DEAR NATALIE:I left my husband for another man last year and I now realize that I made a huge mistake. My husband and I had been married for 21 years and things had been rocky for a while. Between the two kids, our careers, and meddling families, we drifted apart...and I found comfort in a co-worker named “Tim”. Well, Tim convinced me that I should leave my husband and move in with him. So, I did. Our kids are 18 and 20 and I felt that now was my time to experience romance and passion in my life. But, after living with Tim, I realized how good my life was. I want it back. The problem is my husband is devastated that I left him and I don’t know if he will take me back. We aren’t technically divorced yet, just separated. We had one phone conversation about it and he told me, “You made your bed.” What should I do? — GRASS AIN’T GREENER
DEAR GRASS AIN’T GREENER: Does Tim know that you want to leave him to go back to your husband? Does your husband even want you back? As much as it may hurt, we have to live with the consequences of our actions. If you are unhappy with Tim, then you should leave him. But be prepared that your husband may never want you back. Maybe being alone for a while is best so that you can really figure out who you are and what you want out of the rest of your life. Are you prepared to live alone without either of them? What caused this sudden remorse over your marriage? It sounds like a lot of these decisions were made impulsively. I would sit with these questions and reflect before you make any more decisions surrounding your marriage. You may want to try therapy and dissect what caused you to leave. Was it really about Tim? Or was it the “passion and romance” that you wanted to feel from your husband? I would really dig into that. If you do want your husband back, how can he trust you? It may take work to rebuild any foundation at all and that’s only if he is willing. The hope in all of this is that he didn’t file for divorce yet. Perhaps that is a sign that there could be some love for you still. Remember, though, your husband is under no obligation to take you back and you can’t expect him to do so. You betrayed that trust and your vows. Be prepared for a long road.
DEAR NATALIE: I have a 17-year-old daughter and I recently found birth control pills in her purse. I haven’t told her that I know, but I am really hurt that she is having sex behind my back. I know she has a boyfriend, and I always liked him, but now I’m not so sure. During Covid-19, he has been someone that we allowed her to continue seeing since his family is very responsible like ours about wearing masks and social distancing. Well clearly, they aren’t distancing from one another. We always talked about abstinence in my house. I am worried for her and feel as though I should bring this up and let her know that I know her secret. What are your thoughts? I am worried that she is heading down the wrong path. — WORRIED MOM
DEAR WORRIED MOM: Teenagers have sex. This is just something we all need to accept and recognize as fact. Not all, of course, but many. The good news is that she is being responsible about it by proactively going on the pill. She probably didn’t feel comfortable having that conversation with you because (naturally!) teens don’t always want to talk to their parents about sex. Since the conversation in your home revolved around abstinence, she probably assumed you would judge her. Are you judging her? “Going down the wrong road” is a strong statement and I would refrain from using that when you discuss sex with her because it implies shame. Whatever shame you have around sex, please don’t project it onto her. Instead, think about why you said that and what it is about sex that makes you feel that way? It can be hard to watch our children grow into adults. It can be hard when they choose a different path and we can’t control them. It can be challenging to accept them where they are as they are. But your job as a mother is to arm her with knowledge and confidence in herself so that she can enter the world feeling empowered to live life on her own terms and make healthy decisions. It is much more important that she learns about consent. Focus on what you can say to her that creates an environment for discussion. Do not attack her. Do not demean her. Do not treat her as though she has done something wrong. Admit that you found her pills and be prepared for her to be angry that you were in her purse. You didn’t mention why you looked in her purse. Did she ask you to bring her something from it or did you invade her privacy? Be careful with how you bring up the subject. She may not even be having sex yet. Perhaps she went to get pills for other reasons, like relieving menstrual cramps or acne. Maybe she’s thinking about having sex and wanted to be prepared. Approach her with love. There’s really no room for anything else.
Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @NatalieBenci and on Instagram @NatalieBenci