DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Justin," and I have been together 12 years, married for five. We get along well, except for one thing, his so-called "jokes."
Rather than coming out and saying I've done something that bothers him, Justin will make a sarcastic comment, then insist he's "just kidding." If I forget to turn off a light, he'll say something like, "So, you're trying to make sure the electric company doesn't go out of business -- right?" If I tell him his unshaven face hurts when he kisses me, he'll say, "Most women would love it if their husbands gave them kisses all the time ... maybe I should have married one of them." No single remark sounds that terrible, but it's been going on for 12 years and I've had enough.
No matter what he says, as long as Justin claims to be "kidding," he doesn't think I have a reason to get angry. He'll say I don't have a sense of humor, or that I'm "thin-skinned." I tell him frequently that it bothers me. I have asked repeatedly that he just say what's on his mind, but he doesn't. How can I get through to him that what he's doing isn't "joking"; it's avoiding accountability for his comments? -- NOT AMUSED IN VERMONT
DEAR NOT AMUSED: It would be interesting to know something about the atmosphere in which your husband was raised, because emotionally, he's a coward. The term for what he's doing is "passive aggression." People who use it aren't secure enough to be directly confrontational, so they beat around the bush -- taking little jabs here and there, not enough to do serious damage. The measured doses of venom keep their victim off balance and in a constant state of irritation. (If the targets react, it becomes "their" fault.)
You must be a very strong person to have tolerated this for so long. I'm sad to say, your husband may be incapable of changing. However, a way to get him to recognize what he's doing, and how damaging it is, would be through marriage counseling. If he won't go, go without him. It will give you insight and perspective.
DEAR ABBY: My mother has been living with this guy for seven years. We don't live with her, but when we visit, he mentally and emotionally abuses her. Yesterday he cussed me and my brother out, and threatened to beat us up.
My mother wants to leave but she can't. I know it's none of my business because I am only 13, but my brother and I want her to get out. We don't like this guy and don't want to see him anymore. I have told my mother this. She says she'll leave, but she never does! What should I do? I need help to get her to leave this guy because mental abuse leaves a scar on your life that causes you to hate and fear others. -- MICHAEL IN NASHVILLE, TENN.
DEAR MICHAEL: For someone 13, you are very world-wise. I respect that you want to help your mother get away. However, that will take not only careful planning, but a strong desire on her part -- and I'm not sure your mother really wants to go.
Are her parents still living? If they are, tell them what you have told me. Does she have sisters and brothers? Tell them, too. If she has no one, give her the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE (� HYPERLINK "http://www.hndvh.org" ��www.ndvh.org�). When she's ready, they can help her make a plan for leaving. But no one can do this for her. Ultimately, this is something your mother must do for herself.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)