Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships:Looking Out for Cousin
My cousin has been divorced for two years (after a 15-year marriage) and is starting to date again. Her ex-husband is already remarried with a baby. Their youngest daughter, age 11, is having a very hard time with mom dating again and won’t acknowledge, look at, talk to or spend time with new boyfriend. Mom is upset because her daughter is having such a hard time, and the boyfriend’s feelings are hurt, but he is trying to be understanding. Mom is concerned, but also wants to be able to live her life and meet someone and move on, romantically. She is between a rock and a hard place. Thoughts?
– Looking Out for Cousin
Dear Looking Out,
First, let’s be grateful that amid so much bad judgment Mom has you as a concerned cousin. She’s lucky to have a supportive figure in her life. While I’m sure you have been the encouraging, helpful sounding board we all need during difficult transitions, I do hope you will be open to sharing some conflicting ideas with her, even though it might be hard to do.
Boyfriend and Youngest have no business spending time together. Yes, some kids take well to the new loves in their parents’ lives (or at least it looks that way), but Youngest has made her feelings known. There is no value in forcing a relationship that is unwelcome. It won’t “teach her a lesson” other than the devastating both-my-parents-ignore-my-needs lesson. It won’t ruin her life if she has no relationship with Boyfriend. Yes, it will make things inconvenient for Cousin, but she’s the mother of a preteen, so she should be used to putting her own needs behind those of her children.
Short answer: get over it. She is a parent whose children have no business taking care of her feelings, not to mention Boyfriend’s feelings.
Now, I can imagine that having Ex-husband married with a new family makes Cousin frustrated that she doesn’t “get to” start over, too. Another short answer: get over it. Cousin can date, of course. She just needs to protect her daughters’ feelings about that dating and not use their approval – which will always be compromised as long as they are under the age of 22 – as affirmation of her choice of Boyfriend. Just because Ex-Husband didn’t take that approach doesn’t mean Cousin gets to be reckless as well. Divorce with children is a messy, uncomfortable, long-term experience. Daughter needs at least one parent to put her needs first.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.