Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Truth of Abusive Marriage Will Tarnish Man's Sterling Image

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to "Ted" for 15 years. We have three school-age children. My husband is extremely narcissistic and passive-aggressive. During our entire relationship, he has been controlling and manipulative, as well as emotionally, economically and sexually abusive. I have remained in the marriage this long because I thought keeping the family intact was the right thing to do for my children. (Ted doesn't abuse them. I am his only victim.)

Through counseling I have realized that living in the atmosphere of a loveless, abusive marriage can be as detrimental for kids as a breakup would be. I will soon be filing for divorce.

My dilemma: Because Ted is very good at projecting a "good guy" image, I'm sure that people won't believe he is abusive. Should I be open about the reason for the divorce and be accused of lying? We live in Ted's hometown, a small, rural community. I don't know if I can live with the stigma of having accused a "nice guy" of such a thing. On the other hand, I don't want the abuse to be a "dirty little secret." What do women do in situations like this? -- NO VISIBLE WOUNDS

DEAR NO VISIBLE WOUNDS: They "confide" their problems -- with specific examples -- to a couple of their closest girlfriends. The truth will spread like wildfire.