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Relationships - October 2012

It could be you ....

 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers. 

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 maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.

 



Old colleagues and uncertain relationships

For 20 yrs my partner and I have lived together as happily as any couple can be. My children welcomed her into my home even though they had not quite left home. As young adults they have included her in all family activity and we are busy when grandchildren need care now that my partner has stopped work. The little ones adore her and see her as another grandma. I will reach a point when I can retire in a few years and have been looking forward to it very much.
Recently an old colleague from years ago, who actually introduced us in the first place, invited us to a reunion party to mark his own retirement. We both looked forward to it and it was great to see many contacts from years ago.
But now I'm eaten up with regrets that we went because my mind is working overtime on the way he greeted my partner and how she responded to him. It was as though they were long lost lovers with a steamy past.
My old colleague's voice lowered when he spoke to her, like no-one else was there, and my partner flashed her eyes in a way I haven't seen for many years.
Am I right to mistrust these signs? Am I making too much of it all? I can't get it out of my head and even though he has invited us to his place for supper when we're next in his city, there's no way I'd let him know even if we were visiting someone in the same street!
Should I say something to my partner? She said how good it was to see everyone there that we knew but hasn't mentioned our mutual friend. Is it because she feels something for him or that he means nothing to her? I lie awake thinking about it all and it is scaring me.

The first question that springs into my mind is, have you spoken to your partner about that evening or how you feel? Or are you nursing all these bad feelings secretly?

Your relationship sounds as though it is solid, built on a trust that even your children could sense. If they hadn't felt it, they wouldn't have accepted her so readily. You need to honour that trust and discuss all of that with her.

You don't say what happened to the mother of your children but as you mention 'another grandma' I'm assuming she also accepts your partner's place in the family. It is possible that you feel a little more vulnerable about this happy and settled relationship because you experienced the breaking of the first one. Yet, you met as mature adults and therefore each of you carries their past experiences, for good or ill. Some will be remembered and stored as a good way to do things and some will be tucked away so as never to be repeated. Both kinds of experience help to shape the way we live our lives. But, you need to bear in mind that there might be no foundation at all for the way you feel, other than the power of your own imagination.

Have you perhaps forgotten how your colleague of yore greeted all attractive women? I remember meeting a work contact who had always given me the shivers when we met. We were at a social gathering and I hadn't seen him for decades. He sidled up to me and caught my hand and kissed it, saying flattering words. He hadn't changed – and nor had I! I shivered internally and made polite sounds of greeting but couldn't wait to get clear of him. My husband commented on the greeting and asked if he was an old flame. I was happy to put his mind at rest.

Your jealousy has most likely been aroused unneccesarily. It isn't healthy, though, to hang onto such feelings and they can be dispelled only by talking to your partner about them.

While not at all implying any fault on her part, make it clear these are your own feelings, bandthat they show how important she is to you. You just need reassurance and want to rid yourself of unnecessary worry. Ask for her help in doing this.

It's likely that there was no 'shared past' with these two other than a work connection. He might have been one of those men who automatically put on the smooth act for women – most women see straight through this and think nothing of it. Were there a closer link then, let's hope your partner can explain and reassure you that it ended years before and that she's with you because she loves you and has no feelings for the other man, in just the same way that you love her and no longer pine for your ex-wife. Your job is to trust her and accept that what is the past is indeed past.

Perhaps, too. that is a wake-up call to consider how you actually treat her. Do you pay her the attention you used to? Think of this as an opportunity to do some maintenance on your relationship. Every partnership needs a check-up now and then, and with both of you going into your retirement the balance needs to adjust to accommodate change.

You'll both be in the house more, in each other's company much more. How will you divide home duties so that you share responsibilities? What do you plan to do with your extra leisure time? It's important to discuss this re-balancing so that you both have space for individual as well as couple activities.

Don't do it in isolation. Think about what you would like and then seek your partner's opinion; ask her what hopes and plans she might have for your retirement. That way you are already modelling how to negotiate, remain flexible and involve each other and will feel able to sort out any problems which might arise in the same way, by being open and ready to listen.


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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