I’ve been especially close to my niece since she was age 13, when her mother suddenly left her husband and her daughter for another city.
My niece was devastated. Worse, her father, who’d initially sought custody and regular visits, began making excuses about having “other appointments.”
I immediately invited my niece to live at my place. Her father agreed it was “a better arrangement” and dropped the custody arrangement in favour of me, which my niece accepted.
When she was 16, I noticed a dramatic change in her.... not just the usual teenage emotion, from angry to needy. She brought home a 19-year-old male who’d “finished school” (I discovered he was lying and had dropped out). But my niece insisted that this was her house too and they were “a couple.”
Luckily, he brought along another girl twice, both drinking heavily, and my niece ended up crying and scared. I realized that an aunt’s love wasn’t enough.
So, being fortunate in having a very good job and salary, I enrolled her in a private girls’ school which stressed the abilities, inner strengths and power that women can achieve.
The new possibilities caught her full attention - from physical strengthening through sports and gym, to achieving high academic marks.
When she graduated university at 24, she was sought after by several tech companies, and has since travelled to several countries on major assignments.
And, she fell in love and married. They’ve been a terrific couple for over 10 years and have their own child, a son age six. One of the two parents is always present. Until now.
My niece’s husband says he’s “moving on” with his life and moving out. I fear for my niece’s reaction, having already suffered deeply ingrained feelings of abandonment. I need advice.
You’ve given your niece both love and full commitment. This new phase of her life calls for emotional support.
Her husband’s leaving will likely stir up the terrible pain she experienced when left behind by both her parents. But you’ve long provided for the inner strength she developed to become her own strong, capable, person.
Divorce is rarely easy for children to accept. But your niece surmounted that hurtful challenge long ago, and has since proven her many inner strengths.
Talk to her, but don’t dig too deeply. She’s a smart, highly competent woman. Encourage her to consider getting joint marital counselling with her husband, so the two can actually hear what each other is feeling and why they’ve come to this point.
Suggest that she also seek counselling just for herself, since her past experience of feeling abandoned can trigger depression or other negative responses.
I’ve never been a huge fan of being reminded of milestones or anniversaries. Though I’m very proud of my children, and their accomplishments, and I’m also happily married. I just don't get excited about planning trips, outings or dining out for specific celebratory reasons.
My wife is always planning or organizing. I don't have the motivation any more. It could be a combination of getting excited about something then have plans fall through.
Going to family get-togethers for me is like getting my teeth pulled. I quickly get very bored.
Are My Feelings Normal?
Yes and no. If you’re losing energy, getting easily tired, feeling imposed upon by others’ interests, you may be depressed or have a health reason for low energy. It’s a signal for making an appointment with your family doctor. If you’re otherwise healthy, try something new... e.g., an exercise regime, learning to paint, etc.
FEEDBACK Regarding which university a daughter attends, her own choice or her boyfriend’s preference (August 19):
Reader – “Ellie wrote: ‘But remember... she can likely enter her original choice of school and preferred program, the following year.’ That’s exactly my view, too.
“Also, since the letter-writer states that the daughter is 19, so even if her parents’ worst fears of choosing the wrong path come true, she still has time to correct her path forward.
“But there’s one question that does not seem to be included, i.e., who is paying the daughter’s tuition and expenses?
“If the parents are making a substantial contribution, they are entitled to a joint discussion with her regarding education/career/future. If their daughter’s paying her own way, then unfortunately, the parents have no control of her choice.
“Note: At 19, part of discovering what she wants to pursue is also discovering what she does NOT want to pursue.”
Tip of the day:
Past trauma can trouble a person over many years. Counselling can help reassess inner strengths vs. fears.