Hello Pastor Philip,
I am 30 and just started dating a woman who told me that her parents separated when she was in primary school. She is proud of her mother’s achievements as a single mother. I think that what the mother has done is commendable. She struggled single-handedly till her daughter graduated from college. My worry is since she has seen all this happening, she is cold when it comes to opening up on my relationship with her. I love her; she loves me too; we communicate a lot but I am afraid this fact of having a separated family has changed the way she views relationships or even marriages. How can I change her broken perception about relationships?
Divorce or separation is more common today than ever before. I am glad that your view of her feelings towards her mother is positive. Single parenthood is not easy. Her mother has shown that focus and hard work pay. Regardless of what transpired, she chose to make the best of it. Your duty will be to help your girl gain confidence in talking about her past with the aim of restoration and healing.
I suggest that you do not use her vulnerable moments to take advantage of her emotionally or sexually. Women can be quite vulnerable when they trust their partners. Her current apprehension could indeed have something to do with her background. For example, how did she view the relationship between her father and mother? Could she have been carrying deflected pain? What she saw happen in her parent’s home could have stayed in her subconscious and resurfaced when triggered by something or a certain statement or action.
Remember that your perception of her will impact your expectations concerning her. Perception plays a big role in how we choose to relate to someone. This includes how we react to their emotions and patterns of behaviour. Of course, the separation of her parents impacted her. And do remember, she was quite young then.
The issues of concern then for you would be: First, to discover how the separation affected her—both positively and negatively. Second, how to ride on the information you get relating to her without allowing fear or misinformation from others to misdirect you.
How marriage was modelled before a child is key. The issue of modelling and how that could negatively or positively impact the way young people like your new girlfriend will be important to review as you relate to her. In one of my earlier articles in this column, I said that due to negative role modelling and wrong parenting, many young people grow up with an unhealthy view on relationships, causing some to avoid relationships totally for fear of facing the pain they saw or were exposed to in the home. For your girlfriend, the negative view could be that marital relationships don’t last, are fake, and brutal. As a result, some would rather stay single than live in a prison called marriage. However, your girlfriend seems to be of a different opinion since she seems to enjoy being with you.
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It could just be that as trust develops, you will be on a path of finally winning her over. That is why patience is a virtue is key in relationships.
In addition, any underlying negative psychological impact due to certain actions, behaviours or habits exhibited by any of the parents in the past like abuse, you should be willing to support her walk the road of healing. If you find her help, slowly but surely, her negative view of relationships will be erased. Fear can affect her ability to process life issues objectively and possibly become apprehensive on topics related to relationships. Given what I said, I would like to suggest the following tips that will help you build a healthy relationship leading to marriage someday.
First, build a positive environment of trust between the two of you and her mother if you get to meet her. Build a relationship on full disclosure without forcing issues to be discussed. Discover the things that make you different. Ensure the environment allows her to be herself.
Does she feel physically safe? In case you are arguing on an issue, does she feel scared? Does she fear or respect you? The environment must be such that she feels comfortable and supported when sharing her opinions.
Second, seek to be patient and don’t be in a hurry to make things work. The disclosure that results in healing takes time. It is possible to desire quick change. When she takes control of her life without being a victim of the past, she will make an effort to move towards positive change even when the change looks scary. Third, be wise in the timing and how you ask questions. Don’t overload her with many questions. Giving her time to process through issues helps her see things.
Be assured instead of being judgemental when she looks like she is taking time. Fourth, be a good model that marriage works and that love is real. Help her see the future in the relationship by seeing a future with you. Are there things you agreed on that reflect a safe future together?
Make sure her feelings, opinions and ideas are considered and affirmed. Your future together is tied in the fact that you are not the type who will compromise by seeking to take advantage of her vulnerabilities.
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