Dear Annie: My boyfriend, “Joe,” and I have been together for five years. My son (from a previous relationship) and I moved away from family and friends to live with him. Shortly after moving, I became pregnant with our daughter.
At first, our relationship was perfect. Joe was sweet, kind and helpful. Now we get into a lot of disagreements that result in our not speaking for days. Worse, when Joe stops speaking to me, he also ignores my 7-year-old son, who looks up to Joe as a father figure. A year ago, I suggested counseling, but even though Joe agreed to go, he hasn’t found the time. Discussing it doesn’t help. Joe becomes defensive and closed off.
Here’s the current problem: I finally decided to go back to school, which is a wonderful opportunity for me. Although I’d like to move out, I cannot support my children while attending school, and there won’t be any help from family or friends. It means I must rely on Joe for childcare and housing. Is this horribly selfish of me to keep living with Joe for that purpose? How can I explain this awkward arrangement to my two beautiful children? – Heartbroken in Wisconsin
Dear Wisconsin: People live with each other for a variety of reasons, including financial stability, and you don’t need to explain it to your young children. More importantly, is Joe willing to do this? Is there a chance the two of you will reconcile? Please don’t lie to Joe. He should know that you want to go back to school so you can help support the family.
Ask him again to come with you for counseling to work on your relationship issues, but if he refuses, please go on your own. Your efforts to discuss things lead to defensiveness and entrenchment, and counseling will help you find better ways to communicate. It also will help you learn how to protect your son from Joe’s neglect, and that should be your primary concern.