The Inner Bottom Line ®
A Syndicated Column about Personal Choices & Ethical Dilemmas
Just thinking about the summer ending has me depressed and teary. My twin girls graduated in June and are leaving home for college in two weeks. I’ve tried to talk with my husband about it, but he’s always on the run and too busy to talk. He only had time to say things are great and I should be grateful I can afford to do anything I want now the girls are going away. That got me so angry. I love being a mom and while I know things will be different, that remark really upset me. The only thing that won’t change is the weekly travel my husband does for work. I’ve resented it for years but now just thinking about it makes me boil. Can you help me figure this out? I don’t have any close friends to talk to about this and don’t know what’s wrong or what to do.
Well, for starters, you have a heavy-duty case of the Empty Nest Blues! http://is.gd/gNTuO2 No wonder you feel anxious and angry! And for good reason. Your letter reflects a number of significant issues that you’re trying to juggle all at once. While your candor and honesty is both remarkable and laudable, your distress level is palpable. In order to get some perspective, it would help if you would just slow down to a slow gallop and try to catch a breath first. Your letter left me so dizzy that I can’t imagine how frantic you must be feeling right now!
You’ve already put your finger on several of the biggest dilemmas without any assist from me. Your children are both leaving home very soon. And your husband is and has been absent a huge amount of the time, traveling weekly for his work. Those two issues alone are enough to upset anyone’s sense of equilibrium and well-being. http://is.gd/igLZJF However, underlying these issues is another powerful dilemma further complicating and coloring the emotional landscape you’re inhabiting.
Let’s look first at your children’s pending departure. After years of nurturing, your role is about to change and that can be challenging, even scary, for any parent. In order to let your children go, it’s important to acknowledge and embrace the shifts of control that will forever be altered. After being in charge and making most of the key decisions and choices, you must now step aside and let them assume control of their lives and futures. It isn’t that you won’t continue to be needed. In reality, you will be needed as much, even possibly more. But in a different way. And there is no adequate way to prepare you or tell you in advance how you will feel about or experience those changes. That is for you alone to discover.
It is the other aspects of your immediate present and future that appear to present a much greater challenge. Your marriage and the relationship you have with your husband. And the relationship you have with yourself.
Marriages based on continual, enforced absence carry unique risks and damages that can prove fatal over time. http://is.gd/Ei1DFO Any intimate relationship that suffers from regular periods during which intimacy and immediacy is impossible can enter into a state of unreality and fantasy fueled by escalating resentment. It’s not difficult to imagine or fantasize that “everything is fine” when you’re never together as a couple long enough or consistently to discover that things, in fact, are not fine at all. It can often resemble a form of “playing house.” It’s quite common for couples who have lived this life style throughout their parenting years to wake up one morning after the children have gone to find themselves living with a complete stranger. And the frustration often experienced from not having your partner present or available to contribute support and share the responsibility for all the little troubles everyday life continually dumps upon us can add up to a mountain of anger over time.
Your husband’s modus operandi for dealing with things beyond his control or that he doesn’t want to hear appears to be an inability or unwillingness to hear you when you need him to listen. And you certainly need and deserve someone to listen to you right now. This is much too heavy a load to carry all alone.
Isn’t it amazing how adept we can be at blocking emotional stress, sometimes for very long periods of time? We’re great at denying they exist or matter, or we minimize them, mock them or even distort them in order to avoid telling ourselves the truth. But you apparently have reached the end of lying to yourself. You’ve also acknowledged that you don’t have any close friends with whom you can talk and share your concerns or sadness. Ouch! That statement says volumes about the aloneness and isolation you are obviously experiencing at this moment.
It would be appropriate and useful, then, to consider this summer of change as an unexpected gift filled with who knows what. It’s for you to carefully consider and unwrap. The choices are unlimited. And while that could be intimidating and overwhelming, you can choose to think of it as an adventure offering endless and wonderful possibilities.
Sometimes, when inundated with events that threaten change and upheaval, we tend to focus more on what is wrong than on what is right. On what we don’t have rather than on what we do. If, in fact, you can afford to do anything you want, and will now have the space, time and freedom to do it, take a walk in your imagination. You might meet yourself along the way. It’s time to do a personal inventory to determine just who you’ve grown to be, what you’re made of, what you believe in and value most, and what you must have to feel fulfilled and productive in this next exciting chapter in your life. Once you’ve figured out who and what you are, you’ll have more clarity to make honest, fair and respectful choices about what you want to keep and what needs to change or go.
Only you can determine how much you value your marriage and how deeply you love your husband. But in order to figure that out, you must first sort out what kind of relationship you deserve and need to have in order to feel satisfied, honored, and respected. Taking good care of yourself starts with you. Once you’ve created a new and stronger sense of balance in your life and achieved a clearer sense of yourself and what you want in the future, the rest of the decisions will fall into place. Take all the time you need. No one else can decide your time of departure or arrival. I wish you a safe and fruitful journey!