Dear Annie: My girlfriend recently told me, “I will never promise that I will always be faithful to you. I have seen too many people make that promise and not follow through.”
To say this devastated me is an understatement. We were on the verge of buying a house together, and I had picked out an engagement ring. I backed out of the deal on the house and have not pursued a proposal of marriage. She says I overreacted and took her comment out of context. She also said she has worked hard for her money and needs to protect herself in case something happens and the relationship doesn’t survive.
I have been married twice before, and both my wives cheated on me. I can’t imagine loving a woman more than I love my girlfriend, and I do want to marry her. But I can’t wrap my head around the idea of taking vows and at the same time saying she “might” not be faithful. That doesn’t work for me.
Did I overreact? I don’t think so. Should I try to work things out?
— In Turmoil
Dear Turmoil: Your girlfriend seems to think the problem is the promise and not the behavior. She is telling you she expects to be unfaithful in the future, so please don’t hold her to any vows. You seem to be attracted to women who cheat. At least with this one, you know in advance. Caveat emptor.
Dear Annie: My sister recently called to ask if I would like to contribute to a 50th anniversary party for my mother and stepfather.
My stepfather was a very abusive man. He hit my mom, my older brother and me, while my younger sister and brother were treated like royalty. Although he stopped the physical abuse a few years back, he still is verbally abusive.
I am 54 and wrote him off a long time ago. How can my sister expect me to contribute when I can’t stand the man?
— On the Outs
Dear Outs: Your sister is probably looking for help with the party expenses and hoped you would want to do this for your mother. However, you are under no obligation to celebrate an anniversary that is so painful for you. Tell her sorry, no.
Dear Annie: I was quite concerned with the message you relayed in response to “Trusting Girlfriend,” whose boyfriend, “George,” took photographs of a 14-year-old girl who was wearing an outfit that showed her cleavage. You chastised George but added that “those parents should pay attention to the way their young daughter is dressing if it attracts dirty old men like George.”
I work with child victims of sexual abuse and victims of rape. They spend hours in therapy trying to resolve their feelings of responsibility and understand that what they wore does not make the abuse their fault. Did you intend to imply that what this girl wore was the cause of George’s inappropriate behavior? It is bad enough that society puts the responsibility on victims, but you should not reinforce it.
— Tammy Lippman, LCSW
Dear Tammy Lippman: We had an interesting response to that letter. A surprising number of readers (mostly male) thought George did nothing wrong. Others thought we didn’t go far enough in condemning him. And a few, like you, thought we were blaming the victim.
We do not consider George a child molester because he did not know she was underage and he did not touch her. But we think any adult male who deliberately takes photographs only from the neck down of a young girl whom he does not know is behaving in an amazingly offensive manner. We also think children should not be sexualized by dressing in provocative ways. The girl is not responsible for George’s behavior, but her parents should teach her that the way she dresses affects how people look at her, and it is pointless to pretend otherwise.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.