Apr 4, 2012

Should one stay on in a relationship out of duty?

This is a line in a song called That Old Devil Called Love sung by Shirley Horn; a poignant piece of music, especially for some of us who have separated from a loved one. Parting is hard but it is sometimes the best thing for a long-standing relationship where you want the friendship but not the sex. Is it fair to the other party, and should one stay out of duty or be true to oneself?

We know during the first year of a relationship whether we have made a mistake, but we continue on. Our feelings warn us, but we keep hoping our thinking will change. Sometimes we have extreme moments of clarity, but we think of the children, we think of the cost of living with a single paycheck, and we think that we are being selfish to even think of leaving a good man like that. So do you stay because he’s a good man? Will you fake the next forty years of your life?

Sometimes people leave because they are by nature wanderers, nomads, and cannot be in one spot or with one person forever. I have a 70 year old Norwegian friend called Ulf. He is in Cape Town now passing through and is staying with me for four days. Ulf has had four wives, has five children, the youngest of which is three. Ulf spends eight months of the year traveling, a few weeks with one daughter in Trondheim, a few weeks with the other daughter in Oslo, a few months with his wife in Beijing and the rest of the time on his own in Trondheim. He is a walker, talker, writer, professor, mountain climber, sailor, enjoying all the fruits of culture and nature, and this afternoon walked from Plumstead to Mowbray to go to the bank.

Is it fair for a partner to watch this kind of relationship and be satisfied? Ulf is like a waft of warm air when he arrives; you feel the draft when he leaves. As for Ulf, who says he is an atheist and does not believe, he is the best of believers because he loves all God’s creatures, helps people, and is a great friend. There are many reasons people have for wanting out of a marriage, including friendships with other people and not wanting to be controlled. Ulf will go back to Norway and trundle through the thick snow in the forest with twelve year old daughter Celeste and I will carry on with my work. Who can understand this? They’ll throw out the old Viking helmet and all.


Determining whether a relationship is worth continuing

Are you dating the same man as ten years ago, nothing much is rocking your boat, things seem to have settled into a Ma and Pa Kettle kind of relationship, without kids, and you are wondering whether there is more? There is more, but there is also a lot less. Your life is boring, you do the same things every day, and now and again you just wish some exciting thing would sweep you off your feet. That usually means some physical distraction. And also means that the two of you have taken each other for granted and allowed the relationship to flounder. No worries. If your partner is good to you and at one time knocked your socks off, there is room to improve the relationship by stepping out of the box and changing a few things. If you are the kind of person to make a list, here it is.

• Plan your shower just before he arrives home from work and greet him in a soft white towel with your hair wet and just combed out. Use your favorite fragrance soap and brush your teeth even though you have not had supper yet. Men like sexual surprise and you would be the one who has initiated it – which is one of his best surprises. A man gets a real kick when the woman initiates things in the bedroom. And the bedroom is still the best place where great deals are negotiated between mates.

• Have his favorite meal ready in the oven and suggest that the two of you go bowling with friends. He will have renewed energy as he is sated and filled with affection. Watch a movie about lions in the Serengeti and see how the females snuggle up around the male. They are bonding animals.

• Try and change some of the usual routine of movies on a Saturday night and falling asleep on the couch by playing a game you have made up entirely by suggesting you go to a bar separately and he picks you up at the bar as if you were a stranger and you play out the whole scene. The anticipation in the car will be electric as you will have to wait until you get back home to consummate what you feel.

There are many things you can do in this vein as long as you remember that one has to stoke the fires periodically. Men love sex; that’s just the truth of it. And they love it when they least expect it. Don’t be predictable; let him know that he still has what it takes to be a first rate mate.


When will daddy come home?

Hearing these words from a young child must create the most hollow, empty and helpless feeling in the world. A mother despairs. She herself suffers a myriad of emotions and is trying to grapple with the new situation. Being a child and hearing that his father will no longer live with them feels like a living death. Are they to blame? Did they cause it? A child might fear that his father will stop loving him. This is not a time for blame. The child must be reassured that he had nothing to do with the breakup. Here are some tips and advice to help you and the kids through this difficult time.

• You can only be there for yourself so you can help your children through this unhappy period. Women who have young children and have experienced divorce know the feeling. They know the pain and know that this is not something that passes easily. When you wake up in the morning you are faced with the situation. Your kids depend on you. They have only you to turn to and so you must be strong to help them.

• In all your conversations with the children, be honest when they ask questions and listen to them. Tell them the truth. Don’t tell them what their father did as you don’t want to add to their sorrow. Always have a visual picture of their faces before you.

• Daddy will not come home, you must tell them upfront. They cannot avoid the subject and you must not either. You must be seen to be strong. They must not get the sense that you can’t cope for you can and just must get through it. Separation and divorce are hard subjects for adults, let alone children – so be truthful.

• Spend as much time with them in the beginning and put each one to bed separately and spend a few extra minutes. Tell them that you and their father have decided not to live together anymore and that their father will see them on weekends and holidays when they can sleep over at his house.

• Most importantly, tell them that their father loves them and will be at all their school functions and activities. Nothing will change between them except that they will sleep in different homes.