My elderly parents have given me money. Why?
Kate Holmquist answers personal questions from two readers
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Q My elderly parents pushed a large sum of cash through my door out of the blue. Did they gift it for tax reasons? Did my siblings also get cash? I daren’t ask; we never talk about money.
I don’t need the money and, meanwhile, my parents are shivering in heavy cardigans in their house and I wish they’d turn the heat up. I get the sense that my parents do not have the spending power they used to have. I could push the cash back in their door and say nothing, but I don’t want to hurt their feelings.
A If money is a taboo topic in your family, there are probably other unspoken issues as well. Money can be symbolic, so what are your parents trying to say? Do they sense you think they’re skint and are trying to reassure you that they’re not? (Tax reasons are unlikely to be behind this, because the transaction would need to be formally recorded.) This gift’s fundamental message, not consciously intended, may be that the time has come for the uncomfortable family conversation about your parents’ welfare and future care.
Gerry Scully, an information adviser with Age Action, advises you to check in with your siblings, “if this will not cause resentment”. Then you should “speak with your parents and explain the following: having large sums of money and pushing it through letterboxes is an unsafe practice for both them and you, leaving you open to robbery or burglary”.
Tell them the money would be better spent keeping themselves warm, he advises. Perhaps this will open a discussion on why they thought you needed the cash.
Q I’m a 40-year-old man married for 10 years to a woman of the same age. Our sex life took a major dip for years around the births of our children, but resumed once all the kids were out of nappies and sleeping through the night.
However, the frequency of our love-making is not as regular as I’d like, and I’m struggling to deal with that. I fear the way I approach it is becoming increasingly counter-productive: she feels hounded and turned off; the rejection gets me down and makes me feel unloved.
My wife rarely initiates sex, and when she does I feel under such pressure that I can have difficulty performing. I alternate between frustration that my needs aren’t being met, and shame about my failures.
When sex occurs, my wife generally seems to enjoy it. Have you any advice on how to improve matters and communicate more effectively on this sensitive subject?
A If there’s a couple with children out there who haven’t experienced what you so articulately describe, maybe they could bottle their secret.
“Almost all couples go through this experience, even if they rarely discuss it with others,” says Deirdre O’Riordan, a couple therapist with Relationships Ireland. “Many couples with young children really struggle to get back on track with their relationship in general, and their sex life in particular, so it’s good to see that you and your wife have succeeded in reviving your sex life, albeit not to the level you might like.”
You’re right to be concerned, she adds. “For many men, sex is an important part of communicating affection and closeness in the relationship, as they may not be as verbally expressive as their partner. Absence of sex and intimacy can lead to a deterioration in the overall quality of intimacy and closeness and increase the risk of loneliness and isolation, leading to a great risk of living separate lives and of affairs. ”
You seem to be more aware than most of the emotional factors at play here, particularly in your description of what therapy-speak terms “the classic demand-withdrawal cycle”, where one partner demands sex and the other withdraws. “Couples start avoiding moments of affection so as to avoid opportunities for sex, leading to isolation and loneliness,” O’Riordan says.
“Your wife may have things that she needs your help and support with. Invite your wife to tell you what she needs and learn to listen. Don’t offer advice or try to fix it; instead let her know you have heard here, while also making some practical supportive changes.”
Feeling loved and cared for by their partner is important for many women in order to feel “in the mood”. So instead of focusing directly on sex, build emotional intimacy by finding ways to have fun together and relax.
Talking about sex is difficult, but if you don’t ask your wife what she thinks and feels, you may make wrong assumptions, says sex therapist Eithne Bacuzzi, also with Relationships Ireland. “Take the pressure off performance and goal-focused sex and introduce a sensual aspect to your sex life. The all-or-nothing approach, focused on intercourse and orgasm, often inhibits the natural flow of sexual arousal. There needs to be room for the giving and receiving of pleasure as opposed to the end product of intercourse.”
Solving your problem may be a matter of you doing loving things for her outside the bedroom, such as housework, spending time away together without your children, or simply a walk or cuddling over popcorn and a movie.
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