Do women want their men miserable?

Hmm. But that ‘s what a just-released study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found. Men, it seems, want their wife or girlfriend to be happy. Women, on the other hand, want their husband or boyfriend to “feel their pain.”

Here’s what the study’s lead author, Shiri Cohen, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, said: “It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man’s investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times.”

You can read the whole article here:

http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/03/women-happier.aspx

The Unconditional Love Test

Dear Mr. Dad: This isn’t strictly a parenting question, but here goes. My daughter, 26, met a man, left her husband, and is already moving in with her new boyfriend. She never gave us any indication that she was unhappy. It all happened very quickly, in a matter of a month. He’s a nice enough guy, but she kind of forced him on us and we’re not ready to bond with him yet. We’d feel disloyal toward our son-in-law if we welcome this new man into our family. What can we do?

A: Actually, this really IS a parenting question. Our kids are our kids—no matter how old they are—and we’re still going to worry about them when they’re all grown-up. The only difference is that since your daughter’s an adult, you can’t really tell her what to do or ask her to follow your house rules—unless of course, she’s living in your house. You basically have to accept her actions, even if they go against your own judgment.

The end of a marriage or long-term relationship is, in a way, like a death in the family. There’s a natural grieving process, mourning the loss of the relationship and of the people connected with it–especially if you were close to them, as you are with your former son-in-law. If your daughter’s marriage had been bad for a long time, her leaving her husband might not have been much of a surprise.(However, even the end of really horrible relationships involve some grief—the loss of hopes and dreams.) In your case, since this all happened so quickly, you haven’t had enough time to completely come to grips with it.

None of this means that you have any obligation to support—or even agree with—your daughter’s decisions. If you didn’t already, have a talk with her and tell her exactly what you wrote here: That you’re confused, that her actions took you by surprise, that you don’t understand the reasons behind what seems like completely irrational behavior, and that you’re going to need some time to adjust to the changes.

It’s not unreasonable to ask your daughter to explain what happened that led her to make such a sudden, drastic change. Has she really thought everything through? (Going by what you say, it doesn’t seem like she did.) Did she try counseling—with or without your son-in-law? Did she consider a trial separation, to decompress and think things through before plunging headlong into another relationship? Keep your expectations low, though. She may open up and give you a decent explanation, or she may refuse to talk at all, falling back on a favorite teenage refrain: “It’s my life and you can’t tell me what to do.”

Given enough time, you might end up agreeing with your daughter’s decision and loving her new partner. But it’s just as possible that you’ll never understand why she did what she did, and never warm to him. Either way, you’ll have to come to terms with the new cast of characters in her life. One of the most difficult things we have to do as parents is to just be there. So when you’re ready, invite them over for coffee.

Two more quick things. First, be thankful your daughter doesn’t have children—that would complicate things by a factor of 10. Second, given your close relationship with your former son-in-law, it’s fine for you to keep in touch with him. But be very careful not to do anything that your daughter could interpret as “taking sides.”

A Date With Maturity

Dear Mr. Dad: A boy from my 15-year-old daughter’s class is interested in her. He seems nice enough but we think that, at her age, she’s too young to date. We hear so much about the dangers of giving teens too much freedom, and we want to protect our daughter for as long we can. We figure she’ll have many opportunities to date when she is older. Are we being (as she tells us) unreasonable?

A: As the father of three daughters (including a 17-year old) it sounds to me like you’re being caring and responsible parents, and that’s certainly commendable. I also understand why you’d be concerned about your daughter’s safety and well-being. After all, you can’t open a newspaper or check your email without hearing about some kind of horror story, so it’s perfectly normal to want to do everything we possibly can to keep our kids (boys as well as girls) out of harm’s way.

That raises an interesting problem. On one hand we want to protect our children. On the other, one of our main roles as parents is help our kids develop a sense of independence and responsibility. We also want them to develop the kind of judgment and self-confidence that will help them make wise choices as they grow.

In other words, we have to prepare our children to survive in a world where, eventually, they’ll have to make their own decisions and live with the consequences—without mom or dad standing over their shoulder. The time will come soon enough. Just not today.

That said, I think you’ve got a little negotiating room here. With two and a half adults (your daughter would do the math differently) sitting at the same table, I’m confident that you’ll be able to find a way to reconcile your daughter’s desire to spend time with her young man and your need to protect her.
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Helping a boyfriend deal with a vicious ex

Dear Mr. Dad: My boyfriend’s former wife does not co-parent with him at all. I have seen vulgar emails, heard her use foul language in front of the kids and tell them “your father is kicking us out of our home.” She signs them up for things without confirming it with him but expects for him to pay, without question of course. I could go on and on but you get the point. I know he’s getting pushed to his limit and something needs to be done. He says he feels like he’s drowning but no one will throw him a life raft. How can I help him?

A: Thank you so much for your email. Your boyfriend has no idea how lucky he is to have you in his corner. Your support and encouragement will make a huge difference in his life and will make it easier for him to maintain good relationships with his kids. At the same time, though, you’re in an incredibly delicate and difficult situation. More on that in a minute.

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Unemployed Expectant Parents

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m almost eight months pregnant but my boyfriend and I are having relationship troubles. We’re both jobless right now, which is a strain. Plus, I get the feeling that he doesn’t want the responsibility of being a dad and wishes he was still single. He denies it and insists he loves me and the baby, and I know he is actively looking for a job. But I’m afraid. How can I be sure he’ll stay with me and be a good and responsible father and partner?

A: I wish there was a simple answer to your question. Unfortunately, though, relationships don’t come with a warranty, and the truth is that there’s no guaranteed way to make sure your boyfriend will stay or, if he does, that he’ll be the “good and responsible father and partner” you’re looking for.
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