“I need a life too!”

My husband left me when my daughter was very young. He married again quickly and has more children with his new wife. I was on my own for several years, needing time to get over the shock of it all and adjust. More recently I have met a lovely man but my daughter, who is now 11, doesn’t want me to have a friendship let alone a relationship with anyone. I understand that she is very used to having all my attention, but she doesn’t seem to understand that I am entitled to have a life too. Please can you advise me of the best way to deal with this situation. I have approached my GP but he couldn’t help and my parents aren’t giving me any support. It’s making life miserable for us both. Can you offer any advice? Nia

Denise says:

You are not only entitled to a life, you must have one as much for your daughter’s sake as your own. But the way to solve this problem is to see it from her point of view. Not only has she had your undivided attention, she regards your house as her territory. If he comes in will he take it from her, monopolise you, be horrid to her? You can’t blame her for thinking like this and it’s also possible that she has felt pushed out of her father’s life by his new family. Now she thinks it might happen again. In order to get her on your side you have to calm these fears but you must also be firm about your rights. If you give up this man you would be bound to feel she had spoiled your life and that might show. When she grew up she would realise what she had done and perhaps feel guilty about leaving you alone to pursue her own life. I suggest you reassure her of her place in your affections and your home, but explain that you need friends just as she needs friends. Emphasise that at this stage he is only a friend and make sure that when you are with him she is doing something nice, not just shoved on to anyone who will babysit. Make sure you have lots of time with her alone. For instance, not all of every weekend should be spent with him, although gradually he can join you and her on outings. Ask her advice on things, as much as you can because this will make her feel more grown-up. The main thing is to take this slowly, however much in love you may be. You have been alone a long time and are bound to be thrilled at this new romance, but play it cool for her sake. If he is as nice as he seems he will understand and co-operate. Keep her in the loop about all you do and don’t tell her fibs… ever. Discuss her future with her and how, one day, she will leave you to make her own life although you will always be joined in love. And, whatever the temptation, don’t ever say, “You’re a little girl and I will do what I want.” You and she are a team. Your happiness depends on your taking her with you and, if you proceed slowly but firmly, you can.

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