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Ask Ellie: There's more to a relationship than keeping the peace

In relationships, if you keep doing the same thing without a happy result, seek a psychologist’s professional insights

Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 37, single again after a four-year relationship which began one year after my ex-wife of nine-years opted for divorce (no children).

My mother says I’ve not found the “right” woman, because I go along with whatever my then-partner wants.

I’d believed that I was wisely avoiding clashes, so the relationships would be peaceful. My mother insists that’s wrong, that I need passion, not just peace.

She’s tried to introduce me to several “candidates.” Her preference was a woman with “a great figure!”

Is my mother right that passion should be my goal?

The Peacemaker

Mom’s not wrong, but passion alone has also broken up many a relationship. What binds people together goes deeper to emotional attachment, unselfish love, plus openness/trust/respect.

Thank Mom for her help. Then, look deeper at what’s contributed to your breakups (this doesn’t mean they’re always your “fault” alone).

However, making “peace” your relationship priority is interfering with your emotions. A psychologist can help you explore that neutral choice as your current response, so you can open yourself up to seeking deep love and passion.

Reader’s Commentary regarding knowing when to “go with your gut” (Aug.8):

Reader — “Is it possible the ‘host’ mother’s using the “teen- guest” to buffer the tense relationship with her Florida relatives? That’s unfair, as she may think everyone has to be on best behaviour (I understand the teens are to be out all day), and that the added boy’s presence will resolve problems.

“Does the “host” mother have a husband? (No husband was mentioned). It’d be helpful if two adults were involved in organizing the teens’ all-day outing.

“How nice if the invited son could have a lovely time away with his friends. But how sad if he’s being ‘used.’ ”

Reader No. 2 — “My now-adult daughter had a similar invite from her best friend (an only child) when she was 14. She and her friend were invited for a week’s visit at the friend’s grandmother in Florida.

“I’d heard that Grandma was on the road to serious cognitive decline so I wasn’t comfortable with my daughter (and her friend) staying with her.

“The family wasn’t totally accepting Grandma’s condition because she’d always been a powerhouse. They related more to how she used to be vs. how she was changing.

“I made the enormously unpopular decision to say “no” to the trip.

“My teenager launched a huge screaming tantrum at me in front of her friend, the friend was angry and the family indignant.

“Parenting is not a popularity contest. I didn’t say why I was uncomfortable and left Grandma out of my decision, citing the expense instead.

“Eventually, in a private moment, my daughter shared that she didn’t really want to go because the stories of the grandma scared her too. But she didn’t want to lose face in front of her friend.

“My daughter’s still good friends with her pal 16 years later, all is good between us. I knew I made the right choice.”

Ellie — These two mothers reflect the caring of countless parents who have faced difficult choices involving their child’s chance for adventure vs. real safety concerns.

Reader No. 3 — “In your answer to the concerned mother, you weren’t urging her to share the lessons learned with her son, who’s old enough to hear them. How to decline a bad plan is a major life lesson.”

Ellie — I agree, and am telling her now, from both of us.

FEEDBACK regarding the woman on the plane, upset with a mother berating her daughter for her bad eating habits (Aug. 9):

Reader — “If she’d approached her with helpful advice about how to handle her daughters’ food choices, the woman would’ve screamed at her to mind her own business.

“No one wants unsolicited advice, especially from a stranger. It would have made the situation worse.”

Ellie – I’ve personally experienced calming an agitated mother on a plane. It worked, based on my gently offering to help.

Her two-year-old was screaming, the young mother panicked and crying. The flight attendants were all busy. I asked the mother’s permission, then rocked the child in my arms while he yelled, and somehow got him to drink water from a paper cup. Then he dropped off to sleep.

I’ll always believe that it’s better to try to calm/help someone, by showing some caring for their situation.

Ellie’s tip of the day

In relationships, if you keep doing the same thing without a happy result, seek a psychologist’s professional insights as your guide.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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