Dear Amy:

My nephew is 32 years old. I love him dearly.

His first marriage ended when his physically abusive wife trashed their apartment and left.

Now he is about to marry again. His intended is humorless, sullen and spiteful. She treats him unkindly, treats her 9-year-old with indifference and treats his family with disdain. She is bossy, obese and has a raft of medical problems.

My nephew has told his mother (my youngest sister) that he doesn't care for Kate but feels that because they've lived together for two years, he might as well marry her because she expects it. He has been treated for depression, and he hates everything about that.

Do you have any words of wisdom for a sad and sorry old aunt?

- Concerned Aunt

Dear Concerned: Let me start by offering some support for you. Your nephew is lucky to have you in his life - and in his corner.

Your nephew seems to find himself passively locked into abusive relationships. It's no less sad and frightening for him and his family than it would be if he were a young woman who was attracted to abusers and repeatedly made poor relationship choices.

His life trajectory may be influenced by his depression. Do what you can to encourage him to get treatment and counseling. If he didn't like his previous therapist, help him find another.

Your nephew seems to have a positive relationship with his mother and you; you both should demonstrate that you care about him and are in his corner. He needs to understand that he deserves better than to be abused and neglected. He needs to know that he has support, so that he doesn't feel isolated. Obviously, the child in this family is also at risk.

For a look at the often discounted issue of partner abuse against men, read Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence by Philip W. Cook (1997, Praeger).