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I feel awkward about being "posher" than my family

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 01 April 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,
My mother is from a working-class family, but she went to university, got a good job and married my upper-middle-class father. I had a privileged upbringing, which makes me feel awkward around my mum's family.

My cousins are much closer to each other than to me, partly because they all live in the same town while I live 2 hours away. We get on well enough, but I don't really connect with them because our interests and tastes are so different. They make fun of my "posh" accent, hobbies, etc. I'm sure it's meant as a joke, but actually it really upsets me, although I hide it. I worry that they think I consider myself superior. Now when I'm with them I change my accent and keep quiet about my lifestyle.

Is it unhealthy to feel like you have to be a different person around your family? How can I make them stop teasing me without being whiny? I know that I am very privileged compared to them and so I shouldn't complain, but it is really upsetting me.

Patricia Marie says...

Social class prejudice is still very much in evidence today, although perhaps less openly expressed than it used to be. It is an unfortunate fact that society can make sweeping assumptions about people based solely on their accents. Class differences need to be acknowledged and interpreted without judgement, so that these differences can be enjoyed and appreciated.

There may be an element of jealousy from your cousins, or it could just be that they would love to accept you into the family circle, but that your reluctance to share your life experiences and feelings makes you seem unapproachable. If you could open up to them, you might all start to enjoy each other's company and greatly improve the relationship between you.

One of the most common mistakes we can make when we feel we don't belong, is to try and fit in. You are who you are. No more, no less. Counselling could help you establish what specifically triggers your current feelings, and also increase your self esteem, making it easier for you not to take your cousins' comments to heart.

You are unique, and will hopefully in time realise that your acceptance by others should not be the basis of your happiness. I suggest you put more importance on the relationships you do have that enhance your happiness, rather than considering changing yourself to suit others. Embrace who you are, and you should start to feel more joyful and fulfilled in your life.

We may never escape all judgment and discrimination, but we can learn to value ourselves. Remember, nobody can make you feel bad about yourself unless you allow this.

British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) 01455 883300 www.bacp.uk

Family First

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 13 November 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

I have been seeing a man I met on the internet for the last six months.

Everything seems fine, except he really resents me wanting to spend any time with my daughters, aged 24 and 26. I made it clear to him from the very start that they were a huge part of my life.

Both of them have left home now and I try to see each of them at least once a week for a day or evening to catch up on what has been happening in their lives and because I do miss them since they moved out. We talk on the phone most days but somehow that is not the same as actually seeing them.

However, my boyfriend gets quite irritated if they ring when I am with him, and always tuts and shakes his head if I say I am going to visit one of them. And he never asks how they are, or suggests we visit together. He has no children of his own. He is now 54 years old and I think he wishes he had his own children, and perhaps resents my close relationship with mine.

What can I do, as I can see this becoming a big stumbling block in our relationship?

Patricia Marie says...

This man knew your children were part of the package at the outset, and can't pretend they don't exist just because he would rather have you to himself. He needs to accept how important they are to you, and not make you feel guilty for wanting to spend time with them, or indeed speaking with them on the telephone. You should never be put in a position where you feel you have to choose between your partner and your children.

Your boyfriend is clearly showing signs of jealousy. The trigger for this may well be that he is resentful as he has no children of his own, or alternatively there may be other factors contributing to his irrational behaviour. I suggest you open up to him about your concerns, as this may prompt him to share his feelings with you. Listen to what he has to say, but make it clear that his attitude towards your daughters is having an adverse effect on you, which if left unresolved could spoil your relationship, and may ultimately destroy it.

Instead of you visiting your daughters alone, invite them over to yours for dinner. Tell your partner it would mean so much to you if he could make an effort with them, even initially just for the one evening. Include him in the hospitality. Perhaps he could organise some games to help make him feel part of the family. You never know, if he allows himself to get to know your girls, he may actually enjoy their company, and even better, begin to bond with them.

Quarrelling Daughters

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 16 October 2015
Dear Patricia Marie,

My daughters, aged 24 and 26, are worrying me lately as there is a distance growing between them. They no longer text each other and seem very unconcerned for the other's happiness. The problems started over one daughter's boyfriend, who can be quite unfriendly and opinionated, and who my elder daughter has taken an extreme dislike to. Her sister obviously wants him to be liked by the family and gets hurt when she is told 'I don't care about him!'. Other seemingly small differences of opinion occurred and these became blown up out of all proportion. Things worsened when the older sister moved away, whilst the younger is still at home with me, as I now feel very much in the middle.

They are very different characters, but have always got on, until now. They each talk to me and tell me they think their sister is at fault, but there are two sides to their arguments, and when I try and placate them I am accused of siding with the other. My efforts to calm the situation do not seem to work and each expects the other to change.

How can I make them see that they must sort this out before it gets even worse?

Patricia Marie says..

Unfortunately, not everything is within our control. Having two adult children who have chosen to feud, is undoubtedly worrying for you. However, it is important to separate your wants and needs from theirs. We all have dreams, hopes, and expectations for our children. A mother's wish is for her offspring to get on, and as much as you want to make things right for them, ultimately this is beyond your control. In fact, the more you try to intervene the more your daughters will probably rebel and turn against you.

What you can control however, is the level of distress this situation is causing you. Let them know how upset you are at their behaviour towards each other, and that you do not want to be drawn into their arguments. As adults they need to act responsibly and resolve the situation themselves before it develops into an irreparable state. Instead of acting as a mediator, which is clearly not working, take a step back, and, without your input, they may then realise just how over exaggerated their problems have become.

Often when siblings fall out, it is their immaturity and lack of appreciation for each other that escalates matters. Without taking sides, or being interested in the details of the argument, emphasise to your girls that life is about compromise. We all need to learn to accept each other's differences. Ask them how they feel life would be without their sibling, and in time they may see sense and move forward to a mutual resolution.

Continue to be the warm, caring, mother you clearly are to your daughters. Hopefully they will understand that whilst you may not always agree with them, or like their behaviour, you will always respect and love them unconditionally. I believe this will inspire them to follow your extremely valuable guidance.

I can't afford Christmas presents

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 27 November 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,
 
My grandchildren always expect big expensive Christmas presents from me, but this year I just don't have the money to spend like I used to. I can't even afford to buy my daughter and son-in-law a gift.
 
I haven't told my daughter this, but I'm dreading Christmas Day because my son-in-law's parents are going to be there and I know they're very wealthy.  I can't bear the idea that my grandchildren are going to be disappointed by my presents or that they'll start to see me as the poor relation.  What do you suggest?

Patricia Marie says...

For most people who can't afford Christmas presents, the situation can create feelings of worry, disappointment and stress. Do not allow yourself to feel guilty - you are not obliged to celebrate Christmas by someone else's standards.

Don't be too proud to admit to your daughter you're having a tough time. Simply be honest and ask her to suggest something reasonably priced that the children would really like. Even a nice book linked to their favourite character would thrill them.

Children love looking at photographs, so perhaps you could make them their very own album, to include past and present family, which will give them great pleasure, and provide much enjoyment for the whole family.

With regards to your daughter and son-in-law, you could consider sending personal gift vouchers to include anything from an offer of two hours' ironing, to a day of spring cleaning or an overnight stay of babysitting - treats which I am sure will be very well received. This will also highlight the fact that the best gifts do not have to have monetary value.

As for trying to compete with your son-in-law's wealthier parents, do not  waste another moment worrying about that. Grandchildren love their grandparents in their many varied forms, indeed it is the most special relationship.
The true meaning of Christmas runs far deeper than a present could ever represent. Spend quality time with your grandchildren, give your daughter a helping hand with the extra work Christmas brings and remind everyone that Christmas is about love, not spending power.

That's what your grandchildren will remember in years to come - not some present, however lavish.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.



In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

Dear Santa

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 24 November 2014
As I write this I am terrifyingly aware of how quickly Christmas is looming and then how to offer constructive options for what to put in a Christmas stocking and under the tree.

No matter what your religion there is no use trying to hide the expectation for presents as, dare I say, we live in a society utterly focused on “things” and “stuff” and “belongings”. I’m not saying it’s a totally negative concept; however, sometimes it seems the delight is more in the quantity and largesse rather than the expression of love and gratitude.

So have a think about the following as an alternative to the latest fad toy and brand name blingy thingy…

A regular date with your children where everyone gets to choose a fun activity (bowling, arts & crafts, a picnic, bike riding, mini-golf) or maybe just a regular movie night at home with popcorn and all the trimmings.

Sign them up for a magazine subscription, library card, to tap into your child’s curiosity or membership at the zoo, science museum or gym. Maybe you could find an adults and kids yoga or swim class to enjoy together.

Similarly, find a drawing or singing class, chess club, dance, riding, drama, skateboarding, indoor climbing, to give them a challenge for something new they might not have considered. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure but a learning experience and an adventure into the unknown.

Family coupons like an extra half hour before bed, my favourite dinner, sit and read with me, Anything Goes (give 3 options), cupcake baking & decoration, or something unique to your family. Children love personalised and thoughtful activities and usually the messier the more opportunity to giggle and be creative.

Outdoor supplies to get stuck into the garden together; board games, puzzles or cards for a rainy day or the evening; or you could visit a charity shop together to pick out dress up clothes for your afternoon tea date back at home.

Dear Santa, this year I’d like to give my children my imagination and time. I’d like to create new memories. I’d like my children to feel the joy of family and love. (Oh and if you have any magic sleeping dust for sprinkling on my children at night for an occasional morning lie-in, I’d like a box full please, to share with all my sleep deprived friends of course).

My daughter has stolen my home

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 02 October 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,

I fear I'm being pushed out of my home by my daughter.  A year ago she came to me in tears, explaining that she could no longer afford her rented flat. She was buying cheap food and doing without heating, so her three year old son was suffering. Could she move in with me until she got back on her feet?

Naturally I sad yes, and moved out of my bedroom into the box room, so they'd have more space. But what she didn't say was that her boyfriend was moving in too. I got the shock of my life when I woke up one morning to find him at my kitchen table.

Now my grandson's toys are all over the place and there are clothes on every radiator. They eat different food, at different times, so I often struggle to make myself something to eat. My daughter dominates the cooker and gets exasperated when I'm in her way.

Recently my grandson was ill with a high temperature and cried for nights on end. My neighbour offered me her spare room, so I could get some sleep, and now I only return to my flat for a bath and fresh clothes. Then I make myself scarce for the rest of the day. The only time I feel welcome is when I'm required for free babysitting.

I own a stunning flat in an affluent city location and all my daughter's old friends live nearby. My grandson attends a good local nursery and his mum is very settled. There's never any mention of them moving out. I'm made to feel that I'm in the way. What should I do?

Patricia Marie says...

By moving out of your home into your neighbour's house, you have allowed your daughter to have the run of your home, which has now become a habit.  Your daughter may consider herself at home in your property, but she needs to have it pointed out to her that this arrangement is not forever. Of course you care about her and her son, and want to keep them warm and safe, but your home is not the solution.

At the moment you are not being shown any respect - not for your space, your routines or your comfort. I urge you to stand up for yourself before this unsatisfactory situation has an adverse effect on your health and well-being.

I feel you have been avoiding the inevitable, but the time has come - you need to confront your daughter, and remember that this is between you and her, so do not allow her boyfriend to interfere, or let the two of them gang up on you.

Make it clear how upset and displaced you feel. Yes, you did offer your daughter a stopgap home but there was no mention of her boyfriend being included or this being a long-term solution.

What are their plans? What is their time frame for moving on? If there is no plan, one needs to be devised.
 
Has your daughter looked for an alternative place to live or contacted the local housing department? What is her new boyfriend doing about finding a new home?

In the meantime, a proper list of rules and boundaries needs to be drawn up regarding access to the kitchen, cleaning the flat and tidying up. She has to stop thinking about the flat as hers and make way for your needs too. It's possible that she may call you unrealistic and uncaring, so do make it clear that whilst your not throwing her out on the street today, things need to move forward and get sorted very soon, for all your sakes.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

How do I get my wife back?

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 11 September 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,

I am writing as I need some advice on a terrible decision I think I have made. I am a 45 year old man, I had a lovely life, an excellent job, comfortable home and three adorable children along with a doting wife. I met a younger lady and after some time I left everything for her. Six months on, the excitement of being with somebody new has worn off and the grass is definitely not greener on the other side. I have just ended the relationship with my new girlfriend and would do anything to have my old life back, but am so ashamed and embarrassed of what I have put my family through. My wife refuses to answer my calls, and ignores my texts. Her mother drops the children to me when they come to stay, so I don't even get to see her. My sister-in-law contacted me recently to tell me my wife still loves me, but at the same time despises me for what I have done to her and our children.

With your professional guidance I am hoping that I can fix this and my family. Any advice would be highly appreciated.

Patricia Marie says...

The decision to leave your wife and children for another woman would almost certainly have had a huge effect on your family, and you cannot expect everything to fall back into place just because things haven't worked out for you. Wanting your wife to conform to your wishes so soon after the hurt you have caused her would be unreasonable.

The commendable thing is that you have not only seen your errors, but have understood the consequences of your actions. However, you are going to have to do a lot of hard work to convince your wife. I would suggest you initially write her a letter of which she would be able to digest in her own time. Explain that you do not want to put any pressure on her at all, but would love to meet up to tell her in person how very sorry you are for the hurt you have caused.  You've learned a hard lesson, and hopefully you can give some consolation to your wife by accepting and owning your share of the blame, and most importantly, whatever the outcome, be able to continue a positive relationship with your children.

A huge concern and something you need to ask yourself is: why did you feel the need to walk away in the first place?  Clearly something wasn't right between you and your wife and this needs to be addressed before any thoughts of a reconciliation, otherwise, you could end up in the same situation as before. Perhaps before any life-changing decisions are made, you could both benefit from attending Relate (relate.org.uk) as having professional help would enable you to explore any issues that contributed to the breakdown of your relationship. And do remember, sometimes we search long and hard for something that we fail to realise we already have.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

I dislike my mother-in-law

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 04 September 2014
Dear Patricia Marie

I have a job that my mother-in-law doesn't approve of. She never misses an opportunity to say I'm irresponsible, unethical and an embarrassment to her. But that doesn't stop her from coming to our house all the time and enjoying our hospitality. Recently she was here for three weeks because her house was being redecorated as she was getting headaches from the smell of paint. She drove me crazy with her high-handed comments about my work. Now my wife wants her to join us on our annual holiday. She says it will be nice for the children to have granny around. But why should I put up with the company of a woman who clearly doesn't respect me?

Patricia Marie says...

I suspect your mother-in-law feels that she can get away with saying anything she likes because no one ever challenges her. Perhaps she does not see how intrusive and controlling she is being. To her it may just be she is showing caring behaviour and trying to help. She could be feeling vulnerable - scared she may not be wanted or needed, and by displaying authority allows her to feel she has some control.

It would be a good idea for you to meet up with your mother-in-law somewhere on neutral territory so you can level with her. Insist your job enables you to provide a home and fund holidays for your family, and is of no concern to her. Explain you are not happy with her constant criticism and recognise she seems very unhappy around you. This saddens you as you would like her to be at ease in your company. However, if her unacceptable behaviour continues, you will not be wanting her to visit as much. Once she realises her feelings are important to you, hopefully things will change for the better and you will enjoy each others' company.

Your wife needs to understand the importance of you spending quality time alone with your family, otherwise it could create problems within your relationship. At the same time, you need to remember there are advantages to having your mother-in-law join you on your break. It means you and your wife can get to spend time alone together whilst your children are being looked after by their doting granny. Although your mother-in-law may have been taking your generosity for granted, it seems you may have been focusing on the negatives, therefore, not noticing the enormous help and support she must be bringing to your family. And remember, for all the things you find irritating about her - she raised the wonderful woman you fell in love with.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

My family don't care that I'm depressed

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 31 July 2014
Dear Patricia Marie,

My husband has always been sympathetic of the depression I have struggled with for years, but my sister and brother have been so unhelpful and my mother positively cruel. It came to a head last week when she said I was just like my dad, who died 30 years ago when I was 10.

I always thought he'd had an accident, but from what she'd said, he'd killed himself and she thinks I'm bound to do the same and would be stupid if I did.

Patricia Marie says...

Depression can be so draining. It's not just about sadness, but about feeling helpless, isolated and having little, if any, energy. It can run in families, but whether that's genetic or because of shared experiences, experts can't be sure.

Your father's death and your family's lack of support may be linked to you feeling as bad as you do. Friends and family support is crucial for the recovery and well being of those suffering with the brutal illness of depression - indeed, lack of support and feelings of loneliness can make the sufferer more vulnerable.

It seems to me that your mother's anger and lack of understanding demonstrates she hasn't fully been able to come to terms with the death of your father. It may not be easy, but you could try suggesting she gets some professional help, which would assist her in understanding depression better so as she can relate to your needs.

If your father did kill himself that doesn't mean you will follow suit, nor that suicidal thoughts are stupid (certainly, they aren't uncommon in depression). What is a lot more silly and annoying is your family's unhelpful behaviour.

Contact mental health charity mind (0300 123 3393; mind.org.uk) for its excellent information and help in finding good support. They can give you details of their group therapy sessions, where meeting other fellow sufferers may prove helpful to you in feeling understood.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.


In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

My mother is an alcoholic

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 17 July 2014
Dear Patricia Marie

My mother is an alcoholic and it's affecting us all. I now live quite a distance away so only visit a couple of times a month. Mother is supposed to be caring for my dad as he is disabled. He has a carer but not at weekends now as someone from social services has to come, as she forgets to give him his medication and cook for him.

The family have done so much to try to help her. My brother took her to the doctors who did liver tests and said she would die soon if she did not stop drinking. She refused to go back to Alcoholics Anonymous after two sessions. She says she is seeking help, but it's all lies. She has antidepressants but doesn't take them. She hides alcohol all over the house. If we throw it away she buys more. Bills are not getting paid. The grandchildren don't want to visit her as she is always intoxicated.

I am getting married soon and would love her to be at the wedding, but I know she will be drunk. My sister has advised me not to go out of my way to help, as she tried and it made her ill. How can I get my mother to stop drinking?

Patricia Marie says...

You ask the same question many family members of an alcohol-dependent want the answer to. Sadly, the reply is never simple. Alcoholism is a family disease - if one person is drinking to excess, everyone around them is affected. Alcoholics are often in denial, blaming circumstances or people around them for their addiction. They are unable to see how badly their destructive and hurtful behaviour affects those who love and want to help them.
 
Alcoholics Anonymous recommends ' detachment with love' -  as your sister has discovered, if you don't allow yourself to stand back a little it can affect your health. You have to accept you can't stop your mum from drinking, only she can choose to do this.  If alcoholics are not ready for help, efforts by family and friends trying to force them to admit to the problem, usually causes more resentment, and its only when the consequences of their drinking becomes painful enough will they reach out for help.
 
Do remind your mother how much you love her, but you cannot help her if she is not willing to help herself, as it is destroying your life. Be firm, and emphasise you are extremely concerned that unless she gets professional help soon, she will cause lasting grief to all her family.
 
Whether she chooses to get help or not, do contact The National Association for the family of Alcoholics:  0800 358 3456, www.nacoa.org.uk. This is an excellent organisation offering tremendous support for people in your situation.


Have a dilemma? Please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk  Please note, while Patricia cannot respond to all emails, she does read them all.

In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows

EASTER BUNNY EARS

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 14 April 2014
When most people eat chocolate Easter bunnies they eat the ears first.

I can’t recall where or when I read this. But I can tell you I like to observe how children devour an odd shaped item of food, and what parts are leftover because rarely do they seem to consume an entire bunny…my turn to “help out”.

Does starting with the ears imply a cautious individual? Is biting off the tail indicative of a leader? Or poking a hole in the belly suggest an artistic future? The psychology would be an interesting read. However, I say enjoy and savour.

Easter offers a Christian occasion to reflect on life and meaning. Whether it is of importance for this reason or simply time for family, sharing and making memories, enjoy and savour.

You can bake hot cross buns, decorate eggs, organise an egg hunt, play at being bunnies in the park, read together. Indulge in all that is playful and fun about holidays with your children… and they don’t need to know if mum has nibbled on a discarded bunny foot.


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