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Ask Ellie: Happy marriage depends on healthy self-image

Unshakeable self-respect, and personal pride in your own accomplishments are key to being happy in a relationship

Dear Ellie: Do you think that couples would have better marriages if they married young (under 25), while they still picture “perfect” lives together, or when they’re older and more experienced (35), so that they don’t put up with being stuck at home, or less than equal partners to men who work?

Curious Dater

These are old-fashioned constructs and generalities.

Today’s young women are as likely to be the daughters of smart, accomplished women who may have chosen to be at-home mothers and wives for some years, found meaningful community roles, studied while their kids were in school, and graduated to impressive jobs and professions.

Those mothering role-models would be certain to encourage their daughters, even if they’d met the most wonderful of men, nevertheless to continue their education to meet their inner aspirations for themselves.

Being in a happy marriage actually depends on having a healthy self-image, unshakeable self-respect, and personal pride in your own accomplishments.

I have interviewed and known women married for up to half a century, who were earlier famed among family and friends for their baking skills, then went on to become businesswomen, art creators, educators, professionals in the mental health field, community leaders in social welfare needs, health care, etc.

And many of them inspired their daughters to seek education and goals for themselves, no matter at what age they fell in love or married.

My answer to your question is that you must weigh the choices in your own mind, among your own needs. And, if you’re unsure of those, consider getting a few sessions of counselling, to better understand your own nature, and what you need mentally, physically and emotionally to nurture it.

It’s impossible and unproductive to look ahead at serious choices without first understanding who you are today, and who you want to be as your best self now and into the future.

Reader’s Commentary regarding Big Bad Sister (March 29):

“Your answer contained invaluable advice, based on my experience …e.g., “your right to continue to visit your mother … seek legal advice if necessary.”

“My mother-in-law lived in another city several hours away from where my wife (her daughter) and I live. The elder daughter lived near my mother-in-law and gave her good care as far as we know.

“When my mother-in-law suffered a stroke in her 90s, we went to see her. Her elder child was present and stayed in her bedroom while my wife was trying to have a nice visit with her mom.

“My wife mentioned that she loved a certain photo and would find it a meaningful memento someday. My wife’s sister blew up and invoked “power of attorney” stating this afforded control over everything.

“My wife retreated upstairs where our daughter and I had been waiting. Her sister chased her up the stairs, continuing her rant.

“We decided to leave to avoid upsetting her mother further. We did not travel to see her again because my mother-in-law’s neighbour found out on our behalf that a visit would be “too upsetting to her elder child!”

“My mother-in-law died several months later. My wife’s sibling didn’t give us this news nor inform us of a funeral. My mother-in-law’s will didn’t mention my wife in any way.

“I’d had faith that my wife’s sibling would be honourable. In hindsight, I now think that we should have phoned the police to have my wife’s older sister’s aggressive behaviour on police records.”

Reader 2: “If it were me in a similar situation with an older sibling, I would seek legal advice right now. This woman’s “big sister” has apparently always been a master manipulator of her younger sister.

“I think there is now a reasonable possibility that the younger sister could lose out.

“She needs to ask the following questions, through a lawyer: Who has power of attorney over their mother? Who is named as executor on the mother’s will?

“If their mother sells her house where will the funds go and who will control them?

“Also, it’s important that the mother have “the talk” regarding her next life stages (including death) with both sisters.

“And, if the so-called big sister continues to demonstrate that her younger sister has some genuine concerns, it’s important she learns that legal advice is being sought.

“She definitely needs to confront this bully head on.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Think of your future as desired goals that you can work toward, not instant decisions on what roles you’ll adopt.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].