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Q: "Heartbroken in Westchester, Pa." said she had just broken up with an emotionally abusive man who withheld affection from her because he wanted her to lose weight. She went on to say she was working on her master's in counseling psychology, and couldn't understand why she had tolerated his emotional abuse for nine months. She said she could hear his put-downs over and over, and knew it was self-destructive but couldn't let it go.

Please tell her that the best weight she ever lost was the burden of "Shallow Hal." Unfortunately, I married a man much like him. His favorite pastime was degrading my career choice. (I'm in the military and have been for 19 years.) Your comment, "trying to win an unwinnable man," hit me like a ton of bricks.

Thankfully, I was only with my husband nine months before I came to my senses, but the damage to my self-esteem and trust was severe. I got help through both military and civilian resources, and went on two antidepressants for depression and insomnia for six months - enough time to get it through my head that it wasn't my issue, it was his.

Please tell "Heartbroken" there are men who will love and appreciate her for who she is, not how much she weighs.

Proud Of Myself in San Antonio

A: I'm pleased you managed to get away while your self-esteem, though tattered, was repairable. Not surprisingly, "Heartbroken's" letter hit a nerve with many readers who took pen in hand to vent. Read on:

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I have a different angle on why "Heartbroken" put up with "Shallow Hal's" comments and ultimatums: Our society treats fat people so badly that she didn't think she deserved better. The messages were just more of what she heard all the time.

B.B. in Yonkers

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That woman's boyfriend was a bona fide jerk! She needs to learn from this episode so she can pass it on to her future clients. She should look at it as a life experience and warn her clients about the danger of people like this, and tell them to always be objective when evaluating a potential mate.

By the way, I'm a guy, and I would never do what that jerk has done. That's why I've been happily married for 30 years.

Guy From Texas

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When my "Shallow Hal" told me I should lose weight because I wasn't attractive, I was in recovery from an eating disorder and had put on 50 pounds. I told him that if he didn't like me as I was, he should give Cindy Crawford a call to see if she would give him the time of day. Then I moved out of the apartment we shared and moved on.

I'm so glad I did, because three months later I met the man of my dreams, who loves me as I am and still treats me like a queen after seven years together.

Happy As I Am, Calgary, Canada

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips.

Universal Press Syndicate