Ask Amy’s column today is pretty darned good!

Dear Amy: I am in a terrible relationship that’s lasted two tumultuous years.

I met him after recovering from an operation.

I had been alone for years, as my life was consumed by raising my children, pulling a boy out of a war zone and teaching music.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend is a liar. He’s had another girlfriend, he is an alcoholic, has a prison record, has a kid in jail, grandchildren out of wedlock, no car, no license, fines, debt, is abusive, is not intellectual and has no education.

All he has is a funny sense of humor, a great body and carpentry skills.

I want to get out of this nightmare. I’m angry that I fell for all his lies.

He is very abusive and not at my level of intellect.

I don’t know how with two master’s degrees, material success, and happy and successful children, I could have picked such a narcissistic jerk.

What is wrong with me?

I’m in therapy, and my therapist says it’s because I had an abusive family of alcoholics and ragers, and I have all the classic characteristics of adult children of alcoholics.

I’m afraid to kick him out because I never meet anyone. I’ve been alone most of my life.

Any advice?

— Helpless Smart Dummy

Helpless Smart Dummy: As long as you consider being alone a worse fate than being in an abusive relationship with a lying, narcissistic jerk, then keep doing what you’re doing. But in the immortal words of “Dr. Phil”: “How’s that working for you?” It is obviously not working for you.

I’m not a therapist, but, for what it’s worth, I agree with their assessment.

People who grew up in chaotic, neglectful, abusive and alcoholic households often internalize the idea that they are somehow “not enough.” I assume this is because, despite their heroic efforts as children, they cannot fix, heal or even alter the dynamic of their family of origin.

Intelligence, education and success in other realms will not offset this deep void, but you can change your mind-set and your behavior.

Ask your therapist to talk to you about codependency. And connect with an Adult Children of Alcoholics group ( (c) Ask Amy

Oh my goodness. We have a live one!

How do you pull a boy out of a war zone? Is that a thing? Wouldn’t it lead to the boy going AWOL, or something? Maybe he lives in a bad part of town, like in West Side Story? That would explain how she’s both a music teacher and a war-zone rescuer. I think.

Anyway, here’s the crux of it:

I’m afraid to kick him out because I never meet anyone. I’ve been alone most of my life.

I’m alone too! Being single happens. It bites. But you can’t stay in a disastrous train-wreck of a relationship just because there’s no one else around to hook up with. Good grief. I mean, this guy sounds so horrible that it’s almost funny.

He is very abusive and not at my level of intellect.

I see we have our priorities in order. [Facepalm.] They have whole organizations for rescuing women from domestic abusers, but there are NO organizations that rescue women from unintelligent boyfriends. Huh. There’s a thinker. Gasp! We need more organizations! Who’s in charge here? Let’s get going on this, STAT.

I believe her that he’s abusive, but I don’t think he’s so abusive as to be holding her hostage in this relationship. So she needs to do the work all on her own to run screaming from this loser.

I want to get out of this nightmare. I’m angry that I fell for all his lies.

Well, that’s something to work on, at any rate. After she dumps this cretin, she can do some soul-searching to uncover why she was so gullible and how to prevent it in the future. But at the heart of it, too, she subconsciously knew what he was up to from the beginning. That needs to be included in her soul-searching.

What is wrong with me?

Maybe she’s just horny. He’s sexy, after all, so there’s that. And as a carpenter myself, I can attest to just how attractive we woodworkers are when holding up an electric drill and blowing sawdust off its tip, all sultry like.

All I can really say here is that this woman needs to take 100% ownership of her situation. At this point, there’s no benefit from blaming anyone else. (I get that other people have caused problems in her life and her psychological outlook, but she needs to take the reins here and do everything she can to fix it.)

Dear Amy: I am always struck when you and folks in your column talk about keeping a journal.

I think that sounds wonderful!

I never kept a journal for long growing up. This is in part because there were times that a family member read my private writings, and I felt betrayed.

But now I’m an adult with no excuses for failing to start something I’ve always wanted to do. I usually start and then drift off after a few days.

Any advice for aspiring journal keepers?

I can’t help but wonder if part of my lack of motivation is the fear that someone would read them and judge them to be what is perfectly okay for them to be: nothing too exciting.

— M

M: I have journals going back to when I received my first one for Christmas when I was 8 years old.

However, I am not and have never been a daily writer. I write only when I feel compelled to. Weeks can go by! But I keep a blank book handy (no dates on the pages — too much pressure!).

If you want to start a new habit, one way is by “habit stacking.”

Basically, you “stack” a new habit on top of an old habit. For instance, after your morning coffee, you try to write a few sentences. Don’t pressure yourself to create beautiful sentences made of spun gold, just freestyle it.

Writing is basically a muscle — the more you use it, the stronger and more skilled you become.

Technology can be helpful here. You can set a prompt on your phone to remind you to sit down and write. The downside of setting an alarm is that writing for pleasure can start to seem like a chore, which is one reason you’ve abandoned your efforts in the past.

Yeah, you know, writer’s prompts can be a great tool. They make whole notebooks filled with them. “My favorite memory of going on vacation was when…” Or, “If I could be any animal for a day, I’d choose to be…” Some people need more “assignments” in order to stay structured with writing. Speaking of writing prompts, I wrote a saptastic letter to Charlie at NYC Midnight in which I apologized profusely, and he forgave me!! It made me so freakin’ happy. I was just really upset over the whole thing. He wrote back and was very nice, and it made my day. It’s all good, and I can keep competing, and I’m so relieved and happy about it all. Let’s toast to Charlie!

Dear Amy: I know you are a wealth of knowledge for resources.

Are there any good books on dealing with all of the pain, death and suffering in the world?

I am not a spiritual person.

— Mark

Mark: What a thoughtful question.

My answer is: ALL the books.

I turn to poetry during tough times: Walt Whitman, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop (“Time to plant tears, says the almanac”), Billy Collins, Jericho Brown and Emily Dickinson. Poets write the lyrics to the music of life.

Yes, this is the whole point of reading, in fact. JK Rowling said she wrote the Harry Potter series in order to express the pain of losing people to death. (No spoilers, but… characters die.) He could start with that series, or anything else, really.


Hmm… taking in mind that he’s not spiritual, what else would I recommend? I agree that it’s a thoughtful question, and it’s also a toughie. I think that we find truth in different places. My dad reads westerns, and he’s always telling me what insight he gleams from them. (And not the sex scenes. Just no. But he actually finds truth in the storylines.) I think we all find truth in whatever we’re drawn to. Ask Amy likes poetry, for example. I’d recommend that this letter writer should try to find his genre. All of them have truth in some form. If it resonates, then you’ve found it. I’ve talked about how that one episode of Frasier changed my whole life, right?

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