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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Swept Off Her Feet Has Hard and Painful Fall

DEAR ABBY: Thank you so much for reprinting the "15 Reasons to Leave Your Lover, Warning Signs of an Abusive Personality."

I never thought I'd become involved in an abusive relationship. I'm in my mid-40s, female, with a graduate degree in education, a degree in psychology, and lots of professional experience with other people's problems.

I became involved with "Phil" at the age of 41 and was swept off my feet. We were engaged a month after we met, and he seemed to be everything I could have hoped for in a mate -- attentive, kind, eager to please. Looking back, I see there were some early signs of the darker side of his personality, but at that time I dismissed them, thinking "nobody's perfect."

Real problems started about nine or 10 months into the relationship. He became verbally abusive and increasingly obnoxious, flying into a rage for no good reason, constantly talking about violence and guns, and making horrible racist remarks. Nothing I did or said was right, and he started degrading me. We broke up once and got back together. I was in a constant state of confusion, always thinking I was contributing to the problem. Well, I was -- by staying in the relationship, enabling his abnormal behavior. Looking at the "15 Reasons," in his situation a solid 10 of the 15 fit, with two or three others fitting more loosely.

I finally left when he obsessively fixed on the subject of guys who kill their girlfriends. He couldn't understand why I was scared because he was "just joking," and I was "crazy" to react.

It has been two months since our breakup, and I feel so lucky to be out of it, although my self-esteem needs a lot of healing. Thank you for printing the "15 Reasons" -- they may help many women avoid a horrible experience. -- OLDER AND WISER IN LAS VEGAS

DEAR O AND W: You are to be congratulated for having distanced yourself from your former fiance. His problems were not the kind you could fix -- and his sense of humor was a natural disaster.

In fairness, however, not all abusers are male. The "15 Reasons" can apply equally to both sexes. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I have a son who was formerly gentle, good-tempered and had many friends. He is now lacking all those traits. His live-in girlfriend beats him, isolates him and harasses him in front of her children. Her youngest son -- age 12 -- says his mom always starts a fight, and I have seen her do it. However, my son is crazy about her children.

Because the piece was not gender-neutral, I cannot send it to him. Women are also abusers these days. It's not just men anymore. And both are bad.

I'm writing to ask that when you reprint the article, you please use gender-neutral language instead of pinpointing one sex or the other. I'm sure I won't be the only reader who will appreciate it. -- WORRIED MOTHER IN OREGON

DEAR WORRIED MOTHER: In the future I will, but please don't wait for the "15 Reasons" to be printed again. Clip this column and give it to him with the previous column. He needs to understand that his companion's behavior is an indication of deep-seated personality problems that cannot be fixed without professional help and a sincere desire on her part to put an end to her destructive behavior.

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