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Keren Smedley

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A member of the organisation I work in, dislikes me. How do I get round this? - July, 2016

I belong to an organisation that is important to me. One of the members there seems to dislike me and this makes life very difficult; it’s most dispiriting. How do I get round this?
Name withheld

Keren’s reply:

I wonder what they do that makes you feel they dislike you? Now, think about how you feel about them and what makes you like or, more probably, dislike them. See if you can see where your two reactions mirror each other. Very often, when we think someone dislikes us, it’s because they exhibit some traits that we don’t like in ourselves. We then project these feelings onto them. Knowing this may help you to resolve things in yourself so you become less conscious of these traits and can focus on the areas which you like.

Even if you understand it better, it would still be good if the two of you had a conversation. It won’t be a surprise to this person that you’re feeling uncomfortable. I expect they have similar feelings. But what they don’t yet know is that you want to resolve this. Just the act of raising it will help break the ice. You can then suggest you meet and talk through the issues you have with one another. Unless this is resolved, it will be very difficult to stay active in the organisation as you’ll be more focused on this negative relationship than your role there.

If you don’t think you can do this yourself, I suggest you ask another neutral person if they could join you in the discussion. Explain that the reason you want to sort things out is for the organisation. You’re not suggesting you become best friends but that you’re finding it hard to fully participate as you feel anxious and hurt by the relationship. Focus on the outcome rather than the individual. That way, it becomes less personal and it will help to make the conversation easier. If, after this, things don’t improve, you may want to consider leaving, sad as that will be. Being in a place where there are negative feelings towards you is never healthy.

 

I don't want my ageing parents to be a burden - July, 2016

In 2012, I moved away to somewhere I’ve also wanted to live. My mother is 85 and has started to suffer from short-term memory loss which manifests itself in repeating questions and also phoning frequently which can be awkward because I teach at home. I’m happy to be in contact although not three or four times a week. I need some privacy having lived in the parental home until I was 40. In my mid-50s, I feel I do have the right to some space and to maintain distance without prying questions asking about my personal life. I don’t want my aging parents to become a burden. Name witheld

Keren’s reply:
You raise a situation that sadly is increasingly common. The onset of dementia brings for many a feeling of anxiety and loss as they become aware they’re beginning to forget things and to feel confused. When we’re fearful, most of us turn to the closest people and for your mother you are obviously one of them. She’s not doing it to annoy or to be intrusive; she just can’t help it. Asking her to stop is one possibility but I don’t expect she’d be able to do this even if she agreed. You could talk to your father about this if you think he can help but, if you feel this might just burden him, I suggest you leave him out of the problem solving. So, what are the things you can do yourself? One course of action would be to regulate the calls to when you’re free to talk. Invest in an answerphone and call your mother back when you have time. I also think you’d benefit from talking to Age UK; you can contact them via www.ageuk They’ll have come across this often and will have strategies and ideas you can implement. I think it’s really good that you’re looking to explore ways to manage this so you can remain close with your parents and enjoy the relationship without it becoming too much of a strain. Many don’t manage this and it leads to everyone being unhappy.

 

Finances - June 22, 2014

About to lose my job and have no savings and have debts. Losing job due to bullying at work but difficult to prove, now disciplinary against me which is not fair. Really worried about the future as still have one year on the mortgage to pay. Would like to be my own boss but lack the confidence to secure the same income as earning in education. Help!
Dave

Keren’s reply:
Hi I am sorry you are having such a difficult time. If you think you’ve been unfairly dismissed you can follow this up with an external organisation. Are you a member of a union? If so they will be able to help you. If not you can get advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). They have a guide you can download http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/wales/work_w/work_work_comes_to_an_end_e/dismissal.htm, which will tell you what you can do and where you can get further help.

They will also be able to advise you about managing your debts and signpost you to local organisations that can help you to look at re payment methods. Your mortgage company may be willing to give you a ‘holiday’ from payments while you get back on your feet.

You say you would like to start your own business, do you know what you would like to do? Again I’d start by looking for some more information on how to go about this. https://www.gov.uk/starting-up-a-business/start-with-an-idea is a good place to start. The information will give you ideas and direct you to local places that can help you. Another very helpful organisation Is Prime. http://www.prime.org.uk . They are part of the Prince’s trust and help the over 50s to set up their own businesses. They offer information, run courses and opportunities to network. Talking to others who are doing the same thing is very helpful. You may even meet someone who’d like to set up a joint venture with you.

It takes time to get a business going so it may be worth thinking about working part –time while you start your venture and then as it grows you can reduce the amount you work. I wish you well with your new venture.

My husband is checking out explicit websites - July 27, 2015

I was divorced in 2001 and then remarried in 2009 after meeting in 2005. I discovered a few years ago my husband was checking out porn websites – some of a nature I found disturbing (not child based) He vowed never to do this again. I suppose you will have guessed that I have discovered not only is he doing this again (using a local “sex for sale” site, he has been phoning & texting some of the ladies on the site. When confronted, he again vowed he was just curious and had not met or even actually spoken to, any of the persons listed. I explained that this hurts me and I can’t understand why he is doing this, although I know member people use porn I can’t understand the need to phone or text (naive I know) I stayed outwardly calm and explained I want to face this together and build on a good foundation to our marriage. Again he promised not to be so stupid, but I have found he is still visiting this site and I am scared he has or will take this further despite me finally breaking down in tears and asking him for the full story.

 

How do people cope with this seeming addiction – can it be all innocent as he claims?
L

Keren’s reply:
I wonder what he means as ‘all innocent’? Does he mean because he’s not having an affair with someone that it’s Ok. You’ve made it very clear to him that for you this is not acceptable behaviour and it hurts. He is continuing to do the very thing that upsets you and to hide it from you. Relationships are built on trust and we need to be able to be open and honest with each other. While he is doing something ‘behind your back’ it can only reduce trust and make you feel uncomfortable.

Porn has become much more readily available since the arrival of the internet and many men, not all, are drawn to these sites. This doesn’t mean that looking at porn is a good or healthy activity. Looking at images and being aroused by others will without doubt have an effect on their real relationships. The people they watch and talk to are not ‘real’ in the sense that they are not part of their everyday life but just exist in a fantasy world. Your husband clearly feels he has a need that isn’t being addressed and he believes that watching porn and talking to women on the site is fulfilling his need whilst not causing you harm. Clearly that is not the case.

I think you would benefit from some couple counselling where you can talk through these issues and find a way to re connect in your marriage in a way that meets both your needs. A good place to start to find someone is Relate www. relate.org.uk

I have just turned 53 and feel my life is over - March 11, 2013

I have just turned 53 and feel my life is over. I am menopausal so assume all these feelings I have are related or maybe I am depressed. Do you think you could help with these symptoms? I have been like this for ages now.

 

Feeling old and ugly
No motivation
No energy
Feel there is no point learning anything new as I am now too old to start a home business
Terrible anxiety
Just want to sit on my own
Unable to find any work to fit around my 11 year old and partners shifts.

I would love to start my own natural skin care range from home, I am qualified but am scared. I worry what if I did something wrong and caused a problem for somebody. I hate driving anywhere as I worry I will be killed and my little boy won’t have a mum
Karen.

Keren’s reply:
Of course you can be helped. No problem is insurmountable, we just need to know how to overcome them. It sounds to me as though you’re in a cycle of anxiety and everything appears to be a danger or insurmountable. For example, when you get into the car you have a choice about your thoughts. You can think, ‘oh no I could be killed’ or, ‘how lovely I’m able to drive home and get home earlier to see my son’.

We have full control over our heads so we can choose which scenario we are going to play. When we are in the habit of having negative thoughts it’s hard to think of something positive.

I suggest you take yourself off somewhere quiet and think of five times when you have had a really good time. Take yourself back there as though you are there now and re-live these experiences. I expect once you‘ve done this you’ll feel so much better. Every time you have a negative feeling change your thoughts to the positive ones and you’ll find yourself feeling very differently about yourself.

You have raised a number of issues in your letter and there are lots of techniques and strategies you can use to build your confidence and reduce your anxiety. In my book, ‘Who’s that woman in the Mirror- the art of ageing gracefully’ I suggest a number of things I think you’d find helpful. I also think you‘d benefit from some personal 1:1 sessions.

Please contact me if you‘d like to arrange these.

I'm a 60 year old man and want to re-marry. My son's won't talk to me - February 12, 2013

I’m a 60-year-old man and have two sons in their mid-30s. Their mother died a few years ago. Two years ago, I met one of my son’s work friends and I started going out with her. She’s 37 and both my sons are horrified. They think I’ve behaved really badly and betrayed their trust. My oldest son won’t even talk to me and the youngest is distant with me. I really believe that I love my new partner, I want to spend the rest of my life with her and marry her. Do you think I should I give her up to please my children?
Paul

Keren’s reply:
As parents, none of us wants to upset our children. However, we do have to think about ourselves and do what is best for us. You make a valid point that you don’t want to be alone and love your new partner. I understand your children being surprised that you’ve chosen someone their age but I wonder what they’re really upset about. Losing a parent is very hard and so is watching a parent make a new life with someone else. They probably feel that this undermines the memory of their mother. In your case, I expect your boys feel this even more strongly as you’ve chosen a younger woman. They may also still have been grieving when you met your new partner and it had all happened too soon..

The only way this will be resolved is by having an open and honest talk with your sons. If they don’t want to talk to you, write to them. Tell them how much you love them and the last thing you’d ever want to do is to hurt them. But, you need to make a new life now their mother is no longer alive. You aren’t replacing her by finding a new partner. Sometimes it’s hard to talk alone. Are there any family members who can help you and facilitate the conversation? If not, there are family mediators who would be able to help you to have this very important talk.