Dear Abby: I have been married to "Max" for 22 years. There were some happy times in the beginning after our children (now 20 and 24) were born, but not many since.

Max is very controlling and treats his family as objects. Our children don't like him. He doesn't have any friends. He embarrasses and humiliates me. We have poor communication because when I want to get my point across, he yells at me to shut up.

I fell out of love a long time ago but stuck around because I felt sorry for him. I thought of leaving this unhappy marriage when my children were younger, but I was afraid Max would do something horrible to them because he is vindictive. I always believed he made the children miserable as a way to get back at me.

I regret how my marriage has affected my kids. It seems my life has been a waste for the past 30 years and I will never know true happiness. How do I find the courage to leave this man who has never loved me? I used to pray he'd find a girlfriend, but apparently I'm the only moron willing to put up with him. I don't like confrontation, but I need to get out. Can you help me? — Had Enough in Indiana

Dear Indiana: If you truly are ready to walk out, you should seek counseling and a good attorney. The counselor will help you decide what to do and find the courage to do it, and the lawyer will tell you how to protect yourself legally. If you are concerned that Max will do something drastic to you or the children, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

Dear Annie: Recently, two women in our office had their first babies. Two co-workers decided to throw a joint baby shower to celebrate the new arrivals. The morning of the shower, an e-mail was sent to all the women in the office, telling us what our "fair share" of the costs was. We were all expected to chip in to pay for the cake, punch and decorations, even though this was never discussed before.

This has caused some tension in the office. The amount is not a big deal, but we are upset about the principle of sending a bill to people who weren't involved in the planning. Most of us already spent money on gifts.

Is this proper etiquette? Since when did we have to pay admission to celebrate the birth of a child? — Perplexed

Dear Perplexed: The co-workers who planned the shower should have asked if you wished to participate and informed you of the costs beforehand. Apparently, they assumed you would see it as an "office shower" with shared expenses. Since you have to continue working with these people, we suggest you pay the bill if you can afford it, and know better for next time.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.