Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Confused Wife Would Take Husband Back Despite Abuse

DEAR ABBY: I recently divorced my husband of nine years because I found out he was having an affair. He actually introduced her to people that we both knew. I ended up hiring an off-duty police officer so I could get the proof (pictures). It turned out she was one of my husband's co-workers, and the affair had been going on for three years. I ended up divorcing him, but the woman's husband decided to forgive her.

My ex hates my guts because she chose to remain with her husband.

Abby, I am so ashamed. How could I not have known? We had not slept together since our daughter was born; she is 6 years old now. He blames the whole affair on me. He says I was not doing my wifely duty and that's what made him cheat. Well, I just didn't feel that close to him. He had been verbally and physically abusive prior to our daughter's birth and afterward. He was terrible to my parents and called them names. He never paid any bills nor helped me with our daughter.

To this day he hates me so much he can't stand to look at me because he has to pay child support. He has every other weekend with our daughter, and it kills him to come and pick her up. He was a sorry excuse for a husband and not much better as a father.

The problem is -- if he wanted to come back, I believe I would take him back. Why do I feel like this? Is there something wrong with me? Do I need counseling? -- DAZED AND CONFUSED

DEAR DAZED: Your husband was a master manipulator. Regardless of where he tries to lay the blame, the physical and verbal abuse you received from him was not your fault. Nor did you "make" him cheat on you -- he managed that all by himself.

One of the tactics of an abuser is blaming the victim for the terrible things he does. Unfortunately, the victim often believes her abuser when he says she "made" him act the way he did.

There is nothing "wrong" with you that can't be fixed. Counseling is the answer -- and the sooner the better. If your physician cannot refer you to a therapist, call the Domestic Violence Hotline, (800) 799-7233, for a referral. (The TDD line for people with hearing impairments is (800) 787-3224.) Please don't wait to make the call.

DEAR ABBY: The letters in your column about people who wear too much perfume in public prompts this letter.

Some years ago, faced with an identical crisis, I discovered a fix that has stood me well in the numerous olfactory confrontations I've encountered since. When assaulted by odors I can't endure, I obtain a small wedge of lemon or lime. When rubbed under the nose, the resulting citrus aroma effectively masks the sickeningly sweet smell of the perfume. The application of the lemon slice can be done inconspicuously if one doesn't wish to embarrass the offender, or can be done blatantly if one wishes the odor-wafter to become aware of the problem he or she is causing. -- EARLE TIMBERLAKE, B.S.C., REGISTERED MASSAGE THERAPIST

DEAR EARLE: Thank you for the tip. For people who are simply offended by the odor of too much perfume, your suggestion could prove to be a godsend. For those who suffer allergic reactions to perfume, however, I still think prudence would dictate that they put as much distance between them and the offender as possible.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY READERS: Have a merry Christmas, but keep this in mind: If you're drinking, don't drive; if you're driving, don't drink.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600