Who is Miss Abigail?

Abigail Grotke
Silver Spring, MD
email: missabigail at missabigail dot com
twitter: @DearMissAbigail

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Miss Abigail has a collection of over 1,000 classic advice books, spanning from 1822 to 1978 and covering a variety of topics, from love and romance to etiquette and charm. The collection sparked the idea for this site, then a book, Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage, which has inspired an Off-Broadway production of the same name!


Posts Tagged ‘breaking up’

Man & Woman & the Golf That Came Between Them

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

love fluctuates and ebbsQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I have been dating a girl who I love for two years, on June 5th, 1999. She was frustrated with our relationship, we have never fought, or argued, I feel as if she is my soul mate, we can talk for hours, but obviously I never talked about the steps of our relationship. I am a professional golfer trying to get on tour. I have always seem to put my goals first, but I always tried to make as much time as possible for her. I was teaching golf at a golf course, bartending part time, coaching a high school golf team, and I have joint custody of my son, who I love, I have never been married. She says I have too much on my plate, she loves me, but feels as if she is holding me back, I realize that I would rather be with her than playing golf on tour, I told her this (after the fact), but after she sat me down after a golf tournament, and told me she loved me but, she thinks that we should see other people, but she said she still wanted to date me as well. I have rented the basement of my parent’s house, for three years, saving money. She lives an hour away, she just bought her own home, and I bought her a dog and built her a deck onto her house, she did pay for most of the cost of the deck, but I always drove to see her, every other weekend, and Sundays, Mondays, or Wednesday. I noticed something was wrong when she, her girlfriend and I went to the beach for Memorial Day, and I had a tournament on Tuesday, I kept pushing her about leaving early on Monday so I could get home to drive four hours to my tournament on Tuesday. I felt as if something was realy wrong, and had a feeling I had been selfish. Then that weekend I was given the news. I wanted to marry the girl, but I guess its too late. I have talked to her maybe six times, we have emailed each other every week, and I have seen her twice, once for lunch to return somthing, the other was to take her out for her birthday four weeks ago, we had a great time, she called me four times in two days there after, but she failed to call me on my birthday, until 5 days later, last week and apologized, she said she had every intention but, with her new job, her cousin coming into town, and her car breaking down, then she emailed me this past Sunday, apologizing again, and asked general questions, said she was swamped, it was short, and she didn’t put title or salutation, it was just a short paragraph. My parents move out of state next week and I had to find a new apartment, I want to move closer to her, but I don’t think that will solve anything? I feel as if I am being strung along, am I? Should I continue to pursue? Should I give her her space and to get her stuff organized? Is she seeing someone else? I need to get my stuff organized. She has supported me tremendously, and I was four months late with a gift last year for her b-day, and for our two-year anniversary, I couldn’t pay for dinner, because of some kind of credit card error, but I did reimburse her, the next day? I used all my money for golf tournaments and had very little left? I think she was worried that I was going to fall back on her, and I was financially unstable, I’m thirty-one, I lived at home three years only to pursue my career, but I wanted to spend more time with her than practice. She is also thirty-one, I don’t think she wants to hurt me, but I think slow pain is worse than quick. Should I give her space and time to get over the bitterness she feels? Her friends, my friends and her co-workers believe that we were meant to be, but I should leave it alone! A friend from work, of hers, called me out of the blue, he was given all her projects, because she was leaving and starting a new job. He talked to her and he believes that she really loves me, but doesn’t want to be the reason I stop playing golf, I love to teach golf, and coach, but celebrity is not always what its cracked up to be. Her co-worker wanted me to come up and have a beer sometime, he’s new to the area, and does not know many people. She keeps telling me that it takes time for re-direction, and she can’t help feeling the way she does. She says she doesn’t feel all warm and fuzzy right now. She hasn’t emailed me back since Sunday. I probably should leave things alone, and if she wants me she will make the effort. I have written to her and told her how I feel, I kind of understand how she feels, I thought we communicated well but I guess not, maybe someone else is showing her interest, who is more stable? Maybe she is so sweet that she is trying to get out slowly? She the type of girl who likes to keep on moving, and I became coposetic in the relationship, I don’t always say the right things until its too late… Sorry this is not a short question. I felt I needed to give some background. What should I be doing, and is it over? I don’t have a problem dating, I just wake up ever morning and she is on my mind, I have never had this happen with anyone else before. She and I would talk everyday, on the phone. Is there always a second chance or did I miss the boat? When a woman shuts that door, can it ever be reopened? And once there is a break in a relationship, does it ever become better, if you get back together? Brutal truth?



I was going to make this week a lesson in the art of brevity in writing questions to advice columnists, but didn’t have enough room left on the page to adequately cover the topic. Instead, here’s a short thought from Dr. Albert Ellis’s Sex and the Single Man on the ever-changing path that love leads us down. I’m not sure if it answers your questions (what were they again?) but it can’t hurt. And that’s the brutal truth.

1963: Love’s Tendency to Change

Intense heterosexual love ~ whether we like to admit it or not ~ in the vast majority of instances is subject to inevitable change; and most of the time its intensity eventually fades or dies. That passionate love fluctuates and ebbs, and that it usually does so within a few years of its inception, is as incontrovertible as the fact that it actually exists, and that it brings immense satisfaction to numerous persons. Yet, sadly enough, the mores of our society demand that the fiction of love’s immortality be universally fostered, and that most of use be led to believe that, when love is ‘truly’ experienced, it never changes, lasts for the lifetime of the lovers, and it is even ‘immortal.’

Source: Ellis, Albert. Sex and the Single Man. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1963.
~ p. 84 ~

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

he wasn’t the right boy for herQ Dear Miss Abigail:

How do you accept the pain and heartbreak of unrequited love?


A Dear Sad:

It will be hard at first but I’m certain you will get over the loss. Stay strong and lift your head high! This, from Debbie Reynolds’s If I Knew Then (1962), is a good reminder of what’s to come, or shall I say, what should come.

1962: Disappointment in Love

Disappointment in love is one of the hardest things for girls to get over. We women were meant to be romantic creatures, I guess, and we take matters of the heart more seriously than men do most of the time (but not all of the time, thank goodness). Many girls moon away because the boys they wanted didn’t ask them to go steady …

Unbelievable as it seems at the time, you outgrow disappointments in love. When you’re young and a boy says he loves you and wants to marry you so you can always be together, it doesn’t always turn out that way. At a young age it’s often as easy to fall out of love as in. It’s better that it happens then, and not after marriage.

If a girl loses a boy, she shouldn’t go off alone with her burden of sadness. Obviously he wasn’t the right boy for her or he never would have left her. So why feed his ego by letting him know you’re pining away? …

You’ll find another man, and he’ll be even better for you, because he’ll recognize the values that the other fellow overlooked. But you can’t just wait for the new boy to find you. You’ve got to keep busy – meet people, do things, work on projects. An active girl is an attractive girl.

Source: Reynolds, Debbie. If I Knew Then. New York: Bernard Geis Associates, 1962.
~ pp. 69-70 ~

I Can’t Get Over Him

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

let time exert its healing influence

Q Dear Miss Abigail:

I just broke up with my boyfriend and I can’t get over him. What should I do?


A Dear Crissy:

My brother has a theory: the amount of time you need to get over someone is as long as you dated. Went out six months? Be prepared to be miserable for six months. I’m not sure if that makes you feel any better, so I went ahead and located some heartbreak advice for you.

But before we continue, now’s a good time to remind folks that many of these books have a decidedly religious slant to them. This one’s by The Reverend James A. Magner, who writes in the flap copy of The Art of Happy Marriage:

The first reaction of my friends, when I announced the title of my book, was that of amusement and considerable skepticism. What could a priest know about the art of happy marriage?

My thoughts exactly.

1947: Disappointment in Love

Whoever falls in love must run the risk of disappointment. If the affair has run a sufficiently long course and has been marked by serious concern of one or both parties, the crash may result in intense emotional unhappiness and even in prolonged and dangerous bitterness. There is no proof or guarantee against this. Many people have had an experience of this sort. With proper precautions, one can avoid the more serious mistakes that bring love to grief and learn to make reasonable adjustments after a broken romance.

A man who has been disappointed in love swears to his friends that ‘all women are alike,’ that ‘he is through for life,’ and similar nonsense. Women take similar positive steps and maintain that they will never look at a man again. For such people the best course is to avoid talking on the subject, unless to seek the council of a trusted friend, and to avoid making a public display of themselves. There may be a natural temptation for a disappointed man to drown his chagrin and self-pity in drink; or for the woman to throw her standards to the wind and take up with every man in sight to show that she doesn’t care. A little self-control, plenty of work, a refusal to allow oneself to brood on the subject, and a willingness to let time exert its healing influence are excellent prescriptions for disappointed lovers.

The principal purpose of courtship is precisely to find out whether the two persons are so constituted that they can work as a team. This applies not only in the order of surface attraction or superficial sex appeal, but also in moral and spiritual qualities, personal interests, intellectual and cultural development, religious and social views, and the various sustaining qualities that carry people through periods of difference and difficulty. Notwithstanding the expenditure of affection and trust, one may discover that he or she has been mistaken or even imposed upon. If this is the case, then one may well thank God that the facts have been revealed and pray for calmness of spirit and strength to move ahead in deeper wisdom.

Source: Magner, James A. The Art of Happy Marriage. Milwaukee, Wis.: Bruce Publishing Co., 1947.
~ pp. 30-31 ~

That Vicious Dumping Cycle

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

our author is mistaken

Q Dear Miss Abigail:

How do I stay in a relationship? I always seem to get bored or frustrated with the person I’m seeing so I break up with them!!!

Sick of dumping!

A Dear Sick of Dumping:

This little excerpt is from William J. Robinson’s Sexual Problems of To-Day (with “today” being 1921, of course). According to the cover page of this book, the author’s credentials at that time were as follows:

President American Society of Medical Sociology, President Northern Medical Society of the City of New York, Editor of The American Journal of Urology and of The Critic and Guide, Ex-President Berlin Anglo-American Medical Society, Member American Medical Editors’ Association, American Medical Association, Fellow New York Academy of Medicine, New York State Medical Society, Medical Society of the County of New York, Harlem Medical Association, Society Moral and Sanitary Prophylaxis, etc., etc.

I think we can trust him. Anyone with that much experience just has to know a little something about relationships, don’t you agree?

1921: The Duration of Our Passions

‘La durée de nos passions ne dépend pas plus de nous que la durée de notre vie’ ~ The duration of our passions no more depends upon ourselves than does the duration of our life. So says La Rochefoucauld. But our author is mistaken. For the duration of our lives does to a great extent depend upon ourselves. Under strict hygienic living and by avoiding foolhardy dangers, we can prolong our life considerably. By excesses, dissipation and carelessness we can shorten it. And so with our passions, by which the author means love. With careful solicitude love can be made to last a lifetime; under brutal manipulation, it will soon wither and die. For Love is a tender plant requiring loving care.

Source: Robinson, William J. Sexual Problems of To-day. New York: Truth Publishing Company, 1921.
~ p. 297 ~

Breaking Up Is Way Too Hard to Do

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

his girl is running out on him

Q Dear Miss Abigail:

I have been going out with a guy for one year and I am interested in another guy. My boyfriend doesn’t want to break up with me. What should I do?


A Dear Pooja:

Ah, the classic story of failed romance, and the man who would not let go. Looks like it’s time for you to have a little discussion with him. Here’s some advice on how to do it, from Evelyn Millis Duvall’s 1956 edition of Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. And if that doesn’t work, move as far away from him as possible. With a new hair color and name change, he’ll probably never find you.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

1956: How to Break Off Without Hurting

Continuing with someone who it is no longer wise to see so regularly is no kindness to either person. . . . Yet the problem often becomes a difficult one because we do not know how to break off without hurting the other’s feelings.

The steps in breaking off with someone without hurting too much look somewhat like this: First, let the other know how you are feeling. Share your first questions about staying together or breaking up with the other person. Try to think it through together. Talk it over calmly. Encourage the other person to tell you how he or she feels about it. Do everything possible to understand how each of you is enterpreting your relationship. Then discuss as openly as you can what next steps might be taken. You may find that the other person has been having some of the same thoughts and fears that you have hesitated to share.

A second point to keep in mind is to do everything possible to help the other person save face. If the girl feels that she has been jilted, she will be doubly hurt. Her pride suffers as well as her love. If the boy senses that his girl is running out on him, he too is hurt. Whatever is done, each should feel that the other is still an attractive person and that it was just the relationship that did not work out.

Young people often make this step hard for themselves by trying to extract from their retreating lovers ‘the reasons why you do not love me anymore.’ This so often leads to a list of characteristics that are unpleasant, or a counting up of shortcomings, that the discarded lover feels unworthy as well as unloved.

It is better to recognize that friendships change and shift with time. During the teen years, when growth is rapid and interests change quickly, it is to be expected that friends will change, too. If two persons who have found each other’s company pleasant come to the place where it is not wise to continue seeing each other, they should face the fact without hurting each other’s pride. They may blame the relationship, they may blame their youthfulness, but every effort should be made not to blame each other.

Source: Duvall, Evelyn Millis. Facts of Life and Love for Teen-Agers. New York: Association Press, 1956.
~ pp. 350-51 ~

How to Take the Pleasure Out of It for Him

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Relationships are not all wine and roses. Sometimes you know you must break it off with a man you no longer find suitable. Well, ladies, never fear. Nina Farewell offers some advice for this type of situation in The Unfair Sex. I also am including a section from the same book titled “Some Ways To Make a Man Miserable,” just in case you get really desperate.

1953: How to Take the Pleasure Out of It for Him

It is just and fitting that one should suffer for one’s mistakes ~ but how much nicer it is to make someone else suffer for them. And who merits this punishment more than the man who has caused your sufferings?

The commonest cause of self-castigation is the realization that you have fallen for a Line or Technique, especially if it is one that has tripped you before, and more especially if you suspect you have been taken over by a Fly-by-Nighter. The best time to take the pleasure out of it for him is immediately after you become aware that you have made an error. And it is to be hoped that such an awareness will come to you before he has said good night ~ otherwise you may never hear from him again, which would deprive you of a chance to “get in your licks,” as the saying goes.

Start Equalizing at one. The principle behind the Theory of Equalization is a simple one: the happier and more self-satisfied you know the man to be, the more miserable you become. Conversely, as the man’s pleasure decreases, your own increases, until you come out even ~ often obliterating all memory of your unhappiness. . . .

The wounds inflicted at a love-fest carry more sting than those exchanged in battle. The following suggestions are valuable only insofar as they indicate what direction to take. Knowing your man and his vulnerable areas, you will be able to create specific torments to suit the individual.

Some Ways To Make a Man Miserable

Call Him By Pet Names

In the midst of a beautiful embrace, whisper “Darling Tommy” in his ear ~ or “My Johnnie Boy” or “Oh, Dickie.” This will freeze the muscles of his heart if his name happens to be George.

Give Him Gifts

Buy him a pair of sox several sizes too large for him. When he tries them on, laugh with fond amusement, and say you never realized he was so little. (Naturally this can be used only on small or medium-sized men.) You may carry this idea further according to your financial means. A huge sweater, or a sixteen-thirty-seven shirt, or tremendous gloves, or gigantic pajamas can make a man dwindle away to nothing ~ and likewise his ego. For the man who is the least bit pudgy, or putting on a little extra weight, reverse the procedure ~ buy him tiny garments.

Be Interested

But not in the things that interest him. Create a perfect setting, with soft lights and music ~ and after two or three kisses, start a conversation. Your voice should be clear and strong, and the subject a prosaic one ~ like the newest development in a comic strip, or how to remove ink stains. When the music stops, stop everything. Insist on silence while you listen to the commercials. Or encourage him to talk about himself, and when he has warmed to his subject, pretend you have fallen asleep.

Be Romantic

Listen to the music with a dreamy, far-away look ~ and say it reminds you of something, but don’t tell him what it is. Or talk admiringly about a man you know ~ or one who do not know, like an actor or some other public figure ~ praising his appearance, his mind, his personality. Or arrange with some girl to phone you. Pretend the call is from a man, call him darling, and giggle and coo a great deal. Or send yourself a box of flowers, card enclosed, and have them delivered while he is there. Then devote the major part of the evening to arranging them, finding the right spot for them, feeding them aspirin and salt, smelling them, rearranging them, and admiring them. Or tell him he reminds you of someone you used to know ~ he dances like someone you used to know ~ he makes love like someone you used to know. Comparisons are always painful.

Play Dead

Accept his kisses and caresses with lifeless passivity. Let yourself go limp all over, like a rag doll. As he frantically tries to elicit some reaction, remark that the room is chilly and go for a sweater.

Be Meticulous

Avoid his kisses entirely and offer him sen-sens or a chlorophyll tablet. Or have your hair done in some elaborate style and spend the evening protecting it. Warn him frequently not to disarrange it, and every time he gains a little ground, pull away hastily. This is doubly effective if you hint that the special coiffure is for an important date the following night.

Be Observant

Notice things about him. Notice how thin his hair has become, or how the hairline recedes. Notice how soft he is getting, or how his tummy is starting to bulge. Notice some gray hairs. Notice the crowsfeet on his eyebags. (Men are as sensitive as women about signs of approaching age.) But do not criticize ~ commiserate. And be kind. Tell him looks are not important ~ that he may be far from an Adonis, but you don’t care what a man looks like, as long as he doesn’t bore you. This is a good prelude to a series of yawns, or a little catnap.

So mortified will the average man be by the treatment described that he will never be heard from again. There are some fellows, though, who are thickskinned and not so quick to take offense. With typical obtuseness this type will say to himself, “What’s eating her?” or “She must be off her feed.” And he will come back for a repeat performance before he disappears.

Whatever his reaction, immediate or delayed, it is a great comfort to know that you have cancelled out any pleasure he may have derived from you. In fact, and evening devoted to Equalizing, to making some deserving man miserable, can be so rewarding an experience that you may come through it happier than you were before you began to hate yourself.

Source: Farewell, Nina. The Unfair Sex : An Expose of the Human Male for Young Women of Most Ages. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953.
~ pp. 189-90, 192-96 ~

Journey to Ethicsland

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

plenty of girls in the worldQ Dear Miss Abigail:

I am roommates with a woman that I am madly in love with. The problem is that she is dating a man that I have been friends with for awhile (although we’ve known each other longer than either of us has known him). Is it wrong for me to want them to breakup so that I could date her?


A Dear Joshua:

While I’m not sure you’re ready to take Dr. Ellis’s suggestion and tell your mutual friend that you have a thing for his girl (and remember, no matter how much you love her, she is with him right now), the rest of this may give you some guidance.It’s from Sex and the Single Man, which came out in 1963, cashing in, I’m sure, on the sucess of Helen Gurley Brown’s groundbreaking Sex and the Single Girl.

1963: Sexual Ethics

It is not only toward your girlfriend that you should have an ethical code; but also toward other individuals who may be involved with you in your sex-love affairs. Thus, you normally will find it inadvisable to date your best friend’s girl; or a girl who is going with your roommate; and sometimes even your sister’s close girlfriend. It is not that such relationships cannot ever work out; for occasionally, they can. But your best friend or your roommate or your sister is likely to be quite jealous of, or otherwise embarrassed or disturbed about, your getting sexually involved with his or her intimate friends; and therefore, usually, you do not do anything to jeopardize your relationship with the one who may be embarrassed.

After all, there are plenty of girls in the world; and it should consequently be fairly easy for you to forego sex activities with your best friend’s wife or girl. Of course, if the girl in question really is outstanding, and if she is so keen on you that she is willing to risk the loss of her husband or her boyfriend, then it may sometimes be worth your while to gain a wonderful relationship with her. Even then, it is normally ethical for you to do so in an aboveboard manner: to let your friend know, for example, that you are interested in his wife or girl, and not merely make passes at her behind his back.

Source: Ellis, Albert. Sex and the Single Man. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1963.
~ p. 80 ~