Dear Carolyn:

Growing up I was the victim of physical abuse (never sexual) at the hand of my father. I have long since forgiven him and put that part of my life in the past.

I am now in a relationship that could potentially end in marriage. Does my boyfriend need to know about the abuse? My past does not affect my present. I do not disagree that aspects of my personality were wired into me by the abuse, but I am aware of these things and can stop the behavior from disrupting my relationships. When I do talk about the abuse to others I feel like I am talking about someone I do not know, definitely not myself.


Having a relationship "end in marriage" is one of the finest accidental truisms I've read. Thank you.

Asides aside: Of course you tell your boyfriend.

But not because he "needs" to know -- though I think he does. More important, he deserves to know, just as you deserve to be with someone who knows.

By your own admission, the version of yourself you show him is a conscious decision, fueled by awareness and backed by vigilance. In revealing to him only the end result of your efforts and not the efforts themselves, you're denying him the truth of your accomplishment.

That can create problems for you intermittently, when your energy flags and those carefully suppressed, hard-wired behaviors slip through.

And it can dog you steadily, chronically, sadly as you deny him a chance to understand fully what you're thinking, feeling and doing. You wouldn't even consider buying a house with him and hiding the keys to the basement -- and yet closing yourself off has a much more hurtful, emotionally chilling effect.

Tell because it did shape you; because it does affect your present, willpower notwithstanding; because it is you.

Tell because any talk of marriage is premature until you feel so comfortable with him, it would seem ridiculous not to mention the abuse. If you don't want him to know -- if you don't trust him to know you, all levels, and still love you -- you are letting the abuse disrupt your relationships, by guaranteeing you never get close. One sure way to make "end in marriage" come true.


How do you get over a broken heart? My girlfriend and I broke up a few months ago. While I wanted to get married, she could not commit. As a result, we split. I can't seem to stop dwelling on our relationship. I worry that I will not be able to meet anyone who can measure up to my ex.


For your sake, I hope you don't: The inability to imagine life without you is a pretty nice trait, one your ex apparently lacked.

And a trait it is, at least to some extent. Some people just line up well or they don't, in their moods and habits and quirks, and in that sense even something as intensely personal as romantic rejection isn't really personal. To her mind, you didn't line up. Oh well.

And in the event this wasn't even remotely helpful:

Three months is a blip. Be patient. The hurt feelings have to fade before you can gain enough perspective to put the tape measure away.

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