Andrea Bonior

Special to The Washington Post

Q: It has been six years since I left my abusive husband. I was treated for PTSD for years after leaving and I am getting better. Not surprisingly, my triggers are anything that reminds me of him. Our son is graduating from college in May and he wants us both to attend a graduation party he is having because “most divorced parents can get along, at least for a couple of hours.” I truly have a sense of panic from even the idea of seeing my ex. How can I tell my son that I just can’t go to this party without telling him things about my reaction to his father that will just be painful for everyone?

A: I understand you don’t want him to know the extent of your suffering. But it is reasonable to let him in a bit if you have to, to protect yourself. Convey to your son that you want to celebrate in the way he deserves, but forcing yourself to be at the party the entire time will actually take away from the celebration. Explain that there are physical and mental details of your situation that you don’t want to get into, but that you have potential logistical solutions. Stand your ground, then brainstorm together. Maybe he could get your ex-husband to agree to half-attendance where you each go at different times, or he might be OK with your skipping it altogether in favor of a special dinner with you. There are many ways to commemorate the occasion without setting you back after years of recovery, which wouldn’t help anyone.

Andrea Bonior, a Washington, D.C.-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.”

Andrea Bonior

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