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by Abigail Van Buren

Refuge After Parents' Divorce Turns Into a Prison for Teen

DEAR ABBY: I'm 17 and have been in a relationship since I was 13 with the same person on and off. I have been with him since my parents divorced, so you might say he's been my crutch for a long time.

He makes it clear that without him I am an emotional mess. I spend every day isolated from friends and family, while he spends his time with his friends. (I'm not allowed to be with them.) If I'm out with a friend, it is a huge issue.

I love him and I don't want to break up, but it feels like I'm alone even when I'm with him. I'm sick of letting a man make me feel like he's my reason for being alive. I want better. I deserve better. I am so confused. Please help me. -- DESERVES BETTER IN NEW YORK

DEAR DESERVES BETTER: I am crossing my fingers and hoping that you are still living with one of your parents. If you have been living with this person, I cannot stress strongly enough how important it is for you to make other arrangements.

You acknowledge that he has been your "crutch." Well, unless someone is severely disabled -- which you are not -- crutches are meant to be temporary. Among the warning signs of an abuser is being controlling and preventing his victim from forming healthy relationships with other people. Another red flag is if the person chips away at his victim's self-esteem by saying she/he "can't survive without him."

That you want something better for yourself and know you deserve better is a sign that you still have some healthy self-esteem. So please act on it. End this relationship and don't look back.

Read more in: Teens | Abuse | Love & Dating | Marriage & Divorce