QUESTION: We have a 21-year-old granddaughter I’ll call Cammy living with us who is just not motivated to do anything. She barely made it through high school. She doesn’t even keep her room clean, so I clean it because I can’t stand a dirty house. She’s not looking for a job, which is frustrating to her mother who lives in another area. The problem is Grandpa who keeps giving her money.
What can we say to him to help him understand he’s not helping her by making life too easy? I ask myself what will happen to her when we’re not around. Any ideas on how to get Cammy on the right track?
~ Exasperated Granny
Dear Exasperated Granny,
I do not wish to cast aspersions on your family or make anybody feel guilty. But the fact that the grandparents are raising Cammy points to what I assume was either an unfit mother or father or both. The reason I mention the possibility is that down deep Cammy may feel unwanted and unloved, and such feelings may be hard if not impossible to overcome. Thank you, grandparents, for raising her; a friend of mine from college and his wife are raising their grandkids, and I know of some grandparents here locally who are doing the same thing – raising their grandchildren for whatever reason.
Now to the problem: Cammy may be unmotivated because she suffers from depression. Have you checked into seeing a psychotherapist? He/she may have some insight. Grandpa, I know you love Cammy, but giving her money can’t buy her love, as the Beatles sang one time. You may feel bad for her, but maybe you need to try a little “tough love” and set some limits as to how long she gets to ride the gravy train. How about saying the following: “Cammy, we love you and we want the best for you. But you can’t stay here forever. For one thing, we won’t be here forever! So … by next August at this time, you will need to have found a job and to have found another place to live. We may be able to help you out from time to time but, sweetheart, you simply can’t live here forever. You need to get a life and get out on your own.”
Dear Exasperated Granny,
What would cause a 21-year-old young woman to be so depressed and/or scared of the outside world to the extent you describe? You say she barely made it through high school. What was the cause of that? Whatever the root, I am sure her self-esteem cannot be in good shape. Cammy needs to develop self-confidence. She needs to find things in her life that connect her with her inner spark of personhood or Godliness or whatever you call her deep down life force.
This change will not come about by making her feel ashamed of her current situation. Other people’s approval/disapproval is not a good and sustainable motivating force for anyone. Try to connect with the deep person inside and see what is troubling her. Suggest something you might enjoy doing together like making a cake, cooking a special dish she likes or playing a game of cards or Big Boggle – whatever simple activity would bring out her personality and create a relaxed and communicative atmosphere.
If you do this on a regular basis, let’s say every other day or so, you will create a very natural communicative situation. Be of the mindset to find things to compliment about your granddaughter that are true, such as if her hair looks pretty or she said something wise that impressed you. In short, appreciate her. With this as her foundation, her natural force of life will emerge and begin to direct her footsteps in the world of work and self-organization. It might be true that she really needs to see a therapist and seriously work on important issues in her life. She is after all at a major crossroad in her life. If she is willing, and a good therapist could be found, like someone she could relate to that would inspire her forward in her process, that would be a great thing.
QUESTION: I have a friend I’ve known for 15 years who I meet for coffee several times a week before we go to work. At other times, our wives join us for dinner or a movie. My friend has fallen into the habit of criticizing his wife and saying things like he wishes he had never married her, even though they’ve been married for over 30 years and do many things together with their adult children and their families. Every chance I get in these conversations, I praise his wife. She’s a good wife and mother, and also is very good at her profession.
I like this guy, but I’m at a loss of what to say to him in response to the criticism. I don’t want to cut off our friendship, but I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?
~ Baffled Friend
Dear Baffled Friend,
When a friend continually rehearses negative things, yet it seems no changes are being made, it can be extremely taxing on a friendship. Even though it’s been hard, you’ve remained steadfast in your care and concern for him. You’ve tried to remain objective about him, his spouse and their marriage. You’ve also presented a positive outlook on his situation and encouraged your friend to see his spouse differently. That’s what good friends do. I applaud you!
Friends relate in different ways at different times. At times, we’re “sounding boards” to help a friend voice and process their thoughts and emotions. Our perspective can help them view their circumstances differently or focus more on the positive rather than the negative. You might ask him, “What were the character qualities that attracted you to your wife back in the early days of your relationship?” “What positive qualities do you see in her now?” Getting him to reflect on this may stir tenderness towards his wife and marriage that’s seemingly been lost.
Helping a friend work through and find solutions to troubling life situations can also be a significant aspect of friendship. At this point in your friendship, it sounds like you’re questioning whether you’re really helping him. I’m sure it’s in your heart to empower your friend, not enable or impede him. From what you’ve described, your friend seems “stuck” in his chronic complaints. He may have difficulty taking action to change on his own and more help may be needed. One of your greatest acts of friendship can be to strongly urge him to seek spiritual guidance from clergy and/or a professional counselor. That releases you from being his “counselor.” It allows you to just be his friend and stand with him, encourage him, and applaud his positive steps. After all, his marriage relationship of 30-plus years and your friendship are definitely worth contending for.
Dear Baffled Friend,
I hear your discomfort in this situation. Your friend of 15 years has gotten in a habit of sharing his criticisms of his wife and given that you also socialize with your wives it is putting you in an awkward situation. I hear that you want to support your friend but you also feel loyalty to his wife whom you respect. The fact that you point out his wife’s good points does not seem to be changing your friend’s way of seeing his wife. You have a couple of options in how to proceed that may alleviate your discomfort. You could only meet as couples so you are not available for his confidences, or you could ask that he refrain from sharing on the topic of his wife and explain that she is also your friend. Let him know you are not comfortable hearing him belittle her.
True friendship is about authenticity so sharing with him your discomfort will make him aware of the situation he has put you in. His issues are with his wife and he needs to have a conversation directly with her to address what needs to change in their relationship for him to be happier. In confiding in you he is avoiding the responsibility he has as part of a partnership. And if you are not letting him know your feelings you are doing the same thing.
Let him know you care about his happiness. This conversation may lead to a deeper connection where he may be able to explore what is really going on in his life or he may become defensive. Authentic friendship involves risk and vulnerability but if there is genuine love it is worth it and friendship can grow stronger. May yours do so because of your courage to speak your truth.
Medical Intuitive and Healer