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Have you ever told someone who was romantically interested in you that you “weren’t ready for a relationship”? (I have). What did/does that mean for you? Is it just an excuse to get out of seeing someone you aren’t into? Is it simply easier to say than “You’re not doing it for me?” and “I don’t want to give up my chance of finding a better match to settle down with you?” An article in The Atlantic this month argues that:

“The idea of being “ready” for a relationship is both ubiquitous and vague. “Readiness” is a well-worn T-shirt people put on and take off over and over again throughout their dating life, an all-purpose explanation for any number of reasons someone might or might not want a romantic partner. Often, it’s not clear what it really means when someone says, “I’m just not ready for a relationship right now.” And any deeper meaning behind that statement is hardly as important as its upshot—no relationship will be had. It’s a cliché that’s easy to hide behind, to use as a smoke screen for the real reasons behind a breakup, or as a shield from the self-exploration that might dredge up more difficult feelings.”

That’s not to say that any time is a good time to date or that you’re always ready for a relationship if a relationship is what you want. Julie Schwartz Gottman, the co-founder and president of the Gottman Institute, where she and her husband, John Gottman, study what makes for successful relationships says that loss, such as the death of a partner or a divorce, will affect when people will be ready for a new relationship.

“They really need time to process,” she says. “Oftentimes people will try to enter into a relationship quickly at times like that, in order to use the new excitement, euphoria, magic to suppress the negative feelings that they’re still living with beneath the surface. As a result, what can happen is those negative feelings will sneak out the side door and enter the new relationship.”

But barring a big loss, relationship readiness is pretty subjective, and most people are probably more ready than they’re willing to admit. That’s because relationships take effort, require an investment of time and energy, and come with an element of emotional risk – all things a lot of people use lack of “readiness” as an excuse to avoid. But what happens when you put off relationships for too long is, as the author of the article in The Atlantic says: “a lot like putting off going to the dentist — it becomes more daunting the longer you wait.”

Sometimes people say they aren’t ready for a relationship when what they really mean is that they don’t have everything in their life figured out yet – their career, their finances, even their mental health. But Schwartz Gottman argues that if we all waited until we were perfectly well-adjusted adults before we dated seriously, the human race would die out. And anyway, she says, “it’s only through practice that people will get better at communicating.”

What do you think? Is there such a thing as being “ready for a relationship” (or not ready for one)? Have you felt the difference in your own life? How did you determine whether you were ready or not? (Personally, I think if people feel a general resentment about past hurts, or are still processing pain,

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I recently started dating a girl. We really enjoy each other’s company and we get along fine. We’re really into each other and we share many commonalities. There’s only one issue – money! After seven dates, I seem to be doing most of the paying (as per usual when a man is courting a woman). A few weeks ago, she asked me if I wanted to go see a concert which was $99 per ticket. I wasn’t interested in going and told her so. In the end, she never went. Was she seriously expecting me to pay for both tickets? Nearly $200! On one date, I paid for two coffees and later on for a pizza. She should have offered to pay for the pizza. She did buy me a drink on one date (hooray) and she bought a fast food meal on another (hooray) but for the most part, I’ve done most (90%) of the paying.

On our most recent date, we had organised to go to the movies. I told her prior to meeting her, to go to the supermarket to buy some popcorn or chocolate because it’s cheap. She told me she was happy to buy the popcorn at the movies. When I got there, I walked up to the counter to pay for two movie tickets and she was at the bar buying herself a drink. We then sat down and she said she had forgotten to ask if I wanted a drink (how could she forget to offer me a drink? She saw me buying the movie tickets). I declined but after five minutes, I said to her that I’ll have that drink anyway. So she bought me a drink. She did end up buying the popcorn and chocolate from the supermarket, so we had them during the movie. After the movie, we decided to go for coffee. Guess who paid for this? I don’t mean to sound cheap but she should have paid for the coffees. In fact, she should have paid for the movie tickets because the previous week, I paid for dinner.

This isn’t the first woman that I’ve had to spend money on. There’s been others, of course. I’ve heard complaints from friends and other men about women NOT offering to pay. And you know what? I’m tired of it. Men are tired of it.

I’ve paid off my mortgage (she doesn’t know this) but earn an average salary. She’s got a big mortgage but earns slightly more than I do. But that’s not the point. Men and women are equal, right? A lot of women are more highly educated and many make more money than the males. Right? Women have a purse with cash and a credit card in it. Right? These women are not poor or helpless or dependent. I think I’m right.

I don’t know how women get this old-fashioned mindset, but it’s really starting to annoy me. Personally, I work just as hard as any woman does for my money and I don’t find it fair. I just don’t want any woman getting the idea that I’m OK with it or that she can take advantage. I don’t want to be her ATM.

It would be nice if a woman offers to pay more often for a change. It’s about being appreciated and not taken advantage of. I am not cheap, but at the same time, I am not made of money. Does it make me a bad person to be thinking this way? I am a liberal, progressive thinker, and this traditional old-fashioned mindset seems backwards to me.

Where is it written that men have to pay on dates? Why can’t the man and woman split the bill or take it in turns? Aren’t men and women equal? How do I mention this to her without sounding cheap? — Not an ATM

I’m going to get to the paying for dates part in a minute, but first I want to discuss this idea that women and men are equal. It’s a nice idea, isn’t? That men and women are equal? But we aren’t. Here in the US, for example, women still earn only 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man working the same job. Maybe you don’t live in the US; you spelled “organized” with an “s,” after all. In Canada, like the states, women earn about 80% of what men earn. In the UK, the gender gap is slightly smaller with women earning 85% of what their male counterparts earn, in Australia, women earn 86% of what men earn, and in progressive New Zealand, where the prime minister is a woman, the pay gap is a tight 9%, meaning women earn 91% of what their male counterparts earn (Hooray! as you might say. And please, tell me again about how equal we are).

That’s not to say that women don’t have high earning potential. Plenty of women, as you pointed out with what sounds like the utmost respect, are highly-educated and gainfully-employed and make lots of money. You can bet on their way to success though that many women have had to put up with sexual harassment, being overlooked for raises and promotions and positions because of their gender, being mansplained to and talked over in meetings and interviews and networking events, and having to carefully and thoughtfully weigh their words so as not to harm a male colleague’s fragile ego and thereby threaten their own jobs, making their climb up the ladder even more impressive. But, yeah ok, I’m sure you “work just as hard as any woman does” for your money. Any woman. Every woman. All women. Because we’re all the same, right? If you’ve worked as hard as one, you’ve worked as hard as all of ’em.

Question: have you ever commuted home from a date — or anywhere, for that matter — and worried about being raped? Almost every woman I know has had that worry. And for many of us, sexual assault has been more than just a worry; it’s been a reality. Tell me again how equal we are? How life is as easy and fair for women as it is for men?

Do you ever think about how the law might regulate what you can and can’t do with your own body? Does it ever concern you that you might be forced into having a baby you don’t want? Have you ever considered that you might be raped on the way to your car after work, get pregnant, and then be forced to carry that baby to term because a group of people who never have and never will ever know what it’s like to be pregnant and give birth passed a law criminalizing abortion where you live? No, you haven’t, because you’re a man and you will never ever have to worry about any of this. Hooray!

You will never have an unwanted pregnancy, you will never be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against your will, you will never have to worry about seeking an illegal and potentially unsafe abortion in an effort to save your own damn life and future. The likelihood of you being sexually harassed at work is a mere fraction of the percentage of women who are harassed every single day, and the chance of you being sexually assaulted as an adult male hovers in the single digits while, for women, it’s closer to 30%. Thirty fucking percent. That’s almost one in every three women you know, but tell me again how equal we are.

Tell me again how you and other men are sick and tired of footing the bill for dates more often than women do. It must be so hard to be a man and have to pay for coffee and pizza when your date is paying for nothing except the enormous fucking tax of being a female in this world and dealing with systemic sexism – in our government, in our laws, in our schools and homes and work places — worrying about so many things you never even have to consider. You don’t even get periods!

So, maybe I’m not the most sympathetic audience for your little rant about how sick and tired you are of being the victim of unfair sexist social practices — practices that you are 100% in control of NOT ENABLING OR PARTICIPATING IN. If you are sick of paying for your dates, STOP FUCKING PAYING FOR YOUR DATES! It’s not that hard. Grow some balls and say, “Hey, I’ve paid for the majority of our dates, but from now on I’d like us to take turns.” The worst that will happen is your date balks and refuses to go out with you again, which will save you money in the long run. It sure is better than, I don’t know, being sexually harassed at work, speaking up about it and then losing your job.

Maybe I think your little rant carries more than a hint of misogyny. And maybe — no, definitely — I think you’re worried about sounding cheap because you know you ARE cheap. I’m sorry, but someone who’s keeping track of what basically amounts to pocket change spent on cups of coffee, slices of pizza, and FUCKING FAST FOOD is cheap AF. Telling your date to pick up chocolate and popcorn at the supermarket and then getting mad that she didn’t buy the movie tickets in addition to the beverages she also purchased because you paid for dinner the week prior is fucking cheap!

I will admit, though, that she was rude to not ask if you wanted a drink when she was buying one for herself. I guess some women just don’t know their place.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

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Hi, Wendy, I notice that you get a lot of questions about the holidays, usually along the lines of my kids/in-laws/parents are RUINING Thanksgiving! Last November, none of our kids could get home for T-giving. I was wrecked. It really, really hurt. We have four kids — three had to work and one had a new baby. I mean, I understood, but it hurt.

I decided that for once, I was going to do exactly what I wanted: go out to an expensive restaurant and have a big meal that I didn’t have to cook/clean up after. I also gave myself permission NOT to feel guilty spending a lot of money when, you know, I could stay home and cook a nice meal for the two of us.

We dressed up and went out. It was FABULOUS! I may never slave over a hot stove again on T-giving. (And the Cowboys won! God LOVES us!).

You can decide how to react to what you have.

Love your advice – Mom of Four

Thank you for your note. I admit, when I read it, I wondered why you were writing about Thanksgiving now, in May. But then I realized you had an important message that was a good reminder for people, no matter what time of year: you can decide how you react to what you have. We can’t control everything that happens to us. We can’t control other people’s behavior or decisions. But we CAN control how we react to those decisions, especially when the decisions affect us and our lives. You may even find that in embracing a Plan B — a plan you likely wouldn’t have considered had it not been for other people’s decisions affecting you — you enjoy yourself as much or even more than you may have enjoyed Plan A.

This is also a good reminder, especially for those of us who struggle with guilt, that other people are in charge of their own well-being. If we make decisions that affect people’s plans, they can decide whether to react to those decisions in a positive way or a negative way. Their happiness is not dependent on our behavior – or, at least, it shouldn’t be, and it’s not out fault if it is. We are not responsible for someone else’s happiness.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

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I’m a college student and I have recently broken up with my long-term boyfriend. I have been friends with a guy, “Scott,” at my college for about a year (we’re very close) and I would hang out with him a lot. It was always very innocent as he knew about my boyfriend and was supportive of us, and he was seeing girls at college as well.

All was fine, until I went on a break with my boyfriend a couple months ago. During this time Scott started flirting with me, and ended up kissing me. He never told me how he really felt about me and would instead just flirt or deflect. When I finally mustered up the courage to ask him what he wanted, it seemed like he panicked and said “let’s just be friends.” Well, I was fine with that, and then the next day he kissed me again leaving me very confused. I got back together with my boyfriend and Scott was respective and stopped kissing me even though we didn’t really have a conversation about it.

We went back to normal friends and everything was fine again until I broke up with my boyfriend. It happened right before I came home from college (I live several states away from my college and even more states away from Scott). Right before we left Scott kissed me again. Then we each went home and he started flirting a lot with me. However, he’d flirt with me and tell me he wanted to kiss me or things like that, and then he’d talk to me about other girls. He would talk about this one girl that he wanted to date while he would talk about wanting to be with me. Now he’s telling me he doesn’t want to be with that girl anymore and has started more serious flirting with me (even trying to get me a plane ticket to go see him).

Here’s the other issue: he’s a virgin and I’m not. I know he’s been hurt in the past because girls pressure him to have sex, and while I’m not like this I think he’s nervous that I will be. However, he’s also made numerous comments about wanting to have sex with me, including telling me that if there was one person on campus he’d lose his virginity to it would be me (before we had even kissed!!).

So here’s my problem: I really like this guy, as a friend or maybe more but I’m not sure, because I don’t know how he really feels about me; but I love being around him both as friends and when we were “together” (kissing). I don’t know what to do, if I wait to see if he finally fesses up his feelings for me or if I just forget about it. I don’t want to lose him as a friend, and I’m fine with any relationship he wants (friends, dating, FWB, etc.), but I’m nervous to ask him what he wants because of last time. What should I do? — Not Sure What He Wants

Well, first of all, you need to get some agency in this situation. You’ve been almost entirely passive; everything is about what Scott does (he flirts with you, he kisses you), what Scott says (he talks about other girls, he’s made numerous comments about wanting to have sex with you and how he’d choose you over everyone else to lose his virginity to), and about guessing what Scott wants (“friends, dating, FWB, etc.”) and you’re just “fine” with it all (your words). Girl, no. Have some self-respect. This guy you’ve been platonic friends with kisses you twice, tells you multiple times he wants to have sex with you, but when you ask him what he wants he says “let’s just be friends” and goes on to talk about other girls? That’s not just confusing and vague and WEIRD, it’s fucking rude. You shouldn’t put up with it.

You say Scott is respectful of you, but this isn’t what respect looks like. This isn’t what friendship looks like. Friends don’t talk about having sex with you and then kiss you (more than once!) and then, when you call them on it and ask them about their feelings, panic and say “let’s just be friends” while continuing to flirt with you aggressively. This is some manipulative bullshit from an immature, inexperienced guy who seemingly not only lacks self-confidence, likely doesn’t have much respect for women either. You shouldn’t put up with it, and you sure as shit shouldn’t be willing to do whatever it is he wants — “friends, dating, FWB, etc.” if only he would communicate what it is he wants. Don’t be willing to do whatever a guy wants. Have some boundaries. Be willing to do what YOU want, with maybe a little wiggle room for compromise in certain situations IF your boundaries are respected.

You say you aren’t sure whether you like this guy more than friends because you aren’t sure how he feels. Your feelings are YOURS and they are not dependent on someone else’s. You are your own person – a person who has her own thoughts and opinions. What do YOU want? Are you interested in dating Scott? Then you should say so to him. Tell him that with all his flirting and the kissing, you thought there might be a chance the interest was mutual and so you want to know if that’s the case and if he wants to try dating. If he says yes, give it a try, but if he says no, tell him the flirting and the kissing has to stop because it’s confusing for you. I would not advise being his FWB unless you like the idea of a no-strings-attached relationship with someone who’s wishy washy with you, talks about other women with you, and has zero sexual experience. And if those things are a turn-on for you, then I guess Scott is a good fit for you! Regardless, it is beyond time for you to decide what YOU want and to communicate that with Scott since waiting for him to communicate with you is a fruitless endeavor.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

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Believe it or not, this weekend is Memorial Day here in the US, which means summer is just around the corner (and here in NYC, with temps nearly double what they were ten days ago, it very much suddenly feels like summer), which means it’s time to think about summer reading. As I’ve mentioned several times, one of my big goals for this year was to read more books. I have a goal to read at least 25 books total — in recent years, my norm is more like 10-12 a year — and while I started the year strong, I faltered a bit over late winter and early spring and have just gotten back in the groove.

Yesterday I finished the beautifully-written, almost devastating memoir Small Fry written by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Steve Jobs’ eldest child, about growing up between two very disparate worlds (her father, of course, was extremely successful, rich, and famous, while her struggling single mother relied on welfare for many years to support them). I remembered how much I love a well-told memoir, and am looking forward to reading a few more I have on hold at the library, including Educated; All That You Leave Behind; I’m The One Who Got Away; and You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.

I also have two collections of essays on hold: I Miss You When I Blink; and You Think It, I’ll Say It.

And, so far, one novel: Normal People by the so-called overnight sensation, Sally Rooney, whose first novel Conversations With Friends I read earlier this year and loved.

Finally, fellow 40-something women might also be excited to read a new memoir by 90s singer-songwriting-feminist-powerhouse, Ani DiFranco, called No Walls and the Recurring Dream.

So, that’s my list so far (and I guess if I actually read them all before summer’s over, I’ll be in very good shape to hit my goal of 25 total for the year). Anything else you’d recommend I add? What’s on your list?

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It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Ghosted Fifty-Something” who wrote in last month when her boyfriend (also in his 50s) ghosted her after eight months together. She wrote: “It’s definitely over for him. I just don’t know why, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what I did or didn’t do. There were some signs of slight pulling away, but that happens with anyone at times. Up until now we talked or connected every day and it was good; now, it’s like he evaporated. There’s a huge hole in my heart and life with zero closure.” Her update – with closure — below:

I’m the one that my boyfriend (Roger) ghosted me out of nowhere. We are in our fifties and had been in a good relationship for eight months. Most people thought I was too pushy or controlling – maybe, but it doesn’t matter now.

I found out on Facebook what happened, and it was easy. He had been cheating on me for at least a couple of months, and she had posted they were “in a relationship” a month prior to him ghosting me. This was the absolute last thing I thought happened; I thought he was messed up or I messed it up. He told me he would never ever cheat on someone as that’s so painful. Here he was seeing someone else while telling me I was the love of his life and was planning a future with me. I believed all those words that had no actions to back them up.

Then I started thinking of all the reasons why he’d do that and, of course, it had to do with me being not good enough. I put a stop to that thinking; he’s a weak man to have done all that — lie to me, lie to his family and friends, and not just tell me it was over when he met someone else.

The lesson learned here is that he lied to me from the beginning about his living situation. Shame on me for thinking he quit lying. I should have dumped his ass the second I found out about his adept ability for storytelling. I learned the hard way, but I learned.

Thank you for listening.

 
Thanks for your update. I’m sorry for the pain Roger and his lies caused, and I hope you won’t let this experience harden you and close you off to future potential relationships. You cannot always avoid dating someone who may lie or hurt you, but there were definitely some red flags with Roger early on that you ignored or didn’t give as much weight to as they warranted. Please take the relationship as important reminder to pay closer attention to such red flags going forward and to end a relationship if you’re gut is telling you something is off. Your instincts can save you more pain in the future!

***************

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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My last marriage ended in divorce after 38 years due to my ex’s cheating. He remarried a few years later and his new wife puts things on Facebook about our former marriage, saying they both came from horrid situations. She also refers to my adult children as her daughters. I have no contact with my ex as he put me through eight awful years of his chasing other women prior to my filing for divorce. I doubt he told his new wife the real reasons for our divorce but I’m upset she posts things like this on social media. We have a few mutual friends so I hear about these posts and they show me when she calls my girls her daughters. Do I confront her about this or what? — The First Wife

No, you confront your friends and tell them to stop showing you and telling you about these posts. Make sure you’ve blocked your ex and his wife on social media and tell your friends there’s a reason they’re blocked and that you have absolutely zero interest in what they’re posting, even if it indirectly relates to you, and that they need to stop updating you. If they won’t stop, they aren’t really your friends and you should block them too.

I live in a small village, I’m 17, and I’m gay. I have never met anyone else who is also gay. A week ago, I added a great guy from a dating site who is my age, from my village, and also gay. He was kind, funny, intelligent — everything I look for. We scheduled to meet at a cafe in our village last Friday, but on Wednesday morning we were talking casually and he said that his ex of two years who he broke up with last month has apologized for an argument they had. He said they are back together but he still wants to be friends. I feel obviously disappointed. Should I be friends with him and hope he leaves his ex or leave it alone? Thank You! — Hopeful

 
It would be great if you can be friends with him and NOT actively hope he leaves his ex. Being friends with him — and maybe even his boyfriend — would bring you the start of a community of people like you, which you have lacked thus far. He may even be able to introduce you to other young gay men (one of whom might be an available match for you), but being friends with him solely in hopes that he’ll leave his boyfriend for you will be more damaging than beneficial, leaving you frustrated if it doesn’t happen.

My boyfriend and I have been having a hard time communicating effectively lately about our wants and feelings. He recently went away for nine days to visit his friend in another state and he seems like a different person since he’s been gone. He keeps bringing up how he isn’t stressed while there and that he has no worries, almost like saying life at home is his stresser. He also told me the first day he was gone that I was contacting him too much and to cut back a little (which I did).

At home, he complains that I don’t pay enough attention to him, but now that he is out of town it’s completely opposite. It seems like he doesn’t want to talk to me at all or that it’s a burden to just call and say good night. We also have argued three times since he has been gone about me being “emotionally manipulative.” He keeps saying I am guilt-tripping him and making him feel bad about being with his friend. I’ve told him over and over that I’m happy he got to go and I just want to hear from him sometimes and for him to say good night, etc.

I am starting to feel it’s all me? Maybe I should just leave him alone entirely and let him enjoy vacation when he goes? Am I being unreasonable/unrealistic about still having some contact with each other when we are away? I miss him a lot but I get the feeling it’s not mutual or am I really guilt-tripping him and not even realizing it? — Am I The Problem?

 
If, on the first day of your boyfriend’s vacation, he had to tell you that you are contacting him too much, and then he proceeded to argue with you three different times about you being “emotionally manipulative,” I have to assume this is more than you wanting a simple good-night from him at the end of the day, and that you probably have different ideas of what “some contact while he’s away” actually means. It’s only nine days and it sounds like the vacation is already at least half over, so yeah: back off, and let him enjoy the rest of it in peace. If he contacts you, great. And if not, you’ll hear from him when he gets back. Honestly, if you can’t go a day or two without hearing from your boyfriend and making it into some big emotional thing, then, yeah, the problem IS you and you need to fix it.

***************

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My girlfriend, “Kylie,” and I have been dating for almost two years. I am almost 21; she is 20 and has a two-year-old son, “Ben.” Ben’s father is someone who bullied me when we were young and is a very bad and abusive person. Ben doesn’t see his dad much (though he does see his father’s family), and his dad doesn’t pay any kind of child support. Kylie and I have always primarily hung out without Ben. I do see him when I go over or stay the night, of course, and during the first few months of his birth I was helping her hand and foot to do what I could to make her job being a mom easier but I wasn’t doing father-like things.

When we first got together, we talked about what my role would be in Ben’s life. It was a quick talk and we decided we would just deal with it later, and now, almost two years later, we are finally there. Kylie just asked me if I could be Ben’s dad and love him as much as she does, and while I do love him, the title of dad scares me right now and I don’t know if I want to commit to a life-long role so early in my own life. I am happy and fine to be a father-figure and role model, but I also believe that in a sense her son should decide what I am to him as my own step-dad let me do. I also find it hard for me to think of myself as a dad due to not being financially stable and not being able to do more for Ben than I currently do. I don’t want to assume a dad role and not be able to provide what, in my head, are good dad qualities. My girlfriend expected me to already be at the dad phase as it’s been almost two years that we’ve been together; it’s just I’m having a hard time adjusting and accepting that life-changing role.

Please any advice would be greatly appreciated. — Not Quite Ready to Be a Dad

Your hesitation in embracing the role of Ben’s father is appropriate and understandable for two very good related reasons: you aren’t ready to take on the responsibility of being a father, and Ben is not your biological child. (Of course, the first point would be moot if the second point weren’t true, but it is.) In addition: you and Kylie aren’t married and don’t live together; you haven’t spent a lot of time with Ben (you say you primarily hang out with Kylie without Ben); you’re only 20 years old; and you don’t feel financially stable enough to provide for a child. For all of these reasons, you need to let Kylie know in no uncertain terms exactly what you told me: You are happy to be a role model to her son and a male figure in his life to whom he can turn, but you are not ready or prepared to accept the responsibility of being Ben’s dad right now and likely won’t be for a while.

In time, you may find that that role is one you would be honored to accept (particularly if you feel it is being granted to you by Ben himself), but for now, stay comfortable in the role you’re in (that of Ben’s mother’s boyfriend who is a friend and role model to Ben but not a dad). Don’t ever move in with Kylie unless/until you are ready to assume the emotional, physical, and financial responsibility of co-parenting Ben (and perhaps fathering additional children if that is something you both want and discuss in-depth). And in the meantime, urge Kylie to seek child support from Ben’s father, which she is entitled to, and which may ease some of the pressure she feels and may unfairly be trying to misdirect onto you.

If Kylie continues to pressure you into taking on a dad role to Ben, don’t relent. Taking on that responsibility before you’re ready is a sure-fire way to build resentment (quickly!), likely dooming your relationship as well as whatever promise may have existed in nurturing a close and strong bond between you and Ben. If Kylie can’t accept your role in Ben’s life as it is now, and with no guarantee it will ever be more, you both might want to consider that this is a deal-breaker in your relationship and it might be time to move on.

I’ve always wanted kids but as a 49-year-old divorced man, my time is running out. There are women online that are relatively young enough to have kids. My ideal age range would be 37-40 but finding the right match is another challenge altogether. One night on the town, I met a lovely woman who I really connected with. She’s 45, divorced with no children.

We’ve gone out three times. I’m physically attracted to her and we both like each other. We have common interests and have a good connection. She told me she’s not sure if she can have kids at her age. She likes children but has never had a strong desire to have her own. To find someone young enough to have a child with, I have to end it with Joanne, but will I find someone younger that I’m compatible with? How long will it take to find? Will she fall pregnant? Will the baby be healthy?

Everything has to be rushed and there are no guarantees. I mean I could meet a 38-year-old, she falls pregnant and we could break up afterwards. Or I could meet someone and she can’t fall pregnant. Ideally, it’s better to get to know someone first and then decide if you want to have kids with them. But that’s for couples who have time, something I haven’t got.

The bottom is: If i decide to keep looking for someone to have a child with, I have to let Joanne go. If I don’t find this younger woman to have a child with, I miss out on Joanne.

Any guidance or recommendations would be helpful.

P.S – I’m aware from reading your blog that you have kids so I’m not sure you can answer this. Can a childfree/childless couple be happy growing old together? Especially when your peers have raised kids? — Ready to Be a Father

 
You pose these questions as if you’re only weighing potential compromises and sacrifices – and their effects on your chances of being a dad — for the first time when, in fact, you surely have faced and weighed compromises many times already. You don’t get to 49 years old, having “always wanted kids,” and only now, for the first time, weighed your options and considered the longterm effects of your choices. I mean, you’re divorced, for crying out loud – surely, the idea of kids came up in your marriage. Maybe it was even a cause for your split, I don’t know. But I urge you to think back over the years, over your past relationships and ask yourself an important question: what has been a bigger guiding light in the more productive/affirming/positive steps and choices you’ve made: giving yourself space to find love, or giving yourself space to become a parent?

The thing is, there are zero guarantees for any of us. Even those of us who want children and are lucky enough to find partners with still enough fertile years left to conceive don’t have the promise of babies. So much can happen on the road to parenthood to make it an impossibility for some — or, at least, a challenge difficult to overcome without loads of resources. And, yes, being 49 certainly adds to the challenge and makes the possibility of becoming a biological parent that much slimmer, and so you have to ask yourself what is more important: finding a loving partner, or becoming a parent (because it’s very possible you aren’t going to get both).

I’ll be frank with you: it’s unlikely that a woman who wants kids as much as you do and is young enough to have them biologically, without intervention, is actively looking for a man who’s almost 50 years old to have them with. Men your age are automatically weeded out in online searches by those women. When you reach out to them and they see that you’re well into middle-age, they’re not likely to reply – not if they want children, and not if they feel like they still have a little time to find someone, fall in love, and build a relationship with the person before becoming parents (you know – the process you say is preferable to rushing into parenthood with someone you’ve only just met). Meeting women like that is more likely to happen organically – the way you met Joanne — when they have more than just an online profile highlighting your older age to judge you — and your potential compatibility – by.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are many paths to happiness and fulfillment. Childfree couples absolutely can happily grow old together! I’d argue that there’s much, much more potential for joy in a childfree relationship based on love than in a relationship rooted more firmly in a mutual desire to procreate. Not only that, but older couples who can’t conceive naturally may find that other options in creating a family or nurturing younger lives appeal to them (IVF, egg donation, surrogacy, adoption, fostering, and, well, getting a pet; Pets are wonderful sources of unconditional love!).

The bottom line is that every decision any of us makes carries with it not just the promise of potential, but the weight of missed opportunities in choices we didn’t pursue. I mean, I can’t enjoy a box of raisinettes at the movies without missing the gummy bears I could have had instead, so I get it. But even pursuing a path you think you’ve always wanted – like parenthood – doesn’t free you of this burden, particularly if you feel you sacrificed something with great potential to make space for it. You can give up the chance of building a relationship with Joanne — though, let’s remember it’s only been three dates so far — to remain available to someone younger, and always wonder what you may have missed out on. In the end, you have to ask yourself what you fear missing out on more: a lifelong loving partner, or parenthood? I suspect the answer has been your guiding light along and you need to continue following it.

***************

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

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Hey Wendy, first-time LW and recent fan, hoping you can help me with some advice!

I have been with my long-distance boyfriend, “Craig,” almost a year and a half. We both graduate with undergrad degrees in December (we are a little older than the typical college grad crowd) and talk about moving then and eventually marriage. I love him and he makes me very happy; he is truly the only person I feel I can be completely myself around but we differ on one big issue: he wants biological children while I have zero interest in it (I might in the future but right now cannot guarantee it and find it unlikely). I do, however, want to adopt or foster (I am even am graduating with a degree in social work partially to help ease the process). I have never ever had biological maternal feelings, and to be honest, I have had every pelvic issue you can imagine and the thought of going through labor and destroying my body further honestly gives me panic attack-inducing nightmares. I also suffered from severe clinical depression, mental illness runs in my family, and I would hate myself if I willingly subjected my child to it via genetics.

Craig is very scared of the concept of adoption, thinking adopted kids are “used” children and would upset his own genetics won’t be reflected in his children. I personally believe being a parent is about unconditionally loving a child and trying to provide them the best opportunities possible, whereas he is really focused on the genetic part. I took him to see that Mark Wahlberg movie where they foster and eventually adopt children and it made him cry (good tears); It seemed to calm him down a little but I still think this issue might be a huge fight waiting to happen. He has never said it would be a deal-breaker or that the relationship would not work out if we never had children, but I know it would upset him deeply and he might resent me later on.

I do not want to prolong a doomed relationship and think it would be better for us to break up and find new partners where we can both be fulfilled if this issue is a deal-breaker. I also do not want to move for a doomed relationship, as I will be choosing a law school based on where he ends up getting a job and don’t want to be stuck for years if we break up. I’d like to have a little more clarity on this issue before one of us uproots everything, what should I do and how should I go about it?

Any advice is greatly appreciated, thanks! — Hopeful Future Adoptive Mom

First of all, please don’t choose a law school based on where your long-distance boyfriend of a year and a half gets a job. It would be one thing if you were in a longterm, committed relationship absent of major potential deal-breakers, but that isn’t the case and it would be incredibly short-sighted to jeopardize your advanced education – and future career and earning potential — for someone who, let’s face it, may not be in your life for very long.

In regards to your differing parenting desires: it’s certainly not a crime for someone to want his or her own biological children (nor is it automatically noble or valiant to prefer or want to adopt), but people’s reasons for wanting or not wanting certain things do say something about their character and I urge you to deeply consider what Craig’s reasons are for wanting biological children versus adopted children. I can’t imagine his referring to adopted children as “used” squares with your own values. Does it reflect deeper chasm in your differing values? How about his focus on passing down his own genes? How is that different — or maybe even similar — to your wanting to avoid passing down some of yours?

It’s possible that Craig has used poor choice of words and phrases that don’t necessarily reflect his values and character. You need to find out what Craig truly meant when he said adopted children are “used.” All of us, to some extent, have fear of the unknown, and becoming an adoptive parent holds even more unknowns that becoming a biological parent (which is already so full of surprises). Having limited knowledge of your child’s genetic makeup and family medical history can be particularly nerve-wracking, as would any concern that the adoption process may be heartbreakingly jeopardized before being finalized; maybe in a potentially awkward attempt at expressing this fear, his words came out wrong. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here; obviously, you would know more about his character and whether his word choice was an just reflection of how you know him to be.

Regardless of what Craig meant exactly by that particular phrase, it’s clear he has trepidation about something that is important to you. Whether he can be persuaded or convinced to embrace your adoption and to give up the idea of having biological children is impossible to say. What IS possible to say is that you may not know the answer to this question for a long time. It’s also possible — likely, even — that if Craig does come around to embrace adoption, you may worry that he’ll see doing so as a sacrifice for you and that sacrifice may lead to resentment. I imagine that question may weigh on you like a heavy burden unless Craig can make a very convincing argument for a change in heart, and at this point, there isn’t even a hint of that happening in the near future.

You say that Craig has not expressed that this issue is a deal-breaker for you, but you need to consider whether it’s, in fact, a deal-breaker for YOU. Can you commit to a relationship with someone who, at this point, does not want to adopt children? If you cannot commit to that, please, please do not make choices now solely for the benefit of the relationship that will affect your life in the longterm.

My parents say they can’t accept the fact that I’m dating a black guy. We have been dating for two years and his family also had a problem with it but came to the understanding that we are happy and that one day we would like to get married. My whole family accepts it; it’s just my parents that don’t and it’s causing a lot of fights in our relationship.

I don’t know what do to anymore. Please, can you give me advice? We both are in our twenties. — In Cross-Cultural Relationship

 
You do not need your parents’ acceptance. Sure, it’s nice to have, but it is not necessary for the future of your relationship, your happiness, or even your well-being. What IS necessary for your relationship and your well-being though is that you stop fighting over — and with — your racist parents. This may require you to essentially cut ties with your parents, or it may mean drastically cutting back on the amount of time and ways you interact with them. It’s a very hard, but ultimately super simple solution to your problem. Your parents are causing tension in your relationship, your parents are being racist and unreasonable, cut out your parents.

Two things are possible when you cut out your parents (or cut down on interactions with them): they will miss you and, like your boyfriend’s parents, will eventually come around to accepting your relationship if it means having you back in their life; or, they will double-down on their hate and cut you out of their lives with an even deeper and longer-lasting incision. Either way, you still have your relationship and the absence of people actively meddling in it and creating tension between you and your boyfriend.

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

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What are you all up to this weekend? We’ve got my sister and her boyfriend visiting from Miami (she had a conference on the east coast that he tagged along to and then they took a train in to NYC to visit for a few days). Yesterday I took them to the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, which was excellent and I would recommend it but it closes tomorrow and I’m sure it’s probably sold out. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day — happy Mother’s Day to all those who celebrate — and I am hoping to be left alone for a couple hours so I can read some more of this book, which I started last week, maybe take a nap and/or get a foot rub.

Good news – I slept through he night last night for the first time in like two months (if you read this post, you know I’ve been struggling with a lot of anxiety and insomnia recently)! Now I’m going to take advantage of the teeny hint of sun we have at the moment and get in a bike ride before it starts raining for the rest of the weekend. Have a great one!

(Above photo shot on our vacation to Sullivan’s Island a couple weeks ago)

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