CAROLINE WEST-MEADS: My grandson has become a grumpy old man
Recently my much-loved 20-year-old grandson has had a personality change. He is now very critical of his parents, won’t listen to anyone and thinks he knows everything. His mum and dad say their student son has become a ‘grumpy old man’. He’s been attending a gym five times a week. He has always been slim and watched what he ate, but now he’s stuffing himself to build up his muscles. He even has stretch marks on his upper arms from the exercises. l worry that he’s on some damaging substance, which he perhaps gets at the gym. He won’t listen to his parents. l don’t suppose he would listen to me, either. He’s very shy. How do I approach this? Or should l not interfere?
Unfortunately, it does sound as though your grandson might be taking anabolic steroids to help him build muscle, which could account for the mood swings. However it is also possible that overtraining could make him bad-tempered because it, too, can boost testosterone.
Excessive bodybuilding is sometimes known as ‘muscle dysmorphia’ and is similar to body dysmorphia or an eating disorder. Sufferers often find physical faults where there are none and never feel muscular enough – even when others see the opposite. It could be caused by a feeling of inadequacy, so I wonder where it started.
Recently my much-loved 20-year-old grandson has had a personality change. He is now very critical of his parents, won’t listen to anyone and thinks he knows everything (stock photo)
He must have been 17 when the pandemic broke out. This was hard on young people because it halted important developmental stages of their lives. At that age, your grandson would normally have been socialising with friends at school and learning how to be an adult. Instead, he was forced into isolation.
You say he is shy, and for such people isolation would have been harder. He might have retreated into himself and, if he’s at university, struggled to make friends. Perhaps he wants a girlfriend but lacks the confidence to ask a girl out – or he might have suffered a painful rejection. He could be gay and struggling to accept himself. Any of the above might exacerbate his misplaced feelings of not being good enough. There could be elements of obsessive-compulsive disorder, too, requiring professional help. You are not ‘interfering’ – you are clearly a loving grandparent – but you must tread carefully. Tell his parents about your concerns and then they, or you, could talk to him. It is important to open the conversation gently and not be critical. You could ask if he thinks he might be depressed and whether exercise is a distraction. Could he be persuaded to talk to his GP, and be referred for counselling? I am sure he will be reluctant, so get advice on what to say first from youngminds.org.uk or talktofrank.com (for possible substance addiction).
I’m jealous of my ex’s new partner
I divorced my husband ten years ago and never regretted it. My ex was a workaholic and had become bad-tempered with stress, but would never agree to take a step back. He is in his mid-60s and I am a few years younger. For the sake of our children (now young adults) we kept it civil, and these days we are quite good friends. My ex remained single while I have been in a new relationship for three years. My partner is kind and attentive, however, if I am being completely honest with myself, he does lack a little of my ex’s dynamism. Now, suddenly, my husband has met a new woman, has retired, and plans to travel the world with her for six months. I can’t help feeling hurt that he wouldn’t do this for me. She is not even a younger woman – in fact she’s a little older than me.
There is often much sadness attached to divorce, even when it is the right decision, because you once planned a future together. So your feelings of jealousy are understandable. However, try not to feel as though your ex wouldn’t have made these changes for you, because ten years have passed. I wonder if he has recently lost a parent, sibling, close friend – or had his own health scare – which has precipitated this change in priorities.
Meanwhile, it sounds as though you are perhaps feeling a little stuck in your own life. Are you seeing your ex through rose-tinted glasses, remembering all the fun things about him and not how difficult he could be? Or are doubts about your current partner making you unsettled in your relationship? Counselling with relate.org.uk (alone at this stage) might help you find out.
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