The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: For a woman with an abusive ex, there’s no stigma about counseling


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

My husband, an amazing man whom I love dearly, believes I am still hurting from an abusive ex-boyfriend. My husband thinks professional counseling could help me release the hurt and anger that seem to haunt me.

I know I am still scarred from “BealzaBob,” but I’ve never thought I needed counseling. My family and friends know BealzaBob was emotionally and physically abusive, but I haven’t told them everything because I don’t want to hurt them.

It took me over a year and half to break up with my ex, and I’ve rebuilt my self-esteem and taken back my life. To an outsider, I’m a strong, accomplished pregnant woman with a loving husband, family and friends.

(Nick Galifianakis)

My blessings are many, but occasionally a memory of my ex hits me. I share it with my husband. I don’t want BealzaBob to haunt me/us, but how do I truly let go of the anger, pain and memories? Do I really need counseling? Please help.


“Occasionally a memory . . . hits me” describes not a haunting, but a fact of life after trauma. No amount of strength or blessings or counseling will wipe away all traces of pain.

On the other hand, I’m concerned about your concern for appearing strong to and protecting all besides your spouse, and your implication that seeking professional help is some kind of emotional 911.

Therapy is not an admission of defeat, or a desperate last resort; it’s just 50-ish minutes with someone trained to diagnose and treat emotional illnesses and injuries.

If you’re moved to use the word “haunt,” then why not learn some new ways to deal with your feelings? If it helps, think of it as a class — well, tutoring — since that’s pretty much what goes on (except in therapy you cry where in classes you just want to).


So I just yesterday got some fairly crushing (to me) news in the romance department, and now face four days of being around family and friends when my inclination is to curl up on the couch. While in some ways it’s liberating to know exactly where you rank (or don’t) in someone’s priorities, at the same time, it’s very sad to give up hopes and companionship. So . . . tips for putting this in its own compartment temporarily?

Putting on a Happy Face

No matter how strong and healthy the relationship was — or in this case, wasn’t — there’s always some departure from some valued part of you when you’re in a relationship. It’s just a fact of cooperation.

So, use this bad timing to lean on your people and restore those parts of yourself. There is no better source for reminders of who you are, and specifically who you were pre-relationship, than family and friends. (Even if it’s a reminder of how much you’ve outgrown your family.) They knew you skinning your knees, making dioramas, whispering secrets, before you were reshaped by your self-control.

Finding this elemental version of you will help you see and understand better — and weather better — this person’s failure to be a good match. Plus, the couch will still be there on Day 5.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



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