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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to the letter from "Been There in Texas," the woman who was married to a very controlling husband.

This past year, I found myself a prisoner of what began as the perfect relationship. During the first couple of months I dated my boyfriend, I was swept away by his charm and loving attitude. He deserves a standing ovation. He did an outstanding job of blinding me -- and everyone in my life -- to his true nature.

My once-active social life slowly disappeared before my eyes -- leaving me with only him. It was a slow process. He patiently chipped away at my self-esteem until he created a relationship that satisfied his needs. I found myself trapped by someone who didn't allow me to speak to anyone. He took away my right to be me.

He constantly reminded me that he was a "real man." In reality, he was a scared little boy hiding behind a strong woman. That's why he chose me to be his victim. I had dignity, self-respect, a confident attitude -- qualities he knew he would never have. "Boys" like him need women like me because we have lots of chutzpah. If they can subdue someone like me, they gain a sense of control within themselves.

I'm writing to let anyone who is presently involved with a controlling partner know one thing: These partners are scared. They are scared of being alone. Most of all, they are scared of themselves. Deep down they know they can't sugarcoat their personalities forever. They know people will eventually uncover the cruel intentions hidden temporarily behind their mask of sweetness.

My advice to victims: I hope that one day you will remember the strong person you once were. I hope you will realize that you still exist and have the right to come out and play. Whether you realize it or not, you have control over the next move. Change the rules of the game -- and leave. -- P.G. IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR P.G.: The man you describe is a narcissistic personality. He believes the world revolves around him and his needs, and nobody else matters. If you are not revolving around him, you are not in his orbit, and he will say and do anything to entice you in.

There is only one way out -- and that is to make a safe escape plan to leave -- and once you have escaped, never return. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: May I share a poem I wrote last year? It was derived from conversations I had with women who survived abusive relationships and gained the courage to leave. -- DANNY COMSTOCK, MINNEAPOLIS

DEAR DANNY: Thank you for giving me permission to print your poem, "Words of Love?" If your painful words sound familiar to any of my readers, I hope they, too, will have the courage to leave.

You're fat! You're ugly!

You're nothing but a b----!

Clean the house!

Take care of the kids!

Can't you do anything right?

You're not sexy!

You don't turn me on!

You're frigid, cold as ice!

You don't appreciate my love!

Why I put up with you, I don't understand!

But no one will understand you like I do!

You need me to take care of you!

You won't survive without me!

If you don't listen to me, I will hit you again!

And then you will understand how much I love you!

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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.)

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