Dear Annie: As a witness to a friend’s marriage, I vowed to help keep their relationship strong. Would you please print something I could give them about verbal abuse?
His wife has a serious drinking problem, and when she’s had too much, she goes berserk, screaming hateful things to her husband in front of others. It’s horrific. I can’t tell whether it’s only the alcohol talking or whether she has deep-seated issues. I realize there will be no change until she admits she has a problem.
They do sporadically see a therapist, but it doesn’t seem to be helping much. Is there anything I can do to spur her on?
— Feeling Helpless
Dear Helpless: The signs of verbal abuse include: a spouse who calls you names; who is critical, sarcastic or mocking in an effort to humiliate or embarrass you; who yells or swears at you; who uses threats to intimidate you; who blames you for his or her behavior; who dismisses your feelings.
However, it sounds as if the verbal abuse is triggered by the alcohol, so that should be the first problem to work on. Otherwise, it may be too difficult for her to control her behavior when she’s drinking. You cannot do this for her, nor can you make it better for him. However, both you and your friend can look for a meeting of Al-Anon (al-anon-alateen.org). Also, please encourage him to see the therapist more regularly. They both need ongoing guidance. It will be hard work.
Dear Annie: I’ve been going out with “Bill” for six months. He is 65. The problem is, whenever we go out, he constantly looks at younger women. This makes me very insecure. I also think it is disrespectful. How can I get him to stop?
— Not Happy
Dear Not: Is he glancing or ogling? You cannot expect Bill not to notice an attractive woman, whatever her age. If these looks are mere brief glances, we’d leave such behavior alone. It doesn’t mean anything, and you shouldn’t overreact. However, if Bill is staring, ogling, flirting, spinning his head around to get a better look or comparing her to you, this is unfair and disrespectful. You should let him know that it hurts you when he seems more interested in another woman than in you, and you’d appreciate it if he would try to control such behavior. His reaction will let you know whether you have a serious problem or not.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “At My Wits’ End.” I, too, was in an abusive marriage for 16 years. He berated me, telling me I was no good and couldn’t do anything right. I was not allowed to shop for groceries because only he knew what we needed. Every four years, he bought a new car, but when I totaled mine, he said we couldn’t afford to replace it. He told me my own family hated me. I no longer had any friends because no one could stand him.
Two months ago, he made a big mistake. He hit me. Once he crossed that line, I realized he had to go. It took me a long time, but I finally found the courage to throw him out. He left my house a week ago and took most of the furniture, but I can’t believe how happy I am. I am no longer afraid of his reaction to everything I do. I’ve rediscovered my friends and found out that my family members never hated me. I’m 72 now, and my children are looking after my needs without my having to ask. They are proud of me for finally getting smart and saying “enough.”
I hope “At My Wits’ End” takes your advice and gets out, because she’ll feel so much better. She’ll come alive again.
— Finally Saw the Light in Pittsburgh, PA
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