Dear Amy: I’d like to know how to get over a lifetime of embarrassment. I was raised by self-absorbed and often cruel parents. Both of them took delight in humiliating me as a child. My father would stand up at my birthday parties and tell jokes about me in front of my friends. He would make fun of me until I cried, and then laugh at me.
While working one of my first jobs, I had a strong crush on my boss (that I never acted on). My mother knew about it. One day, she showed up at my job, found my boss and went on and on to him, laughing, about how much I “loved him.” There were many other incidents.
Now, I am a married, working woman and I live far away from my parents. However, I am still haunted by these memories, and I am so hypersensitive to possible embarrassment that I live in a constant state of anxiety. I have been to therapy, and while my therapist was lovely, nothing much has changed for me. I’m not sure if I need more therapy, or something else. Confronting my parents does nothing, because they remain just as unapologetic of their behavior. They do not care what I think or feel. How do I navigate through this?
Dear Embarrassed: What you are describing is emotional abuse, and I am so sorry that you had to experience that.
You don’t mention if you’ve discussed your anxieties with your spouse, but they are there to love and support you, and they can be a source of guidance if you’re feeling overwhelmed. I would also recommend visiting your therapist again. Treatment is a process, and being open and honest is an important first step to seeing results. Tell them what you’re going through, and describe the anxiety you’re experiencing.
If you’re still unable to connect with your therapist, ask for help finding different treatment. Your therapist’s job is to help you, so that you can get better at helping yourself. The elements required to cope with the legacy of abuse are: time, patience, talk therapy and meditation – or possibly medication – to deal with your more serious anxiety symptoms.
Dear Amy: I had been married for just nine months when my in-laws visited us. My husband and I had been living in one of their homes in London.
My husband and I had been arguing a lot and he told his parents about our problems. He said he was overwhelmed. My in-laws then insisted that I leave and visit my parents so that we could have some space and re-evaluate our marriage. During the next two months we did just that. We spoke every day. We discussed our problems in depth and were both more open to hearing criticism. We apologized for the past.
We agreed that I should return to London, but then his parents showed up in London again. He stopped speaking to me after their arrival and then asked me not to come back after all. Clearly, this was all because of his parents’ influence.
My question is, should I go to London anyway, or should I accept it is over between us because of their meddling? He refuses to speak to me now and I don’t know if I should keep fighting for our relationship or just accept and move on.
Meddled with by in-laws
Dear Meddled With: I love London and would never advocate not going there, but don’t you want a husband who is going to fight for you and work on your relationship when you’re both in the same city?
Your in-laws seem hell-bent on babying their son and breaking up your marriage. However, we can’t blame it all on them: your husband is the one who let his parents send you away, and now he won’t talk to you. He is making a choice, and he is choosing them. You should “keep calm and carry on.”
If, despite all of this you do decide to go through with your trip, you will have to take responsibility for what happens next.
Dear Amy: Thank you so much for advocating for childhood literacy through your “Book on Every Bed” holiday campaign.
This year, not only did we do this with our own children, but we “adopted” a local family and made sure their children also had books on their beds on Christmas morning.
Dear Loving Literacy: I am so proud to have spread this simple idea. Thank you for spreading it further.
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