I’m dating a single mom with a five-year-old daughter. Her ex is supposed to have his daughter on Wednesday nights and every other weekend, but he almost never shows up. So it’s hard for my girlfriend and me to have time alone together. Her daughter discovered us in bed together last Saturday morning, and she was very upset. How can we explain what we were doing, and that I’ll be staying over regularly from now on?
First of all, young children are creatures of habit; therefore they can be easily upset by any change in the routine. When your girlfriend’s daughter discovered the two of you in bed together, just the fact that it was unexpected would be enough to alarm her. In addition, if you two were upset at being discovered, this would likely add to her distress since children can easily absorb the feelings of others. In the future, her mother should explain any change in the routine well in advance — ideally when the two of them are alone with each other and relaxed. Before you take on any type of male authority or parenting role, there needs to be an adequate length of time for a relationship to develop between you and the child — and a firm understanding and commitment established between you and her mother.
A five-year-old’s questions should be answered simply, using her level of language. There is no need to provide intimate details. A five-year-old can easily understand general concepts, such as “sleepover” and “boyfriend.” She can also understand the concept of privacy. She is old enough to want and need some private time herself. Simple etiquette teaches that we shut the door to be alone, and no one enters without knocking and being invited in. These rules apply to the bedroom as well as the bathroom, for adults and children.
The two major cautions in this scenario are that:
- you ensure that the child is not being displaced or left out by the need for privacy between you two adults, and
- she be protected from sexual stimulation and information that is beyond her developmental level.
I think the fact that you have taken the time and energy to ask the question speaks well for your concern and maturity. One final note: children can get attached quite easily, so make sure this is a serious relationship before the child is encouraged to look upon this new family structure as permanent. Err in the direction of caution
My jealousy wrecked my marriage, and I want to keep it from ruining my current relationship. But I can’t seem to help myself: it drives me crazy when I see my boyfriend talking to another woman. I’ve tried swallowing it, but it always comes up later. How do I overcome it?
Jealousy has four main sources. In a healthy situation, it can be your intuition telling you that there is someone in your space or in your place. If your boyfriend is flirting with other women, or giving them more attention than he gives you, then jealousy is an appropriate response; you should take it as a signal to have a conversation about the expectations that you both have for your relationship, as well as your commitment to one another.
The second source of jealousy is low self-esteem. If you feel insecure about your own attractiveness, anyone or anything that gets your boyfriend’s attention will threaten you. Low self-esteem would make it difficult for you to feel 100% certain of his love at any time. Jealousy can also be a symptom of anxiety. If you are nervous, fearful, or worry a lot, this may be just one additional sign of a personal characteristic you need to address. If you believe you do have low self-esteem or anxiety, you might need to seek support or counseling to separate your personal issues from the relationship issues.
Finally, it may be that because of your history and prior experience, you tend to be attracted to unavailable men. If this is the case, you are in for a long haul of jealousy and roller-coaster relationships. Although they are very exciting and attractive, distant men (and women) create a lot of tension in relationships. Given that this seems to be a pattern with you, it is wise to investigate your role in re-creating this nightmare. I recommend you read Romantic Jealousy: Causes, Symptoms, Cures by Ayala Pines. This book will help you slay the green-eyed monster.
I’m a 40-year-old man who’s going through a divorce. I know that splitting up was the right choice, but I’m starting to feel like I will be alone forever — and this is not a good feeling. How do I find love again?
The feelings that you are having now are very normal, and the fact that you’re acknowledging them is a good sign that you will love again. If nothing else, statistics are on your side. Four out of five people who divorce will remarry at some point, and men tend to remarry sooner than women. So take heart and trust that there will be many opportunities for you. There’s probably a woman out there with her eye on you right now.
Instead of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, however, I suggest you use this time to fulfill yourself, instead of just filling a void. You might begin by strengthening your support system. I suggest you start by reaching out to family and friends. A surefire way to find love again is to show love to others, and regardless of the status of your love life, you will always need support from other people. This transition period also provides a great opportunity to clear up any unresolved issues from your past. Make contact with people from your history, or make apologies if they are warranted. You might also take advantage of this time and get yourself in the best physical health possible. Last, but not least, get out of the house. Use your spare time for personal enrichment. The best way to meet new friends — or lovers — is to take up an interesting activity. People bond around mutual interests. Instead of focusing on the fact that you are alone, think of all the things you need to do to prepare yourself for love again.