Has your pre-grad bender spun out of control? Are you afraid of being the rebound? John Simpson has you covered.
I’m a married woman with two boys ages 15 and 13. I hate to even put this in print but I just do not like my younger child. I have not admitted this to anyone, and I feel very guilty about it. I have a very warm, close relationship to my older boy; he is personable, generous, and kind. My younger son was difficult from the very beginning. He was colicky as a baby, refused to sleep in his own bed as a toddler, was pretty disrespectful as a young boy, and has now become a sullen teenager. He does not have any diagnosable problems and has friends at school. When I try to “bond” with my son it always ends in disaster. I really try to hide my feelings but I’m afraid that at some level my son knows. Sometimes my husband will accuse me of being too hard on our son. Am I a bad person? Have other mothers felt the same way? Do you think my feelings about him will change?
Dear Maternally Challenged,
Your letter poses some difficult questions, but at least one is easy: of course you’re not a bad person. More honest than many of us, but not bad. And yes, I can assure you you’re not the only mother to feel this way. Unfortunately, this is the kind of problem people are very reluctant to talk about or acknowledge, so they all suffer silently, convinced they are the only ones who feel this way.
There are two issues here: how you feel, and how your son thinks you feel. Let’s start with the latter. It’s much less complicated.
Your anguished tone makes it clear that you know how important it is for your son to believe you love him. So tell him. Just kiss him goodnight after he gets in bed and say, “I love you.” Put a note in his lunch that simply reminds him that Mom loves him. No matter how he responds on the outside, inside he will be happy. And he will believe you, because he wants to believe you. It’s important for him to grow up believing you love him.
As far as your real feelings go, I think they are worth exploring with a therapist who specializes in family issues. There are any number of reasons why you may not feel an easy maternal love for your younger son, but I suspect there’s more going on here than the fact that he was a difficult baby. I think you may have some unresolved issues that deserve a closer look. Your husband may be able to help, too, even if he just raises your self-awareness about how you’re treating your son.
Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. I admire your courage in writing about your feelings and admitting to something so stigmatized in our society. I think your feelings about your son can definitely change. Because I can tell you want them to.
I am a senior in college and am having a bit of a crisis. These past few weeks I’ve been living my life as if there were no consequences. Partying way more than studying, and juggling several men in way too close proximity. Part of me wants to take this time in my life to be a little crazy and irresponsible as I know college is the only time in your life where you act this way and it’s borderline acceptable, but I also feel like this isn’t me (or don’t want this to be me). I feel like I’m bottling everything up and pretending that these wild drunken escapades never happened, but I am afraid it will all catch up with me and end in a breakdown. I am not sure if I actually don’t know how to slow down, or if I simply don’t want to?
Detached and Drunk
Dear D & D,
You’re at a time in your life when you’re about to cross a lot of thresholds at once—from student to post-graduate, from dependent to self-sufficient, from youth to adult. You have one foot in both worlds, you can partake of them both, and that’s not always a good thing. For example, you may feel the confusion and angst of a teenager, but now you can respond to it by drinking yourself into oblivion like an adult. (Adults have more choices to make, but they don’t necessarily make better ones!)
What I’m saying is the way you feel is perfectly normal. You will almost certainly emerge from this, look back on it, and see it for what it is: a last hurrah that is fun, sad, confusing, reckless, and a little frightening all at once.
The aspect of this that you really have to be careful about is the alcohol consumption and the way it impairs your judgment. I totally get that drinking, even to excess, is part of the college experience, and it usually doesn’t end badly as long as you do two things without fail: never, ever drive if you’ve been drinking (and don’t ride with someone who’s been drinking), no matter how short the ride is. And if you end up having sex with someone after you’ve been drinking, absolutely insist without fail that he use a condom. (Please understand that it’s better if you never drink to excess and never mix alcohol or other drugs with sex, but I want to give you practical advice that acknowledges the real world.) If you follow those two simple rules, you could avoid some major heartbreak. And I’m guessing you’re a woman, but if you’re a man, this still applies.
As I said, this is a confusing time for all people your age, but you will get through it. If you want someone to talk to, though, by all means take advantage of your school’s mental health services. They will have a lot of experience helping you sort out exactly the feelings you’re describing. Good luck.
I am a woman in her late 20s and I recently met a guy that I am pretty wild about, and he seems to be equally enthusiastic about me. He is kind, courteous, smart, witty, and we make each other laugh like crazy. The thing is, he just broke up with his long-time girlfriend about a month ago, and since this relationship is new, I haven’t asked too many questions about the ex, but from what I can gather she cheated on him. I know we’ll have to take it slow because of this, but what I am wondering is if we should even be dating right now. I know from my own experiences that it takes me six to 12 months to get over someone, especially if I was in love or there were very strong feelings. He was in a relationship with this woman for a couple of years, so I am worried that he may be jumping back into the dating pool too soon, especially given the circumstances of his most recent break-up. I know the best thing would probably be to ask him this, but we are not at the point yet where you talk about your past. I also don’t want to salt fresh wounds. I guess I just want some advice about how to navigate this, as I am a little unsure of how to proceed. I don’t want to get hurt and I don’t want to hurt him.
Too Much Too Soon?
Dear Too Much,
You’re right. One month after a painful breakup is just too soon to dive into another committed, serious relationship. It doesn’t allow enough time for reflection about what went wrong, how we contributed to the problems (it’s never as simple as one cheated on the other), and a true acceptance that it’s over.
But what’s done is done, so where do you go from here?
The most important point is that you seem to be approaching this with your eyes wide open. It’s critical to be aware of the pitfalls of dating someone so soon after a painful breakup.
You think you have a lot of reasons for avoiding a frank conversation with your friend: it’s too early, you don’t want to rub salt in the wound, etc. Forget all that stuff. You need an honest conversation with him more than anything else. Tell him that you’ve come to really like him at exactly the same time that you’ve realized maybe it’s too soon. Talk to him about his last relationship and what went wrong. Don’t tiptoe around his feelings so much—if he was hurt, it wasn’t your fault, and now your feelings are on the line, too. You have every right to know more about him. Most of all, tell him that in retrospect, you wish a little more time had passed between his last relationship and this one, and the two of you have to talk about the advisability of diving into this. See what he has to say, and trust your instincts as you listen. If your inner voice says, “This guy doesn’t really seem like he’s come to terms with this breakup yet,” then listen to it. On the other hand, if you get the impression that he is the rare guy who is ready to embark on a new relationship so soon, listen to that, too. But go slowly. And don’t worry about hurting him just by being honest about what you need. If that hurts him, so be it.
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—Photo Flickr/Lawrence Whittemore