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Margo Howard


Mom Purloins the Diary Dear Margo: I found out last week that our 17-year-old high school junior is having sex with her boyfriend! First of all, I found out the wrong way: I snooped in her room and read her diary. Second, she would never admit to it, so my husband …Read more. The Bad Seed Dear Margo: I never thought I would write to an advice columnist, but here goes. I've been dating someone for about a year now, and we talk of marriage occasionally. He's ready for commitment and very gung-ho about us getting married, which is …Read more. Oh, and, Uh, By the Way... Dear Margo: I am soon to be 27 years old, and my only serious relationship ended a few years ago. In hopes of avoiding the standard meat market of dating, I'm considering registration with I've also had my share of casual relationships.…Read more. It Is in the Bible, but Not in the Stars Dear Margo: I have been dating a wonderful man for four months now. He is very kind and sweet in every way. We are much in love and happy together. There is only one problem: We are different religions. I am a Christian; he is agnostic. I have …Read more.
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Time To Go


Dear Margo: I'm a 27-year-old woman trapped in a loveless marriage. My husband is younger than I am by a few years, and he's very co-dependent. Before he started dating me, he had never had a girlfriend or a sexual encounter. I, on the other hand, came to the relationship with a child from a failed relationship and a whole lot of trust and fear issues from an abusive ex. Since we've been married, my husband has become verbally, sexually and, to a lesser degree, physically abusive, to the point of laying a hand on my 5-year-old-son. I threw him out for that, but caved to pressure from my family to take him back; they deem him a "stabilizing" force in my life. They think our relationship has caused me to "settle down" and be more responsible. But they do not grasp the abuse I suffered previously, and if I so much as mention that something frightens me, they tell me I'm lying about it for attention.

My husband has left for basic training with the army and will be gone for a few months. Although it's only been two weeks, I feel freer, lighter and better able to cope with things. But if I leave him while he's away at training, the social and family repercussions could be devastating, and my son and I may be forced to relocate. I'm so torn and afraid. I only went through with the wedding to please my family, as the abuse started just before the wedding. — A Canadian

Dear A: You are in that group, by no means a small number, who repeat a mistaken choice in partners. No one intends to hook up with two alcoholics or two abusers, but there is some attraction to that personality type. First, ignore your family. They sound not only ignorant on the subject of abuse, but also not terribly friendly in their suggestion that you are making this up for attention. Second, undo the marriage. If it's problematic to leave him while he's at basic training, wait until he returns.

At least you're living on your own. You are young, he is maladjusted, and marrying because of family pressure is the kiss of death. These things are better done sooner rather than later. I wish you good luck. — Margo, encouragingly

Strangely, It May Be Your Husband Who Needs Therapy

Dear Margo: My husband and I have been married for two years, together for seven. His daughter is 24. I suspect, given her behavior, that she has some form of bipolar disorder. (I would guess cyclothymia, the mild version). Examples: She changes her mind every eight to 12 weeks about boyfriends, friends, major and where she wants to live. We have moved her five times in the past year, we planned a wedding (and paid for it), and now we are dealing with her divorce less than three months after her marriage.

My husband has always said how good I am for her to talk to, and he thinks I am a great role model for her. The problem is that the drama is starting to stress me out, I can no longer talk to her about her troubles, and this bothers my husband more than her antics. We have always been completely together on things, but I feel I am watching a train wreck while my husband sees nothing wrong. His daughter is the only cause of tension in our marriage. Any suggestions for how to get through this? — Tense All the Time

Dear Tense: I do have a suggestion, actually. Make an appointment with a therapist, perhaps a couples counselor, and go with your husband. Lay out his daughter's "changes of mind," and let the therapist tell your husband what's wrong with this picture. I do not know if her behavior (enabled by her father's indulgence) is from a mood disorder, immaturity, being a spoiled brat or not being very smart. Your husband needs to understand what is going on, and also that his enabling these spur-of-the-moment changes is doing her no good and in addition could likely wreck his marriage. Over to you. — Margo, rationally

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers' daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.




21 Comments | Post Comment
LW1 -
Good grief, what does he do to you in bed, that you deem him laying a hand on your son abuse "to a lesser degree"?

And besides, abuse is abuse regardless of the degree, especially against a five year-old child, so stop minimising.

Your family is part of the problem if they feel that a "stabilising influence" is more important that the safety of your child. Not to mention that they seem to confuse "stable" with "stuck". That their priorities are warped and distorted is the least one can say about them.

Are they your Lord and Master? Then why are you allowing them to control your life and your son's? Your husband may be very co-dependent on you (and resenting it), but YOU are co-dependent on your family to tell you how to live. Stop that.

Now he's conveniently away for training. Good. Game plan:
1. Choose a location. Somewhere FAR.
2. Transfer all monies into an account in your name only.
3. Find a place to live.
4. Pack and leave. Take only what's yours, or only what you care about and need most if there is no time to take everything. Enlist friends you can trust to help with transportation, emotional support and body-guarding you if your family learns and starts making trouble. But, don't tell anyone and move with cabs at night rather, if you can afford it. It would be preferable that as few people as possible know, as a secret shared is no longer a secret.

DON'T talk to anyone in your family of your intentions - they'll alert your husband and gang up to keep you under the yoke. Send him a Dear John letter once you're gone, not before - you don't want to see him come running home.

So the consequences will be "devastating", heh? As in, "You tow the line, bitch, or else"? You know what? Relocating may be the best thing that will ever happen to you, as it will force you to become your own person. Right now, it would appear that your own blood and kin are determined to keep you in slavery, and I would be curious to know what else they did to you growing up that will have made you the way you are, and running into bad relationships. The kind of people who put your servitude before the safety of a child are highly toxic and not frequentable anyway, so you would do well unto yourself and your son to put as much distance between you and them as possible.

Game plan the minute you're in the new place:
1. Apply for Welfare.
2. GET A THERAPIST. You need one to get yourself out of this mental gangrene.
3. Get a lawyer and file for divorce.
4. Start looking for a job and daycare for your son.
5. Get the lawyer's help for you to recover whatever you may have left behind that's yours.

You're only 28. Enough of your life has already been wasted, don't ruin the rest. Good Luck!

LW2 -
It looks like your husband is demanding that YOU be the "stabilising influence" on his nutty daughter, regardless of the cost to you. It is not reasonable that he should expect you to take on the job of 24/7 rescuer, while he's just watching by the wayside - she's HIS daughter, not yours. Looks to me like you were hired, not married.

Perhaps if he hears it from a therapist, it will wake him up. Otherwise, I can see how fast this will grow old and where your marriage is headed. What Margo said - including the headline.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Apr 21, 2012 6:31 AM

I like most of your advice, but the "transfer all monies into an account in your name only" amounts to stealing if husband is the one working and putting money into the account. She does not say if she is working, but I hope she has some money of her own. I doubt it though. Perhaps her family thinks he is "stabilizing" because he is the one paying the rent. I think they are all poor and the family is probably just happy to have someone else be financially responsible for her and her child. The whole thing sounds horrible, but I don't think recommending stealing and getting on welfare is such good advice. I agree that this woman needs help for whatever got her so screwed up, but at some point, people need to take responsibility for themselves. Maybe I have been lucky, or maybe I realized I needed to get educated for a practical career, but applying for welfare would never even cross my mind.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Carly O
Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:19 AM
I agree that she should not take the money (or at least not all of it) but you yourself said that it sounds like she may be poor. So lets go with that, she has little to no income will soon have no home (since she is leaving) and has a young child plus no family support. and you somehow expect her to get an education and get a good job... without welfare? the responsible thing for her to do is to get all the help she can get until she can get back on her feet. I am happy that you have never had to even think about turning to welfare but it exists to help people when they need it. I am not saying that she should live off of it indefinitely but yes you have been "lucky" (I don't believe in luck just that some people are born into this world with certain privileges that others don't have).
Comment: #3
Posted by: lilly
Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:51 AM
Re: lilly

Point well taken, lilly.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Carly O
Sat Apr 21, 2012 7:56 AM

Point well taken, but this woman is 27. She does not say anything about having ever had a job. I agree that not everyone has the opportunity to get a great education, but it seems she has never had a plan to take care of herself. I am not trying to be mean here, but by the age of 27, you should be able to work somewhere.
Comment: #5
Posted by: Carly O
Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:00 AM
LW1--"Since we've been married, my husband has become verbally, sexually and, to a lesser degree, physically abusive, to the point of laying a hand on my 5-year-old-son." Let me get this straight, you threw your needy jerk of a husband to the curb for abusing you and your son and your family urged you to take him back because he's a "stabilizing" force in your life? Honey, what was your life like before you married this louse? You should learn to trust your instincts. Your marriage is failing because you married the wrong guy. Your husband is acting out because he married the first woman he laid and now he has god only knows what pent up inside. Any questions? Do the right thing; kick your husband out and see a lawyer! You can do better.

LW2--"he problem is that the drama is starting to stress me out..." You think?!? Your step-daughter sounds like a handful and the fact that you've analyzed her behavior to the point of actually coming up with a diagnosis indicates that you do truly care about her. Unfortunately, you can't change your step-daughter unless she wants to change herself. I like Margo's advice to see a counselor with your husband and with this unbiased third party lay out your concerns regarding his daughter. Then urge your husband to talk to his daughter about seeking medical attention and getting her the help she needs. In the meantime, there's absolutely no reason for you to continue riding the chaotic roller coaster that is your step-daughter's life.
Comment: #6
Posted by: Chris
Sat Apr 21, 2012 8:19 AM
Re: Chris

Chris, this might sound really mean, but what makes you think LW1 can do better? It sounds to me like she does nothing at all for herself and is willing to go along with whatever any man wants to put her through. She needs help. She sounds like a person with no plan, no direction, and just a user, and if she had any "instincts", she would not have gotten pregnant when she could not take care of herself, let alone a child. I am not a mean, horrible person, but I am sick of people who will not try to help themselves, and I am more sick of paying for them.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Carly O
Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:07 AM
See the base chaplain for help now! If your husband comes back with PTSD you and your son could end up dead. There is however another possiblity. You may be so needy and scatterbrained that he is frazzled. One indicator is your choice of men. Two you chose to have a child with no means of support. Three your family all think you need a stabilizing influence. See the chaplain and get into counseling before more damage is done.
Comment: #8
Posted by: retired
Sat Apr 21, 2012 12:34 PM
Lise is right, excellent advice. Any money they have is half hers, so she would not be stealing. She should get out, go far away, grow up and learn to take care of herself and her son, and have no further relationships until she's figured out why she keeps hooking up with abusive men.
Comment: #9
Posted by: Annie
Sat Apr 21, 2012 1:42 PM
LW1: When you're dead you'll be too old to learn and since you're only 27 you have plenty of time but how much does your child have before he becomes like you or the new douchebag you've tied yourself to? You seek out abusers because you've been abused all your life by your family. You seek out what you know. You need to get away from the douchebag AND your family. Get some therapy before you ruin another life aka your son.

LW2: Her behavior doesn't sound like a chemical imbalance - it sounds like learned behavior. Take a closer look at the man you married. I guarantee he has some serious issues that he's passed on to his daughter and now they're playing this wonderful game that only crazy people truly enjoy. You must be a little crazy or stupid or both to marry this man. There is no way this happened in the last two years. This is what happens when you treat marriage like a goal. Make better choices and get some therapy for yourself.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Diana
Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:31 PM
LW1-When drug/gambling/alcohol/food addicts go through recovery, they're advised to stay away from the people with whom they did these things. You need to get away from the town where you live, and from your family who are not supportive of you. I wonder how your family treated you when you were a kid?
While your husband is away, I'd see a therapist, pronto. Secondly, take boxing lessons, as it will help you gain confidence and unleash the anger which is likely to be there later. Lastly, I don't know if you are financially dependent on your family, but that could be a problem. If you are, lean on them for money. Try blackmailing them; tell them you'll leave your husband unless they support you financially. Save that money in a bank account under your name only. When you have enough, leave this schmuck and divorce him too.
If he lays a hand on you or your kid, put your knee in his crotch and hit him in the head with a frying pan.
Comment: #11
Posted by: Richard
Sat Apr 21, 2012 2:53 PM
Legally, the money is probably half hers, depending on where they live, but Lise advises her to "transfer all monies". Stealing, plain and simple. I am so fed up with women having children with losers when they cannot even take care of themselves, and then availing themselves of every one else's money.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Carly O
Sat Apr 21, 2012 3:21 PM
Lw1: I dont' see a lot of positive options here. If you took back a husband who hit your son, then just what WILL make you leave? Clearly your child's welfare is not as important as what people think about you. Start telling your family that he is abusive, so they know. And if you want to leave, then do so. I know him being on duty is hard, but that in and of itself should not force you to stay in a bad marriage - if you need to leave, then leave. It's only going to be harder when he returns. Start putting away a little money for yourself each week. Get a job if you don't already have one. Make sure you are independent and have money, so that you can do this. Sure your family might not support you, so get friends on your side for moral support. Your family will come around, even if after a long time, but they will. And if they don't, well, you can form a new family with a much better, stable man.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Salty
Sat Apr 21, 2012 4:30 PM
Re: Carly O
"I don't think recommending stealing and getting on welfare is such good advice."
Fine, then how do you recommend that she get away from there? She'll need money to move out, to pay the first month's rent, deposits on the utlities and possibly buying used appliances like a fridge and a stove. You will notice that point #4 on list #2 is "Start looking for a job and daycare for your son", so evidently my suggestion for Welfare is only to tide her over until she gets back on her feet. Hey, that's what it's supposed to be there for!

As for the monies, half of all he makes is hers anyway (at least until she divorces him), and I'm not suggesting she keeps on depleting his account AFTER she's left (sorry if I didn't make this more clear), hence the recommendation for Welfare and looking for a job. So what will be in his account when he comes back will be more than she took, and even some of that would be hers by right.

And she should also take care of the bills with his money while he's away, so he doesn't come back to a darkened house with no phone - it's just that it's not just him who's abusive and controlling, her entire family is in cahoots to keep her down and under, she HAS to get away from this!

P.S.: She IS trying to help herself, that's why she's writing! Carly, try to have a little mercy, some people have had a life much harder than yours, and just because their nutty families never provided them with coping skills and all the tools for success doesn't mean they deserve the fix they're in.

"Start telling your family that he is abusive, so they know. "
She did, and they accused her of lying to attract attention. My heart really goes to that poor woman, how isolated and stuck with no options she must feel like. People like us are street-wise, life-savvy, informed, connected with the whole world via Internet and in touch with (literally) all the information in the world. There is one things every one of us here must never forget: IT'S THE NOT CASE FOR EVERYONE, and not everybody knows what to do in a prickly situation - that's why they write in to advice columnist!

Comment: #14
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:13 PM
Further to Carly O -
Mind you, if she looked for a job right now and found one right away, that would be best - it would provide her with money to get out of there with and a means of support - in principle.

In practice, the problem is that she will likely need to relocate, which means that the employment she will be needing won't be in the same town where she presently resides, which is complicated if she doesn't have wheels. And then, there's the economy. It's not like a million years ago, when anyone who needed a job could find one right away.

Comment: #15
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Sat Apr 21, 2012 9:18 PM
LW1: Wow, your letter reminded me SO much of my own situation with my now ex husband.

First of all, you HAVE to realize that your first obligation is to your child. NOT to society, NOT to your "family" (I'll get to them in a minute), not even to yourself. You HAVE to leave this monster because of what he did and will continue to do to your SON. There is no other choice here, I'm sorry to say. Even if he hadn't abused your son, your son is watching him abuse YOU and that makes it more likely that your SON will turn into an abuser. He's learning that it's ok to hit people, even people you love. Do you want him to grow up thinking that? NO! get out now for your son's sake!

Next, let's talk about your family. My family pulled that crap on me too, and let me tell you how I handled it. I moved away from THEM. I realized that one of the reasons I allowed the abuse from my husband was that my own family had abused me. Maybe not physically so much, but definately emotionally. My mother mostly: she constantly and consistently put me down most of my life, every decision was bad, I should date this guy, not that guy (one of the guys she wanted me to marry is a bum on skid row now, another jewel abused his wife and kids). When I married my husband and he abused me, my own mother told me I had probably done something to deserve the abuse and that I should apologize to HIM! Um, no, Mom.

Your family is whacked, I'm sorry to put it that bluntly, just like my mom was. I had to divorce my husband, and in a way, I also had to divorce my mom. She was toxic to me: I still only handle her in small doses. I've also kept her and her outdated view of marriage and parenthood away from my daughter. My daughter thinks of my mother as her sweet granny, and Mom will never badmouth me to her, but I wouldn't put it past your family to do that to your son. Keep him away from these people who want you and your son to live in hell: are they afraid if you leave that you will come to them for money/support?

Now for some logistics about leaving:

1. Get yourself as far away physically from your husband (home where you live now) as you possibly can. Canada is a big country: you can do this. You HAVE to put physical distance between yourself and your husband otherwise he will sweettalk you back and then it starts all over again.

2. When you first leave, don't tell anyone in your family where you are going: they WILL tell the Monster where you are going.

3. File for divorce as soon as possible in your home town (maybe even before you leave, but have an exit plan so you are out of town when he is served with the papers or finds out, I'm not sure how it works in Canada). In the US they have a special process for people who are leaving the marriage because of domestic violence: the courts don't allow the abuser to know addresses etc. and I reckon Canada has a similar program. Be sure when you talk to the lawyers/whatever the heck you call them up there that you continuously tell him/her that you are leaving him because of domestic violence issues and that you don't want him to know where you are living now.

4. Look into counseling for yourself and for your son as soon as you are settled. Making the same poor choices when it comes to men means you need to break a pattern.

5. Try not dating for awhile. When my daughter was a little older than your son, I decided not to date until she hit dating age herself. During the time she was growing up, I concentrated on HER. We grew very close and now that she's in college, she talks to me very honestly about her dating choices. I am SOOOOO glad I stopped dating for that time. Both my daughter and I are back dating: I have a man in my life now who is 180 degrees different from my exhusband. He is nice, he never yells, disagreements are not a battleground they are debated. He would never lift a hand in anger. He treats both myself and my daughter with respect. My daughter, who is just now dating at 19, has a boyfriend who treats her with respect (and he's so cute!!!) They have been friends for years and it's now naturally turning into more. BUT none of that stuff would have been possible if I had continually dated and churned over men in the same pattern of some of my friends. I got a lot of grief from my friends ("Why aren't you dating?") but it was more important to me to raise my daughter in a safe and consistent environment. You owe your son the SAME. He will need a male role model, but that can be a (sane) family member or friend of yours. My brothers have been great to my daughter and that has been good for all of us. Concentrate on your SON and his needs.

Best of luck to you, keep us posted on your progress... I'm praying for you. God bless.

Comment: #16
Posted by: nanchan
Sun Apr 22, 2012 6:47 AM
@nanchan I was stunned by the similarities in our histories. Oh my, the war stories we could share...your advice is on the money as is that of many of the other posters.

@ Carly and Chris I understand your notion of "victimhoon" Carly but sometimes it takes some of us longer than others to learn that lesson. Hopefully this woman is learning early. Chris is right. We all deserve better than that.

re yesterday's little coded exchanges between Ms Pasko and Lise B.. Ladies|: they were rude, childish and transparent. That behavior was no different that the trolls you complain about. Time for everyone to put on their grown-p panties
Comment: #17
Posted by: aline
Sun Apr 22, 2012 1:28 PM
@ LW1: Read comment #1, comment #11, and comment #16; and ignore all others. To Richard's suggestion of boxing lessons, I would add “...or any other martial art,” if boxing is not your cup of tea. Lise's and Nanchan's I would amend only by prioritizing therapy over almost everything else. They are advocating a geographical cure when you are in such a state that you associate being “forced” to relocate with “devastating” repercussions. You have a few months while he is away; use it wisely. Therapy will help you make all of your other decisions from a better, stronger place, with the support of at least one person, your therapist, in your corner. Bring a print-out of this column and all the BTL comments to your first session, to get you off to an efficient, flying start, and especially to make it clear to your therapist that you have a serious and specific deadline by which you need to be at least together enough to move a few provinces east or west.

@ LW2: Yes, your husband is the one who needs counseling the most. He just doesn't want to deal, apparently. How long has that been going on--his daughter's whole life perhaps? He seems to have assigned you the job of being her buffer against reality. Reassign yourself. Somewhat irrelevant to any advice, the daughter could have ADD rather than bipolar PD. Or both! Anyway, she needs to be screened by a pro, and you need to make getting that screening plus follow-up therapy a condition of your continuing to play *any* part in her life.

Comment: #18
Posted by: Khlovia
Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:17 AM
Re: Khlovia
The reason I put therapy where I did in the list is because she already wants to leave, has even tried once, and everybody in her &/%?&! entourage ganged up on her so she would go back to him. She doesn't need therapy to know she has to get out of there, she needs a plan of action on how to go about it.

The need to relocate because of "devastating consequences" is not some figment of her fevered imagination. She didn't give any details about how they managed to bring her back to the fold, but she's tried to escape once, so she knows what they're capable of - I don't think you quite realise just how brutal some social pressure tactics can be. She has to get out first, assure herself a transitionary source of income second (welfare), THEN start therapy and look for a job. Granted that she needs therapy urgently, but this is not a magic wand, the results take time and she has a very small window of opportunity while hubby is away at military training.

Otherwise, nutty hubby & family will re-brainwash her with change-back manoeuvres in stereo, and just undo whatever good therapy has managed to achieve. For therapy to even yield any lasting results, she needs to get out of there first. It's not even a question of priorities, it's a question of logistics.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:27 AM
Re: aline
Aline, you can rest assured we were not talking about you.
Comment: #20
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Mon Apr 23, 2012 9:28 AM
Re: Khlovia

Just a point of clarification.

I suggested getting physically away from the Monster for several reasons. They are

1. It's a safety issue. Studies have shown that most murdered women are killed by their spouses, and it's very common for an angry husband who is already inclined to physically violent to hurt a wife who is trying to divorce. I have said for YEARS that I believe Nicole Brown Simpson would still be alive if she had even moved the 35 miles south to Laguna Beach (where her parents and sister lived) instead of staying a couple of blocks away from the man I think killed her. Proximity means it's easier for danger to happen when tempers flare.

2. It's an emotional distance issue. While I agree with you about therapy, it won't do a bit of good for the LW to go through therapy if it's too easy for her to go right back into the relationship when she gets lonely or further pressure from her "family". The LW is also being bullied by her family, so she needs to not only get away from her husband, she needs to get away from her family.

3. It's more important for the LW to take care of the immediate situation (saving her life) than for her to go through weeks/months of therapy. What the LW is going through right now is Life Critical. It's like telling someone, leave the burning house and then investigate the cause of the fire LATER. When you are in a burning house, you get OUT. You don't spend time looking for matches, frayed electrical wires, etc. You get out and save your LIFE. When she is in a safe place with her son, and he is settled and they have a more calm day to day life, THEN she goes into therapy.
Comment: #21
Posted by: nanchan
Mon Apr 23, 2012 6:55 PM
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