This week, one reader says her boyfriend's son leaves her jealous of his past relationship while another says she's upset her 10-year relationship isn't progressing to the next level. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.
Q: My boyfriend and I have been together for just over a year now. We moved in together after dating for four months. I believe he is my soul mate and I want things to work with us. He has a past that is hard for me to get over. He was previously married for about three months and has a son with her. I try to get along with his son (who is 5). He has medical issues and is hyper, and I dread seeing him every other weekend because it makes me think of my boyfriend’s previous life. The worst part for me is thinking he had everything with someone, and I'm jealous of that. My boyfriend is thinking about ending the relationship because I keep rehashing my jealousy. I feel horrible for even being jealous. What can I do to get past this so I can build a relationship with his son and we can be a family? —Feeling Insignificant
Dear Feeling Insignificant,
Girlfriend, why are you taking your personal beef out on an innocent 5-year-old? Does your guy give you a hard time because you’re not as virginal as newly fallen snowflakes? You say your boyfriend “is thinking about ending the relationship because [you] keep rehashing [your] jealousy.” Who would blame him? No healthy person wants to live with someone constantly haranguing him over a past he can’t change.
Seek counseling. In the meantime, list the things boyfriend loves about you. When you’re together, focus only on those things. Remind yourself that he’s with you because he wants to be. And remember that it will be your present behavior that will sabotage getting “things to work” in your future! —Dr. Gilda
Q: I've been in a relationship for almost 10 years. We have two kids together and as years are passing by, I am starting to feel that we aren't going anywhere. I am a full-time mom, student, and employee. He has said mean things to me and usually doesn't acknowledge me unless he needs something. It has been that way since I met him. I know that I cannot change a person, but I can only hope it might work. Every time I mention taking our relationship to the next level or even just making it official with marriage, he snaps at me and starts to ignore the issues. He's been walking away from intimate talks for a long time, and I'm starting to become fed up. I don't want to break up our family, and if I even mention the idea of leaving him, he says something mean and I feel trapped. He once told me that I was being selfish for breaking up our family, and I can't shake off this guilt. Is there a way out? I care for him dearly, but love? That's a question I cannot answer. Help! —Going Nowhere
Dear Going Nowhere,
In addition to being a mom and employee, being a student means you’re going somewhere with your self-improvement. However, it’s not far enough. You feel invalidated because your boyfriend won’t marry you. Yet you only “mention” marriage indirectly, calling it “taking [the] relationship to the next level.” My Gilda-Gram™ says, “Valuing ourselves teaches others we’re meant to be valued.”
During the past decade, you’ve been so busy catering to everyone’s needs, you’ve forgotten about your self-worth. Set specific boundaries. State what you want, and place a deadline on your decision to stay or leave. If your new self-caring garners only more put-downs that you’re “selfish,” take note, and seriously consider taking leave! —Dr. Gilda
Want Dr. Gilda to answer your relationship questions? Send them in!
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.