Q. I was married for 12 years and had three children with my first husband, “Ed.” Four years after the marriage ended, I married my second husband, “Karl.” We’ve been married for many years, and the kids and I are extremely close to Karl’s family.
The problem is with my family. My ex-husband was verbally, emotionally, and at times physically abusive. I spent three years in therapy for an eating disorder and years in group therapy to try to recover. My family members are aware of this history.
My parents contact Ed regularly to see how he is doing and to use his company (he is a contractor). Recently, my son was visiting my folks when my mother told him and his girlfriend that Ed is a really great guy and has been helping them out. My sisters do the same, calling Ed on his birthday, etc. My son’s girlfriend was shocked that my family cares so much for the man that treated me so badly. My husband is also shocked by how my family reacts to Ed.
I feel so humiliated. I’ve always had low self-esteem. My mother is overbearing. I’m so hurt that at times I just want to move away and not look back. I have told them how I feel, but nothing changes.
What should I do? Am I being too sensitive? Should I just relax and let it go?
A. Your family members know that their contact with your abusive ex bothers you, and yet they persist. Letting go is something you should work on, because this will change the dynamic.
“Ed” is the father of your children. A cordial acknowledgment of that fact for your kids’ sake is all the contact that is required by your family. Their choice to hire someone who abused and hurt you, to maintain a friendship, and then to tell you about it is bullying behavior.
You are a sensitive person, and your family knows this. I suspect that on some level, they need to keep you where you’ve always been — vulnerable, sensitive, slighted, and taking things personally. Every time they bait and dangle this particular hook, you bite. Stop biting.
You must look for successful ways to cope with their behavior so that you don’t walk away feeling wounded. Practice ways to react to this trigger with a completely neutral attitude: Sigh, breathe, release.
Ed is always going to be out there on the fringes of your life. Your family members may continue to needle you about him. But he — and they — can’t hurt you anymore because you’re stronger now than you were.
When you truly inhabit your own strength, you will simply stop caring, and then you will have let go.
Q. Is it OK to wear school-branded clothing from a school you did not attend?
I visit college campuses when I travel and frequently buy a T-shirt from the school. When asked about the apparel, I never pretend to have been an alum and explain that I had an enjoyable visit to the campus.
However, I have found much commentary on the Internet saying that it is pretentious to do this. Your thoughts?
FAN BUT NOT ALUM IN CHICAGO
A. If wearing school-branded clothing from a university you didn’t attend is gauche, then out goes my hoodie from the Star Fleet Academy.
A college T-shirt is just a shirt with a logo on it. Only a person who had gone to Harvard could possibly have a problem with this — Harvard-grads being notoriously sensitive about the dilution of their brand by the hoi polloi. Otherwise, you’re good.
Some alumni of prestigious schools won’t deign to wear their own school’s gear, anyway. In a nuanced counterintuitive, they consider it to be too show-offy for them, but completely fine for other people.
Any alum with a shred of dignity from a school whose T-shirt you chose to wear would be genuinely happy that you liked their school’s campus or reputation enough to represent it out in the world. It can be a great conversation-starter.
Q. “Locked Down” wondered how to ask if friends of theirs have been vaccinated for COVID-19. I can understand why people contemplating hiring service workers to come into their home (for instance) would want to know.
What wording would you suggest in that case?
A. “Have you been vaccinated yet for COVID-19? We want to make sure that you won’t be at risk while you’re in our home.”
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.