Dear Dr. Wallace:
My boyfriend and I are both 15 (soon to be 16!), and we have been seeing each other for more than seven months now. I truly believe that I love him. He tells me that he loves me very much.
Last week, he gave me depressing news. The company his father works for is being transferred to London, England. My boyfriend says he isn’t sure how long his family will be in England, but his father suspects it will be at least three years. That means my boyfriend will graduate from high school in England but will return to Oklahoma and likely enroll in Oklahoma University when he is ready to attend college. I also plan to attend OU when I graduate from high school.
My boyfriend told me that he is not interested in going out with English girls when he’ll be over there, and he also said he doesn’t want me to go out with other guys while he is overseas. He thinks that after we go to college together we will get married.
My parents think that even if I did wind up with him as my husband, I should have a social life that would include boys, and he should also enjoy the company of English girls while he is over there.
I don’t have a problem being loyal to my boyfriend for three years, and I trust that he would be loyal to me. Honestly, we are kind of like Romeo and Juliet! Please tell me what you think we should do. Many young married couples have one spouse overseas in the military, for example, and they seem to stick together just fine despite long periods of separation. But since we are too young to be married, we will just have to hope for the best. Do you feel we should wait for each other?
— Suffering Separation Anxiety, via email
Dear Suffering Separation Anxiety: I agree with your parents in this instance. You will need a social life, which includes enjoying the company of the opposite sex from time to time. Without a full social life, you won’t grow as well as a person. To only sit and dream about your boyfriend for three long years, at your age, would be difficult and potentially unhealthy.
I suggest you each agree to set individual goals and a mutual goal. The individual goals are to enjoy your remaining years of high school in your respective locations with a mild but healthy social life. Set your mutual goal of being able to test restarting your relationship if and when you both find yourself at OU in three years.
Dear Dr. Wallace: The letter from a boy in Florida, about his annoying younger brother, reminded us of our two boys. Our younger son was always antagonizing his older brother in an attempt to get his attention.
As parents, we missed the mark on discipline in two ways. First, we did not actually punish our youngest son. We just kept telling him to stop. Second, our eldest got in trouble for hitting his brother because “he should have let us know first before he got too frustrated.” We also told our older boy that his younger brother enjoyed spending time with him and that he should include him in whatever he’s doing whenever possible, and we stressed the importance of patience when dealing with a younger, less mature sibling. Over time, frustration turned into anger for our eldest, so we made an appointment to see a family counselor. It’s always good to get another point of view. The counselor had some very good advice:
The younger brother can be given some ideas of other activities he can be doing. Going to a friend’s house or having a friend his own age are both very good options. Parents should talk to the younger brother about his irritating behavior and its consequences. He should be punished if the antagonizing continues. Timeouts work well for this purpose.
The older brother should have a place of refuge, a “sanctuary” where he can go and not be disturbed. Everyone needs time alone. Finally, it helped to have a punching bag around just in case our eldest truly felt his patience level eroded to dangerous levels.
Because of these steps we were able to implement, we are now much more aware of our family dynamics. Our youngest now respects his older brother’s need for alone time. Our eldest has learned to communicate his needs in a much more positive way and is now far more approachable when “little bro” wants to talk or play.
I hope our experiences can help some other families out there.
— Always Learning to Be a Better Parent, via email
Dear Always-Learning Parent: Thank you for sharing your experience, I am sure many other readers of this column can truly relate to your story. Your letter was valuable for providing not only handy tips but also some important characteristics of good parenting. I applaud you for seeking out professional advice, using it and remaining engaged with the methodology you learned to the betterment of each of your sons and your entire family.