Category Archives for "Family"

What to do when your Anxiety makes all the things that cause your Anxiety worse

Natalie1615_17 asks:

I’m a student, 17 this year.  Since last year my symptoms for anxiety have been obvious, I kept complaining about how my tummy aches, and mom just brushed it off, until, at the end of last year, things worsened and I was sent to the hospital immediately. The doctor diagnosed me with ibs-d which is over sensitive bowel movement that led to runny, loose watery stool. I was prescribed with 15 types of different pills, because ibs comes with nausea, bloating, gas, headache, vomiting. I wanted to end my life. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. This year, school reopened, and I am stressed about it because I do not know how to deal with it. For 5 months, I have been missing school a lot, but still catching up with my homework and all, but my grades dropped drastically. Because of this, I’m getting yelled at constantly by my mom because she thought I was playing truancy, laziness and stuff. I just do not know how to tell my mom I have anxiety and stress, I just hoped she would understand. I have been alienated by my friends; my sickness also caused a big misunderstanding among them because they too were like my mom assuming I hate school. At this point, my mentality has been drained out and I’m just tired. I don’t know what to do anymore. At nights I spend my time alone crying, yelling, because of anxiety killing me.

Hi Natalie1615_17 –

As I see it, your letter can be summarized simply as: “I have high anxiety, and every symptom of it gets me more misunderstood and in trouble, which of course just causes me more anxiety.”  This situation would be intolerable for anyone; it sounds like one of those experiments where they would give dogs treats for doing certain actions, and then change the treats to punishments, and the dogs went mad.

I wish I could help more, but I do have two basic thoughts on this.  First, I think you should try a different strategy with your mother.  Stop denying that you hate school, or that you’re truant or lazy or anything else.  Just look your mom in the eye and say “Mom, I’m 17 years old.  Most kids my age hate school and are lazy.  Why do you think I’m different?” And let her answer.  My guess is that if you present her with the fact that everything she says about you is true for you and most kids, she’ll be more willing to consider that there’s something else going on with you.

And second, I urge you to find a therapist.  I’m not calling you “crazy” or anything like it, but you have two great reasons to see one.  First, your anxiety is impairing your life in some major ways, including your grades and emotional well-being.  But secondly, because your IBS is very likely anxiety-related.  If you can reduce your anxiety overall, you might well reduce the intensity of irritation and pain there.  It doesn’t have to be a doctor, or anyone hugely expensive, and you might not even need to visit them many times.  You just want someone who’ll listen and help you handle and reduce this anxiety, so that you can start enjoying your experience of what many consider the best years of a person’s life.

Natalie1615_17, there is no reason in today’s world that you shouldn’t be seen for who you are, and helped out with what’s going on with you.  Anything I can do, just let me know.  But just know I’m 100% on your side.

All my best,

Shirelle

How to move past a loved one’s suicide

Vaughn asks:

I need help dealing with my emotions. I’m not used to this. I lost my dad in November last year to suicide and I’m having trouble dealing with what I feel. He was the only person I could speak to about anything.  Now I find myself bottling things in to the extent where it’s affecting my relationship with my girlfriend. And I’m having trouble finding myself again. Please help.

Hi Vaughn –

I am so horribly sorry. Losing a parent to suicide is one of the most painful experiences I can imagine.  Losing a parent is always awful, but knowing that he chose this path will hurt forever.

I want, though, to push one very important fact onto you about this.  All beings, whether dogs, humans, or ants, instinctively want to keep alive.  It’s one of our most basic urges.  So for anyone to choose the other direction means something was horribly wrong.

Sometimes it can be a rational choice – such as when a person is in severe chronic pain with no hope of recovery, and chooses to put themselves and their loved ones out of the misery of their slow painful decline.  But most often suicide comes from a state of major depression, where the person’s mind convinces them that there’s no way to achieve any happiness or meaning, and the best solution is to end their lives. 

Depression is a horrible liar.  It will tell a person that they have no hope, when there are many possible solutions to whatever’s going on.  And worst of all, it will shut off their awareness of their worth to others, and others’ worth to them. 

If this was the case with your father, he didn’t kill himself despite his love for you and yours for him; Depression made him completely unaware of those giant beautiful facts.  It’s just that evil.

I knew a man who killed himself because he was incredibly stressed, as his business had fallen on bad times and he had been accused of stealing money from it.  After his death, he was found innocent – he hadn’t stolen anything, and the evidence was clear that he hadn’t.  And in his case, he left behind a loving wife and adorable little daughter, who will never get over this. 

Another way of looking at this is that he didn’t kill himself.  Depression murdered him.

I’m bringing all this up, Vaughn, because you are related to him, and Major Depressive Disorder is often a biologically inherited trait.  And you’re telling me that you’re bottling up all your feelings, that your dad was the only one you could talk with, that you’re having trouble dealing with your feelings, and that your relationship is struggling.  These are all worrying signs to me!

My friend, I will be glad to help you in any way I can.  But I URGE you to find and hire a good therapist.  Someone with the education to work with your current grief and the possibility that someday you might develop Depression.  It might be a professional psychologist or a counselor at work, or someone at your place of worship… all that matters to me is that they are kind and have training in this. 

My friend, I can’t stress this enough:  what you have gone through, and are going through, is too much for anyone to handle on their own.  Asking for help at a time like this is not weakness; it’s intelligence. 

If your father could talk right now, I know that he’d agree with me.  He’d want you to do anything you can to feel better and lead a happier life.  Happier than his.

And please, if there’s anything else I can help with, let me know.

All my very very best to you,

Shirelle

What to do when relationship problems get in the way of your work

Jigs24 asks: I am really stressed out, and have been for quite long time. There are so many problems going on between me and my partner and because of this I am unable to concentrate on my studies. All this is going on since more than a year. What should I do?

Hi Jigs24 –

I can’t help with any of the particular problems, as I don’t know what they are.  But I’m going to assume you’re saying you want to stay with them, but just improve things so you can be a better student.

The biggest question I’d have for you then is: Does your partner also want to improve things?!  And by that I mean, are they willing to work at it? 

It’s funny, I’ve been watching couples my whole life, and one simple rule I’ve found is that the couples that succeed, that last and make each other happy, are the ones where both partners want to make it work more than they want anything else

So in other words, when they have an argument, what’s more important?  To win the argument or to stay together?  When one meets someone really attractive whom they’d love to pursue, what’s more important?  That desire or staying together?

(And on the dark side of this, when someone’s being abused by their partner, what’s more important?  Their personal safety or staying together?)

If you and your partner both truly want this thing to work, then my suggestion is to go into couples counseling.  Even if you’re not married, it doesn’t matter – find someone you can talk with who’ll help you two work out the issues that are hurting you.

But if you find that your partner doesn’t feel that way, doesn’t think it’s worth the work to make you both happy and fulfilled…   Maybe it’s time for you to reconsider the relationship.  No matter how many wonderful qualities that person has, they’ve been making you upset and messing with your schoolwork for a year. That doesn’t sound like a relationship destined to make either of you happy in the long run.

Whatever you do, I wish you the best of luck!

Shirelle

How to win over someone shut down by divorce

K-Xengah asks:

Despite the drama going on in my life, I think I’ve had time to actually genuinely like someone else who isn’t my ex (the first person I have genuinely been interested in in 5 years). He’s older than me and divorced with two kids, but the day he came to see me and we hugged and talked for a bit, I felt this “zing” and I would like to see what happens. He’s super reserved though, so when we do talk our conversations are okay… just okay. But I want more. He works in another city and he invited me to visit him and I want to see if we can be more or if I should just end it. I really need advice on how to go about this situation. And I also keep wondering if he would consider me like that or is he just completely closed up.

Hi K-Xengah –

WOW!  I love hearing news like this!  Of course I’m hoping it works out, but even if it doesn’t, to know that your heart is waking up like this is great.

So I need to start with one question.  You sound like he hasn’t shown any particular interest in you beyond friendliness, but he invited you to his city.  That sounds like he actually is interested in where this relationship might lead.  Or is there something I don’t know?

But regardless, what I truly believe from your letter is that this man is shut down.  Maybe he was a lot more effusive and social before his divorce, but now he’s very hesitant.  If you’ve read any of my letters or articles about my friend Aria, he’s like her.  He’s been hurt, he’s learned not to trust… but he’s also hopeful and willing to take a chance.

And that means that, just like her human friend Ugmo, you have a special job on your hands.  You need both to encourage more to happen (while protecting yourself of course) and to build his trust that you’re not like the person or people who’ve broken him before.

What will that mean?  Well I don’t know him of course.  But the more you can find out about what went wrong in his marriage or other relationships, the better.  Let’s guess though – if you can work to make sure you always tell him the truth (which doesn’t mean “the whole truth” about everything, just don’t lie), you communicate from a place of kindness, you disagree and argue with fairness, treat him with appreciation as much as possible and shame as little as possible, and forgive forgive forgive!

Oh and one other thing I’ve learned from Handsome.  If you want to be with this guy, that means you’re accepting that he is a father who, if he’s a really good man, will almost always put his children first.  If you can’t accept that, then it’s never going to work out for the two of you.  Now understand, that wouldn’t make you a bad person – just someone who needs to be put first in a relationship right now. 

But I’ve seen it over and over.  Women will like Handsome and the way he treats them.  And then they’ll realize how much he loves me, and how high a priority he puts on me, and they’ll pull away.  “She’s only a dog.  Can’t we just leave her out in the yard alone for a few days, maybe put some food out for her, she won’t mind.”  Yeah, that doesn’t work at all!  Or worst of all, one once blurted out at him, “Who’s more important to you, Shirelle or me?!”  He was so shocked at the question it took him hours to come up with his answer:  “The one who’d never ask me the question is the one I’m sticking with.”  You see, if he’d said she was more important, his fear would always be that someday she’d ask him to prove it!  And that terrified him. 

So my biggest advice to you is, if you want to be with someone with children, to NEVER ask him to put you ahead of them.  He’s looking for a partner.  Try to be it. 

If you can do these things, K-Xengah, I can’t guarantee that your relationship with him will work, any more than I could guarantee any other couple.  But I can guarantee that you will have done everything in your power to help him trust you.

And once someone trusts, they become so much more able to love. 

So with my trusting heart, I’m sending YOU all my love, and very very best wishes,

Shirelle

Whose fault is it when one person is hurt by another person’s joke?

sweetparker asks:

I had a fight with my brother and we haven’t talked in a week. He was joking around with things I’m sensitive about. I ignored him for several days because he hurt my feelings. Then he got angry and he stopped talking to me too. My mother thought I was at fault for escalating a simple joke and that I should lower my ego and apologize. But I don’t want to. Is this an act of self-entitlement? He never apologized for hurting my feelings. So why should I?

Hi sweetparker –

Your question is so important, and so open, that I can’t give an exact answer to it.  There are so many questions I’d have about it – are you just a little sensitive about those issues or are they huge and devastating to you?  Did he know how much his joking would hurt?  Does he do this all the time?  What made him so angry (as opposed to any other time you’d gotten upset with him)?  Does your mother always take his side?  How would she be if he made jokes like that about her?  And do you often react this way? –  so many questions that I can’t remotely offer an opinion.

What I can talk about though is what happens next.  It sounds to me like you’d like the issue to be resolved, and for you and your brother (and mother) all get along.  But it sounds like you also need to have your feelings acknowledged.  So, in other words, you don’t want this to lead to you and him never speaking again, but you also need to know that he understands what he did that bothered you so much.

My best advice is for you to write him a letter.  Yeah, I mean old-fashioned, where you write in pen on a piece of paper.  And explain three things:

First, explain what he means to you, and how much you want to have a relationship with him, even a better one than you’ve had before.

Secondly, explain what it was about his joking that hurt you.  And that while you are okay with him joking (maybe you even really like it) sometimes, this was a special case where it bothered you too much.  And – and this is the most important part – that you feel you can’t trust him the way you need to until he shows you that he understands the difference.

And third, tell him what you need.  What he can do to make it all okay, so that you two can have the relationship you want.  And that you really hope this is possible.

Now I can imagine you reading this and saying “Why should I spell it all out for him?  Isn’t he mature enough to realize all this on his own?”  Well, maybe he’s not!  And if so, how great for you to teach him how to deal with this issue – because it will come up again for him.  Maybe with a co-worker, maybe with a girlfriend or wife, and maybe even with your mom!  And his life will get so much better if he knows how to handle situations like this!

So that’s my best advice for now.  But if I’m missing something important, and can help with that, please let me know.

And to your question about entitlement, yes, a family member IS entitled to being treated fairly and caringly by her family.  And the others are entitled to be treated right by you too.

After all, when I’ve done something I think is funny and my human friend Handsome doesn’t – like biting his ankle – or he’s done something he thinks is funny and I don’t – like teasing me with food and then eating it – we’ve had to teach each other what’s okay and what isn’t.  And from doing so, we’ve got about as great a relationship as any I’ve ever seen anywhere.

I’m hoping for the same for you, your brother, and your mom.  Forever!

Shirelle

Should I stay with my parents while dealing with Depression or Anxiety?

Lolida asks:

How do I tell my parents that I have depression and anxiety disorder? And how do I tell them I want to move out and go somewhere?

Hi Lolida –

I’m just a dog, but my human friend Handsome is a licensed psychotherapist, so I’m going to pass this question on to him, to start:

Hi Lolida –

I’m sorry you’re feeling so awful, but before you do anything drastic, I urge you to get checked out by a professional.  This is for a couple of reasons.

First, everyone gets depressed and anxious – and we especially have in this crazy pandemic time.  But that’s different from having a true diagnosis of Anxiety or Depression.  If you are suffering from a severe case of either of these, you should get under the care of a therapist at least, and perhaps consider medication as well, at least while these feelings are at their worst.  And I also urge you to NOT try to self-medicate yourself through these.  Drugs and alcohol and such have their place, but you don’t want to take a chance on making your bad situation worse by using something in the wrong way.

And second, I think your question about moving out is fully dependent on what you learn about your condition.  If you’re working through a serious depressive or anxious disorder, that may not be the best time to take on a huge move.  But if you’re in the shape to do it, the move might be the best thing you can do to break through that depression or anxiety, just by creating a change.  I don’t know enough about you to make that choice.  And that’s why I’d love you to see a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or even psychiatrist, to help figure out just what condition you’re in and what you’re capable of.

I don’t know where you live, but if you need help finding someone, maybe I can help.  Just let Shirelle know and I’ll see what I can do.

Isn’t he nice?!

I’m not sure I can add much to what he said, Lolida.  Except that, whether you’re living with your parents or out on your own, the best antidepressant or anti-anxiety med I know of is a DOG!  We pooches cheer EVERYONE up, and remind anxious folks what really matters and what should and shouldn’t be worried about!  And licks in the face are simply great for EVERYTHING!

So follow his suggestions, but once you do, think about mine.  A wagging tail cures a lot!

Love and Best Wishes,

Shirelle (and Handsome)

Why can’t the people who care about us understand what we’re feeling?

Soumyaguna asks:

I want to know why do people tend to show their emotions to us and when we try to say what we have to, we are not understood.

Why do people not care about what the other person might be going through, especially when you are not just anyone….you are someone special.

To be clear, I’m tired of explaining myself every time….I’m tired of making others understand what exactly I feel and how.

But deep inside I’m very sad realizing that I actually don’t have even one person in my life who understands me or with whom I can share things, not even my closest ones.

I ‘m tired of this all happening to me all the time….I’m done with this and cannot take anymore, cause it is causing so much harm to my mental peace where I don’t know how to move forward.

Things have just burdened me a lot, with piles of stress and a lot of complaints with close ones as they are the ones whom I care about and always will. But the ignorant attitude just isn’t going down well with me.

Hi Soumyaguna –

         I know you asked about a lot of things, but fundamentally it seems to me that you’re asking about the problem that people aren’t sensitively picking up on what you’re feeling, or even expressing, and seem to need you to spell everything out for them (if they even care then!).

         Of course I don’t know the people in your life, but I will point out something I’ve noticed about humans, which is that you guys have gigantic brains, and they tend to be filled with gigantic amounts of stuff!

         We dogs are relatively simple.  We feel every bit as deeply as humans do, but our thoughts tend to center on a smaller number of items: our safety, food, play, territory, and giving and receiving love.  That’s largely it.  Even the super-smart dogs you see doing amazing tricks in shows have been trained through love and food.

         Meanwhile, you guys have SO MUCH STUFF on your minds.  The same day your heart is broken by someone dumping you, you might have a big exam in a science class, you’re trying to remember all the lyrics to that new song you like, you’re trying to master how to drive your parents’ car, you’re struggling with conflicting feelings about your dad, you’re wondering if you wore the right outfit, and you’re responsible to remember all the different plays on your basketball team.  That’s SO MUCH!

         And my point is that that goes two ways.  When a dog is upset, we’re clear about it.  Maybe we yelp in pain, maybe we whine and lay our head in your lap, maybe we growl and snarl… whatever it is, it’s clear.  But you guys have so many subtler expressions – sarcasm and silence and distance and begging for attention (okay yeah we do that last one too). 

         But when it comes to understanding what another person is feeling, that gets many times more complex.  A person has to focus on someone else (and not that science exam or their jeans), and then read their feelings correctly, and then respond in a way that lets that person know their feelings have been seen in just the right way…

         It’s hard, Soumyaguna.  It’s hard for everyone.  All the time.

         But I’m going to make one big argument about your concern that no one understands.  With all the complexities of the human mind, the amazing astounding unbelievable fact is that people everywhere are mostly just the same.  There’s a reason certain movies or songs or shows are universally popular – it’s because everyone can relate to those feelings. 

         Now you might have people in your life who don’t understand WHY you feel the way you do.  But I promise, there’s no feeling you’ve had that everyone you know hasn’t also had.  Sadness, heartbreak, ecstasy, hilarity, loneliness, alienation… everyone’s been there. 

         So your job – and I know it’s hard – is to find a way to connect to other people’s feelings, even if your reasons are your own.

         Here’s an example.  A guy falls head over heels in love with a woman who doesn’t love him back.  In fact, they don’t share many interests, and she doesn’t treat him well.  She breaks up with him, and he’s devastated.  He goes to see a friend.  The friend gets annoyed with him for acting so glum.  Now we’re looking at just one of those “no one understands” situations, right?

         So our guy explains he’s just been dumped.  The friend says “Good, she was useless!”

         He explains that he loved her.  “Well that’s just stupid.  She treated you horribly!”

         He explains that that’s true, but he still loved every second with her.  “But that’s silly.  You weren’t doing any of the things you like to do!”

         He explains that that’s true too, but that his love for her was bigger than all that, and her leaving makes him feel hopeless and unlovable.

         OH OKAY!  That friend has felt THAT!  And that’s when that friend, if they’re a good friend, says “Oh man I’ve been there!” and tells them THEIR awful story about when they felt that way.  Maybe they have a couple of beers.  Maybe they talk till they start laughing about their awful relationships.  Whatever it is, a line has been crossed.  And our fellow doesn’t feel alone anymore.

         Sure he still misses her, and his heart still hurts, but connecting with that friend helped him move forward.

         But as you see, the friend didn’t get it at first.  It took some work to get there.

         Now Soumyaguna, you may be right about some of the people in your life, that they’re not interested enough in your feelings to care.  If so, those don’t seem to be the best people for you to put your trust and emotions onto.  Better to find someone who’s better at it.

         And you know where I’m going to go with this – there’s NO ONE better for this than a dog!  We may not understand your reasons or your stories, but we connect to every emotion you have, and WE CARE.  We care as much as we do about ourselves! 

         And unlike your human friends, we’re very happy to lick all the tears off your face!

         So please don’t give up on everyone, and give people the chance and the information they need to connect with you.  But if they can’t… just remember, we’re out here, always eager to give you just what you need.

         All my best,

         Shirelle

What to do when your new spouse rebels against you

Stunner_boss123 asks:

I’ve been married for a month now.  My wife is a wonderful person & a very generous human being (at least face to face). However unfortunately, we have had too little time together after marriage (it was an arranged marriage & we did not meet before). I wanted to spend some time with her, but due to her exams and classes, she left for the hostel on the 5th day of our wedding. During the 5 days we spent together, she was very formal and reserved (which happens). I did not mind and took things along. I gave my everything to make the transition phase a comfort for her, via calls, messages, travelling for 84KMs and meeting her up occasionally in her university and things like that.  Things got a bit smoother and I was happy. But suddenly one day when she was with me, she left her phone open and went to the restroom. I checked her phone (casually) and I was surprised with so many things I saw: 

  1. She was a regular smoker. 
  2. Almost 10+ Guys continuously messaging her & she is in chat with all of them (maybe friends or I don’t know). The chat was very informal and frank as it was being done for years. 
  3. Her language with her friends (Girls + Guys) was so abusive and dirty that it shocked me.

Well I did not overreact, and just told her in a calm way that this shall not continue as all this has hurt me and is taken bad in our society. You are a wife now and we both represent our respect. What’s done is done and I have no concern about the past, but from now on I request you to cut off the smoking and bad company, as they are good for neither you nor our relationship. Further, I also clarified that I have no further requirements from you for whole life; I will manage everything. But what’s bad is bad and it’s my right to keep you away from bad. She promised me to stop smoking, quit the bad friends, and not be involved in any bad company in future. 

Things got smooth again for a week, but suddenly one day, intentionally on our phone call, she again mentioned that one of her old friends (male) connected with her and invited her to a dinner party. I asked “Only you?”  She said “Yes – only me and I wanna go.” I said, “OK, but let’s conclude the dinner timely and I will pick you up.”  She said, “No need, he will give pick and drop.”  My mood changed again. Then the dinner happened and I felt bad about it  (I did not react but felt hurt as it started around 7pm and ended at 1am). 

Three days later, I took her to dinner in a restaurant. It was going smooth. But suddenly I realized that she was staring at the guy sitting across our table, and the same guy was looking at her too. This happened for 5 to 6 minutes. I stayed positive but my wife suddenly said “Look how cute this boy is!” Dinner ruined, and we left the place in bad mood. 

While on our way back to home, I expressed, “You disrespected my presence there and I felt insulted. It hurt my self-respect that I was in front of you and you were flirting with someone else and throwing me that sentence.”

She started crying. Later she said that she is like this and I have to compromise, and blah blah blah. The tone made it sound like I hurt her instead, like everything is my mistake and I am disturbing the balance of her life. 

I Said “OK, enjoy and continue. If you feel like problem is at my end, I will be careful next time.”

Shirelle, with all this, I am not settled, and my mind is not relaxed in her presence or absence as well. When we are together, she is always on Insta and Snapchat. She is not willing to go back on one single thing which is bad for her and is not putting a single effort to even address me or give me quality time for a night. She is hurting my self-respect continuously and I am feeling down since the 5th day of our marriage. While she has no change in her life. Yes I accepted her for who she is, but smoking is bad in our Asian culture, sitting with boys alone is taken as bad in our culture, not giving me proper time makes me more insecure, and my unaddressed emotional needs are becoming heavy now. Please advise me here. 

Hi Stunner_boss123 –

There are many issues in your letter, too many for me to get to specifically.  About cultural differences, about arranged marriages, about smoking (I am not a fan of it!), about what constitutes loyalty and fidelity, all sorts of stuff.

What I want to talk about instead is marriage.  Marriage in general.

Whether a couple has dated for years before, or meets on their wedding day, marriage is a huge step.  It’s a promise to change oneself and devote yourself to this other person forever.  That’s terrifying!

When Handsome brought me home from the pound, I experienced something like that.  But we dogs are programmed to pack loyalty; while I had to learn some rules (and I was a BRAT as a puppy!), I still adjusted fairly quickly, and Handsome did to me too.

But for you guys, with your larger brains and longer lifespan, it’s much harder.  I don’t know your and your wife’s ages, but I’m assuming you’ve been alive for around twenty years at least, without giving a single thought to this other individual.  Now suddenly everything’s supposed to be about that person. 

Well no matter how willing and eager you two are for marriage and family, parts of your brains are going to rebel against this.  It happens to everyone.  And what I see in your letter is that she’s rebelling by behaving independently, and you’re rebelling by demanding control over her.  And it’s pretty easy to see that the more one of you continues doing what you’re doing, the other one will just do what they’re doing more strongly!  You make her stay home, she starts smoking in your bedroom, and so on!

The fact is that, in the law and in the eyes of whatever deity or deities you believe in, you’re married.  But between you and her and me, you aren’t yet.  Marriage takes work, and your work is just barely beginning.

The main job for you two is to start to talk.  A lot.  About what you want, about what matters to you, about what you believe and fear and hate and… all that.

It sounds to me like she is a good woman.  She didn’t spend the night with that male friend, and she didn’t give the guy at the restaurant her phone number, right?!  She’s just, to use a canine metaphor I relate to a lot, straining at the leash.

And you’re a good guy.  You’re trying not to overreact.  But how can you when she keeps pushing your boundaries?

Again, this isn’t a sign that you two are wrong for each other or that you’re failing at marriage.  It’s a sign that YOU ARE JUST STARTING.

After he brought me home, Handsome had to learn what I wanted and feared and hated and loved.  And I had to learn all the same things about him.  You married this woman without even knowing she smoked, or that she had male friends, or that she uses bad language with her best girlfriends.  It’s time, before you try to make or enforce rules, to find out what else you don’t know.  And what are your faults?  What might she want to change in you? 

And then once those are all out in the open, what are you each willing to live with, and what not?  If she goes out with her girlfriends every few weeks and they talk dirty amongst themselves and have a cigarette or two, but with you she’s ladylike and healthy, is that okay? 

Do you know each other’s political beliefs?  You are part of the same religious community, but do you know what each other believes and doesn’t?  Do you know how each of you feels about children?!  Have you gotten to know each other’s families enough to know which members each of you, perhaps, finds it harder to love or be around?!

The greatest adventure of my life has been my relationship with Handsome.  The greatest adventure of your life is going to be this marriage.  Don’t worry too much yet about rules.  Find out who she is first.  And let her know who you are.

And if things work as I hope they do, what you two will really discover is love.  And then, truly, your whole worlds will change.

Wishing you all the very very best,

Shirelle

Is it right to give a new spouse properties of the late one?

K-Xengah asks: My mum passed away in 2014 and I got a step-mum the following year. I was okay with it until I saw her wearing my mum’s wedding rings. I really find that disrespectful. And what hurts is that that’s something I wouldn’t expect from her…or anyone for that matter. We tried talking to her and dad but they didn’t budge and made it seem like we were wrong and those weren’t even mum’s rings until my sister called her and gave her a piece of her mind. And even though the rings are off her fingers, emotionally I don’t think I’m okay and I have barely said a word to her for three days now, because all I can think about is “what type of person does that?”

Please advise.

Hi K-Xengah –

            I certainly understand your concern, but I don’t think I agree with you about who to blame in this.

            I know some people who have a dog as a pet, love that pup like crazy, take perfect care of it all the way including putting their beloved soulmate down when it’s time, and then save the pooch’s collar, leash, water bowl, etc., and give them all to their next dog.  While others find that just grotesque, and say “No, you save those as memories, and give the new dog new things.”

            Which is right?  I can tell you we dogs don’t really care, so I’d say it’s whatever’s right for the person.

            Now I’m not trying to compare your mother to a pet, but the issue is kind of the same.  I agree with you that most people would argue that her wedding rings are hers alone, and no one else ought to wear them (or if anyone should, it’s you or some other descendant – or the woman a descendant marries, which can be quite lovely, “I want you to be my wife, and I’m giving you my great grandmother’s ring as a statement of commitment!”).  But then, your father is sharing so much else that would have been your mother’s – his home, furniture, finances… and biggest of all, you! – that he might see giving her the rings as a statement of love and continuity.  In fact, I could imagine he might even see it as a way of honoring your mother, by saying “Every time I look at my second wife, I’ll be reminded of my first wife, so that I can be faithful in my heart forever.”

            My point is that, just as I wouldn’t blame a dog for wearing a collar a human put onto her, I wouldn’t blame your stepmother for wearing those rings.  It was your father’s choice to give them to her, and his alone.

            Clearly, between your reaction and your sister’s, your father and stepmother got the message that you two find your stepmother wearing those rings unacceptable, and acted accordingly.

            And so, my very strong suggestion is… Let the whole issue go.  Forget about it.

            Again, this was your father’s choice.  Maybe it wasn’t the best one, but you’re not planning on exchanging him for another father; he’s the one you’ve got and you’re sticking with him.  And assuming they stay together, he and your stepmother will be your family for a very long time.  And again, they’ve honored your and your sister’s wishes (though maybe you’d be happier about it if they’d honored your feelings without her having to speak up!).  So my suggestion is to pretend it never happened, and have the family life you deserve.

            Then, maybe a few years from now, you and your sister might talk with your father about what to do with the rings.  Again, maybe one of you should have them, maybe someone else. 

            But in the meantime, you will have honored your mother by speaking up, and you can honor your father by letting him move forward from his mistake.  That sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

            Best,

            Shirelle

Should I be concerned if my child cries too much?

Mqasana asks:

I have a 11-year-old boy who is very troublesome. I love my first born child but he’s very disrespectful, doesn’t like to take bath to stay clean, cries at you when you talk to him, and his school is also trouble, he comes home late every day.
Where can I find a school that can help me and my child?

Hi Mqasana –

I can’t tell enough from your letter, but it sounds possible that your son has an actual emotional disorder.  The disrespect and hating baths are nothing out of the ordinary (both are true of me!), but his crying worries me more. 

I’m thinking less that he needs a new school than that you should ask if his current school if they have a counselor, and if not, if they can recommend one.  You might also consider taking him to a doctor to see if there’s anything physically wrong with him.

All kids go through rough phases, and eleven is a common age for boys to be problems.  But please find out if anything else is going on.  If so, there might be some treatment that can help him.  And if not… I don’t think it’s a new school that you want, but rather maybe a family therapist to help him grow through this phase.

Thanks and good luck!

Shirelle

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