DR. WALLACE: I'm a 15-year-old girl. I love my mother and father very much, but it so happens that they have been divorced now for almost two years. I live with an older brother and my mother. My father has moved to another state and lives with his divorced brother.
My problem is that my mother has recently started dating, and I can't seem to cope with this. I really don't like to see her with another man. Even though he might be a nice man, I find myself not liking him. I miss seeing my mom and dad together, and I am afraid I will never be able to accept their separation. Help! — Anonymous, via email
ANONYMOUS: Many young women are confused and hurt when a divorced mother they are living with starts dating again. While your mother has every right to begin a new social life, I agree there is no reason her teenage daughter must immediately accept the guy Mom is dating.
It's tough for you to see that your mother doesn't make a big deal about dating and just presses forward with her social life. As her daughter, this new time period gives you a chance to adjust to the realization that your mom deserves a significant other in her life. Hopefully your mother's new "friend" will be respectful toward you and allow you your space at the same time. I do agree that, if, over time, you remain unhappy about your mother's dating situation, you must not be afraid to speak up and be open and honest with her. Tell her how you feel and be sure to give her a chance to explain her side of things to you. It's important for you to be a good, careful listener when she tells you her perspective on this topic.
During this period when you are struggling, rely on people who can support you during rough times. This can include friends, adult relatives and even support groups in your area.
Above all, realize that coming to terms with this new situation will take time, often as long as 12 to 18 months. Keep in touch with your father to keep that relationship strong; do your best each day to stay calm and encouraged, with the knowledge that things are highly likely to improve for you over time.
WE WOULD NOT NEED AN APARTMENT
DR. WALLACE: I'm 18 and recently graduated from high school. My boyfriend is 20 and works for his family's construction company. I live at home and will continue to do so until I enter as a student at the University of Florida this coming fall. My boyfriend and I have been dating for over a year, and my family likes and approves of him.
We are not sexually active, and it's going to stay that way. We both agree. My boyfriend has his own apartment, and that bothers my parents. My boyfriend is welcome to visit me at our house, but my parents have forbidden me to visit him at his apartment — ever.
This bothers me and my boyfriend very much. I know my parents think that by being at his apartment, it would be easier for us to become sexually active, but that logic just doesn't fly! We wouldn't need an apartment if we decided to have sex. I really would like to hear your comments. — Forbidden Apartment, via email
FORBIDDEN: Based upon your well-articulated story, I have complete faith that spending time with your boyfriend at his apartment would not foster a sexual relationship. And it's also quite true that his apartment is not the only place the two of you could be sexually active, if you were so inclined.
It's obvious your parents did a wonderful job seeing that you avoided the many temptations of being a teen as you've grown up. The time has come for parental trust to step forward. If they trust you will uphold the high moral standards they expect from you as their daughter, no matter where you are or whom you are with, spending time with your boyfriend at his apartment should not be an issue.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.