Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

In Other Words: “Oops, I Scared Her Off with Creepy Stories About My Dad”

This letter appeared this week in Salon’s advice column, “Since You Asked,” written by Cary Tennis:

I’m dating again after the end of my marriage and recently met a really great woman when she contacted me on a dating site. We had several dates before we slept together and I came to really like her — she seemed to like me too.

The second time we made love was one of the best times I’ve ever had. I felt very close to her and made what in retrospect turned out to be a mistake: I told her about my father’s sexual abuse of my sister and my mother’s enabling of it after she found out it was happening.

I explained that Dad has changed a lot — he paid for and participated in therapy for all of us (I have two brothers) and isn’t the same person he was 30 + years ago. I also said that Mom hasn’t changed much and doesn’t understand why my sister refuses to speak to her for long periods of time after Mom commits another screw-up.

Our dating relationship stumbled along for a couple of weeks after my indiscretion with me not knowing what was wrong. When I prompted her as to if we were still dating, she said that we were “… done. What you told me about your father absolutely disgusted me, I am sorry.”

There was another text from her and I replied with an upset email — upset because someone else’s transgression was being held against me.

Is there any chance of us dating again? Is there anything I can do to make that happen? I like her — a lot — and think she’s really special.— Over-Sharer

You can read Tennis’ response to the LW here (which I totally agree with). It’s probably best if the guy MOA and keep such personal history private until a deeper bond has formed and he isn’t naked in post-coital afterglow.

But I’m wondering: has anything like this ever happened to you? I don’t mean divulging on the third date a family history of incest, but have you ever felt so relaxed and intimate with someone and maybe shared more private information that the other person felt comfortable with? Have you ever said things you regret in the afterglow of good sex with a new partner?

40 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Aya August 8, 2012, 3:12 pm

    I stopped reading Cary Tennis a long time ago because he had a tendancy to give esoteric responses, that didn’t answer anything. I’m glad he gave an actual response this time.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy August 8, 2012, 3:13 pm

      I agree.

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    • avatar

      Something More August 9, 2012, 8:18 am

      Really? I’ve never read him so I don’t have anything to compare it, I guess, but he really didn’t answer the LW’s questions.

      “Is there any chance of us dating again? Is there anything I can do to make that happen?
      “Only time will tell.”

      I mean, yeah he explained the “buzzkill” but LW kind of already knew that. I would have preferred a Wendy response.

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  • avatar

    AKchic August 8, 2012, 3:12 pm

    Ugh. Yeah, she doesn’t want to date, so let it go.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary August 8, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Um…I actually have problem with the LW’s attitude towards his dad’s sexual abuse of the LW’s sister. As we’ve discussed many times on this site, pedophiles can’t be fixed with therapy so while it was nice the dad paid for therapy, he probably hasn’t changed much. He is most likely still attracted to and attempting to abuse teenage/child girls. So not only was this TMI too early for the woman, but she may have had a problem with how flippantly the LW approached the situation and said his dad “changed.”

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    • Amybelle

      Amybelle August 8, 2012, 3:29 pm

      I thought this as well. Also, for all the LW knows she may have been sexually abused in her own past, and what he said was triggering for her. I don’t agree that he should make another try; she said they were done and he should respect that.

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      • avatar

        Violet August 8, 2012, 4:33 pm

        I agree, Amybelle. This is not a case of “well, I’m having some minor doubts about us establishing a dating relationship.” It’s full disgust, and that says to me that he should respect that and move on.

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    • avatar

      You Go Girl August 8, 2012, 3:33 pm

      If the woman was looking for a husband who could become the father of her children, the LW’s casual dismissal of the situation made him undesirable as husband material. Most likely, she did not want to sign up for a lifetime of protecting her children from a predator and arguments with her husband about not leaving their children alone with their grandparents. It was very early in their relationship, so she decided to MOA before investing more in the relationship.

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      • avatar

        SpaceySteph August 8, 2012, 6:17 pm

        I thought about that immediately. If the LW thinks his dad has changed, he probably won’t understand that the girl wouldn’t leave her children alone (ever for a second) with him. But I sure as hell wouldn’t.
        You can’t protect your kids from everything, so you absolutely have to protect them from anything you can… including grandpa the once (and future?) child molester.

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    • Fabelle

      Fabelle August 8, 2012, 3:41 pm

      Yeah, this was not just a “buzz kill” (as Tennis puts it). I’m guessing this woman was more disturbed by the LW’s attitude. Even in the letter, he sounds so certain of his father’s recovery & assuaged by the therapy his father apparently paid for (how generous…) so I can only imagine how this story came off in person.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle August 8, 2012, 3:43 pm

        & great point, You Go Girl– she could’ve been thinking ahead in regard to future children/grandparent relationships.

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    • avatar

      ele4phant August 8, 2012, 4:28 pm

      I certainly can understand the response the LW’s new girlfriend had (and mine would probably be the same), but I do want to point out: Not all sexual abusers of children are pedophiles. Many are, certainly, but its not always the case. Perhaps the father was abused himself, and is carrying on all he knows. Perhaps it was about power and control, not driven by sexual preferences.

      He absolutely shouldn’t be around children again, ever, nor should he ever be completely exonerated from what he did. But from an anonymous letter on the internet, you can’t diagnosis this man with pedophilia.

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      • avatar

        kerrycontrary August 8, 2012, 4:44 pm

        I think that’s splitting hairs between the clinical definition of pedophilia and the popular usage. In my mind, anyone who sexually touches a child is a GD pedophile and will be for life. And I don’t care if that’s politically incorrect or prejudice, but I have a very low tolerance for any type of sex offender.

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      • avatar

        ele4phant August 8, 2012, 5:09 pm

        I think it is an important distinction.

        On one hand, if it was my theoretical children, I wouldn’t trust that “Oh, grandpa was a child molester, but don’t worry he’s not a pedophile and now he’s all better” either.

        However, I think we as a society do a great disservice by lumping in child-molesters who are not pedophiles with those who are. Pedophilia is a sexual orientation, no changing that. However, other child molesters CAN potentially benefit from therapy. Should they ever be fully trusted again and allowed children? Should they ever be fully absolved from their horrible crimes? No of course not. But if they are immediately, and wrongly, branded as lost causes, there’s no incentive for them to seek out treatment in the first place. Which in the end, isn’t it in societies best interest that those who are capable of benefiting actually get therapy, that their risk for re-offending potentially be lowered?

        I think so.

        Its not about being PC or clinically accurate, its about creating the safest possible environment for children possible by treating those who are capable of being treated.

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      • Kristina

        Kristina August 8, 2012, 5:45 pm

        Yes. I completely agree.

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    • avatar

      AK47 August 8, 2012, 4:59 pm

      Yes, that was my thought as well. The fact that he insisted that his dad “changed” makes it pretty obvious that he is still in the LW’s life, and that the LW would probably want him to be a part of any potential children’s lives.

      I don’t think it’s the sexual abuse itself; it’s the LW’s attitude. If I was thinking about settling down and getting married at this point, I would not date a guy who seemed to think his father molesting his sister was no big deal.

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    • bagge72

      bagge72 August 8, 2012, 8:11 pm

      Yeah it is probably a deal breaker with this women, and should be with a lot of women, because like you said they can’t be fixed, and with this guy being so close to his dad still, she could never bring her grandchildren around them, and that wouldn’t sit well with the LW.

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    • avatar

      You Go Girl August 9, 2012, 12:58 pm

      When she ended the relationship, the LW was probably also concerned about protecting her own family from a potential predator. If they got married, there would be parties in which both families attended. She did not want to expose her younger siblings, nieces or nephews to the possibility of being molested.

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  • katie

    katie August 8, 2012, 3:49 pm

    i feel like people are always like this.

    if something terrible happens (child abuse, murder, shooting like in CO, whatever) people are always like oh that monster is terrible they should just execute him bla bla bla, but if it is their family member/friend, somehow they are fine and just made a mistake and got help and moved on.

    im surprised that the LW was surprised that she left. of course she left! child sex abuse is HUGE. and being blamed for someone elses transgressions? yep. that is how the world works, sorry if you cant handle it.

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    • avatar

      oldie August 8, 2012, 4:53 pm

      He wasn’t blamed for someone else’s transgressions, he was blamed for his own and those of his entire family, into which this woman would become part if she stayed with LW. The whole family basically covered up the father’s incest and pedophilia. The mother still seems to take the attitude that daughter should just get over it. The LW just accepts that his father is just fine now. There was no indication of distancing from his father over this, so it is perfectly reasonable for new gf to assume that she will be expected to treat this incestuous pedophile as a normal father-in-law. How could that be other than awfully repugnant.

      Why would LW raise this topic so quickly? He is, in effect, putting gf on notice that he and his father/family are a package deal and that she is expected to treat the man as totally reformed.

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  • avatar

    LolaBeans August 8, 2012, 3:53 pm

    yeah, he definitely divulged that info waaay too soon and in a really weird setting.

    I would MOA.

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    • avatar

      CG August 8, 2012, 5:19 pm

      ITA. And I can’t believe the advice columnist is telling the LW to “be patient” and “do something romantic” to try to win her back. Seriously, the lady said she’s disgusted and you’re over — how much clearer can that be? Don’t turn into a stalker. MOA!

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      • Amybelle

        Amybelle August 8, 2012, 8:00 pm

        The more I think about the advice Cary Tennis gave here the more disturbed I get. I can’t imagine much worse than having a guy I’d been dating a short time bust out a story like this in bed, and then after I told him I was disgusted and we were done, having him continue to try to pursue a relationship and say he thought we had a future together! Scary scary scary behaviour. I am really bothered by the cultural pressure on women to “give the guy a chance” because he’s “nice”. If I want to, fine, but no means no! It is controlling behaviour, not some kind of romantic gesture. Child molester father aside, I think it’s disturbing how the LW sees her as his dream woman after a few dates and “making love” twice. The whole letter comes off kind of desperate and clueless.

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  • avatar

    Amanda August 8, 2012, 4:02 pm

    This lady was honest with the LW and ended their relationship. He should never contact her again. Also, he is delusional if he thinks that his father is “cured.” Truly, the LW’s attitude about the molestation is quite disturbing and he probably needs more therapy. Also, the LW should consider that for some people, telling them about a pedophile in the family who could potentially be their in-laws or children’s grandparents one day will be a deal-breaker no matter how long you wait to tell them. I know it would be for me.

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  • Will.i.am

    Will.i.am August 8, 2012, 4:18 pm

    Hate to say it, but this guy is pretty much in a lose lose situation. You potentially date or marry those in laws as well, and all their family drama and issues become your issues as well. I hate that the LW ended up in this predicament, but I too, would have serious issues with commitment with an SO who had severely troubled in laws. It’s just a beast of a situation to get over or even attempt to get comfortable with!

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  • avatar

    jlyfsh August 8, 2012, 4:21 pm

    definitely too much information, way too soon, at the completely wrong time!

    i haven’t ever divulged anything, but i did spurt out an awkward i love you once. and at the time wasn’t in love, it was just a ton of emotions all spilling over in to the fact that the sex was great. thankfully that situation was fixable.

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  • avatar

    cporoski August 8, 2012, 4:36 pm

    This might be a wierd thought. But it makes me think of the family of James Holmes who shot up the movie theater. They might be screwed up but when I saw this I thought of his poor family who will be shamed for the rest of thier lives. Or in the book “we need to talk about Kevin.” You wonder how you can have a relationship after something crazy happens. But I think it proves over and over again that people want a relationship with thier family no matter how screwed up.

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    • avatar

      SweetPeaG August 8, 2012, 4:50 pm

      Very valid comment and great point. It must be hard to have relationships when your close relatives have commited such awful crimes.

      I feel really bad for the LW in this situation. But, I have a feeling that the rejection he received has a lot more to do with the WAY he discussed it and how soon he discussed it. He could have waited a few months (or more) into dating to bring it up. Not while in bed, after having sex. He could tell her that it was horrible. He could tell her he chooses to still have a relationship with his father, but 1) he would never ask his significant other to be in this guy’s life and 2) if he ever had children, they would have no contact with his Dad.

      That might go a long way in easing a potential girlfriend’s mind.

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  • Kristina

    Kristina August 8, 2012, 4:40 pm

    Oh gosh, I definitely did something like this. I had been dating my ex for less than 2 months (we weren’t in a relationship yet) and after sex, we were talking about deep, personal things. I let a story of my sexual abuse slip out. I always had a rule with myself to only tell boyfriends, but I wanted him to know at the same time. I didn’t really mean to say anything, but I don’t like secrets. And I hate hiding things. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and he was clearly shocked, but it actually turned out pretty well. I guess I’m lucky it wasn’t too bad. Once someone knows me, it’s something I don’t mind talking about–and I prefer for everything to be out in the open. But I would never repeat that mistake again because I know it could have been a lot worse.

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  • mandalee

    mandalee August 8, 2012, 5:19 pm

    I really feel for the LW actually.His need to blurt out this topic as soon as he feels close to someone makes it seem like it’s something he’s not completely dealt with and needs to talk to a therapist about. I don’t blame the girl for bailing, because it was way too soon for a topic that heavy to come up. I believe that someone should know all the skeletons in your or your families closet at some point, but this is not a story that should be broached in the first few months for sure. I could dating someone, limiting their contact to your family, and if things are moving in a serious direction, sitting them down and letting them an overview of what happened.

    I didn’t blurt something out but I had my parents basically out how messed up my childhood was in front of the guy I liked in high school and my best friend. My dad was emotionally and physically abusive when I was younger and he literally ripped me out of a party once cursing me and pushing me into his car. Rightfully so, the guy was completely bewildered about what happened and majorly backed off. When I met my husband, my dad had been through intensive therapy and anger management and was a much different person. So, we didn’t broach the topic until we were about a year in. At that point, we were at a point in the relationship where we could handle it.

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  • avatar

    Lynn August 8, 2012, 5:51 pm

    I’m likely in the minority, but I think the LW genuinely wants to believe his dad is a changed man. Who wants to think anyone in their family is a molestor or abuser or what society tends to label as a “monster?” It happened over 30 years ago (time doesn’t make a difference to me, but might for him?), and I’m sure he truly believes his dad has changed. He may believe this because maybe his dad’s attitude has changed, maybe his dad has found God or something… who knows. I can totally see the LW acknowledging the abuse but pushed it so far away that it’s essentially a thing of the past. But I also believe he does take it as a big deal because he seems to understand why his sister doesn’t necessarily get along with their mother since their mother was the “enabler.”

    I feel for the guy. I think he might need to get some more personal counseling to help him in regards to relationships and also to make sure that he knows what his father did is nooott okay.

    It must suck to have something so deplorable happen within your family. Especially since in a perfect world, your parents are supposed to be your superheroes – the ones who will never hurt you. What a sucky situation in general. But the LW definitely needs to MOA and let the girl be.

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    • avatar

      oldie August 9, 2012, 9:22 am

      I don’t doubt the guy honestly believes Dad is reformed. He has pretty much had to delude himself into believing this based upon his mother’s reaction to the whole situation. The mothers tend to control these situations. Either she does the right thing and throw out the guy who molested her daughter or she clings to the security of the incestuous husband and the life she knows.

      Despite believing his father is now a good man, LW is not going to find many people who share his belief. I think 99 percent of the people he tells this to will be left shaking their heads at how badly the whole family has treated his sister and think they never want any kids of theirs around this man. The whole thing brings Mrs. Sandusky to mind.

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  • avatar

    MMcG August 8, 2012, 6:06 pm

    A serious discussion about sexual abuse should not take place while naked after having sex, not the appropriate time regardless of whether it was after 3 dates or 3 years. I can’t imagine feeling amorous towards my partner in bed after having those 2 things linked in my mind while trying to enjoy an afterglow with a potential new boyfriend… I would have run from the room quite frankly, I give this woman great credit.

    And FWIW I could see not completely eliminating a guy who had a troubled family… provided the troubled family story involved taking the necessary steps to protect children and possibly involving authorities, and statements like “I would never put you in a situation to be around X”. There’s a big difference between a huge skeleton in the closet and a skeleton you hang around with and pretend like nothing has happened because therapy made it all ok… if sis would just get over it 🙁

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  • kaluu

    Katia August 8, 2012, 6:17 pm

    You’re not ready to date, LW. Priority one, get your dad on a sex offender list ;2: get therapy for your mom. You should avoid your father and be a great brother . Your father is horrible, not sure about your mom . Money means nothing here
    I hate being reminded of these kinds of families…. So disturbing

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  • kaluu

    Katia August 8, 2012, 6:21 pm

    How could you stay married to someone who abused your baby girl? The mother must have serious mental problems and that’s why she continually “committed screw-ups”

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    • avatar

      Jubietta August 8, 2012, 7:16 pm

      I think you hit the nail on the head for me by highlighting the LW’s use of “screw-ups” to sugar coat his mother’s inability to protect her daughter from her husband’s bad behavior. I’m surprised this kind of labeling survived family counseling. I’m surprised the vocabulary that LW used wasn’t harsher and that the three siblings didn’t “band together” in defense of the abused sister.

      I see the mother’s past behavior as beyond forgivable, and by her behavior (withdrawl when trust-based problems raise their heads) it appears that the LW’s sister has not forgiven the mother either. My feelings about the dad were pretty well covered by other comments. Therapy/counseling does not erase the past, it does not prevent negativity from sprouting up in the victim’s life, and even if it dulls the edge…the knife of abuse cuts deeply, forever. LW, your sister wasn’t just abused by your father, she was abused (via neglect) by your mother, too. Being victimized by both parents…man, that sucks. Being the only sibling among three who got abused (as far as the letter details) that sucks rocks. I want to reach across the internet and give her a great big hug and tell her how sorry I am that she got dealt such a crappy hand in life.

      I would caution the LW that in this case his sharing revealed that he has a blind-spot with regards to normal parent-child and sibling-sibling relationships and that this would be an excellent opportunity to reach out to friends and a new counselor to see about uncovering what unevaluated beliefs are hiding in that blind-spot and address them before there’s more at stake than a failed romance.

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  • avatar

    pamplemousse August 8, 2012, 8:41 pm

    This is actually the opposite of Wendy’s question, in that this happened to me, with myself being the receiver rather than sharer of the information.

    I had been dating this guy very casually and for only a month or two when he told me about a history of abuse. If we had been closer, I would have been flattered that he trusted me enough to tell me this information, but having not been dating long, I really felt like he didn’t know me particularly well and felt uncomfortable and overwhelmed that he’d share information like that with someone he barely knew. I understand he must have felt like he did know me well to tell me that, but it just pointed out to me the fact that I didn’t feel the relationship was progressing as quickly as he obviously did and I ended the relationship shortly after.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark August 8, 2012, 10:47 pm

    This letter only adds to my theory that most people simply don’t know when to shut the fuck up. Seriously, you tell this to her lying in bed and basking in the afterglow? WTF? I’d have dumped your ass, too. Your whole family sounds messed up. Sorry, but they do…

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  • avatar

    tbrucemom August 9, 2012, 1:53 pm

    I think the GF should be thankful the LW devulged this info so early on. It would be way harder to walk away after she fell in love with him.

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  • avatar

    laxhaxtax October 23, 2012, 8:31 am

    First, stop thinking with your gonads. I”ll bet this is the first person you have had sex with since your marriage and you don’t want to give it up.
    You can’t talk to a new date the way you did your wife. You are getting to know each other slowly. The story about your father is waaaay down the line. Sadly, your whole family paid the price but your father is still there and still scary as far as I am concerned and that is what got the new girl freaked out. She, nor I, would ever want a child of ours anywhere near him. He stepped over the most rigid barrier in a family. I think you need to move on but……..you and your siblings need to understand that if you have children and they happen to be girls you should never leave them alone with him. I don’t buy the “going to therapy” excuse. I used to do child protective services and lost any hope that people who prey on children ever really change

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