For co-par­ent, there’s still room to dis­cuss feel­ings

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - LIVING - Car­olyn You can reach Car­olyn Hax by email at tellme@wash­post.com. You can chat with her at noon Fri­days at Wash­ing­ton­Post.com.

(Adapted from an on­line dis­cus­sion.)

Dear Car­olyn:

I share a friendly co-par­ent­ing re­la­tion­ship with my 9-year-old daugh­ter’s fa­ther. It hasn’t al­ways been easy. We were in a newish re­la­tion­ship when I got preg­nant, and he left only a few months after she was born.

I dealt with a lot of feel­ings of anger and aban­don­ment at the time, but he has since apol­o­gized, ad­mit­ting he was over­whelmed and ashamed of his ac­tions. I now con­sider him to be one of my clos­est friends.

Re­cently, we’ve been spend­ing more time to­gether as a fam­ily, and I find my­self de­vel­op­ing feel­ings for him. I want to say some­thing, but I’m wor­ried it’ll make things awk­ward be­tween us if he doesn’t re­cip­ro­cate.

How should I ap­proach this? Should I tell my daugh­ter’s fa­ther I have a crush on him, or should I just take a step back and let things sub­side? I’ll ad­mit that a small part of me thinks he might feel the same way, too, but I don’t want to screw up the good co-par­ent­ing re­la­tion­ship we al­ready have.

— Have Feel­ings

“I’m wor­ried it’ll make things awk­ward.” Yes, it might.

And if it does, then you push through the awk­ward­ness to the other side. Even speak the pos­si­bil­ity of awk­ward­ness to him out loud, to say you won’t let it stand in the way of your friend­ship if he doesn’t feel the same way about you.

So many of us see awk­ward­ness as a static, per­ma­nent thing, but peo­ple are built to be­come ac­cus­tomed to vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing, given time. What­ever is novel in our lives even­tu­ally be­comes old, fa­mil­iar, nor­mal.

So you can tell your truth, pos­si­bly have some awk­ward­ness and then just keep go­ing — keep hold­ing up your end of your co­par­ent­ing ar­range­ment, keep invit­ing him to things you typ­i­cally in­vite him to, keep just liv­ing your half of a close friend­ship. Awk­ward­ness is just the byprod­uct of an un­com­fort­able change, and this change, like any other, will wear into some­thing fa­mil­iar even­tu­ally. Trust that.

And please, don’t “step back and let ... sub­side” lov­ing feel­ings that could, if re­cip­ro­cated, en­rich three lives be­yond mea­sure. This is so worth a try. I hope you’ll write back with an up­date.

Re: Feel­ings:

Also, keep in mind that you’re talk­ing about a process and not an on-off switch. You can have a process that moves how­ever quickly or slowly each of you needs, to un­der­stand your feel­ings for each other.

Do some dating and spend some time alone to­gether with­out the “glue” of your daugh­ter. You’re not nec­es­sar­ily ask­ing him to com­mit right now, to­day, to a life to­gether — although he might know im­me­di­ately that a re­la­tion­ship with you is not right for him. But take the risk, for sure, and let him know how you feel.

I’d also sug­gest that you not frame this as a “crush.” That has a con­no­ta­tion of some­thing more su­per­fi­cial than what you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

— Anony­mous

Great points. Thank you.

Hax

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