Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.
DEAR AMY: My childhood was rough. My mother died when I was 6. She wasn't around much before that but it took a hard toll on me. Not long after her death, my father started sexually abusing me and my younger sister. The abuse lasted until we were in our teens. We never told anyone for fear of being separated. Flash-forward to our 20s. After long bouts of hatred toward him, we have forgiven -- but not forgotten. Both my sister's husband and my husband are aware of what my father did to us and are very wary of us being around him. We are comfortable being around him now, but we just want to know why he did this to us. We have tried to talk to him about it so many times but always chicken out. We both have had counseling, which has helped tremendously, but neither of us can get over not knowing why. How do we approach this?
Can't Shake It
DEAR SHAKE: You and your sister seem like very resilient survivors. Thank goodness you have each other.
I can imagine how daunting it would be to face your abuser, but you need answers and you deserve to try to get them.
You and your sister should see a counselor together, with a goal of strategizing a way to confront your father. Ideally the conversation with him will happen with a counselor present. The counselor can help you ask your questions and, most important, assist with the fallout.
Please realize that you might not receive an adequate answer. Your father might deny or diminish all of this. He may defensively strike back. A person who would do this to his own children is also likely to lack insight and (possibly) remorse.
Prepare yourself as well as you can.
DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years. We're very happy and secure. I'd like to have a better relationship with my boyfriend's family. We've never really "clicked." Most of this is because his relatives openly prefer his ex-girlfriend (who is a family friend) to me. His parents/siblings invite his ex to events that we attend. This is awkward for me. The ex isn't a psycho -- she just makes me uncomfortable and asks inappropriate questions. We all live a long distance away. The relatives offer her the guest room, so we can't stay there when she's there. My boyfriend is not happy when she shows up, but he doesn't think there's anything abnormal about her being there. Here is what I want: No ex at smaller family events with fewer than 10 people. This is part of my larger wish to be respected/taken seriously by my boyfriend's family. How do I get that? I can either stand up for myself and be the bad guy -- or the oversensitive wallflower who refuses to go to their events. What's a girl to do?
DEAR ANNOYED: You don't get to dictate whom your boyfriend's relatives invite to their home. Nor can you create sensitivity or respect where it is lacking. What you can do is train yourself not to care. If this other woman says or does things that annoy you, assert yourself to her and try to create some reasonable boundaries in her interactions.
If you have to travel a long distance and the guest room is not available, you may choose to stay home. This isn't being an oversensitive wallflower -- this is a natural consequence of the hosts' choice.
DEAR AMY: I always enjoy your reasoning, although I don't always agree with you. Your response to "A Meddling Aunt" (about the new girlfriend trying to block a guy from going to a longtime friend's wedding) was the first time a reply made me laugh: " 'Hugo' should go to the wedding if he wants to. Maybe he'll meet a nice girl there." It's something my mother would have said. Thanks for the first "LOL" of the day.
DEAR FAN: It's also something MY mother would have said. Thank you.