Dear Amy:

I am a professional woman in my 40s. I am happily married and have a wonderful daughter.

My problem? My mother. My folks’ divorce happened 20 years ago, but she still talks as if it happened yesterday. So much hate and venom still pours out of her mouth!

Days after she leaves my company I can’t shake how awful I feel; I want to hide. Lately she has taken to telling me intimacies of their marriage. Trust me; these are things I do not need to know!

How can I armor myself against her brand of toxicity? After she leaves, it is guaranteed that my husband and I will have a fight.

Not a Toxic Dump

The most important sentence in your letter is the last one, where you reveal that the stress of dealing with your mother prompts you to fight with your husband.

You are misdirecting your frustration and anger — just as your mother is.

The first thing you should do is to get a sure handle on who you are mad at and why. Then you should determine to speak to the right person in order to bring about a change.

Tell your mother now: “Your ongoing anger and hatred about your marriage has been bothering me for a long time. I love you, and I’ve decided to tell you the truth. This is affecting our relationship. I want you to stop bringing this up when you’re with me. Can you do that?”

Your mother obviously needs help to deal with her venom and disappointment. She should see a counselor.

Dear Amy:

Almost 40 years after the fact, my parents (mostly my mom; my dad is distant) will not discuss the effect of something that happened to me when I was 15.

I baby-sat for a neighbor’s children, and during this time the husband made sexual advances toward me. It went nowhere; I told my mom and quit working for them. My parents did nothing about this, and it bothers me to this day.

This guy was a teacher. After I stopped sitting for them, he confronted me on the street by jumping out of his car and asked me what my problem was. I felt threatened.

This event still bothers me, not because of him (he is just a pervert), but because my parents did not pursue the matter.

I wonder if it was my fault — like, did I do something to bring this on?


Your parents should have advocated for you so that now, almost 40 years later, you wouldn’t be stuck in this moment.

Save some anger for the man who did this — and then threatened you. He is the perpetrator and you, the victim. The only way for you to deal with this is to ask your parents about it.

They might have advocated for you, and you are not aware of it — or they might be forever sorry that they didn’t.

As someone in your basic age group, I would add that 40 years ago parents did not necessarily confront these issues the way they do now. The fact that the perpetrator was a teacher would make this even more intimidating for them.

Most important is the choice you need to make now. Can you accept your parents’ flaws and shortcomings and forgive them? Can you come to terms with what happened to you? I hope so.

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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