Ease carefully into dating after long relationship

SINGLE FILE

July 25, 1993|By Susan Deitz

Q: I am 27 and have lived with a man for eight years, just now going back to live with my mother. Although I feel very lonely, I'm afraid of being hurt again. So I haven't been trying to date anyone. Am I being too foolish or should I be on my guard? I enrolled in our local community college to try to meet a friend. Does that sound foolish?

A: There is nothing foolish about lonely feelings or trying new ways to outwit them. You may feel like a chastened child, returning to your mom's home after a bad experience that took a long time to resolve, but that is not the case.

But life goes on, and you are in a safe place now. A perfect time to deal with your loneliness and to regroup psychic forces! Be a diligent student, join campus organizations that appeal to you, using them to edge back into dating slowly and carefully. Nothing is wasted, and the lessons of your past will be valuable in the future.

Q: I was glad to see you discuss "love me, love my kids" in a recent column. I wasn't surprised by your guideline No. 3, no sleep-over lovers, but want to tell you such rules can backfire. It depends on the family and their social milieu, on the parent-child communication level and the ages of the children.

My children reacted very negatively to their father's going to his girlfriend's to have sex, and then pretending that the two of them were pure when the children were around. They felt they were being treated as fools and resented their father's respectable "front."

Whereas, when I got serious with a man and he moved in with me, basically he kept his own home and my children felt that I was being honest and upfront.

A more practical aspect of your No. 3 rule is how this poor single mother (literally, most single mothers are poor) would be able to pay for an overnight sitter for the children on a regular basis, often enough so she can actually experience unpressured sex? And what do you think her children will think she is doing, staying overnight at a man's house? It is phony in today's world to pretend you two are holding hands!

I didn't pick up guys, by the way. I'm not talking "Who's this guy, Mom?" I'm saying that a wonderful man who is my lover is welcome in my home if he and my children like each other, relate well to one another, respect each other, and so on. "Love me, love my kids."

I never could have afforded to (or wanted to) leave my children from, say, 6 p.m. to after school the next day, or for a weekend day or night, when my lover could be at my place playing Monopoly, cooking, taking the kids for a walk, looking at their schoolwork . . . and then, sleeping in my bed. My time, with him!

By the way, I also shared my bed non-sexually with men and women who slept over. My children also shared their beds with their friends. In our house, we enjoyed company and liked to stay home.

Oh, yes. How do you explain to your charges that your living arrangement didn't work out? The same way you do when you are getting divorced: Answer their questions honestly, assure them it is not their fault, hear them and learn from the situation and do better next time!

We really were a unit, and still are! We all live in the same state and try to get together as much as we can.

Rule No. 3 never would have worked for us. And I think there are other households where being upfront is the guiding light.

A: Rules, like guidelines, are designed to see us through the situational reefs that life brings. Our children deserve the best, the wisest parenting, and in matters sexual above all others, the wisest and best way is not always clear-cut.

In your family cosmos, lines of communication were so strong and so overtly free of static that your children could grow up strong and clear about the men who slept in your bed. Guideline No. 3 wouldn't have worked in your home, as your former husband discovered. It would have been perceived as hypocrisy.

Your story will be cherished in my single file for years to come, an alternative to Guideline No. 3.

For most single parents, though, it is definitely the exception.

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