Dear Ellie: When my mother died six years ago, my father, then 75, lost his will to live. He sold his business, saying he couldn’t work because he kept crying all the time.
I felt heartsick for him, checked on him daily and insisted he join me and my husband/kids for dinner whenever possible.
A year later, there was a sudden lift to his voice and demeanour. He confided that a former female customer had reached out to him. They’d met for coffee a few times; he liked her company. My family was so relieved and invited him to bring her to dinner.
The big surprise was that she was much younger than Dad (by 18 years, we discovered)!
They became “a couple,” while living apart. She had a married son in his mid-20s, and a daughter in University.
But there was soon plenty of co-habiting on overseas travel to Italy (her birthplace) and France (his favourite).
He was the most joyful we’d seen him for years, because Mom was ill a long time before she died.
Things changed when Dad turned 80. Maybe that number startled her family, as COVID was her excuse for pulling away though they’d been isolating together from the beginning of the pandemic.
She said she was “worried” about her children, a grandchild was coming. It was over.
How do we keep Dad from wallowing again in loneliness and tears?
Continue being supportive and caring, and keep your family involved with him.
This loss was a huge disappointment but no comparison to your mother’s death, which abruptly changed his life.
He’s older and wiser now, even if he doesn’t admit the latter. His companion lifted him out of despair. He knows now that it’s possible to renew some sociability with old friends and possibly find new ones.
The pandemic still requires him to follow some restrictions, given his age. But he can join online interest groups — bridge? chess? French language chats? — and yes, even online dating.
Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 53, my wife of 21 years is 52. We haven’t had intimacy for five years.
She claims to have physical issues from experiencing menopause but doesn’t want to discuss things.
Our only child, in post-secondary education, has always been our main shared interest. I don’t see staying married once my wife and I are the only people left living together.
It feels like a business/roommate arrangement. Any ideas?
You see your wife’s menopause as the barrier between you, but I see the relationship itself as the problem.
Over five years, she’s blocked discussion of her “physical issues.” That’s on her.
But have you shown concern for her condition, encouraged her getting medical help, used gentle contact for comfort, not just for sex?
If not, then consider how splitting up may affect your separate relationships with your child.
Couples need to have emotional connection, both for intimacy and to be a family.
Feedback regarding the woman’s attitude to her husband’s keeping contact with an “ex” from 30 years ago (Jan. 12):
Reader: “To think that your partner shouldn’t get in touch on an ex’s birthday or remain friends, shows an insecurity in how the letter-writer perceives their own relationship.
“It’s ridiculous and immature to think you can’t bear friendship with an ex.
“I have all the respect for the guy in this situation. He sounds like a real man, someone with character. Maybe she should be happy about that.”
Not Judging Her
Feedback regarding the man’s complaint that a woman rebuffs his advances and “keeps her dog on her lap and strokes it” when he’s visiting her (Jan. 4):
“He thought she might have had a bad marriage. You suggested that she’s “hiding behind her dog and her fears” and advised him to respect her privacy.
“That may be true. But I doubt any hope for a good relationship between them, since he has little respect for the dog who may be her chief source of emotional support.
“Pets contribute tremendously to the lives of those who love them. They can build self-confidence for those who lack it, bring redemption to those who have lost their way, and joy to those whose lives are restricted by illness or infirmity.
“If he’s truly interested in this woman, he must understand/accept that her dog currently contributes much more to her life than he does.”
Ellie’s tip of the day
The death of a beloved life partner is a passage. A later new relationship is a gift, not a replacement.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.