DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 17 years to the love of my life. I met her 40 years ago while we were growing up in the same neighborhood. Last year she decided our marriage is over.

Nine years into our marriage, I became an alcoholic. Try as I might, I couldn't find a way to stop drinking. Year after year she stuck by me, hoping something would change. I never laid a hand on her, but I was verbally abusive at times while I was drinking.

Last year I found out that, due to my drinking, I had developed a heart condition that may end my life. I think it was the last straw for her because even after getting the news, I continued to drink. Seven months ago she told me we are done.

Since the day she said it, I have been clean and sober, and my heart is getting stronger. I have tried contacting her, but she won't return my calls or letters. I know the trust is gone, but I so badly want my wife back.

How do I prove to her that I have changed and it will no longer be an issue? -- LEARNED THE HARD WAY IN INDIANA

DEAR LEARNED: The best way to prove to your wife that you have changed and won't fall off the wagon again is to continue living a clean and sober lifestyle. If you have friends or family in common, when they see what you are accomplishing every day, they may mention it to her. Even if you receive no response, continue writing to her and describing how your health is improving.

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DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I have been together for two years and are doing great. We both have careers we enjoy. However, he makes more money in a week than I sometimes earn in a month. Neither of us has financial problems, but I feel like this makes him superior to me.

Am I shallow for comparing the two of us this way? He assures me that he will love me the same regardless of how much money I make, or even if I choose not to work at all.

Should I give in and let him "take care of me," or consider higher-paying jobs that would allow me to feel better about myself and pull my fair share of the weight? --- KRISTIN IN NEW YORK

DEAR KRISTIN: You need to ask yourself why your self-esteem is tied to how much money you earn. According to your boyfriend, you ARE pulling your fair share of the weight. You say you enjoy your career. I would hate to see you sacrifice it in order to go to a job every day that you may be less happy doing because you earn less than your boyfriend.

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