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Annie's Mailbox

Ask Amy column

Q. My wife and I have a friend who has been verbally abused by her husband for some time now, and it appears to be getting worse.

About once a week she will call my wife, crying, and tell her about being degraded one way or another. Last week, for instance, he called her a “lazy stupid [expletive] idiot” in front of a person who was at their house to do some work. This comment is fairly typical of the language he uses toward her.

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We are seeking your advice as to what we should do. This friend said that if her husband knew she was confiding in my wife, he would go absolutely nuts. I’d like to intervene, but I think it would make the situation much worse if he knew we were aware of his disgusting behavior.

She suggested that they go to counseling, but he got angry and declined to even consider it.

A. You and your wife should continue to do everything possible to offer a safe and secure friendship where she can contemplate her options.

If your sense is that direct intervention would place her at risk, then follow your instincts. Be very gentle with her and urge her to consider leaving the relationship. If her spirit is broken and she is worried about her future, she should leave. Don’t expect her to be able to do so suddenly or easily, however. Also understand that she may choose to stay.

Urge her to see a counselor on her own. It can be very frustrating and confusing for friends and family to see someone they care about go through this, but your friendship and presence in her life may offer her some perspective and help her to see that she has options.

The Hotline (thehotline.org) has information and resources for people in abusive relationships.

Q. I have participated in a “pen pal” correspondence for a few months now, and I would really like to exit from it.

A guy I went to college with e-mailed me this summer, and despite being a bit creeped out because I didn’t really know him, I was curious, so I responded. Ever since then we have been e-mailing back and forth, and even met in person once a few months back. Now I want out.

He is a super nice person, but we don’t have much in common, and I feel like he should not be spending his time and energy on someone who isn’t even interested in developing a friendship.

I just can’t figure out an effective way to let him know that this isn’t working out for me and that I want my space.

A. Write to him, “I’ve enjoyed corresponding with you, but I’m going to taper off now on e-mailing back and forth. You’re super nice, and I wish you all the best.”

You don’t have to explain anything or make any “it’s not you, it’s me” comments. When he gets back to you, you can reply that you simply don’t think you’ll be able to hold up your side of the correspondence.

Q. You encouraged “Wanderlust” to see the world while she and her husband are young. Yes!

My husband and I saved our money to retire early so we could travel the world. However, now that we have the time and money, I also have a 98-year-old mother with dementia to care for. Getting away for just a long weekend is all we are able to do.

You may never know what the next chapter will bring you.

A. Exactly! We all need to seize opportunities as they arise.

Send questions via e-mail to askamy@tribune.com or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

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