Dear Ellie: I’m a man, 32, working in a professional field, married to a woman I love. We’re both happily expecting our first child. But I suffer from depression and know its origins.
Early in University I’d met a terrific woman who was attractive, fun, and openly discussed personal values.
When I brought her to meet my parents, they both welcomed her, as if I’d announced an engagement! (I hadn’t).
They’re sweet, hardworking people who still run a small business together. They’ve raised me by stressing values.
But my older sister hung out with the girlfriends of some dodgy-seeming guys, and married one. My parents had to twice bail the couple out financially.
So, when my parents met my girlfriend, they instantly saw her as the family’s “golden girl.” My sister caught on and was openly rude to her. Her husband was worse, talking coarsely to her.
I was ashamed. My relationship soon ended. My then-girlfriend said she thought we were “too young to be making any plans.”
I worked hard to secure a scholarship at a distant university, and forget how pathetic my family had appeared to me.
I now admit to my own shallowness in reacting that way. But the seeds of depression remain. Any advice how/whether I can get over it?
— Still Depressed
Your achievements reflect your right to proud self-esteem: A happy marriage, impending parenthood, the backing of a good education and job.
Your parents did their best to support your ambitions. Their happiness about your then-girlfriend was natural, not shameful. What’s good in your life today began with their early values and hard work, followed by your own.
Forgive your self-imposed sense of guilt. If you need ongoing help, talk to a mental-health specialist about long-simmering guilt feelings.
Regarding the man who loved his ex-fiancée and his wife (June 28):
“This cannot be true love. He wrote: “… we were forced not to marry by her parents.”
“When I was 16, I fell in love with a 20-year-old woman. My very religious family were adamantly opposed. My father threw me out of his home on a cold winter night.
“When I returned several days later for some possessions, he called the police. They said that they’d gladly arrest me if I left. One raised his arm to me and said my father should discipline me. I was a university student and went to the university student services, then began proceedings to be declared a ward of the courts under the Youth Protection Act and given a court-ordered curfew. If I broke even the smallest rule I’d be picked up by police and taken to a teen detention centre.
“After a family-court hearing, interviews with court and university psychiatrists, social worker visits, etc. I was “a ward of the court,” permitted to leave home, and appointed a probation officer until I was 18.
“If I could do all this at 16, how could two adults claim “true love” yet offer so little resistance to both their families’ adverse wishes?”
Ellie: There are different factors: The earlier letter-writer faced false accusations and disapproval from both families. His reputation was ruined, and both he and his fiancée suffered severe health effects (she became clinically depressed, he kept passing out).
Your story is of a determined fighter, unafraid of your father, nor the strict mandates of your family’s religion.
Your battle wasn’t only about true love. It was a survival fight for freedom from a cruel father.
Regarding the popularity of ancestor searches:
“Many of my friends have pursued their family history, but growing up knowing only parents, me and my sister, I wasn’t interested.
“Then a distant cousin sent information about our family - over 20 descendants’ names from two separate branches of ancestors! Despite mis-spellings of our original name, and birth countries we’d never known about, it was fascinating! I recommend an ancestry search to your readers.”
Ellie: This has happened in my own family and has been
personally rewarding. While some discovered names were familiar, an online “get-together,” revealed cousins who I’d only met rarely, though in this city, re-opening a connection.
I’ve recently exchanged emails with an American cousin who writes impressive opinion pieces for a number of publications. With the US providing plenty of material for debate, I feel proud of her work and we plan to meet as soon as practically possible.
Ellie’s tip of the day
Awkward moments from one’s past are often misinterpreted in memory. Focus on present happiness.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.