Dear Dr. G.,
I am a 15 year old girl living with my mom but I see my dad every other weekend as well as any time I want. My problem is my dad's lack of boundaries when it comes to anyone other than himself. I have been going to the doctor to find out why I am not sleeping and have just had a sleep study done. The last time I went to my dad's for the weekend he handed me a vibrator and said that maybe an orgasm would help me sleep. How do I approach him about overstepping the boundaries?
A Confused Daughter
I am very happy that you wrote to me. If you are experiencing discomfort and boundary violations then you certainly need help dealing with your father effectively. I am not sure exactly what your relationship with your dad is like but it seems very clear to me that sexuality is not a topic that you are comfortable discussing with him. I suggest returning the vibrator to your father and yes, telling him clearly and assertively that this made you very uncomfortable. This may not be easy for you but it is necessary especially since you mentioned that he has overstepped boundaries many times before.
It is possible that your father meant no harm. Perhaps he actually thought that the vibrator would help you relax and sleep. Nonetheless, he clearly does not understand who you are and what his boundaries should be around his teenage daughter. If you have lots of anxiety about talking to him about appropriate father/daughter boundaries then perhaps your mother can step in and help you discuss this issue with your dad. There is no reason why you should feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and or humiliated. And, it appears that that is exactly how your dad's behavior made you feel.
Perhaps, your relationship with your dad will improve if he is able to understand the concept of boundaries. If he doesn't grasp this concept then perhaps you will want to spend less time with him. This is a very personal decision but may be one that you need to think about. I hope that you have your mother's support here. You certainly have mine.
Regarding your sleep issues there are all kinds of ways that you can try to "give up the day" and fall asleep. Perhaps you can listen to music, learn to meditate or even do some light reading before bed. Do you have problems with insomnia at both of your parents' homes or is it primarily an issue at your father's house? I ask you this because a lack of emotional comfort and anxiety can lead to insomnia. Please keep track of the patterns of your insomnia. Make a list of what helps you relax and try to engage in these activities before attempting to fall asleep.
Since you just had a sleep study done the doctor at the Sleep Clinic may have some very helpful suggestions for you. In any event, you deserve comfort and peace in your relationship with your father and he is clearly not the person to advise you on your difficulties with sleep.
Please feel validated. I understand your discomfort associated with your father handing you a vibrator. Your feelings are very important and should never be dismissed. I urge you and/or your mother to speak to your father before your next visit to his home. I would really like to know how things work out for you. Kudos to you for recognizing an awkward situation and seeking help. Amen. You are a smart and insightful young woman.
Best of luck,
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