- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki, I’m very embarrassed to be writing to you. You give such great advice, and I always said I would never be as stupid as some of the women who write to you. Well, now I’m one of them.

I’ve been married for four years and I never knew my husband has two children. He has been lying to me! I feel like I’ve had the rug swept right out from under me. How could he keep this from me? I am devastated.

He knows I have been trying hard to have a baby and I’ve had two miscarriages. I love children, and he hasn’t even been seeing his own children. His family has helped him conceal this lie.

How did I find out? Well, I had a doctor’s visit the other day. The doctor was looking at my information screen and asked me if my children had had their flu shots. My husband has a son and a daughter who receive health care insurance because he is their military sponsor.

Two years ago, I was looking at his leave and earnings statement (LES) and asked him why he was claiming four dependents. He said it was an error. I haven’t seen an LES since and he has become even more secretive.

Ms. Vicki, this is my second marriage and I don’t want it to end in a divorce, but how can I have a marriage with someone who lies and has secrets? I thought I was “marrying up” by marrying someone with a lot of rank, but now I know rank does not matter. I expected better character and ethics from him.

- Not Sure Where To Go From Here

Dear Not Sure,

I agree with you; this is a terrible secret to keep from your spouse.

I also have to respectfully disagree with you. I think he has been seeing his children and has kept that from you as well. After all, you say keeping this secret has been a family effort.

Trust me, I think there is more to this story. I don’t know why your husband would want to keep this part of his past from you. I won’t pathologize the issue, but I agree with you. It says a lot about his character and there is definitely a lot about your husband that you don’t know.

But listen, you said you have been married before and this time you thought you were “marrying up” because your husband has a lot of rank. In the big scheme of things, what does this mean? Are you saying that a private first class or a sergeant wouldn’t have great character? I know many who do. I also know people of with “a lot of rank” who have made mistakes. Marital discord is a great equalizer. It’s something we all have to deal with, no matter what rank our spouses have, or what our socio-economic status.

Your marriage needs an intervention quickly. This issue must be put on the table and dealt with. You can’t continue to skate around it; that’s the bottom line. You should solicit the help of a professional marriage therapist who has experience in dealing with a marriage in crisis.

If you live near base, ask about services that could be available to you. Other options would be to contact Military OneSource at 800/342-9647 or Tricare 877/874-2273. You can be referred to a provider in local community. Keep in touch and let me know how you are doing.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Thank you for giving great advice, especially to our military families. I’ve made a career as an Air Force officer. I’ve been active duty for 10 years and I intend to make a career and retire in the future.

I have a problem and I hope you will give me your honest opinion. My mother is on her deathbed in Germany. I haven’t spoken to her in more than five years because of family dysfunction. I won’t go into much of it, but I was molested by my mother’s husband when I was a young girl.

This silenced me for years and I had such low self-esteem and a lot of fear because of it. My mother had many military men running in and out of her life. This man, her ex-husband who molested me, was in the Army.

When I was 18 years old I told her what happened. I told my high school counselor and she told me to tell my mother the truth and that my mother would understand and support me. Well, when I told my mother, she basically told me I was a liar, and that I always did nothing but cause trouble in her relationships along with my other siblings. She said if he did molest me, I probably asked for it by acting too sexual in front of him.

This was a devastating blow. I was 7 years old, for goodness sake. I didn’t ask for it, besides I wouldn’t have known how to behave in a sexual manner at that age.

I haven’t had a relationship with my mother since then and I’ve only seen her a couple of times. Now my family wants to spend time with her at Christmas because she is very ill. I feel I shouldn’t spend my hard-earned money and go to see a mother who hasn’t bothered to have a relationship with me. Now all of a sudden she is crying and telling my family she really wants to see me.

I’m confused about what is going on with her. Do I owe her this? Should I go or just continue on and leave this alone? I haven’t had a mother in years anyway. What’s the difference?

- Trying To Do The Right Thing

Dear Trying,

Your mother didn’t believe you, but I believe you. Moreover, your mother should have believed you, too, but she didn’t. Instead, she had a revolving door of men putting you and your siblings at a greater risk of this continuing to happen.

Well, when you know better, you do better. In other words, you will know not to make the same mistakes when you have children.

Right now it’s important for you to take care of yourself and begin to heal. It’s normal for this to be an issue we try to put on the back burner - the way we cope with child molestation is to try and move on like it never happened.

As life would have it, we are constantly reminded about it because of life events. For example, you are confronted with going to visit the mother who is very ill and wants to see you. As a result, it’s bringing your past to the forefront.

At this point, I think it’s OK for you to be selfish. You have to think of your own sanity and healing. Here’s the deal, if visiting your mother will help you heal, then go for it. Professionally speaking, if you decide to visit her, I wouldn’t even discuss the topic. Keep in mind that if the issue of you being molested by her husband should surface, she could still deny that it happened. This would only put you in emotional turmoil.

I also advise you to seek the help of a professional counselor or therapist before you visit your mother. I would start with the help of a victims advocate who would be able to give you advice, support and direction on this issue. Contact the Airmen’s and Family Readiness office on base.

Keep in touch and let me know what you decide to do. Your experience would help me professionally, and could help other readers, too.

c Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at dearms vicki@yahoo.com.

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