Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Rose-colored glasses disguise toxic relationship
D.C.: My on-again-off-again girlfriend insulted me and a new friend in public during a small get-together. She insinuated that we were flirting. At the time, we were off, but there was no flirting. She cussed us out so badly that New Friend never wants to be in the same space with Girlfriend. During a recent event, I invited some of New Friend's friends to join me at a happy hour. While New Friend was not specifically invited, she was nearby and assumed she could come. That means on-again Girlfriend can't come. She is mad. What should I do?
Carolyn: Picture me (or any of x thousand people reading this) flicking you in the forehead, and free yourself of this bad relationship once and for all.
It stood there cussing you out in front of your new friends and you still weren't able to conclude definitively that you were in the presence of extremely unhealthy behavior. No doubt there's some shaky emotional health in your history, too, for you to be so accepting of hers (and to ban her from happy hour, yikes), but still — you're the one writing in, so I hope that means you're ready to hear this: Break up and get well. Please.
Start by being single for a while, weighing what you've come to accept as "normal" in a relationship, and observing drama-free couples to learn better ways to get along.
Unless drama and party fights are what you want. If that's the case, then have your new-friend happy hour, exclude your girlfriend and wait for the show to start.
Being a stepmom doesn't ease pain of not being a mom
Texas: How do I get over the pain of never being a mommy? We are completely infertile, both totally broken. Adoption is not an option for us for a plethora of reasons. I am a stepmom and I have good relationships with my stepkids, but as everybody and their dogs like to remind me, I am not their mom. I will never be anybody's mom, and it is breaking my heart. I feel like such a loser.
Carolyn: Is that the way you regard other people who haven't, for whatever reason, been able to bear or adopt their own children? As broken losers?
I bet you wouldn't dream of being so tough on them. I rarely need to turn the Golden Rule around like this, but: Think of the way you'd treat a close and beloved friend who was in your exact situation, and then start showing yourself the same kindness and generosity of spirit.
There are also some very good resources available for helping you make peace with your circumstances (and that is just what they are — circumstances; there's nothing more to be read into them). Resolve.org is one readers recommend whenever infertility comes up. If it's more than that, if you're unable to stop punishing yourself, then more formal counseling makes sense.
Just take care of yourself, please — and those stepchildren, too. You may not be "their mom," but you're a prominent part of their lives. If they're still minors, you have nothing less than the power to make or break their childhoods. Put your heart into your relationship with them, and that will bring its own rewards.
Tuesday: Suggestions, and a wrinkle.