This week, one reader struggles to communicate with her children and former husband as she begins dating again, and another reader feels stuck in a relationship with a married man. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.
Q: I'm a 45-year-old woman who has been divorced for less than a year. About six months ago, I reconnected with a friend I've known for 30 years. We hit it off and began a relationship. However, he lives 1,000 miles from me. We see each other occasionally, but talk all the time and have developed a strong bond. Recently, he and his two teenage children came to stay the weekend at my house with my teenagers. We had a great time and I thought everyone got along great.
Then I got a text from my ex-husband, with whom I have a very cordial relationship, and with whom I share residential custody. He said my daughter felt weird having the company. She denies it and relayed the conversation to me in which she claims he asked her the leading question, "Weren't you uncomfortable?" How can I tell if it really is my daughter who was uncomfortable, or if it is my ex that is, and what do I do about either problem? I don't feel I did anything inappropriate, no one shared my bedroom, but this is already upsetting the delicate post-divorce balance.—Divorced with Children
Dear Divorced with Children,
This is a new status for all of you, so while navigating “the delicate post-divorce balance,” consider this Gilda-Gram™: “Every critic has an agenda.” Here are the facts:
1. Kids try to make both divorced parents happy, and may inadvertently feel they’re in the middle of a tug of war.
2. Melancholy naturally strikes exes when a former spouse begins dating. There’s the reality of “We can’t go back to what it is,” expressed so well in the Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert duet, “We Were Us.”
3. Romance should be kept out of view of kids—until a relationship becomes permanent.
Of course, you don’t want to make your daughter “uncomfortable.” But you need not detail your love life either. Asking her to level with you about her feelings will cement your mother/daughter bond.—Dr. Gilda
Q: I have been seeing a man for eight months, and I’ve found out he is married! I love him very much and he claims to love me. I ask him for alot, and I get it. The fact he's married bothers me. I’m pregnant with his child and still he won’t commit to me or leave her. I've tried leaving, but he seems to always give me an excuse to stay. I’ve never been the other woman before and I’m not sure how to handle this. I know it’s wrong in so many ways. I want him to be mine, but he says he'll never leave me and that I can’t leave him. I need help! What should I do? —The Other Woman
Dear Other Woman,
Lucky dude you’re with! He’s got his marriage, a dish on the side and plenty of sweet talk to keep things spicy. You say, “I've tried leaving, but he seems to always give me an excuse to stay.” Girl, are you a spineless rag doll?
Boyfriend omitted the truth from the start. As author of “Love-ology,” Pastor John Mark Comer, says, “At some point, you want more of a relationship than foreplay. You want a friend. A partner. A father for your children. You want to do life together.” Other Woman, this is where you are—but your cheater isn’t.
You’re right: You “need help.” Seek a therapist to guide you to put your child’s needs before your hormones. Sadly, daddy’s focus is only on his!—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.