Hello Dr. Love -I have been seeing my girlfriend for about about 19 months. We are both 31 years of age, but she is a single mother ( One is 13 with no father and the other is 9 who spends weekends with the father). I honestly have to say that I thought about her and her children from the very beginning, but as the relationship progressed I realized how much I care about her and was willing to accept her children in the relationship.The relationship has been going well for the 19 month duration. I am not saying that we have not gotten into any arguments, but we always seem to work things out and get on with our relationship. I call her everyday to see how she is doing and probably see her at least 4 times a week to have dinner and just spend time together.The problem is that it seemed that everything was going fine we had spent a Saturday afternoon together in San Francisco and then had dinner that night and just enjoyed being together. I had then been busy with work and not given her a call for a couple of days, so she called me on Tuesday to see if there was anything wrong and I said that there was not, that I had just been busy at work.She then asked me over and she cooked dinner and I had helped her son with his homework. I then went over the next day and picked her and her nine year old up to go to the movies and had a great time with them. I can see how much she loves her children and how happy she is with them.Then I called her up on Saturday to see if she had time to spend together and she never returned my call. I tried calling her the whole next week and nothing. I finally talked to her about a week later and she said that she still loves me, but that she is not happy because her 13 year old is not happy. Which I think is because he is feeling lonely and upset because he has no father and that someone else ( Me ) has his mothers attention. Compounded by the fact that he is probably a little jealous of the other sons being completely supported by the father with school, toys, and going to sporting events.I tried to talk to her about it and let her know that I want to be part of his life also, but she is reluctant to let me into that part of her life. I love her very much and want to spend the rest of my life with her, but she is not willing to let me be a part of her child’s life.It is very hard for me to let her go in that she says that she still loves me, but wants to be alone and spend time with her 13 year old. I have told her that I understand that her son is her priority over me and I respect that, as that is the way it should be, but how can I get her to understand that I want to be part of her life and her son’s?
What a touchy situation. Your girlfriend is so caught up in her own emotional angst, that she isn’t able to hear anything about what you want. If I were you, I would not try to sell your own agenda to her just now. She can’t hear what you want, so don’t waste your breath.First we need to get through to her before you can address your wish to be a part of her life. It sounds like she blames herself and feels guilty that her 13 year old son has no father. After all, she’s the one who chose the man who ultimately abandoned this kid, so I am sure that she holds herself responsible.The fact that the child became jealous of her attachment to you was the icing on the cake. His jealousy pushed her guilt right over the top and now she is atoning for her ‘sins’ by giving up the man she loves. What she doesn’t realize is that no amount of sacrifice on her part is going to make up for what this boy has lost. His father is a zero and she can’t be both father and mother to this kid.Tell her what you see is happening to her. Tell her what I said above and tell her that no matter how much she sacrifices the boy is still going to have to grieve over his lost father. She can’t and shouldn’t try to take his grief from him.Tell her that giving up her own life and happiness isn’t the way to help the boy either. For him to grow up healthy, he needs to have a mother who is happy and taking care of herself. If she plays the role of the martyr, she is going to teach her son to be a junior martyr. That’s all he needs is to be a fatherless martyr.She also needs to see that she is trying to take the boy’s bad feelings away from him. He feels hurt and jealous that she spends time with you, so she tries to take away his feelings by ending the source of those bad feelings (the relationship with you). But her job as a mother isn’t to take away his feelings, it’s to teach him how to learn to communicate his feelings, not run from them.The boy is supposed to feel hurt and jealous. These are normal feelings given that his brother has a father and he doesn’t. She should encourage him to talk about the feelings, listen, and understand them, not stifle them. By not helping him to tolerate his uncomfortable feelings, she sets him up for all kinds of problems down the line, including drug addiction and alcoholism. People who abuse substances are numbing out feelings that they never learned to tolerate.She is also showing him that one person needs to suffer so that another can feel better. That’s not a healthy message. Why can’t she be happy with you and help her son find ways of being happier himself? Why doesn’t she she help him to learn creative ways of modifying his environment so that he can feel better? Instead of wallowing in the grief of having no father, why can’t he adopt you as his father? Why can’t he have special time alone with you when his brother is with his father?Very few of us get the biological parents we deserve or desire. Why can’t he choose a substitute and disinherit his father? Helping the boy to take action puts him in the driver’s rather than the victim’s seat.A healthy solution to this problem involves not less but more. Mom shouldn’t take less. Mom should have more and so should her son. He should have more of his feelings and more love in his life, not less. He’s lucky that you care about him and that you want to be a father figure to him.Pointing out these truths to her should give her the wake up call that she needs. If she refuses to wake up, then you are dealing with a lost cause and it will be your turn to grieve and move on. I hope that your girlfriend isn’t too damaged to hear the truth of my words and let herself off the hook.Please let me know her response to what I said.