Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Ask Ellie: Move on from years of putdowns from bully father

Get back to therapy because you’re too accomplished/smart to let his past persist in your self-image.

Dear Ellie: I’m a woman, 37, who should be at the top of my game, but always feel I’m still struggling to rise from the bottom.

I’m married to a good man who loves me. We both adore our eight-year-old daughter. I’ve held a good teaching position since I graduated, and, except for maternity leave, COVID-19 and lockdowns, I never missed a day of work and love teaching. But I still never feel that I’m good enough.

You don’t have to suggest therapy. I already know this comes from my father who was “right” about everything.

If I told him something I found interesting, he shot me down saying it never happened, I was wrong, etc.

My two older brothers worked in the family business, and my mother was the bookkeeper, so they all accepted his superiority.

But I had the role of underling, inferior to them all. My mother wasn’t as directly dismissive as my father and brothers, but she’d been put in her place long ago.

I want to raise a confident daughter who’ll find her own path to success — however she defines it. But I’m currently in a slump and need advice to rise out of it.

Never Right

Change your mindset … to a different channel, this one about who you really are: A loved wife/mother/committed teacher, whose students dearly need your skills.

Then, switch off that long-ago voice … which reminds you of a remote father far from “always right.”

Instead, he was self-centred, misguidedly self-important … and failed at fatherhood. He could run a successful business at everyone else’s cost because he was a bully.

Get back to therapy because you’re too accomplished/smart to let his past persist in your self-image.

Reader’s Commentary regarding other couples’ attitudes towards the letter-writer’s “open marriage” (April 18):

“You could’ve taken a more interesting, progressive and empathic approach.

“My wife and I, married 20 years, began experimenting with another man in our lives to bring spark to our connection and her libido.

“We were surprised by our increased connection. We’ve already done decades of therapy with great success. But we’d hit a road block.

“Then, watching my wife with another man in bed was THE most exciting sexual event I’ve ever experienced, bringing us closer.

“You could’ve used their letter and your response much more supportively - a great opportunity to open a larger discussion of Consensual Non-Monogamy (CNM) and the fact that marriage is long overdue for a revision.

“You could’ve used their letter/your response in a much more supportive way.

“Yes, I think it’s dumb for the letter-writer to expect others — people afraid to act out these very common fantasies and have sex with more than just their spouses — to approve.

“The planet’s melting, Putin’s talking nukes, pandemics rage. We should focus more on pleasure and take risks in marriage along with getting good therapy.”

Disappointing Response

Perhaps you’ve missed the many columns in which I’ve said, “Whatever people mutually consent to do sexually, barring physical, mental and emotional abuse, is none of my business.”

I’m a relationship advice writer, not a promoter of particular sexual behaviours. While I agree that we’re living through stressful times, encouraging open marriage is not my mission. I’m also not campaigning against it.

People seek my advice regarding troubles in their personal relationships. There’s no single answer. Whether to add a plus-one to lovemaking? It’s a very personal choice.

Enjoy your own antidote to fear/boredom/whateve r… but don’t ask me to sell your message.

Dear Ellie: My daughter, 27, has a job but doesn’t agree that she should pay me something for rent. She also eats regularly at my house, and borrows my car (forgetting to add gas when it gets low).

She’ll invite a couple of girlfriends home for dinner with her, so she has company other than just me… but she never pays the grocery bill for those meals, and looks hurt if I insist she pay me back.

I love my daughter, but I’m divorced and only working part-time as I visit with, and care for, my own mother twice weekly at her retirement home.

Need Advice

Charge rent that she can afford, or say you need to rent to someone else. It’s reality, not harsh, but her treatment of you is thoughtless. She’s taking advantage.

Be open about your own finances, and insist she reveal her full earnings, too, so you can both re-think how to manage or make lifestyle changes.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Forget the years of putdowns from a bully father. You’ve always been wiser than him. Still are.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.