Question: My wife and I are expecting a baby, and my mom came to visit a couple of weeks ago. When I showed her the ultrasound tape, she was excited at first but then, for the rest of the visit, she seemed reclusive, emotional and in pain. To make a long story short, I think the ultrasound is making her relive and regret decisions she made when she was young. She and my dad divorced when I was 15. She was the one who cheated, lied and abandoned the family. I never had a good relationship with her until I was able to forgive and put the past behind. Now, she and I have reconciled and we get along. I know she is sorry for the things she did, and I can see where her own difficult childhood made it hard for her to be an effective parent.
Some time back, my dad told me something that made a lot of hazy childhood memories click into place. He said that soon after my younger sister was born, my mother got pregnant again and, despite my father’s pleas, she had an abortion. My mother doesn’t know that I know this, and I want to support her now and let her know that I understand and still love her. But the secretive nature of the subject is such that I’m afraid to bring it up. She doesn’t know that I know. Is there anything I can do?
Dr. ZZ: Despite all the troubles your parents were apparently dealing with when you were a child, they must have done something right to have raised such a resilient and compassionate man as you. Not everyone is as successful as you have been at healing family of origin wounds. You have done a fine job of coming to terms with your past, and you deserve to be commended.
As for your mom, her reaction to the ultrasound may reflect an element of unresolved regret she feels for many of the nuances surrounding the choices she made in the past. Even the most functional parents have regrets, and seeing the first ultrasound of a first grandchild can bring up poignant issues. Perhaps it is best for you to respect your mom’s privacy about the abortion; there is a lot of other ground the two of you can cover without necessarily talking about that. Part of the blessing of this new child will be to take the opportunity, if you care to, to help your mom explore her own guilt and sadness so that you may all move forward as a family. Simply tell her that you noticed how sad she seemed during her visit, and ask if she’d care to talk about what was going on. If she’s seeing a therapist, or if she decides to see one in the future, perhaps the two of you could go in for a session together at some point; that would be helpful.
Question: I am 39, married, and have a lucrative business. But the happier I am at work, the greater the conflict at home. At first my husband approved of my business because of the money I bring in. But now, without any interest to become involved himself, he resents my success. I stopped discussing work at home, but he keeps making snide remarks. What can I do?
Dr. ZZ: Much of a man’s self-esteem comes from his role as a provider, and many men have difficulty thinking of their wives as the bread-winners. When a wife prospers at work and earns more than he does, all but the most secure men tend to feel frustrated and inadequate. The best way to ease these tensions is to remind him that the two of you are a team, and that his value as a partner depends on many features. Because he’s feeling powerless, it will help to tell him often how much you appreciate him as a friend and lover. You may also want to make a point of discussing goals you are working toward together—whether it’s buying a house, taking a vacation, or saving towards some other major expenditure. In all these ways, you want to coax your husband into realizing that your success is his success too.
Question: I am 14 years old and have a lot of friends who are dating. They think is it weird that I haven’t ever had a boyfriend and are constantly trying to set me up. I’m perfectly all right with where I am, but sometimes I start to wonder if people would stop bothering me if I just broke down and became a dating bandit. Please help.
Dr. ZZ: Trust me, even if you become a dating bandit your friends are going to find something else to bug you about. That’s just the way people are. As for dating, some of us late bloomers think that 14 is a bit too early to start. It’s all a matter of personal preference. I like your self-assurance in the face of teeny-bopper pressure, and I imagine that some of the guys like it too. (And we like the guys who like that, right? But only when we’re ready, of course.) So stick to your guns and follow your own instincts. You’ll be happier in the end, and your friends will respect you for having a mind of your own.
Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is intended as general information only and is not to be misconstrued as medical or psychological advice or as diagnosis, treatment or cure for any condition or ailment. Send queries or comments to askDrZZ@yahoo.com and listen to her on www.ahstation.com/drzz. All published information is kept strictly confidential.