Monday, January 30, 2012

My Daughter Knows the Truth

My girlfriend came over last night to spend a couple of hours with me. We played a game and then sat on the couch together. At one point my daughter (17 years old) became very angry and started lashing out, seemingly out of the blue. Her dad had asked her to gather her laundry and get ready for bed, which is generally upsetting to her, but this was different. I could tell by her attitude and actions that something more was bothering her. She gave her dad and I a hug and kiss goodnight, told us she loved us, and then went to her room... never saying goodbye to my gf. I knew at that point what was going on. A few minutes later I walked my gf to her car and said goodbye, then returned to the living room. My daughter surfaced a short time later.

She was still visibly upset and said, "I just wanted to tell you that I recognize that I was rude to you and I wanted to say I'm sorry." I told her it was okay and asked her if she'd like to talk about anything else. She said, "You don't want to hear what I have to say!" She had a very angry look on her face and she was shaking, plus she wouldn't look me in the eye for more than two seconds. I had her sit down in front of me and I assured her that I always want to hear what she has to say, regardless of what it is and even if it's upsetting to me. I want her to be able to share her feelings, and often. That's when it began.

She said, "I don't like having ________ around so much. I hate that we spend so much time with her family. I feel like you care more about her than you do us. You're HAPPY when you're around her, but you're not with us." I sat there, dumbfounded. I knew exactly what she was referring to but I had no words. The thoughts started flying through my mind (what does she know? how do I handle this? do I tell her about the pending divorce? do I tell her I have a gf? do I just let her talk and then send her to bed?). I chose to sit there for a few more minutes to let it all unfold. I said, "I don't care about her more than I care about you. You're my children. No one will ever take your place." She said, "That's not how it feels." I apologized and told her that I care for _________ very much. She said, "You spend all of your time with her. You leave in the afternoon and don't come back until after midnight." I told her that happened just once (the day before) and that it's okay for me to go out and do things on occasion without my family... that moms do it all the time... and that I won't be made to feel guilty for taking some alone time. I pointed out that I have still done family things and that I've made sure we still spend a lot of time together.

We sat in silence for a few more minutes and I wasn't sure how to proceed. She was staring to the side, shaking and glaring at nothing in particular. I looked at my husband, searching his face for suggestions. He just mouthed the words, "I don't know what we should do." I looked back at my daughter and she said, "Is she your girlfriend?!" I said, "She's a very important part of my life, yes." She stood up and yelled, "Thanks for confirming what I already knew!" and stomped off to her room. I called her back and she sat on the couch next to her dad. She said that I acted like she was an idiot and that she's known about ________ the whole time. I explained that I've not once considered her an idiot, in fact I knew that she would be piecing everything together and would figure it out. I was also surprised it wasn't before now. She said, "It's GROSS! I'm sorry, but how can you do this?" Of course I thought she meant that being gay was gross, but she said, "It's not even the gay thing! You're MARRIED." And then she turned to her dad and asked, "How are you okay with this?" He told her his feelings about wanting me to be happy, wanting more for me, and knowing that my gf was able to provide that for me... and that he's actually happy for me.

We took the next couple of hours and discussed everything. At one point she said, "A little while ago you told me that you aren't going to get divorced. Was that a lie?" I told her that at that point we had decided we would stay together but that things have changed again. Each step along the process has brought us to a different decision and currently we are planning to divorce. Every day, sometimes every hour, has brought different feelings and fears and emotions and we've sincerely wanted to be confident with our decision to move forward before we discussed it with them. She admitted that moving was more scary to her than our divorce. I expressed my love of her father and pointed out what a great sacrifice he has made for all these years. I told her that I desperately want more for him because he deserves the greatest there is.

As I told her about my own mother's affairs, and my grandmother's affairs, she stopped to ask me how likely it was that the next generation follows those same traditions. I explained to her that each new generation is typically more healthy because we see what our mothers did that we never want to do. I pointed out how my mother refused to communicate about anything, which makes me communicate about EVERYthing (which my daughter rolls her eyes at). I also pointed out how I spend every day telling my kids and showing them how much they mean to me and that I love them, because until last year I never believed my own mother truly loved me. I told her that I have no doubt she'll be faithful to her husband because it's important to her and she's seen a bad example that she's able to learn from. She seemed relieved to hear of my confidence in her.

Her dad and I explained how even though we're deciding to stay in the same house together and raise them, and that things would look quite the same around here, that there will definitely be changes because dad and I will both be dating women. I also told her that my gf will continue to be a big part of my life and she will be around, and I will be going out once in a while. My daughter said that she doesn't want to hang out with ________'s family any more. She doesn't want to go to their house and she doesn't want them to come here as often. I told her those things would still be happening but that I wasn't going to force her to go with us. I recognized that she's going to feel uncomfortable around my gf and that that's okay - we'll give her time and space, but I did require her to "not be mean." That's all I will ask at this point. If she needs to pull away and be indifferent, that's fine, but disrespect will not be tolerated. There was no point in holding back at that point - she needed the full picture in that moment so that there would be no questions or surprises in the future. I think it was a success.

We went to bed very late and I didn't mind letting her stay home from school. I think we all needed some time to come down from our early morning emotional discussion. Poor Hubby had to get up a few hours later and head to work but I'm sure he'll sleep well tonight. I'm not sure how/when we'll have the same discussion with our boys. I think the idea of divorce may be more frightening for them and I'm not sure how it will go. I'll just keep heading forward day-by-day and see what happens. This afternoon I am grateful for a daughter who is trying to understand and is hanging onto the love she has for me, despite the fear and confusion she's experiencing. She's had to deal with a lot in her young life, mostly because of ME, and I'll continue to pray for her happiness and peace, and my relationship with her.

I sure do wish this process was less difficult!


Wendy said...

You and Hubby are good parents. Your kids are lucky to have you.

jen said...

I admire you. I admire your husband. I agree with Wendy: your kids are lucky to have you.