ask dr-robert

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman

Dear Dr Saltzman,

I am a 32 year old healthy male who had a divorce 2.5 years ago after a painful marriage with a girl that had many problems in her previous life as she was raped and her mother was a schizophrenic etc. Things were ok sometimes but we had many issues and ended up divorcing and we have a 5 year old boy now who mainly lives with his mum.

I recently met a young 19 year old girl while on holiday overseas and we have known each other for 3 months now and so much in love. We can't imagine life without each other. When we met, and started seeing each other, I wasn't sure it was going to lead to anything serious, so I kept my history hidden from her and didn't tell her I was once married and had a boy.

At the time when we met, my girl was actually going through a difficult period of time with her first ever serious boyfriend and ended their relationship to be with me. I found out that the 36 year old man she was dating always blamed her for problems in their relationship. Since we met, I tried hard to show her how wonderful she is and to raise her self-confidence, and now we seem to be having a perfect life except that she hates the fact I have a child.

She tells me she understands the fact why I didn't tell her from the beginning, but she feels like she is competing for my love with him, even though I see him only once every 3 months as he lives in another city. She keeps telling me she wishes he never existed, that she cannot ignore it or accept it and that it will be a problem for the rest of her life.

She never wants to meet him, and she doesn't want even our own children whenever have them to meet him. She wants us to move far away from him and wants me hardly to contact him. She even hates the fact that my parents love him because then what makes her children in the future so special?!!

She doesn't want to leave me but wants to deal with the problem as she says it is on her mind 99% of the time. She thinks that even when I kiss her I am thinking of him. She sees him in her sleep, in a TV commercial, etc.. Although I hardly ever talk about him, she hates the fact that I even said that yes I feel some love for him because he is my son, and I can't be a bad person and abandon him as he is a beautiful innocent child and he has done nothing to deserve her hate let alone mine. She doesn't even know how she will go through her own pregnancy one day knowing that I am already a father.

I love my girl very much and I don't want to lose her, and I told her many times that she is the most important person in my life and always will be, but that I must do the right thing as a father to this child and give him the least possible support through some contact and financial support that is what I am doing. I want this new life and I want to be happy but I don't how it can be if she will feel miserable about this all the time. Will time heal such a wound? What can be done?

Please help. Please.

(name withheld)


ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman


Now you say that you love this girl very much, and that you don't want to lose her. But when you say that you "love" her, what does that mean? The word love, you see, is used in so many different ways, to mean so many different things. You love your son after all--at least you say you love him--despite all the problems with his mum. And although you see him only rarely, that could change as he grows older and wants to know you as a father and as perhaps a friend. So that is a kind of love. And now you say you love this girl. That seems to be a different kind of love entirely. Please ask yourself what you mean when you say that you love her. Does it mean that seeing her fills you with sexual desire? Does it mean that you feel happy when you are around her? Does it mean that she saves you from your loneliness, your fear? Does it mean that you wish only the best for her regardless of what that might mean for you? Please go into this in your own mind before you continue with my reply.

Assuming that you have taken some time and care in asking yourself how you love the girl in question, I will try to answer your call for help, but please remember that on this site I do not beat around the bush. I do endeavor to be as gentle as possible, but will not tap-dance around the issues as I see them. That would only be a waste of my time and yours. So if you are not ready for straight talk, stop here.

It is obvious to both of us that your girlfriend is pathologically jealous of your son. That cannot be denied. Her attitudes about this, as you have explained them, are not just unreasonable--they are far worse than unreasonable; they are signs of a deeply troubled, deeply disturbed personality. This is a complex matter which would take a long time to untangle, but I will go into one aspect of it in hopes that you will get a feel for the emotional instability and severely disordered thinking of this girl whom you say you love and want to marry.

Now you met this girl while on holiday in a foreign country, and she is much younger than you. Much. Those thirteen years of difference in age might not matter so much if you were thirty-nine and she twenty-six, for example, for then she would have had a chance to mature into an adult before carrying on with a thirty-something man. Then you would be two adults, you see, having a sexual relationship. That is clearly not the case here.

This person you call a "girl," is a girl--not an adult woman, but a girl who is looking for a father figure, and now has found him in you, or projected him on to you, as a psychologist would put it. Before that, when she was younger still, she had hooked up with a guy even older than you--twice her age, as a matter of fact, and actually old enough to be her father. But since "she was going through a difficult period of time with [him]," you must have appeared to her to be a far better prospect as a stand-in parent, so she simply changed horses, abandoning him for you, and now you are the one with the saddle. And, if you were to throw off the saddle by telling her goodbye instead of trying to "deal with the problem" as she wants you to deal with it (by ditching your child), she would just hook up with another older guy, and hook up pretty quick, I would think, judging by how suddenly she made the move from her ex-lover to you.

So her M.O.--her Method of Operations--in the romance department is to find a much older guy who can be like a father to her, and then to cling on as tightly as possible while asking her new "daddy" to take care of any problems that are disturbing her (in this case the "problem" is a five year old human being). The "problem" could never be inside her, of course. Always something outside, like an inconvenient child, that her father figure has to "deal with."

As a psychotherapist, I would speculate that she probably felt little, if any, love from her real father, and now tries to fill that emptiness with father-figure boyfriends, but that is another can of worms. The point here is that she sees you as a father, probably without knowing it, and so feels herself in direct competition with your little boy for your affections, a kind of sibling rivalry, but made even more intense due to the sexuality between you and her (there is nothing like sex to stoke the fires of jealousy).

This would explain--as far as such dysfunction can be explained--her outrageously bizarre idea that you should abandon your five year old boy because she wants to deal with the "problem" by pretending that you have no son, and by convincing you to conspire with her in that insanity. And her asking you to pretend that you have no son is only one aspect of the pathological fixation she has on this child. I call it pathological, which means "sick," because, as you have described things to me, she is entirely obsessed with this child, and particularly obsessed with trying to get you to make him disappear while at the same time remaking yourself as a childless bachelor. And this fixation--this delusion that your life, your history, and your family relationships are hers to commandeer, to manipulate, to falsify, and even to destroy--has obsessed her entirely, even to the extent of her continual fantasizing about this boy who must disappear entirely if she is to be at peace: seeing his face in TV commercials, imagining that you are thinking of him while kissing her, and all the rest, including resenting your parents' love for their grandchild because as long as that boy exists, her (imagined) child would not be "special."

So how about your M.O. in the romance department? Apparently you like sex with troubled girls, for that is how you describe your ex-wife--"a girl that had many problems"--and now, after the divorce, you find yourself coupled up and in love with another girl who had "problems" with her last lover and now is having them with you. You say that her previous lover always blamed her for their troubles, and that you tried to neutralize that attack on her self-confidence by telling her how wonderful she is. But what if she is not so wonderful? Maybe her ex correctly has her pegged as a trouble-maker. After all, she has taken your new relationship to a very strange, trouble-filled place right away by demanding that you disavow your son in order to help calm her troubled mind. Your apparent preference in sex-partners leads me to wonder if you have doubts about your own self-confidence, particularly your confidence with women. Why else would you choose girls who are so much younger, so dependent, and so beset by conflict as well?

And speaking of manhood, you don't seem very focused or self-confident in the fathering department either. Yes, you get some credit for visiting the boy from time to time, and for sending some money, but is that really enough? Do you not understand that children need love and affection, particularly from their natural parents? Just because you and his mum could not get along, does that mean that he loses you as an active, loving father, someone who will always be there for him whatever the physical distance or other circumstances might be?

The way you put this in your last paragraph was a bit difficult to decipher, but I think you meant to say that you aim at giving this boy a very minimal amount of love, care, and affection, or as you put it to your girlfriend, "the least possible support with some contact and financial support." Unless I have misunderstood, that doesn't sound so good. And why should this girl whom you have just recently met be "the most important person in [your] life and always will be" when you already have a son who needs you, and for whom you are an important person whether you like it or not? What gives the new girl any standing at all to suggest that you abandon your son? How can you even listen to that madness? Does she have you hypnotized? How can you even be thinking of having a child with this new girl when you are not even up to caring properly for the child you already have? And a fine mother she would make whose deepest wish is to strip a father away from his own son!

Although you have given me no information about your family of origin, and I could be mistaken, I am going to speculate that your father wasn't really there for you either. Since I already have conjectured that your girlfriend had an absent or inadequate father (which would account, at least in part, for her need to make her sex partners into "fathers") perhaps that is something you two have in common: both raised without proper fathering--it does leave damage, often a lot of damage, as in her case, and perhaps in yours too. Do you really want to pass this damage on to the next generation by failing your son as you were failed?

ask dr-robert ask psychologist todos santos ask psychologist dr robert saltzman

Although I do not imagine that you will heed my advice--please write again to tell me if you do--here it is: The relationship with your new girlfriend was not "made in heaven," and cannot be healed in any way that I can possibly imagine. Her "wound," as you called it, has nothing to do with your son, and nothing, really, to do with you either, except that you say you "love" this young women and so imagine that her wound must become your burden. Your girlfriend is severely troubled and needs professional help urgently. I do not believe that you have any power whatsoever to help her; she is quite beyond that. In my view, you should break off this sad affair as soon as possible. Further, I urge you to get some help yourself. In my view, you would benefit greatly from some advice, encouragement, and ongoing counseling aimed at helping you towards a better understanding of yourself as a man and at fostering in you a proper responsibility for the relationship between you and the child you fathered.

Be well.

Thanks to your support, "ask dr-robert" has become the world's number one ask the psychologist site.

Pass it on:

Tell a friend about this page!
Their Name:
Their Email:
Your Name:
Your Email:
(all infomation remains private)

Or, if you find the site worth sharing, link to from your webpage, newsgroup, discussion forum, or blog.

return to ask dr-robert archives

page last modified October 10, 2007

copyright robert saltzman 2007 all rights reserved