I am a successful business owner and the proud father of a three-year-old boy. He is the highlight of my life. His mother and I are not married but we live together, unhappily. I stay because I want to be in my son’s life daily. My son’s mother is often depressed and unmotivated. We are attracted to each other, but we argue constantly. She says that she wants to work. I have offered her everything I can think of to help her get started, including capital if she wants to start her own business. Nothing changes. I am frustrated seeing her do nothing with her life. Why doesn’t she follow through? She is a great mom to our son, but not a good partner to me, except occasionally for sex. How can I improve this situation?
Leave the carrots on your own plate. Stop expending your creative juices trying to find an enticing way to lure your girlfriend into being someone you could admire. If she has a predilection toward emotional depression, your overtures will sound like directives and she will use them as evidence of her inferiority. So your words, although meant as encouragement, will be used to fuel her low self-image and thus inspire depression. If she suffers from clinical depression, she needs professional guidance from a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist.
I wonder what you could achieve if you applied your fix-it energy to your own life. There must be unmet dreams or partially resolved projects in your personal history, not to mention global concerns, that deserve your attention. Along the way, be honest with your son about the thoughts and feelings that accompany someone as they take an idea from seed to fruition.
You also must accept responsibility for choosing the life and partner that you have. I suspect that your girlfriend was no different when you met, but your illusions about her kept you from seeing that. You must understand she is busy mothering a young child now and any other career or dream is deferred. If you imagined a different partner and life for yourself, you should have considered that before she got pregnant. At this point, the best gift you could give your son is an example of how to respect his mother.
I always have Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at my house because it’s the only way that I can somewhat control the behavior of my sister’s three obnoxious sons. They talk back, curse, make messes and never clean up. My husband would like them to stay in a hotel this year. That sounds good to me too, but I’m afraid that my sister will be offended. My husband and I also talked about instituting rules at our house to require the boys to be respectful of their mother while they are visiting and to tidy up after themselves. I like this idea, but wonder if it’s too late. The boys are 13, 15 and 17. What do you suggest?
Patience and fortitude. After you and your husband develop the rules, talk to your sister privately to secure her support. Then talk to the boys together. Be willing to be vulnerable while describing the feelings that arise in you while experiencing their disrespect. Tell them how learning respect changed your own life for the better. Do not blame. (“I realize no one ever taught you.” This implies that their mother or absentee father is irresponsible.) Do not shame. (“You’re too old…”) Do not lose hope. If the boys refuse the new rules or simply forget occasionally, never utter, “That’s alright.” Instead, reinforce positive behavior and redirect their missteps. Eventually, a few good manners will take root.