Dear Abby: Should I leave bad husband now or when kids grow up?

Neglectful man’s wife considers ditching him for a nicer guy but doesn’t want to harm her children.

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DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 16 years, but after the birth of my first child, our marriage went downhill. My husband withdrew and went out with friends often. When my brother was in the hospital, I traveled three hours with my newborn baby to visit him. My husband drove up separately, stayed a few hours, then left to go to a concert with a female friend.

Our sex life dwindled down to nothing, and I felt like we were roommates. I became depressed and started having manic episodes. I’m on medication now and taking care of myself. I have always resented my husband for this. We have two kids now, and I’m afraid if I leave him it will hurt the children. I tried three different marriage counselors with him, but he wasn’t interested.

I now spend my time doing everything with the kids and focusing on my well-being. I met an old high school acquaintance on Facebook, and our friendship has turned romantic. I don’t see him often, but when I do, I want to be with him always. We are both scared of what could happen. I love him so much. He is kind, sweet and caring. Do I wait until the kids are 18 to leave? — READY FOR CHANGE IN THE EAST

DEAR READY: Make an appointment to talk with an attorney. When you do, be sure to ask what kind of financial information you may need to ensure you get a fair settlement should you decide to end this charade of a marriage.

Once you have the information, tell your husband that the status quo isn’t good enough for you and offer him one more chance at marriage counseling. If he refuses — and he probably will — proceed with setting yourself free.

Raising children in the atmosphere you have described may be more damaging than getting a divorce. A warning, however: Once you become available on a full-time basis, your lover may not be ready or willing to become your knight in shining armor. Be prepared to fend for yourself, just in case.

DEAR ABBY: I’m in love with two men at the same time, but one of them happens to be dead. Twelve years ago, I met a wonderful man, “Carl.” We had each other at “Hello” and became engaged two weeks later. We were very happily married until I lost him to cancer six years later.

Two years after I lost Carl, I decided to dip my toe back in the dating pool. A few months later, I met “Philip.” We also were immediately attracted to each other and are very happy together. We’ve been a couple for four years and will be married this summer. He’s very understanding about my feelings and memories of Carl. Am I wrong to marry this man I love dearly when I still have feelings for my late husband? — WONDERING WIDOW IN MISSOURI

DEAR WONDERING WIDOW: When a spouse dies, the love the couple had for each other doesn’t also die. The love you feel for Carl can last as long as you do, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I have said many times that grief is an individual process. That you have fallen in love with Philip doesn’t lessen your love for your late husband. Celebrate your good fortune. I wish you and Philip a lifetime of happiness together.

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.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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