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by Abigail Van Buren

Story of Wrongful Conviction Is Shared Without Permission

DEAR ABBY: I'm a gay man in my late 40s, partnered with a man in his late 50s. There are a lot of issues from my past that I try hard to move beyond and let go of. I was wrongly accused and convicted of a crime I didn't commit, for which I was sentenced to life in prison.

I sat in prison seven years before I was able to prove my innocence and regain my freedom. Even then, I was forced to accept certain requirements to keep my freedom, regardless of being proven innocent. Unfortunately, I'm finding it difficult because my partner keeps sharing my story with people who are complete strangers to me. When they meet me, the first words out of their mouths are things like: "You poor man, I'm so sorry," or "Wow, I can't believe you went through that," and "Man, you must be a strong person to have gotten through that."

How do I move past this, if he keeps telling people a story that is NOT his to tell, but mine to disclose if I choose to do so? The shame and embarrassment of facing this trauma of my past on a regular basis isn't healthy for me. How can I get him to understand that he needs to stop doing it?

I'm afraid to say anything to him about it. He dismisses my feelings most of the time when I bring up things he does that upset me.

I love this man with all of my heart. He was one of only two people who stood by me during my trauma and made it possible to prove my innocence. He was also my "first." My love for him has only grown over the years, but this issue of my story being revealed has to stop. -- FRUSTRATED IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR FRUSTRATED: You not only have to speak up, but you also have to be heard. That your much older partner dismisses your feelings is controlling and condescending. He has no right to disclose very personal information about you with strangers.

You wrote that this is your first relationship. If this continues, it may not be your last. Present it to your partner in exactly these terms. Couples counseling may save your relationship, but only if the balance of power is adjusted.

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