Listen, Rattled, here’s the rub: you journey through life together for 28 years and suddenly your partner develops new preoccupations. Are these changes symptoms of a deeper dissatisfaction or are they just what they are, in and of themselves? You don’t mention any neglect, contempt, breakdown in communication, loss of intimacy or lack of sex. Nonetheless, OF COURSE your mind leaps to worrying about him becoming obsessed with youth and virility, and riding off into the wide blue yonder, new hair rippling in the breeze. You probably worry that you will be left behind.
Three things. First of all, tell him calmly and directly that you are feeling concerned and open up those lines of chat so that if either of you starts to feel genuinely displaced, the healthy conversational architecture is there. Dinner on your knees in front of Netflix could become dinner at the table a couple of times a week so you stay in connection with each other – and each other’s various concerns, joys and jokes. Go out. Do new things together.
Secondly, you could join him in looking and feeling great. There’s no downside to yoga/tennis/swimming/walking/dancing. If you can be bothered. Then you can get some frisky Lycra on the go too and… who knows how good you might feel. He’s probably high on endorphins. What’s not to like about getting similarly high? Getting older is odd. You can slow right down or you can challenge yourself a little and see how that feels.
Thirdly – and this is the tough one – if you burst into tears at the mention of a hair transplant then it might be worth taking a look at what is really going on for you. Yes, his ‘several nights a week’ squash’n’pub situation combined with the hair thing is disconcerting, but do they merit this level of emotion? Is there something you are not telling us? Or him? Or yourself? Might it be something a therapist could help you untangle? Without wanting to make this your problem, we always believe that if you let it begin with you, the rest will follow…
More from the Midults:
What readers advised in response to last week’s problem: My daughter-in-law and son no longer need me – I feel used. What should I do?
@M D Henderson:
A relationship with your grandchildren is a long game. You are lucky to have had such a hands-on relationship with the grandchildren in their infancy, and you see them at least every Sunday. How lovely. As they grow, the grandchildren will come to you and have a special relationship with you. My grandmother lived in another town, clashed with her daughter (my mother) but was always present on a regular basis like you are. My grandmother was one of the greatest influences in my life, and her unconditional love sustained me through the tough times. This will be your gift to your grandchildren, and there is nothing more worthy.
In the meantime, socialise and get out and find happiness in your life as a woman with her own intrinsic worth and desires.
Look at this from your daughter-in-law’s side. I suspect that like many working mothers she would rather have been at home with her children and who knows she might be glad of this opportunity. To say that you have been thrown aside is not fair. Your family now have a different lifestyle in which you will, I am sure, be welcome, but it is unrealistic that you could resume your former commitment i.e. collecting from school, feeding and putting to bed while their mother is there. What exactly did you expect your involvement to be?
I can personally understand what it is like to be a widow, but I have to ask did you not have any hobbies or interests of your own while your husband was alive? If so, why the necessity to find new ones, unless it was something you had for whatever reason been unable to pursue before? I love my three grandchildren dearly, and I have a very close and loving relationship with them, but I would never have taken on regular care to the extent that you have… My family know I am always available if there is an emergency, but – and I know this is old-fashioned – it is the parents’ jobs to look after them.
As to unexpected and unannounced visits, forget it. At worst, you could be accused of interfering. I used to have a plaque in my hall which said something like, “You should have called yesterday. My house was tidy then”.
Have you thought about joining the WI?
It’s a great social organisation for women of all ages. We have interesting talks and demonstrations, trips, lunches and nights out to the theatre.
Caring for your grandchildren filed a gap when you were widowed, and I’m sure you were most needed when your daughter-in-law worked full time.
But now, you really need friends of your own age. You might even meet someone else….
It’s the old saying….a daughter’s a daughter for all her life, a son’s a son till he takes a wife.
Start going out walking, having a leisurely coffee in a nice busy café, start conversations with a smiley hello and build YOUR life. Borrow a dog (if you don’t have one) walk it, dog walkers love to chat. Look up or phone old friends and be interested in their lives. BE BUSY! Please move on from being dependent and too dependable and ‘like’ yourself.