promised marriage, she hangs on.

The son is a drug addict and not supposed to be around the grandson, but everyone enables everyone. My friend finally moved out a few years ago, but she is back again. The boyfriend is now battling cancer and has her there to help the grandson with online learning and to take care of all three of them — cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, rides to doctors and cooking.

Her boyfriend is retired now and has a lot of money, and his house is paid off. She’s 63 and thinks if he dies, she’ll get a portion of his estate, but he won’t put anything in writing. I keep telling her she’s a fool and he won’t change. Is she wasting the golden years of her life? — INVOLVED FRIEND IN MINNESOTA

DEAR INVOLVED: Yup! The “boyfriend” has her exactly where he wants her — as a source of free labor and with no guarantee about her future. If it is security she’s hoping for, I regretfully agree that she’s wasting the golden years of her life.

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

Good advice for everyone — teens to seniors — is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)