Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: My father and I usually get along well, but whenever we get into an argument, he'll say something like, "Well, maybe I should just kill myself. Then you won't have to deal with me!" This has been going on for as long as I can remember. I'm 21 now.

Abby, I don't think my dad is really suicidal. I think he says these things to make me feel guilty. It's hurtful because suicide is a serious matter, and I always have to ask myself, "What if?"

Telling him to stop just results in more emotional blackmail. He has also refused to see a counselor. I could really use some advice.

— CAN'T WIN IN NEW YORK

DEAR CAN'T WIN: I agree with you that threats of suicide are a serious matter. And I have long said in this column that repeated threats of suicide should not be ignored. The next time your father starts talking about suicide, ask him if he is really serious. And, if he says he is, call 9-1-1. He may need 72 hours of observation.

DEAR ABBY: May I respond to the letter from "Needs to Know Now in Virginia" (Aug. 4)? I, too, spent time behind bars — 14 months. My soon-to-be ex sent me a card on our 20th anniversary, a month after I was incarcerated, promising he'd be there for me when I got out. After months of denying there was anyone else, I finally found out the truth. She was not only accepted by his family, but also my kids.

When I fell into a deep depression and tried to commit suicide, my husband told everyone it was just an act. That was 11 months ago.

Today I believe everything happens for a reason, because during most of our marriage my husband had tried to control me and verbally abused me. He'd tell me I was a horrible mother and wife, that my own family hated me and I had no friends. After a while, I started to believe him and had little or no self-esteem. While incarcerated, I took classes and learned that verbal abuse is as bad, if not worse, than physical. The scars heal, but the words kept playing over and over like a tape in my head.

One thing I learned in the classes is you can't change someone else; you can only change yourself. To this day he continues to verbally abuse me. Last week he said he hopes I have cancer and die. But the words don't hurt anymore. The only hurt I suffer is that he has convinced our children that I was a bad mother, so they no longer speak to me. They have welcomed her into their lives.

I have learned to accept that my children want nothing to do with me, but pray that someday they will return to my life. I have met a caring man who knows all about my past and loves me for who I am. I am now grateful to the other woman. She saved me from a miserable marriage, and I know one day he'll do to her what he did to me.

So, my advice to "Needs to Know" is to run away as fast as she can because the man she's involved with is no man. A real man would stand by his wife for better and for worse.

— HAPPY NOW IN RHODE ISLAND

DEAR HAPPY: As difficult as your life has been, I'm pleased to know that you are now in a better place emotionally. Clearly, the time you spent behind bars was not wasted. You did some extremely important work while you were inside, and I know you will put to good use the knowledge you gained while you were there. You go, girl. I wish you the best of luck.

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.