Dear Dr. G.,
I feel less close to my recently divorced dad ever since my dad has been dating. We used to be much closer but now he's always with his girlfriend. Before my dad was dating this woman I would always watch TV shows and even stay up late with my brother and dad most of the time. When it was just me and my father we would watch our favorite TV shows together.
Now, I feel like my dad is always pushing me away. He is always hugging his girlfriend and kissing her around me. I find this gross and I'm really uncomfortable with this behavior. I can't believe I'm saying this but I want my old dad back the one that was nicer and who used to watch TV shows with with me. We even used to
go to the movies just me, dad, and my brother but now its me, her, dad, brother and
the girlfriend's son. I'm only 15 years old. Please help.
A Sad Teen
I really get it and I'm glad that you wrote to me. When families are transitioning and making changes it is often tricky and difficult for everyone. Feelings get hurt and toes get stepped on. We often wish for the old and familiar because the new situations make us feel replaced and uncomfortable.
It sounds like you have enjoyed your relationship with your father for a long time. Your time alone with him and your brother was, of course, very special to you. Now, it must feel like there is an intruder in your life-one who is interfering with your relationship with your dad. I wouldn't be surprised if you are angry and jealous not just at your father's girlfriend but also toward her son.
There is a lot that I need to tell you about the feelings of children when their divorced parents begin to date. First, there is often jealousy and anger. You are not alone with these feelings. You are in good company. Other children of divorced parents often share the same sorts of feelings. Second, the divorced parent is often so happy to be in a new relationship that s/he begins to spend less alone time with their children. They are often so consumed by the new relationship that they are unaware of how their behavior is affecting their kids. Third, the dating parents sometimes get confused about boundaries and appropriate behavior and get too physical with their new partner publicly. I can certainly understand why this makes you uncomfortable. Finally, the dating parent may try to recreate a new family too quickly and before everyone is ready for this.
My first bit of advice to you is to speak to your father alone and let him know that you miss him. Explain how important alone time with him (and perhaps with your brother) is. It is also very important to tell him how his physical behavior with his girlfriend is making you feel. It doesn't sound to me that you dislike your father's girlfriend. It sounds more like you dislike their behavior when they are together and in your presence. Perhaps, it would also be beneficial for you to get to know your father's girlfriend and her son at a pace that is comfortable for you. You might even end up liking them. This is even more likely to be the case if you get some alone time with your dad back. I am not suggesting that you think of your father's girlfriend and her son as your relatives but you just might surprise yourself and start to like some things about them. Keep in mind that just as this relationship is new to you it is also new to everyone else. Let's see if things can settle down so that you feel better.
Please get back to me after you speak to your dad.
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