Andrea Bonior

Andrea Bonior
Special to The Washington Post

Q. Do you think it is strange that my boyfriend does not want me to meet his ex-wife? They share children together, and there have been several times where he has gone out of his way to make sure that we don’t meet, even if it would be natural for us to do so. I have been with him for almost a year and I spend time with his children fairly regularly. He claims that she knows about me, but I find myself doubting that. Even when I have told him that it bothers me that I haven’t met her, he shrugs it off.

A: Well, if he is trying to keep you a secret from his ex-wife for whatever reason, then having you spend time with his children doesn’t exactly seem the wisest way to do that. But who knows? It bothers you, so it is worth bringing up again. First, figure out exactly why it bothers you: You feel less legitimate as his girlfriend? You worry there is some secret ugly part of his past marriage that you don’t know about? You worry they are still involved? You don’t like the awkwardness of avoiding her? It will be harder for him to dismiss your being bothered when you convey exactly what the bothering looks like, and how it makes you feel. Then it is reasonable for him to find ways to address that, even with a meet-and-greet with Ex. He also should level with you about his reasons. If he still doesn’t seem to care that this matters to you, then that is an issue that is even bigger than whatever is going on with his ex.

Q. I hired a friend of mine (who has kids similar ages to my 16-month-old and 3-year-old) to watch my children part time while I work. The situation went well for the first few months, but I have noticed that my 3-year-old doesn’t seem to do much of anything while he is there besides play with her child. I would be fine with that for some of the time, or if he was over there for play dates, but for 15 hours a week, I had expected more outings and educational experiences. I am thinking of stopping the arrangement, but I don’t want to damage the friendship.

A: I am unclear if your expectations were ever discussed — “watching” a child is not necessarily synonymous with “creating a preschool experience” — but if they weren’t, then now is the time. And even if they were, she still deserves the chance to know she is not meeting them. So, stuffing your dissatisfaction isn’t doing her a favor. Bring it up in friendly but specific terms. “I love that my kids get to play with yours so much and I know they have fun here. But I have been thinking the older one is getting to the point where he needs more structured outings, and more planned educational experiences. Is that something you would be interested in providing? Or does it make more sense for me to look elsewhere?” You can keep it very objective about the type of child care you are looking for. Don’t make it personal when it doesn’t need to be.

Q. I have been a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years now with my twin boys and I am finally at the point where I am dying to be social and meet other families. It really is good for me in terms of stress relief and enjoyment. I met some moms though a moms group I joined. I have invited them to things and we have a great time but nobody seems to reciprocate! I am tired of always being the one to keep things going. I am someone who needs lots of social time and now that we are past the baby stage, I am ready for solid, reciprocal relationships — not being the cruise director all the time.

A: I hear this a lot. I think there is a growing societal unwillingness to initiate social interactions that don’t involve clicking “like,” and in your friends’ case, it could be made worse by the all-encompassing whirlwind of caring for young children. It could be that in the cost-benefit analysis of remaining the initiator, the social time still comes out ahead. But you can also try to set up events that will develop their own momentum and have some reciprocity built in, like standing moms nights out, potlucks, book clubs or any other “insert your activity here, but with a rotating host” type of event. And you can hint that you are excited for those because they involve sharing the burden of hosting or planning. Maybe you have just had some bad luck with these non-initiators and there are better matches elsewhere, but you won’t know until you have given a nudge and seen what happens.

Andrea Bonior, a Washington, D.C.-area clinical psychologist, writes a weekly relationships advice column in The Washington Post’s Express daily tabloid and is author of “The Friendship Fix.”


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