Dear Prudence: My Abusive Mother Haunts My Dreams

Advice on manners and morals.
Sept. 29 2011 2:41 AM

Surviving Mommie Dearest

My abusive mother haunts my dreams. How can I move on?

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Dear Young,
One of the fortunate things about humans having the organ of verbal communication encased in a skull is that it helps keep all the stuff that’s buzzing in there private. It’s great to be able to talk in a respectful way with your partner about myriad sensitive things, from what you would like to do in bed to how the relationship can be improved. But honesty does not require voicing every disparaging thought. It’s better not to say, “I’d prefer you had a bigger [fill in the body part].” If one person realizes that an uncomfortable thought about their partner goes to the heart of the relationship, speaking up is necessary. If your girlfriend truly is not attracted to you, it’s better to know, move on, and find someone who is. But if she is just discovering the amazing fact that one is not sexually aroused by one’s otherwise attractive partner every second, then she should file this under, “Insights I keep to myself.” Since she’s mentioned it twice, you need to find out what she’s really telling you. If it’s that she simply has no verbal filter, then explain that besides honesty, not hurting each other’s feelings unnecessarily is a virtue you both need to practice.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
My husband and I disagree about what would happen to our young children in the event of our untimely deaths. I argue that they should go to one of their loving sets of grandparents, who are in their 60s and 70s now. They are financially stable, healthy, and involved in our children’s lives. He argues that given their ages the children should go to his sister and her husband, our kids’ only aunt and uncle. My husband asked them via email whether they would be the guardians, and they accepted. They are young, financially stable, and healthy, but live far away and visit only once a year. I don’t think they plan to have children, and they seem nice but cold. I can't fathom sending my kids to live with people who won’t even spend their time and money being more involved in our children’s lives. It all just makes me sad, and I wish things were different.

—Distraught Domestic

Dear Distraught,
You don’t wish things were different; you wish them to stay as they are. That is, that you and your husband don’t meet an untimely end, and you both survive long enough to fight about guardianship until your children go off to college. That’s by far the likeliest scenario. But bad things do sometimes happen, so you’re right to have a plan. But whatever you decide, you can revisit, say, every five years. Perhaps choose a set of grandparents now, then as time goes on, reconsider the aunt and uncle. Family is not the only solution. Some people bestow this honor on dear friends in their hometown who they feel would provide love and continuity for their children. So make a choice, then stop letting thoughts of death cast a pall over the happy, healthy life you are living now.

—Prudie

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