Single Mom In Relationship, Withholding Affection, Stand-Off?


Hi! I have a beautiful 12 year old daughter, Emily. Her Dad and I divorced three years ago. I began dating my current boyfriend, James, shortly after leaving my husband. I now live with James and my daughter. My ex husband has Emily every other weekend. This has been a good arrangement because James and I can go out on the town or just have “us time” every other week. That is more time than most people with kids have alone together.

Recently, my daughter is going through a bit of depression. I have her in counseling and she and I are very close. It has to do with some loneliness and abandonment issues revolving mainly around her Dad. James tries hard to connect with her but she hasn’t really warmed up to him fully. She is doing well in most aspects now.


James seems to be pulling away from me during this time in my life. Here is why I feel that way. Emily was home with us this past weekend. James called me Friday and said he would like to take Emily and me to watch the full moon rise on the pier, go for a short walk, then go out to dinner. I agreed. However, when when we got to the pier Emily was shivering even through her sweater. She was coming down with a cold. We left and went to dinner and then we went home and we all watched a movie together. It was a nice evening. I thought all was well. Earlier in the week James mentioned going out with just the two of us Saturday night. There is a nightclub that his favorite local band was playing at. He loves to go dancing with me. He thought Emily could stay at a friends over night. I said I would look into that and if I worked it out, then we could go.

Saturday morning I was snuggled up to James and he sort of pulled away. I gave all the signals but he got out of bed. I said something I shouldn’t have, something to the effect that “I have to take care of myself in bed.” I probably said it because I felt a bit rejected. We both got up and went to the grocery store for coffee and things. On the way home I told him it was unlikely we would be able to go out dancing since Emily was sick. That is when he began getting an attitude, which is really unlike him. He said that I spend too much time worryng about Emily, and that she exaggerates her problems. He said that she can take care of herself for the night. I said that in no way am I leaving my 12 year old daughter home alone, not to mention she has been depressed, and she has a cold!

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We got in this huge arguement over this issue. I felt like he was being completely selfish and unreasonable. He even went so far as to make a remark that he should be able to go without me. I asked him not to, as that would hurt me. I asked him how he would feel if I went out dancing at a club when he was sick and couldnt go. It was so unlike him to even suggest that! He has always been so great and understanding over the past three years about us having every other weekend and knowing that when Emily is with us we do family stuff.

Why all of a sudden the attitute? And why NOW when I actually need his support the most? Parenting is hard and I need his support. He raised two daughters of his own who are now in their early twenties. You would think he would get it. He kept saying he was just really disappointed because he had been looking forward to our night out. It’s true that we have not been out dancing in a while and this particular band won’t be back for some time. So, I get his disappointment but I can’t change the fact I’m a parent and I consider myself a dedicated, caring one! I appologized for the comment I made in bed because it seemed to set the mood before the arguement. He appologized for not responding to my “needs” in bed in the first place. Then he said he was over the whole issue of going out and he would adjust. I even suggested that maybe he would want to go to his friends house (all our friends gather there to socialize on the weekends) and I would be fine staying home with Emily. It was just one weekend! However, he didn’t go anywhere.

We stayed home that night and I  thought we were OK. I figured (wrongly) that our sex life would pick up again since I had let him know how I was in need of some “attention” in the bedroom. He used to be very responsive and always wanted to make sure I was happy in bed. Well, that night (Saturday), and yesterday morning, nothing happened. There was barely even a snuggle. The same thing happened last night and this morning. There was no sex and no touching. I used to touch him and be really affectionate (and he loves that). But I stopped touching him since Saturday and that awful argument and P his unresponsiveness to me.

So, I have been friendly but not affectionate. I’m waiting for him to approach me (sexually) because I’m really tired of being the one to show more affection and then get flatly turned down and  ignored in bed for so many days. Since I’ve pulled back, he has not initated anything at all. 

Are we at a permanent stand still? Is this a game of wills? Or is he mad and with-holding affection? Or maybe he is falling out of love? He did call me this morning at work, sort of checking in, and said I seemed distant. Seriously, he must know why! Besides, If I spell it out for him in words, maybe he will get defensive and it will seem like I am pushing him for sex. I would hate to come accross like that. Can you help???

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One thing that seems quite apparent to me as I read the account of your story is that you and James are not communicating. For example, you did not ask him why he pulled away from you in bed and did not want sex. You did make a sarcastic comment about “taking care of yourself,” but that was indirect and rather meaningless. The real question had to do with why he pulled away and why he did not want sex? You did not ask him if something was wrong or if he was upset about anything? You seem to assume that you know what is wrong but that is not the case. Is he bothered about your daughter, about your sexual relationship, or something else? Perhaps you do not ask him because you fear learning the truth.

No longer touching a person who pulls away from sex is also not a very effective means of communication. What are you attempting to let him know? From my perspective, there is a huge gap in communication between the two of you. I do not know how well you talked to each other before but, regardless, it has come to a complete halt.


It might be a very good idea for you and James to go for some couples counseling where you could be helped to identify your problems together and learn how to resolve them. You seem to believe that there is a growing estrangement between you and James. Perhaps there is but you do not know why and neither do I. There are many problems that can afflict a couple. Some of those include sexual problems, money issues, control over decisions and many other things.

James is not stranger to raising children. He is also no stranger to your daughter, Emily. Therefore, dealing with those issues is nothing new for him. Of course, it is interesting that Emily cannot “warm up” to James and I wonder why? Perhaps Emily is part of the problem between you and James but not in the way you may believe. Who knows, perhaps James feels left out in the relationship between you and Emily. Also, part of Emily’s depression may have to do with her relationship with you and not only with her Dad.

In my opinion, your best bet is for you and James and, perhaps later, Emily too, to go for couple’s counseling. There is a lot happening in your family and you are aware of the symptoms but are not aware of why things are happening nor how to repair it.

Best of Luck to all of you.

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