Twenty years ago, my best friend, then 26, married an older man, 44. He was very energetic, athletic, successful in business and literally swept her off her feet. They were both so in love.
Together, they were avid tennis players, skied, golfed and travelled when possible. Neither had children. Together constantly, they were also very welcoming to their close friends. We saw them often and even shared a cottage with them for several seasons.
Everything suddenly changed a couple of years ago when he was diagnosed with a serious and severe illness. He argued with his doctors, shopped angrily for other diagnoses, demanded constant attention and, as he declined, insisted on getting care from his wife only.
She also refused getting relief help for him from a trained caregiver, insisting that it was her duty only and that she knew he’d do the same for her if needed.
My suggestion that she take a mental-health break by trying to get him short-term palliative care, for both their sakes, was dismissed outright.
It became a nightmare to visit them, but we did. I feared my friend would have a nervous breakdown if we didn’t bolster her spirit and also divert him with chat so he wouldn’t keep demanding her constant attention. He loved recalling his many past successes with us. But he never again just “chatted” with her.
He died eight months ago. My friend was with him to the end. She grieved deeply but finally started taking care of herself. She’s even visited her family overseas.
She recently met someone who’s a widower and very understanding of what she went through. She’s attracted but terrified, saying that she no longer trusts herself to judge another person’s character, since her much-loved husband became a demanding, verbal abuser while she devoted herself to his every need.
How would you advise her about whether to get involved with someone at this time?
Your friend needs to focus on herself for a while. Given her recent experience of being bullied by the man she’d loved, she needs confidence building.
A social work therapist or psychologist could help her reconnect with her personal values, emotional needs, future ambitions and inner strengths.
When she re-emerges from this terrible past experience of loss and pain, she’ll know to take time to really assess this widower she’s met or any other would-be partner.
FEEDBACK Regarding the column about “The end of a marriage,” (January 4):
Reader – “As someone who’s been divorced with two small children over thirty years ago, I assure your readers that divorce, for almost all parents, is unbelievably difficult and painful. In this case, three children, all suffering in their own ways, will have to navigate two homes, two parents figuring out and often fighting about money, access, and their own pain.
“Over and over, you read people talking about how their childhood ended when their parents divorced. Sometimes divorce is necessary and even good in the end. Mine was, but only after 10 years of the hell of raising teenagers more or less by myself. There are books, counsellors, organizations that will help.
“Tell these parents to get help, for their children’s sake if not for their own. It’s going to be far rougher than they can imagine now.”
Reader’s Commentary Regarding a “Momma Bear” letter regarding student/teacher difficulties:
Reader – “I taught for 36 years and have had students as described by Momma Bear. What she doesn’t know is that when a student consistently raises his or her hand, the constant required acknowledgement does disrupt the flow of a lesson. It doesn’t matter whether the question is helpful.
“There are only so many minutes in a class for teachers to get the material across to their students. Students can be asked to save their questions until the end of the lesson. If they’re worried, they won’t remember the question, they should jot it down.
“Some students find it necessary to question every statement, or to point out every “error” a teacher makes. It provides the student with a sense of superiority. Why the student has this need should be investigated.
“In my opinion, this mother and her daughter do not respect this teacher. While that’s not necessary, respect for the job she’s trying to do is necessary.
“I always tried to answer my students’ questions. There’s likely more to this than meets the eye. Too bad we can’t know the teacher’s side.”
Tip of the day:
Reconnect with your own needs after a tough personal experience, before entering any new relationship.