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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "Talked to Death in Minnesota" described her husband as forcing her to sit for hours listening to him criticize her. She detailed how he had moved her far from friends and family, and if anyone called or came to visit, how he would alienate them. You called his behavior abuse, and advised that she no longer allow him to isolate her, and that she should find a job if she didn't already have one.

I am familiar with that pattern of behavior, Abby. May I offer a few additional thoughts?

If "Talked to Death" can get away from him, she should do it. And when her husband realizes he's losing control, she must be prepared for it, because his behavior will intensify. She should go elsewhere to telephone her old friends (with a calling card), get help, find a job, stay positive and move forward. -- RECOVERING IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR RECOVERING: How kind of you to reach out to her, and to other people in verbally abusive relationships. It seems the spouse's actions are classic. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: "Talked to Death" must run as though her life depends on it, because it could. Fortunately, my family dragged me away while I still had a spark of self-esteem left. I spent more than 40 years "hoping things would change." They did -- they got worse. Tell her she's in my thoughts and prayers. I'm happier and more secure in every way since I got away. -- LIBERATED IN IOWA

DEAR LIBERATED: I'm not surprised you're doing better. You have rediscovered your self-worth.

One point I would like to add: When leaving an abuser, an escape plan should be worked out in advance, and the abuser should have no warning. Abusers are control freaks and can be unpredictable.

DEAR ABBY: After years of degradation, I finally left. My abuser had sought counseling (once) and was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, that became his excuse for everything he did. Nothing changed. He simply had an illness on which to blame his actions.

Medications can help to ease this disorder, especially when used with behavior modification therapy. But if "Talked to Death's" husband doesn't accept responsibility for his actions, she must get out before her self-esteem is damaged beyond repair.

It's never too late to start over. I'm now remarried, and happier than I ever thought possible to a man who treats me with love, dignity and respect. -- ELATED IN TEXAS

DEAR ELATED: Good for you. People who love each other try to help build on their strengths, not capitalize on their weaknesses.

DEAR ABBY: I was the same as that woman's husband. I was a control freak. No one had an opinion better than mine. I never had anything nice to say to anyone about anything. Everyone had something wrong with them. I am now in counseling and have discovered that I am the problem.

I hope that husband gets help, or that "Talked to Death" gets away before it goes any further. Perhaps then her husband will realize that because of his mouth, he has no one left, and he, too, will finally get the help he so desperately needs. -- FEELING BETTER ABOUT ME IN GEORGIA

DEAR FEELING BETTER: Sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before they'll admit they have a problem and seek help. It takes courage to step back and look squarely in the mirror instead of blaming others for problems. I commend you for doing so.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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