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Ask Ellie: Despite close bond, twin daughters see mom's dating differently

Serious conflicts between teenage twins should be handled thoughtfully by parents and may also benefit from professional counselling if the kids agree

Dear Ellie: My twin daughters, 14, differ about my dating as a now-single mom. One daughter likes my being attractive to other men, though she still loves her father.

She’ll check my outfit/hair/makeup and comment on what she says “works” or doesn’t. I find it amusing, also worrying.

My other daughter’s angry that I go out with men other than her father. She’ll stomp out the door before the date arrives to take me to his car, or she’ll stay to look him over and ask whether he’s divorced.

The worst part is that the girls argue about it, and their usual agreement on most matters, is broken. Sometimes they even yell at each other about this.

I’m 38. I like my work-day job, and love being a mother. I’ve been divorced for four years. I didn’t start dating until last year, only occasionally because I need dinner/evening time with my daughters.

There’s only been three men whom I’ve seen in person more than once. I did like one man more than others, but I wasn’t ready to get (he was).

My ex has a girlfriend whom my girls have met. They don’t say anything bad about her or about their father finding someone so “soon.” They seem to find that relationship “normal.” But somehow, my dating arouses criticism from one daughter, and too much interest from the other.

I initially thought our mother-daughter closeness would carry us through post-divorce changes. They still live in the same house with me, see their father every weekend, and they’ve had “away time” with him (and her) for two weeks in summer. He also calls them once weekly, and attends teacher conferences along with me.

But I’m worried about their divided attitude towards my dating. I feel that it indicates one daughter blaming me for the divorce and the other having too much interest/curiosity about it.

I fear that this split opinion could affect their closeness as twins. What can I do to prevent that, and help them just accept my dating as normal? Or should I stop for a while?

Divorced Mom’s Dating

There’s an important lesson here for your early-teenage daughters - that their mother is an admirably independent single woman, socializing periodically, while always maintaining a busy, responsible life as their mother.

And your “dates” have been spaced between the few men you wanted to know a little better. You’re also open with your daughters about who they are and the standards you set, by having them come to your home to take you out rather than meeting them in other places, without the girls meeting anyone and possibly feeling concern for you.

In fact, how you’re conducting your “personal” life is exemplary post-divorce thoughtfulness for your children and yourself.

However, 14-year-old girls can be very sensitive about social behaviour, especially where dating and relationships are involved (and sex is a question they ponder).

Perhaps true to their inner natures, they nevertheless see your dating differently. So, they may each need to hear different perspectives.

The girls should be told that your divorce doesn’t mean you’re searching for another partner. Reassure both that you’re living a life where they still come first, and will until they’ve grown to be self-sufficient, self-confident young women.

If their relationship gets more strained, discuss this yourself with a therapist. If it’s recommended, ask the girls if they’re interested in attending.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the woman whose son thinks she’s rude and provokes her grandkids (Feb. 26):

“You say the son’s self-righteous but didn’t ask the mom why he’s so defensive. Her argument that he’s protecting children who should be taught resilience makes me wonder what hurt she’s caused him that he still won’t let slide.

“Children shouldn’t be subjected to grandparents saying thoughtless/unkind opinions, nor being on guard.

“Making excuses for opinionated or thoughtless relatives, telling kids “just let it go” feels wrong to me. My parents should have stuck up for us against their parents. Instead, we were taught to let it go, “they’re from another era,” etc. My parents were reluctant to rock the boat themselves.

“So, maybe this son has painful memories, and this mom should be open to hearing about that before she accuses him of overprotection and self-righteousness. But, if he’s mooching the babysitting, criticizing her does seem self-serving.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Twins generally have a special relationship bond. Serious divides should be handled thoughtfully by parents and may also benefit from professional counselling if the twins agree.

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