Ask Ellie: Woman’s recovery story inspires

Dear Readers: Today, Valentine’s Day, is a holiday long associated with romance, and gifts related to arousal (lingerie, perfume, chocolate).

I’ll leave that to commercial purveyors of those items.

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For me, the following story from a reader about love and what it takes to convey it, is the best Valentine’s inspiration I can give to us all:

Reader: “I’m a woman who became upset with my physical self when I reached my late 40s.

“Suddenly, I experienced menopause, with its hot sweats that required me to change the bed sheets in mid-sleep, with the slowdown of my libido, and with the appearance of age lines on my face.

“I used to be self-confident, upbeat and active. But edginess and discontent became apparent whenever my partner and I discussed almost any topic.

“The result was increasing tension between us.

“When the pipes burst during a cold spell, and the car needed expensive repairs, I’d be gloom-and-doom and resent his attempts to cheer me.

“Fortunately, even I couldn’t put up with the changes in me. I finally went to my family doctor, then a menopause specialist and followed whatever advice worked for me.

“I returned to the fitness routines that had kept me energized and positive in the past.

“I found a counsellor whom I felt “got” me and helped me (the first one I tried was not a good “fit” so I persisted in my search).

“With huge gratitude, I came to once again realize how lucky I am to be loved by my partner, to live a full life as parents, friends and lovers together, and to grow old with him.

“We still have some house/car problems, I still have worry lines, our two daughter keep us busy trying to guide them wisely. But we’re a loving team again.”

Reader’s commentary regarding co-parenting with a narcissist (Jan. 22):

“My ex-husband is a narcissist, too. He’s brilliant and charming, but flies into a rage when he believes someone has insulted or disrespected him.

“When I agreed to a 50 per cent co-parenting arrangement, I felt tremendous fear and guilt for leaving my child alone with this volatile man who’d caused me so much pain.

“But his relationship with his daughter is different from his relationship with me. He despises me, but is a loving and engaged father.

“Seven years have gone by, and our daughter is well- adjusted and thriving. Here’s what I’ve done:

1. I look after my own mental health. The blog, survivingnarcissism.com, helped a lot. With therapy, meditation, and time, I learned to see my ex with compassion and forgiveness. It’s hard to live with him, but I think it must be so much harder to BE him.

2. I model healthy emotional regulation for my daughter. If I’m stressed, angry or upset, I’ll say so. And I’ll say what I’m going to do to deal with it, e.g. take a walk, talk to a friend, go for a run, etc.

3. I ensure that my daughter has a support network of friends and extended family.

4. I allow my daughter to love her father. She shouldn’t feel like she has to choose between us.

5. I remain calmly supportive when my daughter’s frustrated with her dad. She’s developed good strategies for weathering the occasional storm.

“It’s not easy. But it’s do-able. My daughter appears more emotionally intelligent than I was at the same age. Her struggles won’t be the same as mine.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

The message of Valentine’s Day is to keep love and partnership foremost in your relationship, beyond material gifts.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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