Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.
For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.
You can write to Maggi at firstname.lastname@example.org for her to respond in the column.
IT COULD BE YOU….
How do I move on?
J writes: I divorced four years ago after my husband
left me for another woman. Although she was not the first he had
an affair with, he has stayed with her and her two sons nearby.
Our own sons, aged 20 and 23 still live with me and are feeling
so estranged from their father that they don’t want to go to his
wedding in September. He has distanced himself from them so much
and it is painful to see them get hurt like this.
I am feeling so angry still and have been told that I need to
move on and get him out of my head. It feels really difficult to
control this anger and get on with my life. What can I do?
There are two
themes running through your email, J. The first is your
natural and understandable concern over the distancing of your
sons from their father and their reticence about attending his
wedding; the second, the anger that is preventing you from
getting on with your own life.
First of all, are you absolutely sure that your anger hasn’t
influenced your sons? Are you quietly pleased they are
boycotting his wedding to the woman he left you for? For their
sake or for revenge?
One of the toughest things for a lone parent to balance is
allowing the children to maintain their own relationship with
the absent parent free of negative input from the present one.
Staying as fair as you can be when talking about their father is
very hard when you feel so wronged and abandoned, and that can
often influence the opinion of the children. They see their (in
this case) Mum unhappy, lonely, grieving and at a loss and
sometimes very angry. They will form their own opinion of what
is happening. They will go through their own stages of anger at
their father, worry about their mother and feelings of
abandonment and dislocation too. But this needs to be their own
and not their parent’s emotional work.
Too often the angry parent can slip into bitter comments
about the absent parent. This can influence the children
unfairly and distort their unique relationship with him or her.
If helped as neutrally as is possible, to work through their own
upset, anger and loss, they can gradually reform a relationship
with their father that is based on who he is, and they are, now.
Your sons are young adults and will have seen their
friends and maybe their own relationships have ended. They will
know that sometimes people grow away from each other and endings
can be messy. This is more likely when a couple have never
developed the dialogue that allows them to talk things through -
until it is too late.
What ever happens he is still their father and has spent
almost twenty years in the family home. The loss to them
will be great too, even if they do not show it. Maybe they are
angry at Dad’s new partner “for breaking up the family”, a
natural reaction, though later on they might come to realize
that it is never one person’s decision.
But their relationship with Dad doesn’t end here. In time
they can adjust to the change and realise his relationship with
them has not ended in the way that yours has, but has undergone
an uncomfortable period of change. It can develop into something
much more adult and companionable if supported by all involved.
The second issue surrounds your ongoing feelings of anger.
Once everyone who needs to know you are angry knows, and
knows why, it is of no more use to you. Anger is the
emotional communication method of choice when we feel deeply
wronged , mis-judged and out of control of a situation.
Expressing feelings of anger can help us move through
difficulties as they can energise a depressed state of mind.
Anger releases adrenalin into our bloodstream which allows our
muscles to work much harder to deal with the very basic ‘fight
or flight’ state of emergency.
When the emergency is over, and after four years it is,
that anger is not spontaneously generated but nurtured and
maintained by your conscious mind. It will still trigger the
adrenal glands to produce adrenalin, it will still reach your
muscles ready for action, and then what?
If adrenalin isn’t used it will keep your body in a constant
state of tension and can end up maintaining depression
rather than help escape it. Amongst other effects, your sleep
patterns will be interrupted, your heart will beat faster and
blood pressure stay higher. Your general health is being
compromised by this. You need to take regular aerobic exercise,
walking swimming or cycling, to free up your muscles. Find a
local yoga class to structure your relaxation technique that
will help soothe and calm you .
This, along with finding a counsellor to explore the reasons
for such prolonged angry feelings, will free you to get on with
the rest of your life and enjoy the single and independent woman
you are. Your boys will be happier then too.
The following website is informative and useful. See the article
by Dr Barry Tigay.
Guide To Moving On
Suzie Hayman draws on her many years as a Relate counsellor and
agony aunt to provide information and advice on how to cope in a
positive manner with the stress caused by relationship
Relate Guide To
When a relationship finishes it can feel like the end of the
world – but it is also a new beginning. Starting Again can help
you deal with your feelings of separation, grief and recovery,
and will help you to start looking to a positive future.
You can write to Maggi at email@example.com
for her to respond in the column.