"Resentful in Illinois" described her husband as so obsessed with his cousin's little daughter that he acts as though she is his child -- saying he is "in withdrawal" if he doesn't see her often.
"Resentful" confided that she would love to have a child of her own and was hurt because her husband kept postponing it. She asked you if she was overreacting. You suggested that the child might really be her husband's.
Abby, you missed one other important possibility. "Resentful's" husband may be involved with that child in an inappropriate relationship. Statistics show that 80 percent of sexual abuse of children occurs in a relationship with someone the child, the mother and other family members trust.
"Resentful" should watch for any signs that the relationship has gone too far. If the husband is resistant to marriage counseling, it could be a red flag.
I am a pediatrician. I deal with some of these same situations in my medical practice.
Disturbed Physician in Cincinnati
Yours was one of several hundred letters and e-mails I received echoing the same suspicion. Although "Resentful in Illinois" wrote anonymously, I'm printing your letter because I thought she should see your take on the situation. Read on:
In your response to "Resentful in Illinois," you mentioned the man's excessive attachment to his niece. The child of his cousin is his "first cousin once removed," not his niece.
Molly in Denver
Thank you for straightening out my genealogy terminology.
"Sonia" and I have been married 10 years and have two young sons. Our marriage has been rocky for the last few years. Six months ago, I told her we had to get counseling -- which we did. After the second session she refused to go back. I suspect she realized that our counselor knew she was lying.
Sonia doesn't think I deserve a sex life. She picks arguments with me, and when I walk away she berates me. She seems to enjoy fighting in front of the children. She threatens me in front of them that she's going to "take everything," and I'll be left with nothing. I promise my boys repeatedly that I will never leave them.
Sonia has a part-time job. She refuses to work full-time because if we split up, she "wouldn't get as much child support." Last week she told me the only reason she married me was because I made good money. Now I'm unable to work because of a back injury, and Sonia complains my disability check isn't enough to maintain the lifestyle she deserves.
Abby, I pay all the bills. I do most of the cooking and cleaning. My kids mean everything to me. I am not leaving my home, but living with Sonia is becoming more difficult by the day. Please give me some advice.
Troubled Husband in Maine
You are married to a verbal abuser, a person with no regard for the emotional security and well-being of your children or for your feelings. It is now time to consider how destructive this kind of atmosphere is for the children. Since counseling hasn't worked, consult an attorney and thoroughly explore your options. However, before you do, carefully document exactly what your wife is doing and saying. Be sure to include dates and times. It will strengthen your case.
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 www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.
(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate