My parents are talking of leaving Northern Ireland full time to live in a country with warmer weather. They’ve worked very hard all their lives and deserve to do what they want, of course, but I don’t want them to go. I wouldn’t say it to them because I wouldn’t want them to stay just because of me but I am already worried at the thought of them not being around all the time.
There is a long history of emigration from this island. For hundreds of years people have left these shores to seek a new life, to study, to work and for many there was no return.
The ceremony known as Living Wake started in the last quarter of the 18th century. The parting lay deep in the psyche where the very idea of emigration went against the traditions of extended family networks and clan relationships.
While letters and money were sent home most families knew that they were forever fractured. Travel wasn’t safe enough to repeat such a treacherous journey even if there was the money to pay for it.
So it’s completely understandable that you feel sad about your parents leaving. It’s completely understandable that you don’t want them to go. You are among many who have experienced that deep sense of loss.
It’s interesting that you are the young person staying at home while your parents are the ones who leave. It is a reversal of roles historically.
However, the pain and sense of loss remain the same. That dull ache for home as you know it, with your parents within easy reach nurturing and cherishing you will be different.
While your parents may not be so accessible to visit they are going to be reachable in many different ways.
One of the many lessons we learnt over lockdown was that we could keep in touch very well remotely. You will have the possibility of video calls, sending photos instantly, messaging and potentially the ability to travel with relative ease.
Aside from the benefits of the digital age you will also have the opportunity to send letters and cards in a way that probably doesn’t happen when family are close by. It’s a gorgeous feeling to receive a beautiful card or a loving letter in the post.
It is important to have conversations about some of the practicalities of the move. Some topics of conversation can be challenging and we can be inclined to block out the possibility of deteriorating health. Those conversations do need to take place when your parents are well enough and have capacity to make informed decisions.
Perhaps your parents have always encouraged you to follow your dreams, to travel, to have adventures so now it is your turn to support them in this new adventure. It will also be a new adventure for you as you continue to develop your independence. You will find out more about yourself and your interests.
One of the few things you can be certain about in life is change. Often that change is not of your choice but it may bring about possibilities you could never have imagined if life had progressed the way you wanted it to.
How do I let someone down gently? I work with a very lovely man and he’s a dote, but he’s not my type in terms of a relationship. He has asked me out for a drink and I got the impression it wasn’t as purely friends. I said I’d get back to him. As I said, he is a kind, considerate man but there aren’t any sparks flying, at least on my part.
It’s a difficult experience to be rejected. It’s also a difficult experience to reject someone. You have the added potential for awkwardness because you work together so you will need to consider future professional relationships. You also don’t know for sure that it is a date you’ve been asked out on.
As you didn’t reply immediately now this has been given an extended lifespan of discomfort.
I have a feeling that this man probably has an inkling that you may not be interested in going out on a date. The fact that you didn’t respond immediately and said that you would get back to him doesn’t communicate great enthusiasm for meeting up.
Sometimes the art of letting someone down gently involves a little careful massaging of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
You could suggest bringing some people along for the drink saying that you’ve checked all the other members of your work team and everyone is free for a night out on the night he suggested. ‘What a great idea and thank you for starting to organise it’. This conveys the message that you never thought it was a date (& maybe it isn’t?), that you wouldn’t think about him in those terms and that you do enjoy his company as a work colleague alongside others.
If your colleague clarifies that actually it’s just you he’s interested in going for a drink with and not the entire workforce then at least you know.
Being sure that it is a date then you can proceed accordingly.
You can thank him and say that you’re not really looking to date anyone just now (so long as you’re not actually looking for a relationship right now and don’t end up dating someone five minutes after you turn this person down, because that will hurt).
You sound as though you get on well with this man, that you like him as a colleague and you’re friendly towards him. Unfortunately, people misinterpret behaviour mistaking friendliness for flirting.
Sometimes men oversexualise a woman’s social behaviour. Research by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (a country known for its gender equality) concluded that men are more likely to interpret friendly behaviour as sexual behaviour while women can mistake signs of sexual interest as indications of friendship.
So, are we doomed to evolutionary miscommunication? Hopefully not. You can continue to be your friendly engaging self with the additional understanding that there will be men (and women) who mistake your friendly nature for flirting.
This deeper understanding can support you in being your authentic self while continuing to be respectful of others feelings too.
For more information on Relate NI, see www.relateni.org