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Sunday, 8 June 2014

Dear Thelma: Challenging choices

A concerned aunt is worried about her niece's new relationship with a divorced man. 

My niece is smart, successful and pretty. She is 27 and has a successful career in finance. Recently, we learnt that she has broken up with her equally successful boyfriend, and is now dating a divorcee with two young daughters.

Her mother and I are quite upset, as we feel that she could have gotten any man she wanted. The new boyfriend is about her age, and from what we’ve heard, also successful in the financial world. But we are worried that he comes with “baggage”, since his daughters are still young, aged five and seven. 

At her age, my niece should focus on building her career, and not be distracted by having to mind two young girls. How should we advise her? — Disappointed Aunt

Thelma's reply: 

Your anxieties are not unfounded. As far as you are concerned, your niece deserves nothing but the best.

However, you have to come to terms with the fact that what you want for her is not what she wants for herself. You also have to accept that your niece is an adult and you are going to have to trust her to make the right decisions for herself.

The appeal of a divorced man is understandable. He is in a stable position. And, you have mentioned that he is equally successful in his career in finance. He probably has a property of his own.

He has gone past all the relationship “games” and is probably looking to settle down with someone who is his equal. He may also have committed all his big mistakes with someone else and won’t want to repeat them with the next person he gets into a relationship with. For someone who has just broken up for reasons that she and he alone know, this all sounds very inviting.

You are afraid that her career may be encumbered by her boyfriend’s two young daughters. But, just think about it for a bit. She is going to face similar, if not the same, challenges were she to have her own child after marriage. So, what is it that you are really concerned about?

The fact is that even in this day and age, there is a lot of stigma regarding divorced persons. There is the belief that they are scarred and tainted, and thus should be shunned. There is speculation of what happened in the previous marriage, or rumours about he did this or she said that. People talk and that becomes uncomfortable.

Both men and women are not free from these preconceived ideas. Women have it worse.

In our society, there is still an unsaid expectation that women should be virgins when they marry and a divorced woman is obviously not one. So, then she becomes available to other men. Even worse, she is labelled an unfit woman as she has gone against that holy grail of expectations of women – that of having to protect the sanctity of marriage even at the cost of her own safety.

Don’t divorced people deserve to find happiness through relationships with others? Are they not allowed to move on and build new families? If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that all families are complicated. This just adds a new dimension which, if handled well, can be managed.

Perhaps, we may even be getting ahead of ourselves. Your niece is in a relationship with this man but there is no indication yet where this will head.

Get to know him and try to gauge his character. There is nothing wrong in wanting to know why his previous marriage didn’t work out. It would also be a good way to know a thing or two about him to find out what his relationship with his ex-wife is like. If they are able to have a positive relationship, it may indicate his maturity and point to his ability to deal with very tricky situations.

It may also be good to find out what your niece finds attractive about this man. Knowing that may indicate to you what she is looking for in a life partner.

The best thing you can do for your niece is to be there for her. Accept her decision and the direction in which she would like to take her life. If you support her, she is more likely to trust you and whatever advice you give her. And, if you would like to advise her, you have to be sure that it is free of prejudice, and it is purely for her own good and nothing else.

Is something bothering you? Do you need a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on? Thelma is here to help. Write to: 

Dear Thelma,
c/o Star2, Menara Star,
15, Jalan 16/11,
46350 Petaling Jaya,

or e-mail

Please include your full name and address, and a pseudonym. No private correspondence will be entertained. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, usefulness, fitness for any particular purpose or other assurances as to the opinions and views expressed in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses suffered directly or indirectly arising from reliance on such opinions and views.

Tags / Keywords: Lifestyle , Thelma , niece , relationship


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