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Ask Ellie: Choose therapist over unsupportive family

Haunted by past sexual abuse, this woman needs a therapist’s guidance more than her unsupportive family.

Dear Ellie: My sister’s husband was inappropriate with me over several years. I was then a very shy, innocent girl but told my siblings.

I’m long over what he did, but still struggle with knowing my siblings ignored my story.

I came out with it in my 40s because it affected my ability to have a meaningful relationship and be emotionally healthy. Still, no support. I think they believe me but won’t say so.

This affected my life because abuse is wrong.

My self-esteem plunged. I felt, if no one cares about what happened to me, I must be worth nothing.

I don’t believe that anymore. But occasionally it arises because of family events, when I instantly become that hurt young girl again.

I love my siblings and want a relationship with them. I mostly want to end that memory’s power. But then, it gets triggered again.

How To End the Hurt

What occurred was your older brother-in-law taking advantage of/sexually interfering with an innocent, shy girl.

Today, he’d likely be criminally charged with sexual abuse of a nonconsenting, inexperienced young girl (you didn’t mention your exact age at the time). And you, as the letter writer, could still decide to report this to the police or to an agency in your locale that advocates for victims of sexual assault. Just because it happened years ago does not mean it is not subject to law.

Now an adult, put this in the past forever by seeking therapy for sexual abuse from a specialist in trauma.

You may decide, through therapy, to miss family events which include that man.

The therapist may advise you of many positive kinds of recovery work to discuss together, and ways to deal with trauma, e.g., through confrontation with your siblings.

You may even discuss whether you can ever forgive the abuser. Or not.

You may also finally accept your own innocence back then.

Meanwhile, seek and develop other truly supportive friends and family, instead of relying on relatives who won’t acknowledge your abuse.

Dear Ellie: I’m a male, 34, whose love, 29, just broke our engagement. We’d dated for seven months, moved in together and recently started planning our wedding.

Suddenly, she’s announced that she doesn’t want to get pregnant for at least three years. I was shocked. She’d never raised this before.

I come from a family of close siblings and have a great relationship with my nieces and nephews. Their grandparents dote on them, and we all regularly spend time together most weekends.

But my ex strongly believes it’s too soon for her to get pregnant. She wants a few more years working at her job, developing a profile that’ll advance her to a higher position and salary.

She “needs this” for her own sense of security and self-respect. She says she still loves me, but insists that her decision is firm, unless I can wait to become a father in a few more years. I refused to do that.

Your thoughts?

Broken Engagement

It’s impossible to move forward when you’re both fully committed to opposite decisions. However, this intense debate of when to have children is a throwback to a time before the 1960s when gender roles were largely set in stone (except for remarkably brave women and their supportive men).

No longer.

You two claim to love one another. Yet neither will budge. This divide may lead each of you to your preferred goal. Or not.

A break may help you both consider a compromise.

What is certain: Love doesn’t last when partners refuse to consider discussion with knowledgeable people.

Whether it’s regarding women’s ambitions for significant roles and rewards in the workplace, or men’s opportunities for emotionally-rewarding family life, a couple and family can’t thrive over time within opposing goals.

Dear Ellie: I recently met up with someone I’d talked to for months. We’d exchanged several pictures.

We got along well and even got intimate. But afterward he acted differently.

We’d talked about wanting a relationship and starting a life together. I asked why his behaviour changed when we met in person.

He said that I’m overweight (size 8), that I should’ve warned him. I was shocked.

Nobody’s ever said that to me before. He added that he really likes/cares about me, but being healthy is “paramount” for him.

I’m having a hard time forgetting his comments. How do I get over this?

Feeling Sick and Depressed

Walk away from his rude, nasty body-shaming remarks. He may think he’s physically “healthy,” but his attitude is warped. Humiliating you, especially after intimacy, is pure meanness.

Be proud of your own appearance, and maintain whatever self-care, fitness level and healthy choices that give you confidence and comfort.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Haunted by past sexual abuse, this woman needs a therapist’s guidance more than her unsupportive family.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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