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by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Regrets Her Marriage Set a Poor Example for Kids

DEAR ABBY: I married someone who turned out to be very abusive and controlling of me and the kids. I felt powerless to leave with them because of the emotional control, and I had no way to make a living to support them.

They are all adults now, and three of them have been in unhealthy relationships. I know their example of a good marriage or a long-term relationship was awful because of how their father treated me. I live with the guilt and pain of that, but beyond that, seeing three of my four kids in similar abusive relationships is painful.

When two of my girls reach out to me when things are not going well, I'm supportive and I try to be helpful. I guess my question is, given my example of an unhealthy marriage, will any advice I give them fall on deaf ears? Should I just listen? I don't feel like anything I say will help. -- UNHAPPY MOM IN THE SOUTH

DEAR UNHAPPY MOM: Of course you should listen, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't also weigh in on what is happening to them. It could be very helpful if you point out to them that what they witnessed while growing up was not normal -- and explain what IS acceptable behavior in an adult relationship.

You might also apologize for not being stronger earlier on, and explain that their father had eroded your self-esteem to such an extent that you were paralyzed. If their experiences mirror your own, point that out, too, and offer them the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233). If you do, it might not only open their eyes, but also give them the escape they need.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Marriage & Divorce