I’m In Love With A Married Man

Dear Dr. Meg,

I love a man who is married. We have been together for only four months.

I am so obsessive with his incomplete love for me. Deep in my heart I know he can never love me or care about me as much as he loves his wife and his kids. Can you please guide me in a direction for my unfortunate situation?

I am sad when he doesn’t drop me a text daily. My heart will ache when I know he is having a great time with his family. I feel my mood going up and down because of his reaction to me. I don’t know how to help myself with my helpless love for this married man. Please help guide me into a healthier future.

With Warm Regards,
Helpless & In Love

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Dear H&IL,

I can hear that you are suffering and I want you to know that you can get over this because the love that you are feeling for this man is not healthy. I say this for several reasons. First, he does not love you. He is using you. This is hard to hear but you need to hear it. When you are in a very unhealthy relationship, it can feel good on the surface but down deep, it really is not meeting your needs. He is selfish, does not have integrity (he’s cheating on his wife and children) and he doesn’t care enough about his family or you to be faithful to either one. So my question is, why do you love someone who is like this?

The answer I believe is that you are not respecting yourself. You are settling for something that isn’t a real, honest love and you are settling for something that only hurts you (and his family.) So the question is, why do you feel that you aren’t worth more than this? Could it be that you have become involved with someone who is bad for you as a way of punishing yourself? Could you be involved with him because you know that you can never fully have him to yourself?

Here’s what I recommend. Stop punishing yourself and break up with him immediately. Your obsession with him doesn’t come from healthy love- it comes from somewhere else and it makes you feel “good” for now but it will tear your heart out. So, send him an email (don’t see him face to face because you will change your mind) and tell him that your relationship is over. Cut this off immediately. Living in this relationship is keeping torture alive.

Then, cry your heart out and get over him. Find someone (a good friend or counselor) you trust to help you understand why you are so cruel to yourself that you would be attracted to someone of poor character. And he does have bad character if he’s cheating. Ask God to help you find someone who is genuinely good for you, devoted to you and faithful to you. This is the only way to get over this pain. You deserve real healthy love but you will never find it as long as you stay in this bad relationship.

Regards,
Dr. Meg

Raising Children From A Broken Family

Dear Dr Meg,

My daughter and son in law will be divorced in a couple of weeks. My daughter will have sole custody with supervised visits.  The supervised visits will be with my husband and I.  My son in law is an alcoholic, has anxiety issues, and is bipolar with sudden rages where he destroys things.  Since my granddaughter was born 2 1/2 years ago, his symptoms and diseases have become out of control and he states openly he resents her for being born and that she has ruined his life.  He has never established a relationship with her and when he was around her he wanted to hit her, not spank, just hit her for the his own satisfaction.  Anyway that’s a short version.  My question is do you have a book on raising children from a broken family.  We want to do the very best we can to raise a happy healthy girl!! Statistics are gloomy.   Please help.

Thank you,

Beverly

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Dear Beverly,

Your granddaughter is lucky to have you and your husband in her life. Yes, statistics are gloomy but here’s something that you need to remember…your granddaughter is not a statistic. Her story is not written and there are many things in her life (you and your husband for starters) that will work in her favor. And never underestimate the power of two healthy grandparents!

In fact, every one of my books focuses on raising healthy children. I would encourage your husband to read Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters because in many ways he will be a father to your granddaughter. I have seen many stepfathers and grandfathers turn a little girl’s life around with love, compassion and attention. So have him read that. Also, I have something called The Strong Parent Project on my website which I wrote for people just like you; adults who are or are acting like parents to children whom they love.

Here’s what I encourage you to concentrate on in the years ahead- keep life simple. You’ve raised a daughter so you know that we parents spend a whole lot of time and energy doing things for our children that really don’t need to be done. What children need, instead of the stuff we give them or the pressure that we put on them to go to the right school or get into the right sports, etc., is time with us. Let me repeat. If you really want your granddaughter to grow up to be a sound, responsible and self-confident young woman (even when it appears that the cards are stacked against her), bring her close to your side and live life next to her. Take her to the grocery store, on camping trips, on hikes, or to rake the leaves in the yard. By living next to you and her grandfather, she learns that she is your little apprentice in life. She will learn what it feels like to be wanted, loved, liked, respected and listened to. She needs to know that someone sees her and feels that her company is desirable and that her opinions are worth hearing. This is what happens when we live life beside our children rather than ship them off for someone else to coach, teach, befriend or play with.

The one common factor that I have seen in every child who has grown up to be emotionally healthy and happy is this: they have spent a lot of time with parents or grandparents. We must never forget that we adults must be part of our children’s peer group- not in order to behave at their intellectual or cognitive level but to bring them up to ours. This is what helps children mature into strong, well-adjusted adults.

And it sounds to me from your letter that you are just the kind of grandmother who can do this.

Regards,
Dr. Meg

What Only a Dad Can Give

What Only a Dad Can Give

As a father, I’m sure there are things that you wish you knew about your children; so let me help you out. As a ‘professional’ listener of children for 30 years now, I have learned a lot about them. Your children want and need a lot from you but those needs and wants might surprise you. Let’s look at a few.

  1. Your children want your company, not nicer clothes, a newer phone or a bigger house. Why is this? Because children are fundamentally self-centered and being with you makes then feel valuable. When your children mow the lawn beside you, help you run errands or chop wood, they watch how you respond to them. If they see that you enjoy their company they feel more respectable and more self-confident. Nicer clothes, playing soccer better or living in a bigger home can’t give them self-confidence like spending time with you can.
  2. Being with you is the best safeguard against the “big” trouble in life. That’s right. Children who live with their fathers are at lower risk for drinking, being sexually active, depressed or getting into trouble at school. The flip side is this: living with you helps your children get better grades, have a higher self esteem, be happier and be less anxious to name a few. The bottom line is that you are great for you kids.
  3. You make your children (even when they are teenagers) feel safe. This might sound trite, but it is quite important. Certainly our goal as parents is to help children make their own way and live independently, but developmentally, children have a need to feel safe. When they see their father protect them, they believe that they are worth protecting. When a daughter hears her father tell a guy who wants to date her “no”, she feels good about herself (On the surface, she will appear furious, but down deep, she feels loved.) In fact, having a father present decreases a girl’s chances of getting taken into sex trafficking because girls feel safe (and in fact are safer) when their fathers are around.

You can see by this short list that there is one extremely important fact about your children that you must know: they need you, dads.  Not just to make sure they get on the right football team, get better grades or have the nicest clothes in the class. They need something far more serious.  They need life. You not only give them life, but throughout their childhood, you also save them over and over. You keep them away from the bad stuff, help them stay on the high road and yes, there are times when you literally save their lives by simply being their dads.

This Father’s Day, celebrate your influence. There is plenty around to tell you that you don’t matter that much and that you can easily be replaced by your child’s mother or grandfather. Don’t believe them. You are your child’s one and only father. And the two who know the significance of this most clearly are you and your child.

Hope For A Grieving Mother

Dear Dr. Meg,

I lost my oldest son, 39 in November 2013 in a car crash. I am still grieving over his loss. It was he and I for years. His Dad and me divorced when he was a baby. A parent should not out live their child!

It wasn’t until 11 years later I remarried, but we were everything to each other. He always said “Just you and me Mom, just you and me”. We were very close.  I am still grieving over him and I will till the day I die. He left me 2 wonderful grandchildren, 14 and 13. I am thankful and told him “I love you” everyday. The last time I saw him was in May 2013 when I left for California to help my youngest son. We hugged, said “I love you” to each other. He said “Just you and me Mom, just you and me”. Yes, hon, always. Next thing, I get this phone call at 0345 from one of my other son’s, saying that he was dead.  My heart just ripped in two.

I could feel the knife cutting through my heart again. Oh, it hurts so much! I had forgotten how it hurt when my husband passed away. But you know when it is your child it is a different pain! Your child is part of you; your flesh and blood. You carried them for 9 months, you feed them, breath for them, you felt their movements and their kicks. Not like your spouse.

I’ve been seeing a therapist through the V.A. for years for ‘PTSD’ from war zones cause of ‘M.S.T’. The therapist I had this last year (new one) thought I should be over my grief by June 2014. She couldn’t understand why I still was. That I was even still grieving over the loss of my husband, Jan 1995. Left 2 children, 1 boy (9), 1 girl (7).  My therapist told me I should not be grieving still over the loss of my son.

When I lost my husband, I guess someone was looking out for the kids. The school the kids went to had a week long session for grieving kids who had lost a family member. I put both my children in this class. It did help some but not much. My daughter, really never got over the loss of her Daddy.  Of course she was a Daddy’s girl. ]She is now 28 and she still ask things about Daddy and if he did this or that. If she got this from Daddy’s side of family. She is tall and big like her Daddy.  My son doesn’t really ask questions and when he does it shocks me.

I didn’t know what to tell the kids and didn’t know how to deal with their problems of losing my husband. All I did was to be honest to them about him, hug them and tell them everyday, several times a day, that “I love you” or that ”I loved them”. What else could I do? I was new to this too. Now I’ve lost my son. I do also tell his kids “I love you” and hug them when I see them. I, again don’t know what to do or how. I will I hope help my Grandchildren through this time.

I know, Dr. Meg you rely on God’s help. I used to but I feel I have no faith in God now. I lost my best friend, my soul mate and my loving husband. I lost my other friend, my buddy, my son. I know I should, but I cannot trust God now. I know I should. Only the only sin I’ve committed is turning my back on God. I’m sorry Dr. Meg but I can’t help it.  It has taken me 3 weeks to write this message. A friend sent me a comment you had made on face book. So, I took time and read a lot. I follow your page. I like it, too.

I am not sure what I’m asking for or trying to say here. What I feel or need. I just felt the need to write.

Thank you,

A Grieving Mother

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Dear AGM,

You are a faithful, kind and loving woman swallowed by dark grief but I have good news for you. First, I do believe that your therapist is wrong. Expecting a mother to be finished grieving the loss of a son after 1 1/2 years is wrong. The truth is, you will never completely get over the loss of your son BUT the pain you feel now should become less intense over time.

You say that you can’t trust God and I totally get it. He has let you down and you feel that He has betrayed you. I felt that way after a very close loved one of mine died. I thought that God turned His back on me and for months and months I refused to pray. I told Him that if He was real, then He was going to have to show me because I didn’t believe Him anymore. In time, he showed me that He is real in a deeply personal way and He will show you too if you are willing to see.

There is something I want you to think about: God knows exactly how you feel because He lost his son too. Jesus was God’s only child. He was an amazing child and loved his father with all of his heart and died when he was 33. In fact, do you remember what Jesus said on the cross? He said exactly what your heart feels right now, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”  Even he thought God abandoned him.

So what gives? Here’s the thing that you must remember- your story about losing your son and Jesus’ story about feeling abandoned and God’s story of losing his son doesn’t end there. None of the stories end with heartache because Christ came back to life. God got to see his son go through death and then be restored. Jesus came to realize that while he thought God had abandoned him, he really hadn’t. And you need to know that God hasn’t abandoned you or your son either. Your son is alive! I think that he can hear you and I think that he knows that you are reading this letter right now. The problem for you is that you are in so much pain you can’t see this.

Heaven is real. If you had faith in God once, some part of you believes that so hold onto it. Your son is not dead in the ground; he just isn’t sitting next to you anymore. He is with your beloved husband.

There is another thing that I want you to think about. Could it be that part of you doesn’t want to let go of some of your grief over either your son or your husband because if you do allow yourself some happiness, you feel that you will betray them? If, for instance, you let your son “go” and be happy for him in the life that he lives in Heaven and you didn’t feel so terribly sad all the time about him, would you feel that you aren’t a loving mother? This is a very common feeling in parents or spouses who have lost a loved one.

Finally, I want to encourage you to start looking at the great blessings right in front of you, your grandchildren. They need a grandmother who is tough enough to roll up her sleeves and help them. They don’t have a dad and they hurt in ways very different from you. So help them. Put aside your grief for a few hours a day and do whatever you can to cheer them up, talk to them on the phone (or see them if you can.) They need you to be their dad for them so do this. He will watch from heaven and be so proud of you.

Regards,
Dr. Meg

A Boyfriend Causing Concern

Dear Dr. Meg,

My daughter is 19 and a freshman in college. She was raised in our home, and she participated in the church youth group, among other faith-related activities. She’s a beautiful, intelligent young woman who never really dated in high school, not for lack of offers, but because she didn’t feel the right guys were interested. She was pretty much a homebody. Now that she’s at college, she has started seeing another freshman in her dorm. They are in the same program and seem to spend all of their time together. My daughter tells her friends that the boy is “bipolar” and that explains why he is sometimes not very nice to her. Also, when they are at home on breaks from school, he stops texting her. His hometown is about two hours away from where we live. The young man will not meet me or my husband, even though we have asked our daughter repeatedly and have offered for him to come visit and even take a short vacation with us.  I think it’s very likely that they are having sex, although she has told me they aren’t. My husband and I are at a loss as to how to handle this. We talk to her about our vision for her to have a loving relationship including God and faith, but she just looks at us and makes no changes in her relationship with the boy. We are worried about her safety and well-being. Can you give us some advice about what to do and say?

Thank you.

Signed,
Distraught

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Dear Distraught,

Here’s what bothers me most about your daughter’s situation: the fact that she says her boyfriend is mean to her. Add to this, her belief (correct or incorrect) that he is bipolar and this guy spells trouble. So, the question for you, her loving mother is this: how do you help a daughter get out of a bad relationship?

I have some thoughts for you because, unfortunately, your daughter isn’t alone. Often, conscientious, bright young women are attracted to men with broken wings. This gentleman knows that your daughter is kind and compassionate and is playing on that. The problem is, she can’t see it. Here’s what I would do. Telling her that he’s bad for her won’t work. The more you criticize him, the more she will defend him and tell you that you don’t understand. She believes that he needs her in order for him to be happy. The best way to help someone in this situation is to come by her side and gently ask questions and let her respond. When she comes up with the answer that he’s not good for her, then she’ll let go. But- the trick is, she has to feel that she is coming to the realization on her own. I would ask her questions like this:

“Honey- what do the two of you do together that you enjoy?”

“Is he fun to be around?”

“I’m glad that you seem happy. What about him makes you feel this way?”

“(Her name), you know that I am always here for you and that I believe in your decisions. I will support you no matter what, so if you ever need encouragement or advice about this relationship or another, I’m here to listen.”

“I’m sorry that (his name) won’t come to the house. I’d love to meet him. Why wouldn’t he want to meet us?”

“Being in love is wonderful. I want to help you in any way that I can to have healthy, strong relationships when you are in love so please know that I’m here.”

“I know that when two people love each other, they make one another better people, that’s what your dad did for me and I did for him. Do you think you make (his name) a better person?” At this point, she will say yes because the dynamic of an abuser and a victim is that the victim believes that the abuser needs her to be better. But then, you add, “And how does he make you a better person?”

When you ask these questions, listen carefully and don’t respond. Don’t even make faces showing that you disapprove of him. Your job is to let her know that you are on her side, that you think dating is a good thing (just not with him) and that you are glad that she has decided to begin dating. The point is twofold- to let her know that you love her and believe in her adult abilities to make good choices regarding who she dates and also to keep her from feelings defensive of him. If she feels that you aren’t simply waiting to put the hammer down on him, she will open up and confide in you. But- if she feels that she needs to “prove to you” that he’s really a good guy, she will close up. By asking the right questions and not giving her the answers, you are inviting her to think more deeply about their relationship. Let’s assume that you really liked this guy and you said with genuine enthusiasm, “I’m so glad that he makes you happy! What does he do that makes you this happy?” she would have to stop and think. She might think, ‘what does he do that’s good for me?’ Then, she realizes on her own that he’s a bad egg. Also, if your husband is willing, have him weigh in on this with your daughter. He can follow the same approach and when the two of you show genuine interest, it will be hard for her to not engage either of you.

The other thing that is important to do is to reach out to some of her close girlfriends if you know them. Ask them for coffee and tell them your concerns and ask their opinions. They, too, will probably be feeling the way that you do and then ask them to help her see this guy’s bad side over time. Girls who are close to their friends often listen to their advice if they consistently and lovingly give it.

Finally, pray for her. God loves her more than you do and if this guys really bad for her, God will grieve too. Ask Him to intervene. Ask that He help you find the words to say. Your daughter is only 19 and her story isn’t written. Don’t panic. With help, shell get out from under this fellow.

Regards,
Dr. Meg