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'Little' abuse like a little pregnant

Dear Harlan: My mom just gave me one of your articles about the "Concerned Parents" with the low-self-esteem daughter, and I have something to say about it. I'm 15 years old, and I'm dating an 18-year-old guy. We've been together for a year. He has emotionally and mentally abused me, and now, as you say in your article, I feel like I NEED him in my life. But before we were dating, I had a high self-esteem, and yeah it has lowered a little, but not enough to notice a difference.

I just don't understand why guys have to be this way. Is there any way you can show me how to fix this? —Barely Abused

Dear Barely Abused: A little abuse is like getting a little pregnant or coming up a little positive on a drug test or being a little dead — there's nothing "little" about it. Your mom knows it. I know it. And you know it, or you would have never made the effort to write (and thanks for writing).

Fix him by fixing yourself. Next time he starts with you, tell him that you will no longer allow him to treat you this way. The following time, tell him it's over, done, finished. Then dump him. It's the only way he will learn that YOU WILL NOT be treated poorly. But to find the strength to leave him for good, you need to have a life outside of him. Too many times, people fall in love only to abandon life BFS (before finding someone). Over time, your significant other becomes the only thing of significance. Then, you feel like you NEED him because without him you've got nothing.

Make sure you have a life and friends outside of your boyfriend. Find balance. And then, should your boyfriend treat you poorly, leave him without looking back before he can mutter another abusive word. If partners didn't put up with being treated like such crap, the abusers would learn that you can't treat someone so poorly. Sadly, there will always be people who allow themselves to be abused. Right now, you're one. Change that.

Hey Harlan:How can I stop stressing out and worrying about if I'm ever going to find someone good? I fear that the longer it takes for me to find the person I want to be with, the more wrinkles I will have and the less attractive I'll be. Help set me straight! —Alone Forever

Dear Alone: You and the rest of the single and stressing should seriously take a day off and take inventory. Start with online dating services and scroll through the thousands of personal ads. When you've had enough, head to a mall. Stop people. Ask if they're single (carry a clipboard; say it's research). If you need more proof, knock on doors and find the single people who are hiding (still carrying that clipboard). Once you see that the world is flooded with the single and searching, you can stop stressing.

Sooner or later you'll meet one — sooner if you do the following: Talk to those who intrigue you during your daily routine, click your mouse and make yourself available to those who will be intrigued by you, and tell friends and family you're interested in meeting someone intriguing. Do these things, and you'll be so busy living life you'll forget to stress. That's when it will happen. Beyond that, wear sunscreen, avoid rubbing your eyes and try not to squint.

Write Harlan at or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send written queries to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614. © Harlan Cohen, 2004 (King Features Syndicate Inc.)