Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I have been together for about four years, and I'm ready to move on. He doesn't work and has been dealing with long-term health issues.

If I asked him to move out, he wouldn't be able to support himself. He can file for disability, but he doesn't. He doesn't do anything to take care of himself.

I've tried to leave him several times and he always flips out. He destroys my things, slashes the tires on my car, rages at all hours and says horrible, awful things.

All of this would be tolerable if I didn't have two young children. How do I break this man's heart in a way that will help him accept it and leave peacefully?

Amy says: None of this abuse and violence should be "tolerable" under any circumstances. The fact that you have young children makes it even more important that you leave this relationship.

The most dangerous moment of life with an abusive partner is when you try to leave. I think it is quite obvious that you will not be able to leave with his assent.

You should develop a safety plan. Document all instances of physical abuse and destruction. Gather all of your important documents, cash and some clothes for you and the kids and keep them somewhere outside the home. Contact a domestic violence shelter. Go to court to swear out an order of protection. Share your plan with a trusted friend or family member.

I'm urging you to take this very seriously and to do everything possible to get to safety. For support and information, check the National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org).

Widow rebound

Dear Amy: I have a newly widowed, wealthy friend, "Sharon," who started dating "Michael," just two months after her husband died.

Sharon, who is 59, is madly in love with 72-year-old Michael, who comes from more modest circumstances.

Sharon is acting like a teenager. She wants to spend every minute with him. She is ignoring her grandchildren, and is openly planning a future with Michael. He has been divorced for as long as she was married. At 72, he is still working at a government job, but must really need money, if he hasn't retired.

Sharon was boy-crazy and had a reputation for dating bad boys in high school, but we all assumed she'd outgrown it after 35 years of marriage. Her friends and family are stunned and worried.

Is there anything we can do to bring her out of her obsession with being in love?

Amy says: First of all, "Michael" might still be working because he is good at his job, and loves to work. It isn't helpful to make assumptions.

"Sharon" is an adult and has the right to engage in relationships with anyone she chooses, regardless of what you (and others) think. Remember that she has recently been through the loss of her longtime spouse. She may be bouncing too quickly, but many people respond to loss in this way.

The best way to handle a relationship with a loved-one caught up in a whirlwind is to do your best to stay close. This means that you should make an effort to meet her beau, and maintain an open attitude toward him.

When caught up in the throes of early attraction, many people cling to the love relationship, to the exclusion of others. This should pass.

You should tell her you're happy for her, express an eagerness to meet her new guy and keep your admonitions gentle and based in friendship.

Send Ask Amy questions to Amy Dickinson at P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068 or to askamy@amydickinson.com.