Dear Abby: I am a 32-year-old single female. My past has been filled with physical, mental and emotional abuse that began when I was 5. I always believed that even though my past was bad, things would get better.
Well, two marriages and several bad relationships later, it seems I only attract men who are either physically abusive, emotionally unavailable, or both. All of my relationships are somehow abusive.
I am so sad and lonely that I have even considered suicide. I know I have something to live for, but I just don't know what. Could there be something in my character that tells men I am an easy target for them? Please help me.
-- Lost and Unloved in Milwaukee
Dear Lost: There is nothing lacking in your character. You were brought up to believe that physical abuse, mind games and lack of emotional support were normal behavior that should be tolerated.
Can this be overcome? Absolutely! However, you'll have to rebuild your expectations from the ground up. Until this is done, I'd advise you to abstain from romantic involvement. Professional counseling will speed the process. You have much to live for. But in order to reach your goal, you'll have to "unlearn" many of the things you have taken for granted as normal.
A way with words
Dear Abby: I love your "no gifts" message for invitations: "Your friendship is a treasured gift, and we respectfully request no other." I use it a lot.
Now I need a phrase or short note that will allow my 78-year-old mother to give treasured heirlooms to the person of her choice.
I would have loved to receive the banana pudding bowl that belonged to my dear late aunt. It elicited many cherished memories. It was faded and chipped, and I'm sure it was at some point thrown away.
Abby, you have a way with words, so I'm looking forward to your response. Thanks!
-- Lori Rampey, Piedmont, S.C.
Dear Lori: How's this: "This ( ) has been in my family for many years and is a treasured heirloom. May it bring as much enjoyment to you as it has to me and our family. With love, . . . "
A haunting past
Dear Abby: I am facing my worst nightmare. While I was still dating my husband, I had an affair with a married man. I broke it off when my husband-to-be proposed. I never told my fiance about the affair.
Last week, I learned that the wife of the man I was involved with found one of the "intimate" items I had given him. She has now gone to a lawyer and is seeking a divorce. I am afraid I may be called to testify if the divorce proceedings go that far.
I am scared to tell my husband. I'm afraid he will leave me if he finds out. I have been completely faithful my entire marriage -- and plan to remain so.
What should I do, Abby? Confess to my husband that I cheated prior to marrying him -- or wait and see if the attorney or the wife of my ex-lover contacts me?
-- Scared and Lost in Florida
Dear Scared and Lost: How you have conducted yourself since your marriage began is more important than any youthful indiscretion. As far as your "need" to confess, you've now confessed to my readers and me. Let the past stay buried for now. If you receive a summons to testify in the divorce, there will be plenty of time to tell your husband about this episode from your past.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.