I am a 23-year-old college student and a single mother with a 5-year-old son. We live with my dad. My problem is that he keeps swiping my parental authority. Every time I try to correct my son and impose appropriate discipline (I don’t believe in spanking), my dad corrects me and insists that we follow his discipline and rules. My son now refuses to respect me. I can’t afford to live alone unless I forsake my college education and work full time. I don’t have great job skills, so I can’t imagine I would be able to support my son and myself very well. Plus, my dad is my only living relative, and I would hate to have a rift between us. I am certain he would be hurt if I moved out. I don’t know what to do. I can’t stand this anymore!
Yikes! You’re stuck in TV-sitcom land! Father Knows Best battles Who’s the Boss? as The Twilight Zone referees. The only way to bust out of this illusion is to assert yourself. As Rod Serling might say, “Imagine, if you will, a young woman with A.Y. emblazoned across her chest. Whenever she feels submissive, she seeks out a mirror, screams, ‘YA!’ and rises to her adult self.”
I realize your story is painful and frustrating, but injecting a bit of goofiness may help you to see your life from another perspective. The biggest problem in relationships between parents and their adult children is that the latter forget they are adults. Stop relating to your father as if you were a child. If another adult were behaving this way, what would you do? I hope you would talk about it and set some healthy boundaries. If that adult persisted in crossing those boundaries, you’d exit the abode, thereby keeping your sanity and self-esteem intact. You cannot keep living in fear of losing a convenient housing situation or your only living relative. (Hey! What about the rest of us on the planet? We’re related to you, too.) If you do, you risk losing your son and your self-respect. Plus, your son is learning that women have no real authority or power. Is that the legacy you want to leave the next generation?
I have been dating a woman for six months. She says she does not want a relationship, but she does not want me to date other people. She admits she is not seeing anyone else, but I think she really wants to. I really want an exclusive relationship. Should I wait and see what happens or be happy with the way things are?
How can you be happy with the way things are when it’s not what you want? The problem is not whether the relationship is exclusive or not. Right now, it is exclusive because neither of you is dating someone else. But you want a relationship that is deeply committed, and you don’t have that.
I suspect a quiet voice inside you has left you unsettled. It may have said something like, “I need to move on because she’s not ready for a profound relationship right now,” or “She’s not the right person for me.” Still, your ego persists with this affair because it wants to win (her over), because there are a few connections between you, and you’re hopeful there will be more, or because there’s a strong physical attraction, and you’re hoping that means love. (It doesn’t, by the way. A strong physical attraction just means you have a strong physical attraction.) You’re not married, and you don’t have a commitment, so there is no reason to hold on. It’s time for a serious conversation. Tell her what you want. Ask her what she wants. If the two don’t meet, don’t dawdle. Move on.