My girlfriend and I have lived and worked together for seven years. I’m 36, she’s 31. We fell in love within a few months.
I’m now considering the future and our planning for it, but when I raise the topic, she shuts down.
Our living space is very small, which was fine at the start. She says we’re managing just fine, so it’s foolish to change it.
When I say that I want more for us both, she knows what’s coming and shuts down. She refuses to discuss marriage and having children.
Her past is the reason. Her father left when she was six-years-old, never seen again. Her mother drank excessively. Her first “step-father” wasn’t interested in her, the next was kindly but couldn’t take the mother’s alcoholism.
My girlfriend was a good student in school and ambitious but received no support for it. Just her determination to never count on anyone, especially not a husband.
She’s otherwise a wonderful person. I admire her independence, work ethic, loyalty to me, generous love of our rescue dog, and me. But not as a husband. Your advice, please.
No Wedding or Kids
This is a tough barrier to cross. Explore it with your partner in the most understanding way possible. Stay aware that she carries heavy emotional baggage.
Do not try to win her over with your points of view. Tell her you both need guidance from a mental health therapist who’s familiar with the impact of years-long emotional abuse. Especially the neglect she experienced while very young and into her teenage/young-adult years.
Remember, you have comfortable views on the potential benefits of family life. But she has dread of ever re-living her own deep hurts, or passing pain onto future children.
This may be the opportunity she’s needed, to talk on her own with a psycho-therapist/psychologist or other counsellor who’ll help her overcome abandonment by those who were supposed to love and protect her.
If she can accept this kind of mental health help, discussions of future possibilities in your relationship will be easier for you both.
Recently, while hearing an indigenous man describe on radio his beatings at a residential school, my husband, in his 60s, commented that it was “no big deal.” I was shocked! These were small children taken from their parents.
The subject of residential schools has been in the news a lot. He’s well aware of the atrocities that took place in those schools.
I’m appalled by his lack of empathy. He grew up in a middle class, loving family.
Married 35 years, I still love him. He has some great qualities and is very kind/generous/ loving toward me/our children and grandchildren.
But everyone else annoys him. I feel guilty for not doing more to change his attitude. I’ve considered leaving him over our different values and outlook.
Maybe I’m more concerned about my own comfort and happiness rather than true to my values.
At this life-stage, can I change his attitude or my reaction?
Love him, Loathe his attitude!
Be true to yourself because core values matter. Sure, life with a generous mate who looks after you and the family feels very fortunate.
But if it includes accepting ignorant attitudes and insensitive, provoking remarks about so many others’ harsh realities, respect lessens in the spaces during conversation.
You don’t have to leave. Speak up, instruct, and shed light on stupid statements. Otherwise, you’ll end up just ignoring him.
Readers’ Commentary Regarding the young woman wanting to help a frightened friend away at University (October 7):
“I read Ellie and Lisi regularly for your generally insightful, good advice. However, the advice to the young woman worried about her fearful friend in their first year of university away from home, lacked soundness.
“It’s not her role to be "kind and help her (friend) overcome her fears." This student needs professional help, usually available through university counselling services.
“She might need medication to calm her anxieties, or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) to address issues when she feels she lacks control.
“The young and inexperienced friend is NOT the person to address this other than to go for a walk or study together.
“I’ve known several young people who, in their first year away from home, succumbed to depression, had "breakdowns," left University never to return.
“This frightened student needs to be guided to the appropriate resource.”
Tip of the day:
Never discount the effects of a neglected, lonely, emotionally-abusive childhood. If you’ve known love and support, help your partner/lover embrace a can-do attitude towards the future.