Training someone’s mistress

Joey Garcia’s Body and Soul Club hosts sexpert Dr. Priya Batra of Kaiser Permanente, who will speak on the topic “Still Sexy After All These Years,” at an evening of learning and laughter for women, February 2. For details call the Learning Exchange, (916) 929-9200.

My husband and I have been married for 17 years and have one child, a daughter. I am always the disciplinarian; my husband never enforces any rules. But what really bothers me is that now he spoils her. He regularly purchases expensive clothing and jewelry, drops a few hundred dollars on music she wants and spends even more on electronic equipment for her. He does this even when she is on restriction for grades or bad behavior. I have talked to him about this and he blows me off, saying that she is his only child. The problem is that she is now 15 and she disrespects me and my rules. I am at my wits end and my husband and I have fought so much about this, I am close to walking out. I also am frustrated because our relationship has gone to hell over the years and there is no romance left. What should I do?

Allow yourself to see the truth. Your husband’s refusal to work with you to craft consistent rules for your daughter, plus his denial of the need for a united front in parenting, feels like a betrayal. The result is a triangular relationship at home that places you at the apex as the identified problem.

But the deeper problem is that your husband is romancing your daughter instead of you. This tells her that the most important part of a loving relationship is securing gifts; that school is not her job, her job is keeping your husband happy; and that the concerns of older women are unimportant if she is getting what she wants. It’s as if your husband is subconsciously training your daughter to become a mistress—always competing with the wife, getting showered with gifts and facing none of the responsibilities inherent in communal life.

This is not a problem that you can solve on your own. If you suddenly confronted your husband and said he was teaching your daughter how to compete with older women for men and win, he would think you were nuts. The only way to change the situation is to get your family into therapy. If your husband won’t go, attend by yourself. If you can, get your daughter to join you. You must reclaim your relationship with her, for her sake and yours.

I’ve been dating a man I really like except for one big hurdle: He puts a lot of effort into maintaining relationships with his ex-girlfriends, and even dates that didn’t turn into girlfriends. He calls all of them friends although I’ve met a few and it’s clear to me that most of them are just waiting for an opening to be more. He thinks I’m crazy. Am I?

No, you just have an opinion that’s opposed by pop culture.

Here’s a simple guideline: friendship between hetero men and women is possible when there is no sexual attraction. If the pair is attracted to each other, flirting or fooling around, the sexual tension is distracting and it interferes with the stability of any existing romantic relationships. Actually, people who have trouble being faithful or giving themselves totally in romantic relationships are the ones who usually have “friends” that they flirt with and would have sex with if the situation arose. Those open doors keep them from fully committing in their primary relationships.

Keeping exes around who are auditioning for girlfriend is a way of shouting “I got baggage!” That said, let me make it clear that it is possible to be just friends with a former love interest. But if you’re flirting, hinting, getting physical, fantasizing or trying to get back together, you’re fooling yourself and trying to fleece others by calling yourself “friends.”

Meditation of the Week

“A heart can be broken but it keeps beating just the same.” I came across that line recently from the movie <i>Fried Green Tomatoes</i>. Has your heart sustained more sadness than you believed was bearable? Tears, loneliness, lost dreams--could they be released in favor of something yet unknown but infinitely better?