DEAR ABBY: I met my neighbor "Summer" about 18 months ago when we bought homes in the same development. She was nice; we became very chummy. We'd visit each other's homes for dinner, cookouts, or just to talk and hang out. Summer and her boyfriend and my husband and I had great times together.
Abby, Summer is becoming a fatal attraction! She came over one day while I was decorating my son's room and admired the bedroom furniture. Then she ran out and bought the same bed for her son. That was just the beginning: She has since copied my dining room set, my dog, my hairstyle, paint in the kids' room, wood floors and -- get this -- my living room set in the identical color. I recently bought a car. So did she, same make and model.
I no longer speak with Summer as often as I used to, and I think she's sensing something is wrong. My husband says it's hilarious, but my kids and I don't. If I mention that I want something in casual conversation, before you know it, she's breaking her neck to get it. My kids say I should mention something big and expensive that I "want" and let her run out and get it.
My co-workers tell me I should take it as a compliment, but I can't. When you buy a home, you add your own special touches, and it should reflect who you are -- not your neighbor. Please help me. I enjoyed Summer's company at one point, and now I no longer want her in my home. I haven't spoken to her about this, but how can I without blowing my top? -- FUMING IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR FUMING: You have described a person who is unimaginative and insecure about making her own choices. The poor woman needs help, not banishment. By all means talk to her -- but when you do, offer to help her to make some design and fashion statements that are her own. That way, you could enjoy each other's company and you will not be encroached upon. Before blasting her, please give it a try. It would be a kindness to someone who is obviously less creative than you.
DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a man who has demonstrated a severe anger problem in recent months. When "Zack" gets angry, he has thrown objects around in his house, knocked over furniture, and screamed and yelled things that I have confided to him for the whole neighborhood (not to mention his roommate) to hear.
When these episodes occur, I pick up my purse and head for the door. Then he blocks my way, throws his keys so I can't unlock the door and grabs my personal belongings -- especially my cell phone -- to prevent my making a phone call or leaving.
Telling him I'm scared of him and that I want to go doesn't seem to get through. He always steps in front of me, pushes me back and, basically, throws my things around so I have to pick them up and I can't get out.
I have told him before that I can't date someone who won't let me leave if I'm scared or threatened. He says he "understands," but then it happens again!
What are the legal ramifications of his preventing me from leaving? Are there certain steps I can take other than breaking a window to get out? I secretly hope he sees this so he will know I'm serious. -- SCARED IN HOUSTON
DEAR SCARED: Preventing a person from leaving in the manner you have described is called "false imprisonment," and it is a crime. However, what puzzles me is why you would allow such a thing to happen twice. Surely you are aware that Zack is a person who is unable to control his emotions, and that the longer you are involved with him the more his outbursts will escalate. He's an abuser, and the surest way to "get out" is to do it NOW by ending the relationship. You can't cure his problem. Only he can do that. My advice to you is to run, before he gets angry again.
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