Overcome your past hurt to improve future

I’m 56 years old, have been married for 33 years and have five children, the eldest being 37. My problem is my husband does not support me financially. He has his own business. This has been going on for five years now and he doesn’t want to discuss it. We live in my mother’s house and he didn’t even want to contribute towards the bills. He moved out June 1 and I haven’t spoken to him since.

I am emotionally stressed out. I’m very unhappy. I have been trying to make things work. I really need to speak to someone. There is so much going on in my life. Please help.

I am really sorry to hear that you have been having such a difficult time in your marriage which you seem to have been committed to for a significant period.

It seems with all that you have shared that your husband is a very selfish and uncommitted man. People like this rarely change their ways and if they gain any success in life, they will ensure that only they benefit and nobody else.

Now that he has moved out and not spoken to you since, it is a clear indication that he is not interested in your marriage any longer. As sad and difficult as this may be for you to accept, you have to make a decision for yourself to stop waiting for him and to explore your other options, including divorce.

It is imperative for you to be able to move on. I understand that doing this at your age will not be easy, but to stay stuck in a situation which is clearly untenable and not working, will just create more emotional turmoil and stress for you in the long run.

I would suggest that perhaps you should start exploring your rights in terms of a divorced wife and focus on what you have, for example, your children and the rest of your support system at home.

Seek legal advice at a marriage or family court. Once you feel more supported in terms of your legal rights in this matter, I would suggest that you take up some work, even if it is part-time, so that you can start to feel some sense of financial independence again.

It is unfortunate that we still live in a very patriarchal society where women’s rights in marriage in particular, are often undermined or not given the status and value they deserve. Now you have to do this for yourself. Set yourself free and start to let go of the hope that you can make him change or “trying to work things out”, he clearly is not interested and will only mess you around again as soon as he has a chance.

Move on with your life as challenging as it may be. You deserve better. Do this for yourself and for your children, they are still looking to you as their role model irrespective of their age.

I read your article on relationships and reading it made me realise that I am in need of help (“Focusing on yourself can save your relationship”, July 27).

People have told me that I am difficult, selfish and controlling. Your column made me feel like I was reading about myself and it was shocking. I always thought of myself as a confident person who loved herself too much and thought she was more special than anyone else.

How could I not. I grew up without a father and my mom was there but I didn’t have that much of a relationship with her. I was raised by my grandparents and consider them my parents. When I was eight, my mother got married and soon started her own family. I was just left behind to fend for myself. When I was in Grade 11 she came to fetch me because her husband forced her too, since he thought I needed a better education. That is how I moved from Mpumalanga to Cape Town.

In all that I treated her with respect and loved her, yet I don’t remember her showing me love and affection. I met the love of my life and we have the most beautiful five-year-old son and they are the most important people in my life but I’ve treated this amazing man like crap and I don’t know how to fix it. I am scared our son will grow up without a father because of all the problems I am causing. I love him so much but I am a mess and I don’t know how to fix myself or communicate or show my love.

You seem to be an intelligent woman who has risen from very difficult circumstances and overcame them, outwardly. That you are willing to admit your ways of treating people in a manner that causes you to hurt them, is already a significant step in the right direction.

You did not have positive role models for relationships and your parents failed to be consistently available and loving towards you.

That you built up psychological defences to protect yourself is completely understandable.

You were hurt, rejected, abandoned and felt mostly unloved. We all respond to these experiences by self-preservation to prevent further hurt. These defence mechanisms may include building an over-valued sense of self, a false self, which makes one seemingly function at an optimal level in the world and ensures control in what seems to be, a very unpredictable environment.

However, as we grow and become adults, these defences, on an unconscious level, continue to play out in our relationships.

They do not only wall us in and protect us from further hurt but also repeat what parents did and reject, abuse or hurt those whom we have chosen to love, but who, to the hurt person, may seem to be potentially able to cause the woundedness experienced as a child.

The psychological term for this is called transference. We transfer, the good and the bad, but usually more the bad, that we experienced in the past onto significant others and treat them as if they were our parents, projecting our anger, hatred or fear onto this new person in our lives, mostly unconsciously.

Working through your past will take time but with willingness to heal it can move your growth on exponentially and unburden you from the shackles of the past.

I would suggest you contact and start processing your inner experiences with a trained psychotherapist or clinical psychologist in your area, which is easy to “Google”. Also, read relevant books on these issues such as the ones by Harville Hendrix called Getting the love you want and Keeping the love you find.

* This column appears every two weeks. Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist in private practice. While she cannot enter into correspondence with individual readers, she will try to answer as many queries as possible through this column or refer you to organisations that can assist.

You can write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za or send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774. Provide sufficient information about your difficulty.