Dear Amy: My life with my (not yet divorced) live-in boyfriend of four years has deteriorated. We are both in our 60s.
He is experiencing ongoing stress and guilt from having an affair with me while he was with his wife. Work stress, physical problems, and the ongoing pandemic have all contributed to his heavy drinking.
When he is drunk, he then blames me for “stealing him from his wife.”
When he rallies, he apologizes, but it happens again.
How do we both get rid of the guilt?
He knows he should be in therapy, but can’t seem to fit it in.
We want to stay together, but at times it feels really hard. Thoughts?
Dear K: Feeling guilty when you’ve behaved badly is appropriate. You and your guy conducted an extramarital affair and are now living together, despite the fact that he is still married. The guilt attached to these choices means that you two are thinking and feeling people who have behaved regrettably, but don’t want to feel the discomfort attached to the consequences. Poor you!
The way to get rid of the guilt is to take responsibility for the behavior, apologize to anyone you’ve hurt, and hope that others will find a way to forgive you.
Your guy has transformed his own guilt into feeling sorry for himself and then blaming you for his behavior. That’s what toddlers do.
He needs treatment, counseling, and to make some big decisions about perhaps conducting his life differently. Anyone who has time to wallow and cry in his cups but can’t seem to “fit in” therapy obviously needs to re-adjust his priorities.
The next time he gets drunk and blames you for “stealing him from his wife,” I suggest that you offer to return him to her.
Dear Amy: After years of encouraging my (adopted) son to find his biological parents so that he’d have a medical history, he has found them and I am finding it all so awkward and uncomfortable.
I’m feeling so insecure. He keeps telling me very lovingly, “You’re my mom, and nothing’s changed” but, it has.
His maternal biological family lives in another country.
We’ve been emailing with them.
His biological dad is here. My son looks like him. They share a lot interests and I find myself receding into the background.
– “You’re My Mom”
Dear “You’re My Mom”: Your son says this to you because it is true. Furthermore, you have obviously raised him very well because you have encouraged him to find his biological family members, and, having done so, he recognizes how challenging this is for you. He sounds sensitive and kind.
Biological family contact or reunification is becoming much more common with the rise of DNA testing. These efforts create joys and challenges across a wide spectrum. This is new territory for adoptive families.
As our children reach adulthood, they form all sorts of relationships that can seem to throw off the balance in the family. They partner up, develop close friendships, and move away. In close families, this can be destabilizing.
As a parent, you have no choice but to roll with it, anchoring to an essential tenet of parenthood: Your job is to teach and encourage your children to love others.
How you roll with it will affect your relationship with your son.
Your emotional efforts should be directed toward coping with your own feelings and learning how to tolerate your discomfort. Be as gentle as possible with yourself and toward others.
Other adoptive parents facing this challenge could be very helpful and supportive. The Center for Adoption Support and Education offers information and counseling services for adopted people and their parents. Check their website for information, support groups, and counseling services: adoptionsupport.org.
Dear Amy: I would second your advice to “Distant,” whose friendships had fallen off during the pandemic and who didn’t know how to reconnect. You suggested that this person send postcards to friends.
When my college roommate and I had grown distant; I asked if I would ever see her again and she said, “no.” A year later, I sent her a short note, just to let her know I was thinking of her and got a two-page letter back.
She had made some changes in her life and was excited to reconnect. We’ve been very close ever since — almost 40 years!
I say send the postcards.
– A Friend
Dear Friend: I have dozens of postcards pinned to my wall. I love to send – and receive – them.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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