DEAR ABBY: I have a good friend whose husband is isolating her from family and friends. He's a counselor, and he uses his training as a psychologist to convince her that none of her friends are to be trusted. He twists anything we do or say to keep her at a distance from us.
He tells her she's a horrible mother and a terrible person in general, and she believes him. I think she has been brainwashed.
He also hits on other women regularly, myself included. When I tried to tell my friend what he did, she refused to believe me because he already told her his version of the story and made it look like it was my fault.
Is there any way to help a woman who is being held mentally captive by her husband?
- Distraught Friend
DEAR DISTRAUGHT: One way to begin would be to approach her as a group and tell her you are all concerned and that you care about her. Tell her often that you are there for her and always will be, and that you know she's a terrific person and a wonderful, caring parent. Point out that only two people in the world think otherwise, and that's her husband and her. And repeat that you're afraid she's being verbally and emotionally abused until she finally hears you.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 43-year-old woman who has never been married. My boyfriend, "Phil" - with whom I share a wonderful relationship - has been divorced three times and has made it clear he does not want to marry again.
We're in the process of buying a home together, and I cannot let go of the hope that one day we'll live in it as husband and wife. It has always been my dream to find that one "right" person and settle down. In my eyes, Phil is that special person. I feel cheated that because of his failed marriages, my hopes and dreams don't matter.
Phil loves me and is good to me, but I have mixed emotions. I feel that having shared an exclusive relationship for two years and the fact that we are now buying a house together means we should be married. Must I accept the relationship we have?
- Dream Lover in Minnesota
DEAR DREAM LOVER: No. What you must accept is that your dream and Phil's are not the same. You yearn for commitment, which from his track record it appears Phil has trouble with.
If marriage is what you really want, you're betting on the wrong horse, and before investing in something as expensive as a home, I urge you to discuss this significant financial commitment with an attorney to ensure that your interests are fully protected.
DEAR ABBY: Our son lived with his girlfriend for several years. They had a beautiful daughter together but split up a year and a half later. His ex-girlfriend now lives with another man, and they have a new baby girl. They'll probably get married.
Our granddaughter is now 5 and we pick her up, take her places and do things with her. We also buy her the usual gifts for her birthday and holidays. We travel frequently and bring her souvenirs from our travels. Now that she has a baby sister, are we obliged to do the same for her? Or should we continue doing for our granddaughter only? What is the proper thing here?
- Help Needed in Alabama
DEAR HELP NEEDED: Put yourself in the position of the younger sister and imagine how she will feel when she's older and she's left behind or forgotten. If you exclude her completely, I guarantee it will cause resentment and division between the girls, so open your heart. Be inclusive and generous - not only for her sake, but also for your granddaughter's.