Dear Amy: I have a sister in her 30s who has been married for a few years to a man that my family and I thought very highly of — until recently, when his true colors came out.

A few months ago, he and my sister had an argument and he sent a text to our entire family saying horrible and vulgar things about her.

This was just the beginning. As it turns out he is very controlling (telling her whom she can and cannot speak to at work). He treats her with disrespect in front of their children. He makes her feel like everything she does is wrong.

She was always so self-assured. It breaks my heart to see her going through this and questioning herself. She even said to me recently that his actions make her wonder if she deserves to be treated badly. That made me so sad for her. I reassured her that no one deserves to be treated this way!

I went through this for far too long with my ex-husband, so I know exactly what she is dealing with. Yet I don't know what to do for her or what to tell her. She's not to the point of wanting to leave. She says she still loves him. I know it might take time (like it did for me) — to see the light.

What can I do in the meantime?

Amy says: You have insight into this sad situation because you experienced it, and so you should treat your sister the way you wish you had been treated by concerned family members.

Remember how you felt when you were in her shoes, and behave with empathy, compassion, patience and understanding.

People in abusive partner relationships have many competing agendas, including worrying about their children, economic pressure, feeling repressed, intimidated, frightened and alone. They also risk being harshly judged for staying in the relationship.

Leaving an abusive relationship is also often a very dangerous flash point.

Don't lecture your sister, or issue ultimatums. Tell her, "I love you, I'm worried that you are losing yourself, and I am here to help you and the kids whenever you need it. I'm on your side forever, and I'm not leaving." Do not focus too much on her husband and his behavior (she may become defensive) but keep the focus consistently on her.

Marriage not in cards

Dear Amy: I believe I'm in love with a man who enjoys having sex with both men and women.

He says I'm enough for him, and that he wants to get married, eventually.

I keep catching him sneaking and hiding his phone.

I wonder if I should walk away and stop waiting for him. We've been together for over two years, and he said he loves me — but I wonder if it's worth it.

Amy says: Sneaking and hiding a cellphone is a pretty obvious indication that your guy is, well, sneaking and hiding something.

You could start by asking him what is on his phone that he doesn't want you to see.

Regarding you and your feelings, you've probably heard the expression: "The heart wants what it wants." There is no question about that.

However, after over two years in a relationship, you need to consider the impact of another organ: your brain.

You probably know by now that your guy isn't a good bet for marriage. At this point, you need to decide on and time your departure. Now or later — it's up to you.

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