DEAR ABBY: I caught my 16-year-old daughter, "Krista," smoking marijuana. I punished her for it, but never told my wife because I was afraid she'd force me to make a decision that I don't want to make.
I have been married to my second wife for three years. For much of that time, Krista has been a nightmare. When she goes to school, more often than not she's in the principal's office for bad behavior. At home she's worse. She doesn't listen to anyone. We have tried every type of punishment we can think of and nothing has worked.
Recently, my wife brought up the idea of sending Krista to a boarding school for troubled teens. At first, the suggestion made me angry, but after the marijuana incident I am more receptive to it. I am wracked with guilt. Sending my daughter away makes me feel like a failure as a father. But there may be no other choice. How does a parent know when enough is enough? -- FED-UP FATHER IN MINNESOTA
DEAR FATHER: Do not send your daughter away to a boarding school for "troubled teens" without first having a psychologist identify what is troubling her. If you do what your wife is suggesting, your daughter could return home with more problems than she left with. Sending her away should be a last resort. Some family counseling should be tried first.
DEAR ABBY: A friend has been confiding in me, telling me her husband abuses her. She says it has gone on the entire 12 years they have been together. He does it in front of the kids, sometimes even while she's nursing or holding their youngest. He also threatens to shoot her. I'm afraid for her safety.
She left him once, but went back after he promised to change and temporarily became the charming man she wishes him to be. She knows she needs to leave again, and I have told her I'll help her in any way I can to make it happen. She's trying to hold out until she finishes her degree and can financially support the kids on her own. I'm afraid she won't make it that long.
I feel so helpless. I worry that by standing by and not taking some kind of action, I'll be partly responsible for anything that may happen to the kids. On the other hand, she tells me these things in confidence. What can I do to help? -- TERRIFIED FOR MY FRIEND
DEAR TERRIFIED: Continue encouraging your friend to leave. A man who abuses, terrorizes and threatens to shoot his wife -- in front of the children, yet -- would have no hesitation about hurting all of them.
By now she should have realized that her abuser will never be the man she imagined him to be. The time to leave is while things are calm -- before his next outburst. In order for him to control her, he needs to keep her dependent. If he senses that she's nearing a point where she can support herself and the children without him, he could explode.
Make sure she knows how to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The toll-free number is 800-799-7233. The experts there can help her formulate as safe an escape plan as possible.
DEAR ABBY: I am currently in a relationship that has become a roller coaster ride for the last few months. My significant other is always accusing me of cheating. He also starts arguments for no reason. Sometimes I wonder if he is having an affair and trying to throw the blame on me for his guilt issues. What do you think? -- ARGUED OUT IN INDIANA
DEAR ARGUED OUT: That's very possible. Another reason might be that he's no longer interested in you and wants to break up. Rather than tolerate his emotional abuse, take the bull by the horns and ask him.
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