"This year has been hell" – Dr Louise answer’s your burning questions

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(Photo:Gallo Images/ Getty Images)
(Photo:Gallo Images/ Getty Images)

THIS HAS BEEN A YEAR FROM HELL 

I have found this year extremely traumatic. At the beginning of the year I had high hopes for my life. I was planning my wedding and on the verge of sending out invitations as I was supposed to get married in October. Then, on Valentine’s Day, my fiancé ended our relationship and we called the wedding off.  

A week later, my grandmother died. Soon afterwards I was invited to visit a close friend in the US, then lockdown happened. In April my dog died. Then I met a guy who I felt could come to mean something to me but two weeks later he told me he was getting married – something that he didn’t disclose when we met. In fact, he’d talked about us possibly having a future together. 

In October, my mom was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and we were told she didn’t have more than six months to live. I’m devastated and feel like I have no more hope or energy to deal with the things life is throwing at me. What can I do? 

– Alison, email 

Dr Louise’s advice

Sometimes it feels as if life’s challenges are too difficult to overcome, but this is when you need to use your support systems – your friends, your faith, and even a therapist. Harness your inner strength. 

Your attraction to the guy you met recently may simply be because you felt alone and vulnerable so it may be for the best that the relationship didn’t develop further. Try to find the “positive” in the negative experiences you’ve had this year. The fact that your fiancé broke off the engagement means he wasn’t really invested in the relationship and it was better to be made aware of that before getting married. Losing your grandmother was sad, but focus on the fact that you had the chance to know and love her and to experience how special she was and how much she meant to you. The same with your dog – that connection was special. Perhaps you should consider getting another dog.  

While your mother’s illness is another traumatic experience, at least you have some time to be with her and can make it special. Life has many sad and painful moments, but we must appreciate the good moments amid these because that is what gives us strength. If you’re really struggling, consult with a psychologist to get some help in navigating this difficult time. 

I CAN’T BEAR MY HUSBAND TOUCHING ME 

Just after lockdown, a new guy joined the company I work for. From the moment we met I knew there was magic between us and our feelings for each other have deepened.  

I’ve been married for four years and have found lockdown with my husband difficult as it has emphasised the fact that we’re not really compatible. I’m a nature lover while he hates being outdoors and is a nerd who only wants to play computer games. He can’t stand my dog and has no feelings for animals. Now that I’ve met this guy I’m experiencing for the first time what it’s like to be with someone who enjoys the same things I do and has the same interests and passions. The problem is now I can’t tolerate my husband even touching me. He wants to start a family and I pretended that I wanted a child but I really don’t. What should I do?  

- Lynette, email 

Dr Louise’s advice

You need to be brutally honest with yourself about whether you want to end your marriage. Keep the new guy out of the equation when you think about this. You should not end your marriage because of him or for him. If you do end your marriage it must be because you genuinely believe you and your husband are not compatible and that your interests are worlds apart. Do not bargain on having a relationship with this new guy if you end your marriage. You need to think about it like this: even if nothing happens between you and this guy in the future, do you still want to end your marriage? 

If you’re certain your marriage has no future, you have to tell your husband that you don’t think the two of you are compatible and also that you don’t want to have a child. If you don’t want your husband even to touch you, it’s unfair to pretend you want to have a baby. 

 ‘It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages’– Friedrich NIETZSCHE, GERMAN PHILOSOPHER

WHY DOES RETRENCHMENT HIT SO HARD?

 I’m an engineer and thought I had a scarce skill but was nevertheless retrenched during lockdown. I was devastated and went into a depression for a while. Then I started designing things as I’m good at invention.  

I’ve now patented two of my inventions and sold them for a substantial amount of money. I’m starting a company which will focus on designing things needed in the industry and am very excited about the future. The best thing is I’m now my own boss and can’t be retrenched again. 

I felt things were so bad months ago, but now they’re great. Why do you feel so inadequate and useless when you’re retrenched even when you know you’re innovative and have a lot to offer?  

- Richard, email 

Dr Louise’s advice

Retrenchment is often perceived as a rejection of the person and their abilities when it mostly doesn’t have anything to do with that at all. So when someone is retrenched they tend to see it as an indication that they’re not good enough even though they understand the reasons why their employer has taken these steps. 

This is because we are vulnerable to the perceived impressions of others. Of course, the emphasis is on “perceived” since the impression other people have of us may differ from what we think they think of us! It’s only when a person realises that who and what they are isn’t dependent on other people that they can rise above this narrow framework and work towards self-actualisation – which is what you did. You realised your own potential and focused on that – and that’s what brought you success. 

Write to Dr Louise, PO Box 39410, Moreletapark 0044,or email info@drlouise.co.za.

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