Q: My sister’s started seeing someone 15 years older than her. Am I wrong to find this weird?
A: No, it’s worth wondering about. But without judgment, why would we say that any relationship between consenting adults is wrong?
With the rising awareness brought about by the Me Too movement, the stereotype of an older powerful man and a younger beautiful woman is easy to see as an expression of sexism – or “traditional values”. It can also feel – well – a bit creepy.
But most of this isn’t about the age difference – it’s about power. A healthy intimate relationship is one between equals, and age can easily skew this, to one where one party has more financial, emotional or assumed power. And power imbalances can easily slide into control.
And this should be easy to tell if your sister is with her equal – in fact you already know if he treats her with respect. And if you’re not sure, you can always ask her.
Q: Ever since people started talking about the new strains of Covid-19 I’ve found I’m back to worrying about the virus, even though I know I’m being ridiculous. How can I stop worrying?
A: You’re not being ridiculous, it is terrifying. Whether or not the fear is real isn’t the problem. The pandemic has thrown all of us into periods of anxiety, and while we can count ourselves lucky on our little South Pacific life raft, it’s not unreasonable to find it all a bit harrowing.
But worrying is a different thing – that’s getting stuck on fear – our mind wanders to an imagined fearful future. And it’s understandable we worry as a way to try and control and prepare for a future that hasn’t yet arrived.
So, practise distracting in the present moment. Find things that engage you and that you enjoy. And if your mind drifts to worries just notice – gently and kindly – “I’m having some worry thoughts” and bring your attention back to the present.
Because while Covid is scary – it’s also true that right now, as I write this, we’re okay.
Q: My partner complains I’m always grumpy when I get home from work, I like my job but it is stressful. What can I do to shake off work quicker?
A: Willpower is a funny thing. It depletes throughout the day, and as a consequence holding it together gets harder.
Lots of people struggle with the transition from work to home, and what you’re noticing is in many ways a good sign about your home life.
It’s like the adult version of the post-school meltdown by kids. Throughout the day we all hold it in, bite our tongue rather than tell our boss to f*** off. This takes effort. We relax when we get home because we feel safe and no longer need to behave.
Now, this doesn’t excuse it. So it’s important to use the time on the way home to bring the tension down. Driving in traffic can wind us up – walking, biking or even sitting quietly on public transport can be helpful time out. Or if you are driving, wind the music up, wind down the windows and focus on the present.
Q: My five-year relationship ended a couple of months ago, and I’m still struggling. My friends say I need to move on, but I’m not ready to see anyone else. Should I see other people?
A: Sorry to hear of your break-up, but you certainly won’t lack advice on this one. There are plenty of so-called rules about how long you should wait before getting into another relationship.
Ignore all of it.
The most important thing (okay, don’t ignore this advice) is to give yourself space to grieve and listen to your feelings. Some people come out of relationships having already grieved before separating, others only start to accept it once it is over.
This can also depend on who ended it.
And if there’s one piece of advice to completely ignore it’s that you need to “love yourself before you can love anyone else”.
Nothing wrong with being on your own – but you don’t need to fix yourself before you get into a relationship. A good healthy, loving relationship helps us learn about ourselves and love ourselves – through being loved. I think it’s the only thing that can.
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