Grope by co-worker causes friction in marriage



Dear Carolyn:

At a work happy hour, a male co-worker groped me. He later “apologized” with the qualification that I had been sending him mixed signals.

I’m married, he has met my husband and I’ve never led him on. And when it happened I was incredibly clear that it was unwelcome.

Regardless, I was afraid to tell my husband, irrationally, because I thought he’d blame me. When he found out a year later because he overheard a female friend ask me about it, he was incredibly supportive, but also wounded. He was sad that I didn’t trust him enough to tell him about such a traumatic experience.

Now I’m trying to rebuild trust but he keeps saying he thinks there must be “entire parts” of my life that he doesn’t know about. This is the only thing I didn’t immediately discuss with him. Any advice for how I can work toward restoring the trust I have damaged?

— Telling

 

Wait a minute. You were that afraid he’d blame you? What’s up with that?

And, really, what’s the difference between his blaming you for your own assault and his blaming you for not telling him about your own assault?

Either way, you’re the one who had some guy’s uninvited mitts all over you and you’re the one “trying to rebuild trust.”

Siblings can’t call shotgun faster than I’m calling BS on this.

Your husband had a choice here. He could have said, “Wow, I’m stunned you didn’t feel you could trust me” — and then felt sadness about that, sure, but also seen that as a sign that maybe HE had some work to do on himself. You read him as a potentially punitive force in your life, not as a supportive one, and did so reflexively after “such a traumatic experience.” That was an impression you formed on your own, yes, but one he formed over your years together and through his own actions.

If your treating him as potentially punitive was completely unfounded, then his distress would have been justified and I could see his pointing out how you had been unfair. I can also see his accepting an apology as the end of it, though, which you presumably gave? And not losing sight of the fact that you were the victim here.

But look at your letter. He’s hanging on to this, escalating it, making it all about you, and basically calling you a liar and/or a sneak — and again, not stopping to think what moved you to choose as you did and what he might have done to lose your trust.

So, yeah. Your hunch that he’d respond punitively sounds like a direct hit, a rational fear that’s being validated right now by his behavior. I’m sorry.

 

Dear Carolyn:

I am afraid I may be a controlling mom of my young adult daughter, but we have a dynamic in which she seeks me out often, solicits my advice, and makes me too important in her life. I admit to offering that advice because it is hard for me to draw a line between healthy support and presence, and wanting her to see and do things how I wish she would, i.e., controlling. All I want is for her to be healthy and happy. And for me not to be playing a role in an unhealthy dynamic.

— L.

How’s this: Stop telling her what to do!

Fits on an index card.

In Sharpie.

With room to spare.

Yes, I understand it’s not that easy, or you’d already have done it. But the difficulty isn’t in finding this path — it’s in making yourself walk it.

That’s always easier, though, when the path is clearly marked and well-lit and you know exactly where it leads.

So. Index card, Sharpie: Stop telling her what to do!

Carolyn Hax

Carolyn Hax

Syndicated Advice Columnist
Advice Columnist Carolyn Hax takes your questions and tackles your problems.