DEAR ABBY: I was married to my childhood sweetheart, "Dexter," for 13 years. Only the first five were happy. The rest were spent trying to adjust to his alcoholism and make excuses for why he drinks.
We have two children, 12 and 10, whom I love dearly. I finally made the decision to leave when I realized what a poor example Dexter was setting for them.
The problem is, he continually harasses me. He calls constantly and drops over to my apartment without calling. When the kids see their father, they just let him in. If I'm not home, Dexter questions them about who they have seen me with and whatever other information he can pry out of them. My son asks me if it's OK, or what he should say. I have nothing to hide and am not seeing anyone. I told him it's wrong of his father to ask, but if he does then to be honest.
I love Dexter, but I'm so tired and emotionally drained I don't know what to do. I feel this tremendous responsibility for him, and I don't know where it comes from. He was always the dominant one in our relationship. I never even decorated our home because he picked everything out on the pretense of "surprising" me.
I give Dexter money when he asks for it, even though I have the children and he isn't supporting us. I'm in the process of filing for child support, but feel guilty doing it -- like he is going to suffer because I'll be taking money from him. He has a full-time job, so there's no reason why he shouldn't take care of our children. Why do I feel like I'm abandoning him? -- LOUISE IN DES MOINES
DEAR LOUISE: That's a healthy question. Now, let me hazard a guess. It's because in order to stay with Dexter, you became his co-dependent enabler. By leaving him, you have taken a giant step toward normalcy for yourself and your children -- and on some level that may feel "selfish" to you right now. In doing so, you have forced him to face up to the fact that he has a serious problem. And that was a favor, not "abandonment."
Although you feel "tired and emotionally drained," please make the time to find an Al-Anon group and attend some meetings. There you will learn that the only person who can save your husband from the consequences of his actions is him.
And as soon as your children are old enough, they should attend some Alateen meetings. (Check your local phone book for listings.) This will help them cope with their father's manipulative and controlling behavior, and you as well.
Dexter should not be in your apartment in your absence, pressing the children to spy for him. It's unhealthy for all of you.