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Letter: “I don’t like the way he touches me”

Dear Katie,

For years, I’ve been struggling with the relationship between me and my son’s father. I left him when my son was three months old (he’s almost ten years old now), because I had a post partum depression and I experienced the way he dealt with that as very unpleasant. I left when my inner voice told me I could either leave on foot right then or be taken away “to the funny farm” a little bit later.

I think I can say I’m able to accept—and even love and appreciate—him the way he is, now (The Work has been most helpful to me to accomplish that!), but I still have some problems with his behavior towards me. For almost ten years, he has been touching me in ways and places I don’t like (i.e., that don’t feel right to me), whenever he sees me, and when I tell him I don’t like what he’s doing he just laughs and goes on.

Because I believe my son deserves to grow up in harmony, I’ve never wanted to start a fight about this—but, in all these years, I haven’t been able to find a peaceful way to make him stop this behavior towards me.

On the one hand, I think I should just learn to accept that this is the way he behaves towards me, because it’s reality; on the other hand, I feel such a strong revulsion deep down inside me, when he behaves towards me in that way, that I find it hard—if not impossible—to really accept it.

I would be most grateful if you could shine your light on this for me…

Much love,

Dearest Ann,

You say that when you tell your son’s father that you don’t like the way he touches you, “he just laughs and goes on.” How would he know that you really don’t want that behavior when your “no” doesn’t really mean no? He may understand this about you. And isn’t your “no” teaching your son, if he is a witness to you and his father and these exchanges, that it’s okay to touch women against their will, in spite of their “no”? It’s not harmony that you’re teaching in this situation. “This is okay with me. I will do whatever it takes to avoid conflict.” Our children learn many of their behaviors from our example, and in this case from his father as well. “When a woman says ‘no,’ don’t believe her. Don’t respect what she is saying.” I don’t see this as cause for guilt or shame; it’s just that you’ve innocently been believing your motive-driven thoughts and are trying to convince yourself that you don’t have a right to be frank and authentic about what you want and don’t want from your ex. “You should learn to accept how he behaves toward you”—is that true? Notice, how you react when you believe that thought. Revolted, passive, phony, dishonest, feeling that the spiritual thing (as you perceive it to be) is what you describe above? Who would you be without the thought? I see a clearer, kinder example for both your son and his father.

If you haven’t done a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on your son’s father, now would be a good time (as now is always the only time to do it). And if you have done a Worksheet on him, did you nail down the moment of revulsion that you actually felt? I suggest that you imagine him again in that situation, touching you in inappropriate ways, and as you identify the thoughts you were thinking at that time, write them down on the Worksheet. It might serve you and be helpful to work with one of the Institute (for The Work of Byron Katie) facilitators on this one, as they can help you stay focused on inquiry. Or, you are welcome to call the Helpline if you think we could assist your focus until you can hold it firmly for yourself. Your e-mail really has touched my heart, angel. If I could survive this agony (and that’s what it was for me), it tells me that you can too.

Love, just as you are,

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