Dear Annie: I am 26 and have been living with my "husband" for a year. We had a religious ceremony, but didn't file the legal paperwork. Now I realize it was a huge mistake. I desperately want out of this so-called marriage.
"Justin" lied about completing his college education and was unemployed for the first six months we were together. He told me he was applying for jobs, but in reality, he spent his days playing video games and eating junk food. Justin finally found part-time minimum-wage employment, but I still do the cleaning, bill-paying and cooking despite working 50 hours a week compared to his 20. I have asked, begged and nagged him to help more, but he refuses to lift a finger. When I insist, he whines and takes an hour to do a 20-minute task.
Justin suffers from depression. Whenever I bring up the idea of an amicable separation, he either becomes enraged and throws the furniture, or dissolves into a sobbing mess and threatens suicide. I, too, have fought and won my own battle with depression through therapy, medication and a wonderful support network. I feel the need to provide a stable environment for Justin, but he refuses to seek treatment.
If I leave him, I am terrified he will harm himself. Justin's parents are less than sympathetic, and he cannot support himself. I have moved into the second bedroom, and we haven't had sex for months. Justin insists we are married and everything is fine. Our friends and family have no clue that it's not legal and our relationship is in shambles. We live in a small religious community. A messy breakup could cost me my career. Please help.
— Cornered in Kansas
Dear Kansas: As much as you want to help Justin, you are not responsible for his mental health or his unwillingness to seek treatment. At some point, his dependence is self-destructive to both of you. You could tell him you will consider staying if he gets therapy immediately. But also talk to your local clergyperson about your "marriage." Kansas recognizes common-law marriages, and you could, in fact, be legally bound to Justin. If walking out is not possible, you may need to file the legal paperwork and then get an actual divorce or have the marriage annulled.
Dear Annie: I am a divorced mother of two college-age girls. Over the years, their father hasn't bothered to have much contact with them.
The problem is, in the past two years, we have received a picture at Christmas of his four little girls by his second wife. This really hurts my daughters' feelings and just makes me mad. It's like he is throwing his new family in our faces. It even says "Merry Christmas from the family." Do you think this is right?
— Disgusted in Penn.
Dear Disgusted: It is extremely insensitive, but we don't believe Dad is trying to be deliberately hurtful. And his wife is likely the one who is doing a mass mailing without considering the recipients. Let your ex know that you appreciate his effort to stay in touch with his children, but ask that he please not send the photograph because it makes them terribly unhappy. We hope he cares enough to do something about it.
Dear Annie: Having suffered with body odor and been miserable for well over a decade, your column was a godsend. I followed your readers' suggestions. I bought zinc supplements and immediately started taking them. It didn't seem to help, and then I saw a later column and tried apple cider vinegar. There were days the vinegar stung so severely that I gave up that plan in less than a week. However, by that time, the zinc had taken effect.
I am now a very happy camper. Sincere thanks to you and your readers for solving an embarrassing problem when my dermatologist could not.
— Smelling Better
Dear Better: Thanks for letting us know. We love the way our readers look out for one another.
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