Temporarily cutting off family member

Annie Lane, syndicated columnist

Dear Annie: I recently went no-contact with my father. We had a tumultuous relationship when I was growing up because of his struggle with mental illness. Before going no-contact with him, every phone call caused me intense anxiety and triggered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. My decision to go no-contact was a long time coming, and I did not take it lightly. But I need this space from him for my mental well-being.

He does not understand this. He thinks I’m taking a step backward, that I’m running away from the problem. I tried to explain to him how PTSD works, that events from years ago still haunt me because they were traumatic — and happened to an impressionable child. But now I feel like a villain, as if I’m in the wrong somehow. And he’s still texting me regularly.

Is there any way to make him understand that I need space, that the mere thought of seeing him or talking to him makes me panicky? I don’t want to cut ties forever, but I need time and space. — Blamed for Bedlam

Dear Blamed: I applaud you for seeking out the space you need during this time. It’s never ideal to have to cease contact with family members, but it is sometimes necessary.

Your letter’s last line — “I don’t want to cut ties forever, but I need time and space” — says it all. Share that statement with your father. Know that he may not be in a healthy enough place to recognize and respect your boundaries. In that case, you might need to take more concrete steps toward asserting them — such as blocking his number temporarily so you’re not barraged with stress-inducing texts and voice messages. Also, I hope that you’re seeing a therapist. PTSD should not go without professional treatment.

Dear Annie: My 62-year-old live-in boyfriend of 13 years hates it when my daughter comes to visit on the weekends. The whole time that she’s here, he’s in a horrible mood. He says it’s “BS” that she comes to visit. She lives about an hour away. I love my daughter and will never tell her that she can’t come home. She is 32. What can I do to make things better? — Incredibly Frustrated

Dear Incredibly Frustrated: Your boyfriend is way out of bounds, and that sort of trash talk is inappropriate and hurtful. That said, there are two sides to every story, and I’m attempting to imagine what his side might be here. Perhaps he’s wanted to do something with you over the weekend. Or maybe he just feels obligated to play host to your daughter when in fact you’d be fine with him doing his own thing. The only way to solve this case is through conversation. Hear each other out, and try to come to a compromise that you both feel is fair. For example, your daughter might visit less frequently, or you might visit her some weekends instead.

Dear Annie: Please tell your readers to wash their hands. With flu season still going strong, it is more important that we wash our hands often (especially knowing that there are those out there who won’t wash theirs). — Olle H.

Dear Olle: Washing our hands is one of the easiest and most important things we can do for our health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “handwashing can prevent about 30 percent of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20 percent of respiratory infections.” When washing, lather on the soap and scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds under running water. It doesn’t matter whether the water is warm or cold, so no need to scald yourself in the pursuit of cleanliness.

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.