DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Smothered in Michigan" (Oct. 24), whose "loving, caring, generous boyfriend" stops by her job "only a few times a day" and shows up at her door the minute she gets home from work, was wrong. You told her to tell him she needs some space. Well, that won't work.
Men like these, under the pretext of "love," try to inhabit every molecule of air around the women they target. I dated a man like him until I finally woke up to the fact that there was no such thing as personal space with him. He'd show up unexpectedly (with flowers), call first thing in the morning "to see how I was" and last thing at night (bed check!), etc. I can relate to the writer's feeling smothered.
My psychologist pointed out that this guy's need to control me was beyond obsessive and helped me to realize he wasn't ever going to change, so I needed to get away. I did, but it wasn't easy. These guys do not want to go away! My advice to "Smothered": End this relationship and find a man who will both love you and give you space to be yourself. -- FORMERLY SMOTHERED IN ILLINOIS
DEAR FORMERLY SMOTHERED: After that letter appeared, I received a ton of mail like yours from readers warning "Smothered" that she needs to get away, and that getting away may be complicated. For others in this situation, the number to call to form a safe escape plan is (800) 799-SAFE (7233) -- the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: "Smothered in Michigan" may be picking up on signs of an abusive personality, which include isolating the victim and constantly checking up on her. Stopping by her work "only a few times a day" is a few times too many, because it could cost her her job and spring the trap for this potential abuser to make her totally dependent upon him.
As someone who works daily with victims of domestic violence, I would urge her to contact the nearest domestic violence program to learn more about how to identify a potential batterer. -- VICTIM ADVOCATE IN ALABAMA
DEAR ABBY: I speak from experience. Men who can't let a woman out of their sight are often abusers. While in college, I met a man I thought was Prince Charming. He showered me with gifts, waited on me hand and foot and wouldn't allow me to lift a finger. His darker side emerged as I came to realize that by monopolizing my time and removing my ability to make decisions, he was cutting me off from everything. I no longer went out with friends and family -- only him. I couldn't make a move without him tagging along.
"Smothered's" sense that she's becoming "indebted" is dead-on. He will soon call in that marker. Mine did when he started tracking wherever I went, dropped by my classes, even recorded the mileage on my car. One night he became enraged because I hadn't returned from a visit with a relative "on time" and bounced me off a wall.
"Smothered" needs to listen to that creepy feeling she's having. And you, Abby, should know better. -- BOBBY IN NEW CASTLE, PA.
DEAR ABBY: Every woman in my office -- and we're all counselors -- agree that "Gary" is an abuser waiting to happen. He's already indebting her, showing insensitivity to her feelings, smothering and controlling her. She was married to an alcoholic, which may be a sign of her poor judgment when it comes to men. She needs to drop him -- and fast. -- KNOW 'EM WHEN WE SEE 'EM
READERS: Tomorrow I'll reprint one of my most requested items, the warning signs of an abuser. Perhaps we could all use a reminder.