Ask Natalie

DEAR NATALIE: I believe that I was roofied by my grown stepchildren many years ago. I know that sounds crazy, but I was told by a physician that I had been drugged. I didn’t know what that even meant at the time. I lived in shame over my behavior that I couldn’t remember, and was very careful around my partner’s children after that point. I spent a lot of time in denial, thinking that his adult children would do something like this to me, but they have never accepted our marriage. I think they thought if I behaved like a drunk or a fool, he would leave me, which of course never happened. I don’t trust them at all, especially with my son. I never filed charges because years had passed before I really understood what had been done to me and had the chance to work out my emotions. My husband is older and I’m sure when he dies his kids will sue me over our substantial estate. Yes, we have all the necessary legal documents in place, and let me add that we’ve been married for more than 30 years. My issue really comes back to the fact that I could have been seriously harmed the night that his kids drugged me and I do not want them in my life, or my son’s life, after he dies. There are too many hard feelings and I feel the relationship with his children is far beyond repair. Do you think it is fair or okay to cut people out of your life when you have known them for this long? --FORGET YOU KNOW ME

DEAR FORGET YOU KNOW ME: First of all, I hope you understand that what transpired was criminal behavior. It was disgusting, illegal and immoral. I would be horrified if this happened to me and I can understand your fears of having your son around these people. Cut the cancer out of your life. These are toxic people who wish you harm and you do not need that. I can understand that this may put your husband in a difficult position. Does he know what happened all those years ago? What would his reaction be if he did? Money is also a big factor in all of this, as this “substantial estate” is clearly at the core of why your stepchildren behaved in the way that they did. Greed can make people do sick things. While we can’t turn back the hands of time, we can decide how to move forward. Do so with dignity and respect for yourself and your son by distancing yourself from the madness. You don’t have to put up with abuse, period.

DEAR NATALIE: What is the best way to greet people, anymore? No matter what I do, I feel like it is wrong. For instance, at work the other day, I walked by a colleague and said, “Hi, how are you?” They replied, “I’m terrible.” That’s not the sort of normal response you get when you ask someone that question, so I was taken by surprise. By the time I could respond, they were already gone. Is there a better way to engage with people at work? --WRONG QUESTION

DEAR WRONG QUESTION: If you are going to ask someone a question, be prepared for any answer. While some would say “how are you” is the same as “hello,” it isn’t. Whoever this was must have been having a pretty terrible morning to blurt that out to you in passing. I can understand your trepidation moving forward, but don’t give up social niceties all together. We have all become so insular and isolated from one another that a friendly hello can become misconstrued. But, I truly believe that we all need each other and it all starts with a first step. Humans are social creatures. Don’t allow this one experience to dictate how you relate to others moving forward. And in the meantime, if you see that person again that said they were having a terrible day, follow up. Let them know that you are thinking of them and hoping that they are OK. We all need a little compassion.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Don’t be afraid to invest real time into creating meaningful relationships. Networking breaks the ice, but it’s up to you to take those introductions and translate them into mutually beneficial relationships.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)

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