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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I must respond to "Daughter of an Iron-Willed Mom," whose mother is against her reuniting with her abusive boyfriend. Perhaps she will listen to someone who's been there.

My ex-husband was abusive. I continued to forgive him and go back to him over and over, until all my family and friends refused to help me anymore. My 10-year-old daughter and I were homeless and at our wits' end for nine months before I finally landed on my feet. It was pure hell.

After seven years of hard work and heartache, we are secure and stable and have no more worries about that man returning. He finally found some other poor woman to terrorize and has remarried.

Please, Abby, inform the woman that abusers talk a good game because they really believe what they're saying -- until the next time they get mad. Then the deep-seated patterns that lead to abusive behavior reassert themselves, and they are unable to control their anger, no matter how many promises they've made. I know. And I have the scars to prove it. -- NEVER AGAIN IN ASHLAND, ORE.

DEAR NEVER AGAIN: I'm printing your letter in the hope that "Daughter" will see it. Although a minority of batterers can change, the vast majority of them will not recognize that they are the ones with the problem. They are convinced that their victims "deserved" the battery. They are sociopaths -- unable to identify with the feelings of other people.

The worst kind of batterers -- the psychopaths -- are the ones who turn up in media reports. These sick male batterers are responsible for the murders of at least four women a day in this country -- and when secondary victims of their unbridled rage (children, relatives, neighbors) are added, the numbers probably double.

My experts tell me that batterers rarely accept responsibility for their violent behavior, and because of that, they are not motivated to change.

The victims of domestic abuse are the ones most likely to be helped by counseling. They often believe the batterer when told the abuse was their own fault, but with the help of a trained counselor, this untruth can be exposed and the unwarranted guilt can be erased.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 32-year-old single mother of two terrific boys, 8 and 10. It's been a little more than two years since my divorce, and I have recently started dating.

Lucky for me, I met a wonderful man who is 52 years young. He's very active and doesn't look his age. I have never met anyone who shared so many of my interests. We water-ski, scuba-dive, Rollerblade, go to movies, enjoy the same foods -- and so many other things.

We've been seeing each other four months now, and it's been wonderful -- except for one thing: He doesn't want the responsibility of raising children. He seems to love mine, but says that because he never had his own, he doesn't have the desire to be a dad.

Other than this one issue, we have a wonderful relationship, and he would like me to be more free to travel with him. However, it's hard for me to leave my children for two weeks at a time.

About a month ago, I wrote him a letter telling him that maybe we should both move on. I told him I cared for him dearly, but didn't think it was fair for him to hold on to me when I'm not exactly what he is looking for. We talked it over and decided that since things were going so well for us, we should continue our relationship until things change. He's very attractive and has given me no reason to move on; however, in the back of my mind I wonder if I am wasting my time, since I know he doesn't want a real role in my kids' lives.

Abby, what should I do? Leave our romance "as is" or force myself to move on? -- TOTALLY CONFUSED IN FLORIDA

DEAR TOTALLY CONFUSED: At this time in your sons' lives, they need to be your top priority. Focus on that, and I have a hunch everything else will fall into place -- whether or not this man remains in the picture.

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