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Dear Annie… Nude no more?

Dear Annie: I have been married to my wonderful wife for 25 years. When we were dating, all my friends were jealous because she was so movie-star beautiful. What they didn’t know was how incredible her figure was. We didn’t go swimming much, and she always dressed conservatively. I kidded her that I was the only one that knew what a grand figure she had. We had been married for a couple of years when a friend of hers told her about a nude beach not far away in Miami. To my surprise, she wanted to go, and she loved it, especially the attention she received. She had been so shy and conservative in her dressing that I don’t think she realized just how attractive she was in all ways.

That was about 25 years ago. Soon after the nude beach, we moved to a home with a pool and she insisted we surround the pool with a six-foot fence. She stayed nude at our pool regardless of who visited except if it were our parents or if anyone brought their children. Then this carried over to indoors. She just stopped wearing clothes unless she was going out. Our social friends sort of got used to it, as did the mailman, FedEx guy and even our favorite pizza delivery folks. She would just throw open the front door and welcome them.

Never have I thought she has been unfaithful; she just enjoys the freedom of nudity. We went to a few nudist clubs around Florida before we started having our children.

Annie, she is now in her mid-40s and while I still think she is lovely, and I love her more than ever, her figure has not aged well. She hasn’t changed her lifestyle much (she dresses when our kids have friends over), and I want to suggest that not everyone enjoys seeing her naked at her age. I just don’t have the nerve to tell her. Any suggestions?

— Seen It All

Dear Seen It All: Your wife was never doing this for anyone’s enjoyment but her own. And if you didn’t take issue with the nudity when she was 20, then I think it’s shallow of you to take issue with it now. Still, I think your wife needs to be more conscientious and careful. Answering the door in the buff could constitute indecent exposure; at the very least, it could make someone uncomfortable, violating their boundaries. Encourage her instead to get back into visiting nudist clubs and retreats, where she can be with consenting adults who share the same interest.

Dear Annie: Recently, you printed a letter that suggested people start “Round Robin” letter-writing circles while we’re all cooped up at home. I agree that letter writing can be a wonderful hobby. When my wife was in fifth grade, the class did a “pen pal” program where everybody wrote a letter to a person in a foreign country. She and her pen pal in Australia wrote back and forth, with each letter taking about a month to arrive, for the whole year. After that, my wife would send a Christmas card and a birthday card every year to her former pen pal. Sometimes they would share life updates.

Three years ago, we planned a trip to Australia and she told her pen pal about it.

She said to come visit them. We stayed with them for a week, including a trip to the Outback. Then we took a train to Melbourne, where her daughter lived and stayed with them for several days. Then we went back to Sydney and flew home — one of our best vacations ever!

— Phil

Dear Phil: What an amazing thing. Strangers really are just friends waiting to happen.

Dear Readers: Over the last few months, I’ve received many requests to reprint the letter from “Empathic Daughter of a Narcissist.” Here it is in its entirety:

Dear Annie: I am writing in response to the letter from “Concerned Care-Daughter,” who said she was approaching caregiver burnout. It sounds to me like she is very empathic, and her older sister may have some narcissist traits. Narcissistic traits include being dismissive of other people’s points of view and being very controlling.

My mother had many strong narcissistic traits, and I had to learn to set boundaries the hard way. I’ve found healing through understanding by reading books and watching videos on this topic, including on YouTube. I might not have a professional background in this, but I have learned a great deal.

Narcissists believe they are special and think they know more than others do. When problems come along, they blame other people because they don’t make mistakes (or so they believe). They can be ridiculously defensive. They cannot say phrases like, “You make a good point,” or “Thanks for the input,” or “I was wrong,” or “Can you help me understand?” Instead, they mismanage anger and can have temper tantrums, or they can be passive-aggressive if you don’t agree with them. They don’t care how you feel, or how or why you prioritize things the way that you do. Narcissists will wear out their relationships. They’re exasperating and frustrating to take care of, so they have a lot of broken, strained and difficult relationships, especially later in life.

Empaths, on the other hand, intuitively pick up on other people’s feelings. They can deeply understand another person’s point of view. They have a passion to be helpful; they are sensitive and are deeply moved by beauty. They love to help the underdog. Empaths tend to be idealists. One of their favorite phrases is, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Unfortunately, the narcissist tends to be exploitative and highly controlling. And when they meet an empath, they can think, “Now what can I do with that person that’s going to make me feel better and will help me?” They can try to take advantage of the empath’s desire to help people.

So it’s important for the empath to learn to set boundaries with a narcissist. It won’t change the behavior of the narcissist, but the empaths can learn to protect themselves from that behavior and not have the words of a narcissist carry much weight. By doing this, empaths can practice emotional detachment from narcissists, unhooking from caring what they think. They should not let the narcissist define who they are. It’s OK to decide how much to do as a caretaker and stick with it. I find phrases like, “That doesn’t work for me,” and, “Well, it’s not going to work out, is it,” very helpful.

— Empathic Daughter of a Narcissist

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