Dear Annie: My former spouse, “Ted,” was extremely abusive — not physically but emotionally, psychologically and financially. He is good at it, and his victims are like a frog in a hot pot. Ted breaks you down so gradually, slowly grooming you to question your perceptions of everything. I’ve noticed Ted likes to pick women who maybe already have some struggles with self-esteem or depression, or who drink too much. (I drank too much when we were dating, though I quit drinking the year I married him.) He is controlling, malicious and vindictive. Yet, comes across as humble and sweet.

His routine goes like this: First, he charms you. Then he tells you how mean his ex was to him, and you feel bad for him. Then he gets you to start a business with him, and to co-sign a loan for his “work truck.” He ended up leaving me with $300,000 in debt. I later found out he’d left his two previous girlfriends with $100,000 in debt.

Now he is dating a lovely woman. He’s gotten her to the truck-purchasing phase, and she is planning to move in with him in July. She is here from another country and has worked hard to save for her retirement. He is going to leave her with nothing. I have a young child with him (shared custody), so I see him and her fairly regularly. I really want to give her a warning, but he is great at triangulation and would probably make me out to be crazy or something. Also, he never lets her talk to me for more than a moment. What should I do? — Troubled in Midwest

Dear Troubled: I’m sorry that Ted put you through that, and it’s commendable that you want to help his latest target. Some lessons have to be learned the hard way, but you can still try to give her the CliffsNotes. Write a letter letting her know that you’ve noticed some patterns emerging in her relationship with Ted, patterns that were also present in your marriage and caused you great emotional pain and financial hardship. Stick to the facts, and keep as neutral a tone as possible, avoiding personal attacks or inflammatory language.

There’s a good chance she’ll shrug it off and throw it out, or show it to Ted, who will have a pat explanation for everything, I’m sure. But at least you’ll know you tried. That’s about all you can do here, unfortunately.

Dear Annie: To “My Own Mrs. Robinson,” who said his marriage was great and the problem was his mother-in-law, with whom he was sleeping: Your mother-in-law isn’t the problem. It’s your shameful lack of honor and morals. The humiliation your young wife is about to experience will likely last a lifetime and this is exactly what you wanted since sex was more important to you than the devastating harm you were willing to inflict.

To the young wife:

1. This is not your fault.

2. Immediately contact a divorce attorney.

3. If OKed by the attorney, change the locks on the house and put his belongings on the front sidewalk.

4. Immediately divorce this pathetic excuse of a man and never look back.

5. Say no more than five words to your disgraceful mother: “Do not ever contact me again.” How I wish I could put my arms around this young wife and comfort her. — K.S.

Dear K.S.: A lot of people wrote in about that letter, with a few suggesting that “MOMR” must have been pulling my leg because it was so outrageous. I really hope so. Otherwise, that poor wife is about to be handed a lifetime’s worth of baggage. Thanks for your letter.

“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to

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