I have an elephant in the living room - 18 years ago my wife decided to quit parenting our three very young children, started a career as a sales clerk and promptly had an affair with her boss.
It ended badly, as these things most often do, with both of them losing their jobs and her ex-boss losing his family. (I learned the gory details from her boss's ex, who approached me to apologize for her husband's behaviour).
The elephant in the room is that she's never come clean about it. Everyone knows what happened, but she's refused to admit to anything, or any wrongdoing, refused to attend counselling (which I attended myself), to apologize to me or even explain her actions.
The kids have all left home now, but the elephant's still here. How do I deal with this?
The "elephant" has become part of your marriage. Her silence is how she stays distant from you, and from explaining whatever she once tried to escape. For you, the elephant's provided its trait: Never Forget.
It's remarkable that you stayed with her this long, and you deserve credit for keeping your family together, since you had the "goods" to justify your leaving, while she did not.
However, you've never forgiven her, never accepted her presence there as enough. Yes, she should've come clean, gone to counselling, and apologized. But after so long, it's become clear that she's emotionally incapable of it.... perhaps even emotionally stunted, or else a very unhappy woman for her own reasons.
You've done all the right things but for not removing the "elephant" from your mind. Either go, because you can't get past this, or stay and accept that something bad happened a long time ago, which you've survived the best you could.
I'm mid-40's, in a five-year common-law relationship with a man who's a somewhat functional alcoholic (only works sometimes, people think he's Mr. Nice Guy).
He's very verbally abusive when he's had too many drinks - his personality changes drastically, he'll harass me about something and there's no way I can reason with him.
So I'm insecure around him when he's sober and he won't discuss the problem, just apologizes for his behavior. He refuses to attend counseling either alone or as a couple.
I've been in shelters because of our problems but he sweet-talks me into coming back. I want to leave but I have no money, no support network because of the isolation he's created.
I'm scared to go out on my own. I'm on medication for depression, have low self-esteem and not sure where I will end up if I leave. Also, I too have fallen into drinking as a way of coping. I've considered going to rehab and starting over that way.
The one thing you're NOT is helpless. Get to rehab immediately, you're self-aware enough to do that, you didn't "fall into" drinking, you let it happen and you can stop, with help.
Then get to a shelter, and make a plan that gets you there without this abusive lout knowing where you're going. You'll find a network there of trained people who'll help you find a job, accommodation, a start to a different life.
You've been to shelters because he's frightened you, controlled you, and abused you in several ways. Now, protect yourself and do NOT listen to the lies you call "sweet-talk." It must become poison to your ears, so that you can reclaim your life and self-esteem.
I lead a monthly support group for women. One continually has the answer for everything, and a personal story for every topic.
I've changed the topic, asked to hear from others, but she never stops. How do I handle it privately without offending her?
She's lonely, but we have far more shared sessions when she doesn't attend.
First, introduce a "new approach" you feel will be helpful to all. Offer everyone a period to speak, with a cut-off time of, say, ten minutes or whatever fits. For any shy/reluctant members, urge them to use "their time" to recount an anecdote or even say what they did recently (movies seen, books/articles read, etc.). Only allow the Dominator the same ten minutes, period.
If that doesn't work, speak to her personally about the needs of everyone involved. If you lose her, invite her back after awhile, and hopefully she'll have learned.
Tip of the day:
An "elephant" stays in the room if you let it become part of the scene.