Dear Abby:

"Krista in Jacksonville" complained that her husband sneaks up behind her when she's alone in the house and scares her. He also appears out of nowhere when she's in the shower. You advised her that his behavior is childish and a touch sadistic -- and told her to hang bells on her door frames and lock the bathroom door.

While your answer was good, you may have overlooked something. Sneaking up on someone, especially a spouse, could be considered a precursor to an abusive relationship. The person doing the sneaking has the control and is doing it to scare the other person. I think Krista and her husband should get marital counseling.

Seen It Before in Boise

While I did not consider the husband's behavior to be ominous, your point is worth considering. Read on:

Dear Abby:

My father used to do the same thing to my mother (and me and my siblings) until he caught her off guard one night when she nearly slapped him back into the previous week. (She claimed it was a reflex.) He's never sneaked up on any of us again.

Andrea in Barstow, Calif.

He should have considered himself lucky. Read on:

Dear Abby:

It was with a knowing smile that I read Krista's letter. Unfortunately, sneaking up on her could put her husband's life in danger. My husband used to enjoy doing that, too, that is, until one evening when I was in the kitchen cutting some meat for dinner, and he scared me. Without meaning to, I almost stabbed him. Thankfully, I missed. Needless to say, it hasn't happened again. Ever since that incident, he always announces his presence. As a matter of fact, he kind of reminds me of the old TV series where the husband would walk in the door and holler, "Honey, I'm home!"

Megan in Wyoming

That's one way to get your "point" across.

Dear Abby:

My husband also liked to scare me. One night he came up from behind as I was leaving the bathroom. The hallway light was off and, not knowing who or what was behind me, my reaction was one of self-defense. I turned and hit as hard as I could.

Ten years have passed since that incident, and I recently heard him telling our kids the story of why not EVER to scare Mama.

Patricia in Manhattan Beach

It seems you made a lasting impression.

Dear Abby:

Regarding the letter from "Krista in Jacksonville," and her husband who sneaks up behind her when she's alone in the house: I notice she didn't mention why he persists in doing it.

I used to "surprise" my girlfriend like that, but in retrospect, I wasn't admitting even to myself that I expected to find her with someone else.

Former Tiptoer in Gainesville, Fla.

It would be interesting to know whether your fears were justified. The kind of insecurity you describe feeds upon itself, and no amount of reassurance can make it go away. It is telling that you use the past tense to describe that relationship. Thank you for laying it on the line and providing food for thought to readers of both sexes.

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)2004, Universal Press Syndicate