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Ask Ellie: Relationship-focused resolutions can help turn life around

New Year’s resolutions can be a useful tool to help you improve your relationships

Dear Ellie: It happens every year: When the happy moments of Christmas are done, I get uncomfortable about what should be my focus for New Year’s resolutions.

As a working woman in my late-30s, with a daughter, 14 and a son, 10, divorced from their father and currently facing separation from my partner of six years, I need to get my life in order.

When young, I used to write ambitious resolutions. I “resolved” to take karate lessons and become as strong as my brothers. I lasted for only three classes.

Now I’m co-parenting with an ex-husband (not always well, because I resent that he found a new partner before I started dating again). And my potential “ex-partner” has said we need “a break” to decide where we’re going with our relationship.

I have no idea what to promise myself as resolutions this year. Can you help me?

Unresolved New Year

You’re already on a track toward your goal. You’ve targeted your own main issues and understand that you need to work on making changes.

You’ve also acknowledged that it’s not helpful in your busy working-mom life to be resentful of your ex-husband with whom you must co-parent for your children’s sakes.

They need your support as a mom, but they also need your cooperation in making the best decisions for them along with their father. That’s Resolution 1.

As for your recent partner, you’ve owned up to his belief that your relationship needs some changes. (Here, too, your children need to be made comfortable with what’s going on between you two).

There’s Resolution 2. Deal with it first, because it’s related to the immediate situation in your home. Resolve to have an open, non-blaming private discussion with your partner about what he feels is needed/missing in your relationship.

Don’t be defensive, but answer with your own honest needs, not an argument.

Decide, soon, whether the current divide calls for getting counselling together or trying some new approaches such as more time as a couple, more intimacy, whatever you can both agree to try.

My suggestion for Resolution 3 — forgive yourself for not having all the right answers at the right time. Be proud of what you’ve achieved thus far. Lifting the burden on yourself, apparently since childhood, to get everything right first try, should be a huge relief!

Have a Happy New Year!

Reader’s commentary regarding the adult daughter who asked, “What is it that poisons the mother-daughter relationship in so many cases?” (Dec. 7):

Reader 1: “Coming from a narcissistic mother, here’s a more recent book and author who helped me. I highly recommend Peg Streep’s, Mean Mothers: Overcoming the Legacy of Hurt.

“Streep has written extensively for psychologytoday.com and has a very active Facebook group for us wounded daughters.

“More resources for you to let unloved daughters know that they’re not alone. I’m like Peg, I’ve gone “no-contact” for over five years now for the third and final time… and it’s a relief.”

Reader 2: “Your column about mother-daughter relationships struck a chord with me. When my father died my mother became so difficult that I consulted a therapist.

“His advice: “You can squeeze a turnip and no blood will come out. Is it your fault that you’re not squeezing hard enough? Or is there no blood there to start with?”

“I thought that was nuts at the time but it’s stuck with me for 30 years.”

Reader 3: “I recommend When Will I be Good Enough? by Dr. Karyl McBride, subtitled, “Healing the daughters of Narcissistic Mothers.”

“I found myself on almost every page, and it’s helped me understand myself, with so many aha moments, and it’s been the most valuable resource I’ve found to explain my background and development.

“My mother was competitive, critical, manipulative, diminishing, controlling and interfering… far too much for a youngster to unravel and man0euvre.

“So, I left home early and stayed away, which saved me. People have no idea of the extent of difficulties you’re suffering because it all looks pretty good from the outside.

“I’m a senior now and still working it through. It can take a lifetime and is so worth it. Otherwise, if you don’t or won’t deal with it, it’ll hold you back and diminish your life in ways that you cannot predict.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

New Year’s resolutions can be a useful reflective tool to help you make changes to improve your relationships.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.