Posted by fxckfeelings on June 29, 2015Share This Post
Your brain’s ability to identify problems is a lot like that of a drug-sniffing dog, which is to say, despite its training and experience, it still occasionally confuses flour with cocaine or gives the OK to a cargo ship packed with heroin. In order to avoid overreacting to a non-problem or writing off something dangerous, think carefully about the consequences of problems and your intuitive response before deciding whether you need to act or sit on your hands. That way, you’ll be a more effective problem-assessor (and possibly problem solver) and more than earn a treat.
Since my husband and I divorced, I feel like my daughter is slipping away. The divorce wasn’t bitter, but my daughter has the same sensitive temperament as my ex-husband and just generally takes after him more, so she seems more comfortable with him than with me. She and I love one another, but we don’t have the same natural rapport that she and her father have, so, all things being equal, it makes me feel a little on edge when we’re together. When I try harder to show I care (buy her clothes, take her to concerts, etc.), it seems to make her more uncomfortable. I feel like I’m losing the most important relationship left in my family, and I should encourage her to tell me why I make her nervous. My goal is to find a way to make our relationship work.
It’s natural to think you can get closer to your kid by being more like the person she’s close to. Unfortunately, trying to be like someone you’re not is like a dog trying to walk only on his hind legs; it’s hard work, curious and awkward for everybody nearby, and eventually, you’ll be unable to resist returning to a natural/quadruped state.
That’s why a major requirement for partnership is finding someone who can accept your temperament the way it is, which might also explain why your partnership with your husband wasn’t sustainable. Either way, you can still have a successful partnership with your kid, even if you aren’t 100% compatible.
Assuming that it’s your temperament that makes your daughter uneasy, there’s no point in inviting her to express her disquiet. Nothing she says will make it easier for you to change who you are, and pushing her to express uneasiness will probably make her even more uncomfortable.
Yes, if she has an old grievance, maybe it will help her to tell you what’s bothering her. More likely, however, she can’t put her finger on why she’s more comfortable with her father than with you and feels guilty about her preference, so pressing her just increases that preference and the guilt that goes with it.
Instead of trying to change her preference, ask yourself whether you’ve been a good mother according to your idea of the job description. Don’t judge yourself by your daughter’s reaction or how your chemistry with her compares to that with her father, but by how well you discharged your responsibilities.
Assuming you did a reasonable job, be proud of your parenting and ignore her uneasiness. She can’t help it and neither can you, so your goal is to find positive ways to spend time together in spite of it.
Propose activities you know you’d both like that you can do together. If she seems reluctant, tell her how much you enjoy spending time together and how important you think it is to take a little time, on a regular basis, to nurture your relationship and not let other things get in the way. Make it clear you don’t expect your relationship to be more comfortable or intimate than it is; you think your relationship is valuable as is, so you want to continue it and keep it strong.
You may never be entirely comfortable with one another, but you’ll always love each other, and your connection, imperfect as it is, will always be important. If you can keep up to your standards of being a good parent, then you can stand up to your fears on both feet and be yourself.
“I can’t help feeling there must be something I should do to make my relationship with my daughter less tense and more positive, but I know I’ve done a good job, we connect in some way, and her anxiety is what it is. I will find ways we can spend time while trying to accept the fact that, while our relationship may never be comfortable, our love is real and positive.”
I’ve never been unfaithful to my husband and drinking has never gotten me into trouble, but he’s always on me about my drinking and it drives me nuts. One of the only people I feel comfortable talking to about the problems he and I are having is his best friend/my best friend’s husband, who we’ve both known for years, since he understands where I’m coming from and knows just what to say. Unfortunately, this friend says that he doesn’t think we should talk as much anymore, because if my husband ever saw all our emails and texts he’d be furious with both of us, but I think that’s stupid because we haven’t done anything wrong and we have an important connection. My goal is to keep our friendship, because my husband can’t understand me, our relationship, or maybe anything else.
Although it’s nice to have a husband with whom you can share everything, it’s often more important to have a husband who’s reliable, does his share, and is good with the kids, even if he’s clueless about what’s going on in your head. Yes, it’s frustrating to feel he doesn’t understand, but there aren’t that many good guys out there, and, when you want to feel better understood, you can always talk to your hairdresser, dog, or shrink (in-office, online, or otherwise).
To put it another way, the guy who is easiest to talk to does not necessarily have the other qualities you need for a partner, and talking with that guy may put your current relationship at risk. So go down the list of partnership requirements and ask yourself whether your husband meets most of them before deciding that your need to share requires immediate satisfaction.
Remember, drinking always encourages immediate satisfaction and you do drink enough to worry your husband, even if you don’t consider yourself an alcoholic. Even when drinking doesn’t cause any medical or behavior problems, it can get you in trouble by blinding you to long-term consequences and encouraging you to do and say whatever feels good in the moment. Like, say, sharing close confidences with your husband’s best friend.
As you’ve noted, your husband’s best friend is not available as a partner, and your sharing with him, even though it’s not sexual, could damage your marriage and also lose you your friendship with his wife. I’m also assuming, if you’ve been married a long time, that you and your husband share love and a life together, which means you have much to lose by pushing this friendship too far.
Put aside your neediness, lay off the booze for a moment, and think through what’s good for you in the long run. Maybe see a shrink to help you figure it out (but not to help you feel really, really understood). Don’t destroy your marriage until you’ve had a chance to think about its value.
If your marriage has little to offer, of course you should move on. Before doing that, however, make sure you’ve given careful, sober thought to its value and the alternative before you let the need to share your feelings trump your need for a decent partnership.
“My husband sometimes leaves me feeling lonely, and I feel better when I’m drinking and confiding in my friends, but I will not do anything to endanger my marriage until I’ve thought carefully about what it contributes to my life and the harm I would cause by ending it.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname