October 2017: Lose Weight Or Lose Me & Legacy Of A Toxic Mother

Husband’s Ultimatum – Lose Weight or Lose Me.

Dear Dr. Jane,

I’ve been married for 6 years, At first everything was great, my husband was attentive, took interest in me and my two children, 12 and 14, from my previous marriage, he does not have any children of his own. About a month ago, when he was coming up to his 50th birthday he seemed to change overnight.  He started going to the gym, buying new clothes, cutting contact with old friends.   I’ve always been a bit on the plump size, but suddenly he was telling me I had to lose weight or lose him. Pointing out that meant his income and his contributions to “your” children.  He says that if I don’t get fit, lose at least two stone, and 3 dress sizes by Christmas he will simply pack up and leave.  He says that there are plenty of younger slimmer women at his office that have made it clear they are interested in him and he would not be on his own too long.

I’m now in a state of terror, scared about what to feed the family let alone me.  I rush home from work each day and exercise to Youtube classes.  A couple of days ago I overdid a class and have badly sprained my ankle.  Now my husband sees me hobbling around, not exercising and keeps reminding me that the clock is ticking.  I’m terrified of what’s going to happen next.  Up until now he’s been a good husband and very supportive and involved with the children, coming to parents’ evenings, being genuinely interested in them. I do want to stay together, but not like this.

Kathy,

Dear Kathy,

A midlife crisis maybe a bit of a stereotype, but stereotypes are exactly that for a reason, in large part they are true.  From what you say it does rather sound like this is what your husband is experiencing.  Suddenly a zero birthday is approaching and it’s time to re-evaluate your life – the one you’ve lived and the thoughts and hopes of your life to come.  And it genuinely freaks some people they feel that they have to regain their youth, or make dramatic changes to make the rest of their life exciting. 

It may sound odd, because he’s making ridiculous demands, but it does sound like deep down your husband is insecure and worried.  And no matter what he does, new car, new job, new wardrobe that insecurity will still be there.  That said what he is demanding of you is not only impossible, but is, as proved with your ankle, dangerous.  He needs to be told that when you are ready to, you will make the decision about your weight and fitness.  And his threats to withdraw finances from you will not be tolerated.  If necessary outside help like mediation -Relate- will be used.  Of course like you, he is free to do whatever he wants, but if worst come to worst, you will have to adapt you and your children’s lifestyle, but you will survive. 

Even though he’s coming over as a bully, which needs to be made clear will no longer be tolerated, he sounds confused and probably frightened one at the relation that over half his life has gone.  At the moment he may not take to the idea of counselling to get some professional perspective, but lead by example and seek some professional help yourself. 

Best wishes, Dr. Jane x

Legacy Of A Toxic Mother

Dear Dr. Jane

My mother was a very distant and emotionally cold woman to me and my 3 siblings.  She was temperamental and violent, I still have a scar on my nose where she broke my glasses when she slapped me aged 11. She would beat me and my siblings for the slightest thing.  She was vindictive, manipulative, always trying to play one of us off against the others even as adults.  She died 13 years ago, my father 20 years ago. I have never forgiven her for what she did to us and would never do that to my own children, who I love. I’m in my 50s, but I still feel very angry. Is there any way of ridding myself from her negative grip?

Andrea.

Dear Andrea,

It’s hard to have a toxic legacy like the one you have. But by not dressing it up in excuses or half truths – acknowledging the damage that it caused you and your siblings is an important way of putting it in your past where it belongs.  You should remind yourself that despite your aggressive and bullying mother, you have not repeated her behaviour towards your own children. I often counsel clients who are fearful of having children in case they behave like a neglectful parent themselves.  Unless your mother had serious undiagnosed mental health issues – which is possible as a way of explanation, although I suspect your mother had her own abusive childhood and parented as she had been parented herself.  But she had choices to break the abuse cycle which she chose not to.  However, importantly you did break it and although it may be the most natural thing in the world not to abuse or cause your children upset, remind yourself regularly that you are a very loving and good parent, it will help to diffuse the anger.

Perhaps discuss how you feel with your siblings, see if they share your emotions, you can support each other. Recognising your anger is a major ingredient to diminishing, and doing so in a safe and contained environment such as a survivors’ support group or with professional help will be essential to helping you to move away from the residue your mother in all likelihood knew she was leaving you.  Help yourself to be free of as you say her ‘negative grip’ and enjoy your life and your family.

Good luck, Dr. Jane x