Dear Abby:

This is in response to "Texas Tina," whose husband drives like a maniac with her in the car when he's angry. As I read her letter, I saw myself a few years ago. I agree that "Stan" must make his own anger-management appointment.

I would like to go further and tell Tina that until her husband is willing to examine his own behavior and make changes, nothing will change. I went on Zoloft for a while, but chose not to take drugs to fix a problem that was behavioral, not chemical. I went to counseling, said I was sorry, and promised to change.

However, not until my wife left me, not until she took my kids away, not until I was given a citation for telephone harassment and had to show up in court, did I change. I was lucky. As a first-time domestic violence offender, I was allowed to go through a program that gave me a lot of insight.

I'm sure that with a little searching, a similar program could be found in Tina's area. I WOULD STRESS THAT HER HUSBAND MUST BE THE ONE TO DO THIS. If he refuses -- if he "doesn't get around to it" -- then Tina needs to make a choice. This is a warning sign. Things may get worse, and Tina may wind up seriously injured.

Abby, I now acknowledge who and what I once was. To deny it would be to repeat it. I live every day of my life in fear that I will return to the place where I once was. It is that fear that helps me to keep a check on myself. I was given many useful tools to help me on my path, but the best thing I received out of all of this was enlightenment.

Kevin in Portland, Ore.

You are a lucky man. You seem to possess the prerequisites necessary to change abusive behavior: remorse, willingness to assume responsibility, motivation to change and insight. These traits, however, are rarely found in abusive men. Most go into treatment not because they want to, but because they are forced into it, or are attempting to manipulate their intimates back into the relationship -- or to avoid incarceration. I commend you for not blaming your behavior on something other than yourself. Living "in fear that you may one day return to the place you once were," however, suggests that you should remain in a maintenance counseling program that can keep you on your positive track. If not, you could very well return to your abusive behavior.

Victims must realize that the obsessive need that most batterers have to control their partners usually escalates, is seldom satisfied, and can be fatal to entire families. The Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) can help them establish a safety plan and support system that could very well save their lives, particularly when they are exiting a relationship.

Dear Abby:

I am miserable. I am married and the mother of two children. I don't know how to get out of my marriage. My husband is so volatile he hollers, throws things, and is loud and verbally abusive to me. He also acts this way with the children.

I do not love him. I married too young and for all the wrong reasons. When we argue, he goes running to my family and tells them a sob story, and they blame me. When I try to talk to them, they refuse to listen and push me to stay with him.

I don't want to have to walk out on all of my possessions, but I will if I have to. I am willing to do almost anything to get out of this marriage.

The last time we went through this, he wouldn't leave. Now he is saying he will and promises he will not contact my family. However, I'm afraid to trust. Please help me.

Confused and Unsure in North Carolina

Since you have already decided that the marriage was a mistake and not worth trying to save, consult a lawyer who specializes in family law. He or she will counsel you about what each of you is entitled to and how to ensure that your husband leaves.

Establish how you will support yourself and the children when the time comes. Do not depend upon your family for emotional support and you will not be disappointed. It is said that "breaking up is hard to do," but your lawyer can help you through the process. No one comes through a divorce entirely unscathed -- but it's better than remaining in a loveless marriage with a volatile, verbally abusive spouse.

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, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate