Dear Ellie: My friend, late 40s and attractive, has never married, never had children. She recently confided that she spent seven years with a man who wanted to marry her, and she did wish to have children.
But as her partner achieved business success, his values were changing: “He was impressed by different things from what seemed important to me.”
I was struck by her independence and foresight. I’ve known so many women who’d rush to marry a successful man, especially if they were eager for motherhood. But this woman assessed the future and declined. Meanwhile, her ex has been married twice since their break-up.
What makes one woman look ahead with clear vision while another leaps into marriage?
Few people committing to marriage actually weigh all the pros and cons. We can’t, because not only is the future unknown, but the impact of a person’s past upbringing, experiences, personal growth or lack thereof, are rarely revealed until much time together has passed during the marriage — for better or worse.
Your friend had something in her own background that caused her to look closer, weigh what she saw, and make a choice for an unknown time, of not having children.
With many years ahead, she may yet choose another course or a different partner.
Dear Ellie: I have a senior relative who’s always been averse to overweight people. I struggle constantly with weight. This older relative is forcefully into body-shaming. It’s her power trip. Though I’ve tried unsuccessfully to explain the many factors, including genetics, that contribute to one’s weight, she lacks empathy and doesn’t listen.
She’ll say, “Well, I just cut back on what I eat,” implying that those of us who struggle with weight are irresponsible. Yet my intake is currently under 1200 calories daily.
I could cope with her attitude but it now involves my U.S.-based family too. My son’s wife is a big woman, five-foot-ten, but she’s not morbidly obese.
She doesn’t appear uncomfortable about her weight. She’s very successful in management, so it’s not holding her back. When they can eventually visit here, I’d like to have a family dinner. But I won’t, because the extended family are all the body-shaming woman’s relatives.
They’re the only family we have here. None have met my daughter-in-law but I won’t provide fodder for them to insult her because she’s a lovely person.
I’ve greatly diminished contact with the once-close senior relative. If I were to say that body-shaming is akin to bullying, she’d adamantly deny she did it. I’m concluding that distancing is the only solution. Any suggestions?
Won’t Accept Bullying
Once someone’s bullying you, the word “family” no longer applies except on birth records. You wouldn’t accept any other form of bullying. Also, body/fat-shaming is especially cruel because it masquerades as “helpful,” claiming to motivate people to eat less. But, according to healthline.com (updated February 27, 2019), “stigma and discrimination against overweight people cause major psychological harm and worsen the problem.”
Fortunately, you already refuse to allow this woman to continue bullying you and/or those you love. As a result, distancing is the logical solution.
But since all relations with family on that side may be affected, think it through while large gatherings are still restricted.
Your daughter-in-law sounds self-assured. Consider telling her ahead that this relative has upset you about your weight and you’ve distanced for that reason, but will introduce her to relatives if she’s interested.
Feedback: Here are more reader-recommended books on parenting techniques, as requested by me following a letter-writer’s concern about rude, unruly children (May 13):
Reader: I recommend Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About Raising Children, by Michealeen Doucleff. If I were raising children right now, I’d employ the philosophy she shares in her book. It makes so much sense and it’s the way many cultures raise their children to be kind, co-operative and responsible.
Reader 2: Supernanny by Jo Frost. https://g.co/kgs/DsFYL4
This book saved my parenting sanity when I had a two-year-old and a baby. She has simple, effective strategies on every important topic from tantrums to sleep to eating. She talks about understanding what children need and why.
My kids are now very well-adjusted, happy teenagers, 15 and 17, and I give Jo a lot of the credit. I’ve been forever grateful.
Ellie’s tip of the day
Though love and marriage may be highly compelling, take stock of what you see and expect, then give it your all if you proceed.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.