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DEAR ABBY: I have lived in an abusive marriage for 11 years. Now, when I have finally mustered the courage to leave, everybody says I must stay "for the children" as he is a "changed man."
I no longer love him and he refuses to give me a divorce. He also refuses to admit there is anything wrong in the marriage and says I'm exaggerating everything.
I have tried counseling and therapy alone because he refused to join me. I do not want my four children to be affected by my choice and wish for a mutual discussion, but he doesn't want to discuss divorce. I am afraid to stay and afraid to leave. I have no support system here.
- Wants out in Illinois
DEAR WANTS OUT: After 11 years of abuse and counseling and therapy alone because your husband would not accompany you, his wishes should no longer affect your decision. Pick up the phone and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-7233. That's the place to find information about how to form an escape plan for yourself and your children. Whether your husband is willing to discuss divorce or not, he cannot force you to remain married to him. An attorney can help you with the process once you are out of there.
DEAR ABBY: I'm a 23-year-old woman with a university degree, a fulfilling job, downtown apartment and a busy social life. I am also heavily tattooed. My tattoos bring me a great deal of happiness. I work in a field where visible tattoos are acceptable, and I'm very good at covering them when necessary.
My problem is how to politely deal with strangers who criticize my tattoos when I'm out in public. I have been told I have "ruined" myself, that I have no future, that I'll never find a husband, that I am ugly, an insult to women and trashy. I do not dress scantily and, in my opinion, these comments are uncalled for.
I usually tell people that I am affecting only myself and that I'm happy, but this usually results in scoffs or more rude remarks. Part of me wants to be rude back because I am offended. What should I say the next time I am inevitably picked on?
- Inked and irked in Calgary, Canada
DEAR INKED AND IRKED: I printed a letter last spring about a Canadian woman who insisted that people north of the border are nicer than people in the U.S.A. Your letter shows that's not necessarily the case. The next time someone makes an unkind remark about your body art, look the person in the eye and say, "That you would say something so hurtful to me shows you are uglier on the inside than you think I am on the outside."
DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend and I have been dating for 11 months. He's 18 and I'm 17. Every date we go on is initiated and planned by me. For once, I'd like to be surprised and swept off my feet by his actually planning a date. I don't know how to go about this. I want to tell him without hurting his feelings.
- Getting a little bored in Quakertown, Penn.
DEAR GETTING A LITTLE BORED: The basis for a successful relationship is communication. While I don't advise you to tell your boyfriend that you're "getting a little bored," I do think it would be helpful to express that you'd like HIM to plan your dates once or twice a month so you don't have to do all the work in maintaining the relationship. That's not hurtful; it's truthful.