Question: Last week, I read my teenage daughter’s diary. Now I know all kinds of stuff I wish I didn’t, mostly about her sex life. She didn’t write about anything dangerous or off the wall, but I am shocked at how mature she is. I still think of her as a child and can’t imagine her carrying on this way with boys her own age. If I tell her I read her diary, she’ll be furious and she probably won’t listen to anything I say. But if I don’t tell her, I have no grounds to confront her and voice my concerns. Please help. I am beside myself and have no idea how to handle a situation like this so that it doesn’t get out of hand.
Dr. ZZ: Young people today are more mature and a lot less naïve than kids were in previous generations. Many teens are having sex without being prepared for the potential physical and emotional consequences. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t advise telling your daughter that you read her diary. The breech of confidence is apt to demolish her trust in you and alienate her to the point of shutting you out of her life even more than she already has. Confrontation is not the solution. The goal of parenting is to be so close to and supportive of your children that they feel comfortable telling you the very same things your daughter is writing in her diary. My advice is that you stay out of her room and, unless she asks for your counsel, don’t give it. You may want to make some literature on teen sex available throughout the house and approach your daughter from the viewpoint of what you’ve read in magazines. Unless she decides to fill you in on the details of her sex life herself, it’s none of your business. Strive to be a buddy, not a bodyguard.
Question: After 10 years of marriage, I am now divorced and living in Florida. In the rush and uncertainty of all the changes that have taken place, I also think that I may be falling in love with my next-door neighbor. He is a wonderful man, also divorced, who’s been very supportive of me as I have been back and forth between here and family up north several times, while coming to terms with the possibility of living here. He phones me to say hello and, when he sees me outside, he comes over to chat. He’s also asked my plans for the future. Does this mean he is interested in me? I’ve been hesitant to think that he may be. Also, would it be appropriate to ask him over for dinner?
Dr. ZZ: Yes, it definitely appears as if he’s interested—at least he’s behaving as if he is— and it’s fine to invite him to lunch or dinner and to let him know how much you appreciate his kindness. Even so, this probably is not the best time for you to plunge into romance. Divorce is emotionally bruising, no matter how relieved you may feel once it’s finalized. Depending on how much time has passed for you as a single person again, you may do well to give yourself some additional time to regain perspective and to think about whatever is next for you now in your life.
One of my favorite stories about this “gap time” that takes place during the transition between relationships has to do with a trapeze artist. As the audience, we are not exceptionally impressed when the trapeze artist is secure on platform A, preening, and showing her muscles. Nor are we immeasurably thrilled when she’s on platform B, bowing for applause. What captures our hearts and makes her a star in our experience takes place when she leaps from either platform into the unsupported moment, knowing that the universe will send her a trapeze at the exactly right moment, and trusting herself to know how to catch it and continue gracefully when it arrives. Then, voila! She leaps into thin air, grabs hold of the trapeze at the nick of time, and off she goes to her next adventure, winning our admiration and approval for her bravado.
Likewise it is with the interim between relationships. Unless you are willing to trust the universe to provide, and able to trust yourself to survive until the next right opportunity comes along, there is no degree of skill or personal growth in falling in love again with the first wrong version that comes along. Without allowing yourself an appropriate period of recovery and growth between the throes of a relationship, you run the risk of staying stuck at the level of relationship you were in before you divorced, remodeling the very same mistakes you have already just been through.
People often repeat romantic patterns. Thus, it is imperative that you take time to analyze your behavior as well as your husband’s in the marriage you just finished. When you feel steadier, you’ll certainly want to pursue a relationship. In the meantime, you don’t have to hurry into anything just because the man next door is interested. There is no rush; and, unless you do your homework and go through the gap space of handling your life on your own for a while, you may well attract a situation that will be a repeat of the same ol’ same ol’.
Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is intended as general information only and is not to be misconstrued as medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, treatment or cure for any condition or ailment. Send queries or comments to askDrZZ@yahoo.com. All identifying information is kept strictly confidential.
Dr. ZZ has a non-traditional Ph.D. in counseling. Her bold, upfront, directive style plays an inspirational role in the lives of people she touches. This forum proposes potential solutions on health, emotional, and personal matters.