This week, one reader says her relationship with her son has deteriorated since her divorce from his father, while another wonders what to do about her mooching boyfriend. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.
Q: Dr. Gilda, I recently got divorced after 20 years of marriage and our 16-year-old son has completely pulled away from me. His father is an addict and was abusive to me and our son, but now that he is clean and doing well, my son will not forgive me for divorcing his father. I am having separation anxiety from my one and only child. It's been two years now, and I'm missing out on being a mother to him, and depression is getting worse for me. How can I help myself and my son, to get our relationship back on track? —Lost Mother
Dear Lost Mother,
Your son is unsure of whether his father will become addicted and abusive again, and leave him with additional scars. It's not unusual for a child of divorce to blame one of his parents for the upheaval in his life. Unfortunately for you, that parent is usually the "safe" one that won't disappoint him, no matter what he does. You also don't know whether his dad is feeding him venom about you.
While your son matures at his own pace, keep letting him know you're there for him whenever he needs you. Meanwhile, until he finds his way home--and most do, buffer the pain by becoming absorbed in experiences you love. —Dr. Gilda
Q: My boyfriend just recently moved in with me about a month ago. He is going through a divorce at the moment and I opened my home to him. He makes a pretty good wage, considerably more then I make, and yet I find myself paying the rent, utilities, etc. I know it is technically "my apartment," but in that I am letting him live here, doing his laundry, cooking, and cleaning for him, I would like a little contribution. He knows I am going through a tough time financially, and currently he has no bills whatsoever. Is it too much to want him to help with the finances around here, seeing that he says, "Once this is all over, I want to take care of you better"? Or should I just swallow it, and continue doing what I am doing, knowing that it is making me somewhat bitter towards him. When we go out, he pays for dinner, and if we pick up something to fix for supper, he pays, but other than that, it's all on me. I don't want to bring it to him; I want him to understand this on his own, and I also don't want to be the nagging girlfriend. What should I do? —Not Happy
Dear Not Happy,
How long have you known this dude? Did you have anything to do with his divorce? Your answers to these questions might explain why you feel responsible for being more his social worker than his woman! As my Gilda-Gram says, "Whoever's hurting must seek the healing." Unless you make the move to share your feelings, this relationship is doomed.
The time to draw up rules of cohabitation is before you live together. But you feared he'd leave, so you remained mum. Now your bottled up resentments are likely to blow--at the wrong time, and in the wrong way. Level with him before this happens! If he can't take the heat, he shouldn't be grazing in your kitchen. —Dr. Gilda
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Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.