Yesterday I printed the feedback I received regarding a letter from "Smothered in Michigan," a recently divorced mother of two. Her ex-husband had been an alcoholic. She's now dating his "polar opposite" who "treats her like a queen" and is "loving, affectionate, generous and caring."
She went on to say he stops by her job "only a few" times a day, and the minute she's home he shows up at her door. All her dinners are with him - he pays for everything - and he doesn't leave until her kids go to bed. He spends every waking hour with her and accompanies her wherever she goes. She said she knows she should feel grateful, but instead feels "indebted, stalked, controlled and burdened." Her question: "Am I just being selfish, and can I train myself to like being spoiled?"
I told her she and the man were overdue for a frank talk about personal space, that she's still healing from her divorce, and he seems so smitten or insecure that he's preventing her from figuring out where she ends and he begins.
Many readers felt she should listen to her intuition, that the man is a potential abuser, and the traits she listed are red flags.
Today I'll share the classic warning signs of an abuser. Read on:
Pushes for Quick Involvement: Comes on strong, claiming, "I've never felt loved like this by anyone." An abuser presses for an exclusive commitment almost immediately.
Jealous: excessively possessive; calls constantly or visits unexpectedly; prevents you from going to work because "you might meet someone"; checks the mileage on your car.
Controlling: Interrogates you intensely (especially if you're late) about whom you talked to and where you were; keeps all the money; insists you ask permission to go anywhere or do anything.
Unrealistic Expectations: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet his or her every need.
Isolation: Tries to cut you off from family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of "causing trouble."
Blames Others for Problems or Mistakes: It's always someone else's fault if something goes wrong.
Makes Others Responsible for His or Her Feelings: The abuser says, "You make me angry," or "You're hurting me by not doing what I tell you."
Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really mad. Rants about the injustice of things that are just a part of life.
Cruelty to Animals or Children: Kills or punishes animals brutally. Also may expect children to do things far beyond their ability (whips a 3-year-old for wetting a diaper) or may tease them until they cry. Sixty- five percent of abusers who beat their partner will also abuse children.
"Playful" Use of Force During Sex: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you against your will during sex; finds the idea of rape exciting.
Verbal Abuse: Constantly criticizes or says blatantly cruel things; degrades, curses, calls you ugly names.
Rigid Gender Roles: Expects you to serve, obey and remain at home.
Past Battering: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person "made" him (or her) do it.
Threats of Violence: Says things like, "I'll break your neck," or "I'll kill you," then dismisses them with "Everybody talks that way," or "I didn't really mean it." *
Good advice for everyone - teens to seniors - is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)