DEAR ABBY: I am a 46-year-old woman with PTSD due to a history of physical abuse, mental abuse, and incest that I experienced as a child. I'm proud to say that it has not been repeated with my four children.
My childhood history has made me want sex only if I am in control or if I am role-playing rape. It has caused a big problem with my fiance. I want this scenario all the time, and, unfortunately, it's unhealthy. I'm not sure how to go about healthy sex with him. He is 10 years older than I am and not interested in "different" sex practices.
I love him very much and don't want to mess up this relationship because of my sex issues. Can you advise me how to handle this?
- Role-Playing in St. Paul
DEAR ROLE-PLAYING: If you haven't discussed the reason for your sexual issues with your fiance, you need to explain this to him. I am guessing that you never had counseling to help you resolve the abuse to which you were subjected. If that's correct, I am advising you to contact RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network at rainn.org) or a local rape-crisis organization and ask for some help now. The counselors are specially trained to help victims of various kinds of abuse, and the place to start resolving your issues would be there.
I'm a woman in my 30s. My father has been in prison since I was a tot. I was raised by my mother, who, in my opinion, did a great job. My relationship with my father has been damaged for as long as I can remember. He will never get out, and part of me is angry at him for making such poor life choices.
When I was a teenager, he struck me once during a visit. He is also manipulative and sometimes does hurtful things. For example, a few years ago, he wrote me letters to which I never responded. When I finally got around to writing him back, he mailed my letters back to me (unopened) and said I deserved to see how it felt to have letters go unanswered.
He has said he is convinced he will die within five years because he's nearing the ages when his parents died. I think there's something wrong with him, and I'm afraid that, after he passes on, I'll feel like I didn't make enough of an effort. How do I proceed with my relationship with my father?
- Cautious in the South
DEAR CAUTIOUS: Your father made terrible life choices, and he's spending the rest of his life paying for them. I don't blame you for feeling anger at his inability to parent you. However, before advising you to write him off, I would need to know why he lashed out at you during your prison visit, even though hitting is unacceptable.
When people are incarcerated, their ability to reach out is severely limited, as I am sure you know all too well. I don't think the way your father handled your ignoring his letters was bad or wrong. If his silence stung you, imagine how yours affected him.
Whether your father is dying is beside the point. I think that, on some level, you know you have to treat him with more compassion than you have, or you wouldn't have written to me.