September 18, 1997
Untitled, by Rose Mandel, 1947. Photofrom Catalogue of Pacific Dreams (Armand Hammer Museum 1995)
Why is it so much more difficult to recover fromour middle-age marital difficulties than it was when we were in our20s? We used to be able to bounce back so quickly, and now, 22 yearslater, we seem to brood for weeks before we forget about it and moveon.
A long-term marriage can be like a 20-car pileup-- especially if the difficulties are not resolved and just glossedover and "forgotten." An unresolved dispute sits in the middle of themarital path, waiting to be hit by the next one, and so forth. If, onthe other hand, you resolve most of your disagreements as they arise,the marriage grows stronger by the year, and the road is clear for asmooth marital journey.
The Creep Factor
My girlfriend is dating a creep. He is smart,charming and handsome, and I enjoyed meeting him and had no problemwith him at all. In fact, I liked him.
Then another, very reliable and trustworthy friendand I were chatting about our mutual girlfriend having a newboyfriend. When I mentioned his name, my friend paled and started totell me horror stories about him. She had been in the same socialcircle as the "creep" and his ex-wife. There were stories of lies,cheating and financial irresponsibility that were serious.
My friend has now been dating this man for about 21/2 months and seems to be getting serious about him. Do I tell herand risk losing a friend? Do I attempt to protect her and tell herthe truth? This is so upsetting because I am invited to socializewith them and I dread being around them, knowing what I know. What todo?
Sticky one. First of all, what you heard is notnecessarily the whole truth. Your "reliable, trustworthy" friend mayhave heard only the ex-wife's side of things or possibly has an ax togrind. So, as you make your decision, bear in mind the danger ofacting upon secondhand information. Is it possible to discreetlycheck another source?
Second, there is always the risk, no matter howjudicious your approach, that you might blow the friendship bytelling her.
But does that mean you shouldn't tell her? Notnecessarily. Especially if you believe that she is naïve enoughor in love enough to be blinded to his faults. Is she so far gonethat you could toe-tag her? If so, perhaps you ought consider thatthe risk of your friend getting badly burned is worth the potentialloss of friendship. If you lose the friendship and the boyfriend endsup being true to his tag, she'll be knocking on your door soonenough.
Anyway, since, as it stands, you don't want tosocialize with the new boyfriend for his alleged "creep" qualities,the loss may be inevitable either way.
Should you decide to talk to your friend, she willask for details, and you must scrupulously say nothing other thanthat the talk had not been specific. All this will, of course, throwher into a state, so be prepared.
You could end up a hero or a friendless gossip.It's your call. In any case, in the name of friendship, you are goingwell out of your way to arrive at the right decision. May thatknowledge give you peace in whatever decision you make.
I've been married for three years and have a2-year-old daughter. Sometimes, I drop my daughter off at my in-laws'house for baby-sitting. Recently, while I was over their house, myhusband's mother was changing my daughter's soiled diaper."Peeee-yoooo," she said. "Wow! You really made a smell! Peeee-yoooo."She was smiling when she said it, but I was horrified. I told herthat I didn't think it was a good idea for her to make such a bigdeal about a soiled diaper and make my daughter feel bad. My husbandtold me later that I was micro-managing the way his mother was takingcare of our daughter. He said that the diaper episode was not a bigdeal and that I was making too big an issue out of it.
About a month later, when my daughter was at theirhouse again, some neighbors came over. My daughter got scared and hidher head. "Oh, she is sooo shy," my mother-in-law said. She keptsaying it over and over. I started getting mad but didn't sayanything.
Am I being too picky about the way mymother-in-law talks to my daughter? She is a nice lady most of thetime and does treat my daughter with a lot of love. I don't know howto react.
Dear New Mom,
From generation to generation, parentingtechniques change, and, of course, each parent believes that his orher own methods to be the best. But, really, occasional visits toloving grandparents whose behaviors do not agree with your own arenot likely to hurt your child. After all, their techniques producedthe child who grew up to be a good enough man for you tomarry.
Throughout her life, your child will meet up withall manner of people, and, if at home, you are instilling in herself-esteem and good values, her sense of self will prevail, and shewill eventually learn how to navigate smoothly through people'sdifferences. *
Deborah Berger-Reiss is a West Los Angelespsychotherapist.
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