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Dear Abby: I think I have an abuse problem. I’ve been with my boyfriend for a year, and already I feel he is fed up with me. I don’t want to lose him.

When I was younger, my father used to abuse me. It was years ago, but I feel like I might have gotten that trait from him. In addition, I have a tendency to smack my boyfriend on the arm when he’s verbally abusing me. I just want it to stop.

I love this man and I feel terrible after I do it. I keep telling him I’m sorry and that I have the worst tendency to act on impulse. Please tell me how to stop because I CAN’T lose him.

Sorry in Kansas City, Mo.

Dear Sorry: If you want your relationship to improve, you must realize it will take effort, not only on your part, but also your boyfriend’s. Neither of you handles anger or frustration appropriately. He shouldn’t verbally abuse you if something bothers him. And you need to find other ways than hitting him to make him stop.

Couples counseling could help you communicate more effectively with each other. Many licensed mental health professionals offer it. Please don’t wait.

Dear Abby: Our 5-year-old daughter, “Maya,” was diagnosed with a severe peanut and tree nut allergy. My parents have completely overhauled their house and have gone nut-free. My husband’s parents, on the other hand, haven’t.

I have tried talking to them, which in turn upsets my husband. He keeps making excuses for them, even though he demanded the school become nut-free to accommodate her.

We were scheduled to go to their house for an early Thanksgiving when they revealed that the house still wasn’t safe for Maya to come to. My husband’s solution was to go there for the weekend and leave us behind.

How can I get my in-laws to understand, and my husband to stand up?

Looking Out for Maya

Dear Looking Out for Maya: You can’t. Your husband is still under his parents’ thumb. While he may love his parents, his first responsibility is to you and his children. Until he finds his backbone and realizes that, he will remain at his parents’ beck and call. I’m glad you’re looking out for your daughter, because her father doesn’t appear to be emotionally equipped to do it.

Dear Abby: If a spouse keeps photos of a college sweetheart after 50 years, what does it mean? Does it mean he is still carrying a torch for that person and doesn’t want to forget her?

Suspicious in Houston

Dear Suspicious: I doubt it, but if you want to be sure, the person you should ask is your husband. After 50 years, the “torch” may be too heavy to carry — or completely out.

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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