“I have never been one for parties and going out much and, to be honest, I’m happiest when I’m reading a good book or pottering around in the garden. I have my own quiet routines and I always thought my family had accepted and understood this.
“Over the past year though, they started to nag me about doing more with my life – they want me to ‘go out and enjoy things’.
“My daughter has really shocked me. She takes every opportunity to tell me I’m boring, that I’m wasting my life and that if I don’t start living now, I’ll only regret it when I’m old. Even my husband has joined the fray, suggesting that I should think about going back to work or volunteering or something. He says I’m allowing my brain to go to sleep and if I don’t do something, I’ll end up with dementia.
“I have pretended these comments aren’t getting to me, but the truth is they are beginning to get me down. I worked for 40 years in an office and I retired once the mortgage was paid off.
“I like my life the way it is now but I’m wondering if I should think about trying new things, if only to get my family off my back. I really don’t feel the need to though.”
“I find it rather sad that your family have started bullying you in this way, and I wonder if there’s something that is worrying them. Have you become very reclusive? Is there a history of dementia in the family that is scaring them for some reason? Have you become even quieter and more insular since you retired?
“Rather than do things you don’t want to do, just to keep them quiet, why not try and find out why they’re behaving this way.
“Start with your husband and explain that all the comments the family are making are hurtful. Ask him why he feels the need for you to change now, after you’ve been this way for so long. Reading and gardening may not be everyone’s cup of tea but there are plenty of people who enjoy both – some making a life out of doing so!
“If it turns out your family think you’re showing signs of mental ill health or depression, then this is something you need to tackle. It would be worth talking to your GP to see if he/she agrees.
“If it’s just a case of them wanting to do more themselves and wanting you to join them, then consider their wishes but don’t be forced into doing something you hate. You could suggest activities that you might enjoy – going to a book festival or visiting Open Gardens through the National Gardens Scheme (ngs.org.uk), for example.
“I’m not suggesting that you should be doing anything you don’t want to do. You do need to stop the family from bullying you, though. If you’re happy with your life just as it is and there is no justification for you to change, then the whole family need to stop their current behaviour. They need to understand how unhappy their comments are making you feel and, your husband should be backing you up.
“Explain to them that while gardening and reading may not interest them, they are what you enjoy. As such, you’d like your family to support your choices, rather than constantly offer criticism. Hopefully, this will make them back off but if they persist, you may need to adopt a more forthright approach – like telling them to mind their own business!”
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- Press Association