I’m a straight woman and I am 19 and should be in college. Due to pretty major depression and anxiety problems, I am not in school and I live with my parents.

This morning, around 5 AM, I heard my father go into the bathroom, which is next to my bedroom. I have really good hearing, and trouble sleeping, so it’s not unusual for me to wake up when he uses the bathroom at night. This time, over the sound of him urinating, I heard my father say, “I’m in love with you.”

I’m the only one who could have possibly heard what he said. I couldn't shake my disgust. I lay awake, feeling like I was going to vomit, until I heard him get up and go to work.

Last night, while my mom was out and my father and I were watching TV, he told me how beautiful I looked the other night. He has given me compliments like this before, never anything sexually explicit, but they have always made me uncomfortable. I’m not an affectionate person (I’ve never had sex), and I feel uncomfortable when anyone touches or hugs me.

I am really ashamed and afraid to tell anyone about this. I’m so sick right now that I want to leave and never come back, but that seems impossible due to money concerns and my inability to live independently.

I can’t tell my mom or my sisters, who are both grown and live in other states. I’m scared if my dad finds out I heard him, it will be revealed that he does think he’s in love with me, and he’ll try to molest me or he’ll kill himself.

I would really like to hear back from you. I know there are help lines for incest victims but since he hasn’t assaulted me, I don’t want to take time away from real victims.

Troubled And Living With Parents

My response after the jump...


How do you know your father was speaking to or about you? He could've been on his cell phone, he could have been talking to some other woman, or thinking about some other woman, or waking up from a dream about the night he first told your mother that he loved her, or he could have been talking to himself, or talking to his penis. People sometimes blurt things out for no reason when they're half asleep.

You say your dad has never assaulted you, TALWP, and I'm going to assume that he's never touched you in an inappropriate way. (You surely would've mentioned it if he had.) So which seems likelier: Your dad decided to confess his love for you while taking a piss in the middle of the night? Or your general anxieties and specific fears around sex prompted you to misinterpret your father's actions?

As for those compliments: tell your dad that it makes you uncomfortable when he talks about your looks. He probably senses that you're uncomfortable with your looks and with your sexuality and he may think that compliments will help to build up your sexual self-esteem. Tell them they have the opposite effect and ask him to stop.

Be direct with your dad when you ask him to stop complimenting you, TALWP, and please discuss these fears with your shrink (you are seeing a shrink, right?). It seems to me that your dad—who has never done anything wrong, who gets up every day and goes to work so that he can provide for you—deserves the benefit of whatever doubts were created by that one late-night "I'm in love with you" and those unwelcome compliments. Maybe your shrink will agree.

And maybe you should start sleeping with the radio on.