Ask Amy

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - by Amy Dickinson

Dear Amy: I suf­fered reg­u­lar sex­ual abuse at the hands of a cousin when I was be­tween the ages of 5 and 8. He is eight years older than me. I ac­tu­ally go years with­out think­ing about it, but when it comes

back to me I feel an­gry and in pain. I’m 46 years old now.

Over the last few years I have shared the se­cret with my sis­ters and a few close friends, but I will never tell my en­tire fam­ily. It would de­stroy my mother.

To­day I will head to my un­cle’s fu­neral. My cousin will be there. I do not know what to do when I have to see him. He is a huge, charis­matic man. Ev­ery­one loves him. I feel like an in­signif­i­cant blip on the radar within the fam­ily.

In the past I have avoided him, but he will ap­proach me in a way that im­plies I am “too good” to say hello. I have also just tried to greet him as I would any­one, with a brief hug and niceties.

He doesn’t treat me any dif­fer­ently than my sis­ters, which makes me won­der if he even re­mem­bers what he did. Am I a hor­ri­ble per­son to just pre­tend dur­ing these mo­ments that I have for­got­ten and go ahead with the niceties just in or­der to get through? — Un­sure

Dear Un­sure: Noth­ing about your be­hav­ior makes you a “hor­ri­ble per­son.” And noth­ing, and no one, should make you feel small and in­con­se­quen­tial. The age dif­fer­ence be­tween you and your cousin puts his be­hav­ior in the preda­tory cat­e­gory when you were a child.

I want for you to feel big and em­pow­ered in­stead of small and in­vis­i­ble. Reach­ing out to this cousin pri­vately to ex­plain why you won’t be of­fer­ing hugs to him might help you to con­tinue the process of putting this be­hind you. This car­ries risks, how­ever, of open­ing a di­a­logue that you don’t want to have, or per­haps hear­ing an un­wel­come de­nial from him. A ther­a­pist should guide you.

In the mean­time, yes, def­i­nitely avoid him. If I were your sis­ter, I would flank you at any fam­ily events. If he wanted to hug you, he’d have to get through me first.

Dear Amy: My wife and I have been mar­ried for 20 years. We are empty nesters. I have just re­al­ized that I am unhappy in the re­la­tion­ship. I am an out­go­ing per­son, and have al­ways had out­side in­ter­ests and friends.

I gave up my in­ter­ests to please my wife, who has no friends, nearby fam­ily or out­side in­ter­ests. She does not have a job. I al­ways felt guilty do­ing out­side ac­tiv­i­ties. She also added to the guilt by bring­ing up chores that I am for­go­ing by go­ing out.

In the be­gin­ning, she was more out­go­ing, pos­i­tive and had ca­reer plans, but over time those have all gone by the way­side.

She’s neg­a­tive and uses nag­ging health is­sues as an ex­cuse not to get a job or find new in­ter­ests or friends. If I bring it up, we fight, so we have not dis­cussed this in sev­eral years.

Be­ing in our 50s, I feel we’re too old to make any changes in the re­la­tion­ship. The sex life is tepid. I could leave, but would worry about her men­tal sta­tus, con­sid­er­ing her lack of a sup­port sys­tem or job prospects/ex­pe­ri­ence. Out­side of hav­ing af­fairs, what can I do? — At a Dead End

Dear Dead End: Your wife sounds de­pressed, and rather than you be­ing able to suc­cess­fully in­spire her to work on her own is­sues, her sit­u­a­tion has pulled you down.

You are not ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for your wife’s life, just as she is not ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for your empti­ness now. So stop blam­ing her.

You make two in­cor­rect as­sump­tions: that at late-mid­dle age, you can’t make any changes; and that if you fight about this, the sky will fall.

You sound more will­ing to have an affair than you are to try to im­prove your mar­riage.

You should wel­come your wife into mar­riage coun­sel­ing. It might be the very first thing you two do to­gether, and it could be a game changer for both of you.

Dear Amy: “Griev­ing Daugh­ter” de­scribed her mother’s heart­break­ing choice to with­hold her can­cer di­ag­no­sis from ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing her hus­band and chil­dren.

I know this seems un­be­liev­able, but I had a fam­ily mem­ber do the same thing. I agree with Griev­ing that this in­creased our pain when the loss was so sud­den. — Also Griev­ing Dear Griev­ing: I’m so sorry.

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