We were orphans who married in our teens for all the wrong reasons, divorced several years later.
After our child’s birth, I had an undiagnosed post-partum depression, and a brief emotional affair with an older man who assaulted me sexually.
I’ve openly born the burden of guilt for a failed marriage for decades.
But I eventually realized that my ex had been unfaithful during our university years. We were both diagnosed with an STI (sexually transmitted infection) and had treatment for it.
I was naive and didn't realize what an STI was. I can only think my ex had stopped loving me at that time, but spared me the truth because I was pregnant.
After many decades, we’re both happily remarried and have a cordial relationship because of our child and grandchildren.
Why do I still have symptoms bordering on PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) when I recall my divorce?
It hurts me to think my ex has allowed me to bear all the guilt and he’s never taken any responsibility for a failed marriage.
He has anger issues but I don't want to disrupt the relationship we have now. Do you have any suggestions?
The relationship to address and heal is with you, to stop choosing to carry guilt.
Your background without parental love and security, a failed teenage marriage, post-partum depression and assault, all took a heavy toll.
The divorce and even his cheating became unsurprising results.
None of that was your fault.
Your ex chose to channel disappointments/hurts in his life into anger. But you’ve been grieving for decades.
A skilled therapist can help you. Even if you’ve had counselling before, you’d benefit greatly from confronting and healing from your past losses.
My husband of 15 years, who’s 66, has endured decades of hostility and verbal abuse from his brother-in-law. He’s also targeted me.
While staying at my husband’s sister’s cottage, (her husband’s usually absent when we visit) he arrived, barely speaking to us.
When he did, he was surly and antagonistic, constantly contradicting and ridiculing anything we said (note: he isn’t a drinker).
He even sniped across the room about our private conversation (about travel plans) that he overheard.
I’m unsure if this registers with his wife, although he was uncharacteristically friendly the next day.
I can’t tolerate his open hostility or my anxiety about him.
I’ve never seen him treat any other family members like this. I didn’t say anything back to him, since we fear that my husband’s close relationship with his sister could be at risk.
I suggested that I speak to her on my own behalf, but my husband isn’t comfortable with that either.
I don’t want to visit them again, despite my fondness for her.
I don’t want to cause rifts for my husband, so am unsure how to protect myself or speak up. I’m feeling desperate about this.
The Last Straw!
He’s a bully and mostly gets away with it. His wife appears indifferent, but his usual absences and overnight change of manner show her hand.
You don’t need to spell it out for her. If invited to the cottage, ask sweetly, “Will it just be us three?” She’ll know what you mean.
If he’s coming, find an excuse for why you’re not.
Meet her for lunch in town, stay in touch by email, avoid him whenever possible.
When you can’t, walk away. If your husband stays for the rudeness, that’s his choice. Or, your strength may convince him that he doesn’t have to take it.
FEEDBACK Regarding the letter about a "Distanced Daughter" (Sept.4):
Reader – “It could’ve been written by my own mother.
“She, too, calls me controlling and self-centered, because I attend to my family's needs over her wants and controlling ways.
“And that I try to benefit my husband and children, not to feed her ego.
“If this mother’s desperate to understand how the situation arose, she could start by admitting that her years of abusive marriages guaranteed that her daughter would also be abused.
“Or, that cornering other family members into sharing gossip is the opposite of respect.
“Consider that "non-apology" she offered.
“Her reference to "anything I might have done" must be the fastest way in our language to admit you're unwilling to accept any responsibility or change any behaviour.
“Her daughter’s reacting like anyone forced to protect their own boundaries and mental health because someone hurts them callously and repeatedly.”
Tip of the day:
Devastating hurts from childhood through teenage often requires professional therapy.