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Ask Amy: Abuse survivor faces mother’s denial

DEAR AMY: I am a 36-year-old female. When I was 16, as the oldest of four children, I experienced the most aggressive beating from my father in a long line of abusive beatings. The incident was so bad that my mother sent me to stay at a friend’s house for a week while the entire matter “settled down.”

When having to officially testify about my father’s abuse, the only witness to the incident I could produce was my high school boyfriend, who generously gave a sworn written statement of testimony.

Twenty years later, my mother claims she doesn’t remember the beating and refuses to read the statement. I’ve emailed it to her and she replied, saying “I won’t be reading this.”

I’m still in counseling 20 years later for an occurrence that my mother refuses to acknowledge. This has truly pained me. Her unwillingness to even concede that it happened is gnawing at me, even in the face of witness testimony! What do I do? How do I move on from this? How do I let it go? My yearslong constant therapy can’t seem to “break the barrier” of this wall of resentment, and I don’t know what else to think or do.

Troubled in Colorado

DEAR TROUBLED: You should look upon your mother’s vehement refusal to even look at this witness statement as her tacit acknowledgment that it happened. If it hadn’t happened, then she wouldn’t have a problem looking at the statement. As it is, this witness statement boxes her in.

You might have boxed yourself in by being so focused on your mother. In order to recover from a relational trauma, you have to accept that it happened, validate your own sadness and disappointment, and sit quietly with this reality.

Your goal should be to release your own pain in order to move further into recovery. Perhaps you can feel sorry for your mother, who is stuck in this state of denial that you have already moved through. She failed in the most important job of a parent, which is to protect a child.

Meditation techniques can help to release the stress that comes from betrayal and anger. Meditation might help you to realize that you don’t have to break through a wall of resentment in order to feel better. You may be able to leave the wall in place and simply walk around it.

DEAR AMY: After five years of marriage and four months of separation, my husband and I have decided to make our divorce final. We’re both in our mid-20s.

During our most recent separation, I’ve started hanging out with and developing feelings for a guy, “Tom,” in my extended social group. I find him very fun to be around and refreshingly open and honest. I know he likes me, too, although he’s never pressured me for anything more, since he’s aware of my situation and wants to wait until I’m ready to date again.

My question is this: How soon after divorce should you wait to start dating again? And how do you tell the difference between a “rebound” and genuine interest in starting another relationship?

Ready to Move On

DEAR READY: You don’t mention your relationship pattern with your ex, but I think the smartest thing to do after divorce is to look at your overall pattern – looking at the things you did well, as well as the regrets and mistakes you made – and make a determination to try to do things differently (and better) this time. You were young when you got married. You are at a different life stage now, and presumably you are wiser. Did your relationship with your ex move at breakneck speed? Then make a choice to slow down.

It’s not too soon to date, as long as you actually date – this means getting to know someone casually and gradually. Any fast and furious relationship in the first year or so will feel like a rebound; that’s why you should pump the brakes and take things slow.

DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the letter from “Sober,” who wanted family members to occasionally host events with no alcohol present.

Why should this disease run the whole family? I think Sober needs to take responsibility for maintaining her own sobriety, regardless of what others do.

Also Sober

DEAR SOBER: I was surprised by the volume of tough-love advice I received regarding this letter. Virtually everyone said that “Sober” has no right to request alcohol-free events.

Email Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribpub.com.

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