Q: I’m 16 and I’m not gay or anything, but I’m writing to you because I think you will understand better than like a Dear Abby column. My mother, who was lesbian, died three years ago. I still live with “Sarah,” who was my mother’s partner. She has always been very good to me and loves me; she’s like a second mother. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t in my life. She and my mother got together when I was 3 years old.
Ever since my mother’s death, Sarah has pretty much given me all her attention and I really appreciate that. She does all the things a mom should and I really feel like she’s a mom to me. She goes to my school functions. I’m in theater and basketball. Sarah goes to the plays I’m in and all my games, even my out-of-city games. She never misses anything.
Sarah said when my mother died that she would never want anyone else. She was really a wreck for a long time, but she was there for me when I felt like a wreck, too. We went through a lot together with my mother’s illness and her death, and became even closer than we had been when my mother was alive.
The problem is that Sarah has started seeing a woman. Don’t get me wrong, she still comes to all my stuff, it’s just that it feels really wrong for her to be dating again. She said that she never would do that. It’s like she’s cheating on my mother. I know my mother is dead, but it still just doesn’t feel right.
Last night I had a play and Sarah brought this woman with her to see me in it. This really felt like a betrayal. That should be my mother, not this other woman — or it should be nobody. I told Sarah that it made me feel uncomfortable for her to be around another woman. I told her that I would never be able to get used to it. I screamed at her and cried that she didn’t really love my mother or she wouldn’t have done that. She got tears in her eyes and went to her room. I know I hurt her and am sorry that I did that, but I don’t know how I will ever get used to seeing Sarah with another woman. She’s all I got left.
How can I make things OK with Sarah, again? How can I deal with her wanting to be with another woman? I can’t help how I feel about all of this.
Daughter in Distress
A: When you change how you think about things, you will change how you feel about them. You need to start by asking to listen to Sarah’s needs — adults have needs, too. She has spent three years giving to you and being there for you, seems like pretty exclusively. It’s time that she tend to some of her own needs, but that doesn’t mean that you get left out of her life. But if that’s your fear, you need to ask her about that. (It’s also pretty natural for you to feel a little jealous of anyone else who might take some of Sarah’s attention.) From the picture you have painted of Sarah, it looks to me like she sees and treats you as her daughter, and very much loves you and wants you in her life.
When your mother died, Sarah felt that she didn’t want anyone else, but your mother isn’t here any longer and a lot of time has passed. Sarah must go on with her life and if she can find love again, I hope you can be happy for her. (If she were to find another woman to love, that doesn’t mean that she didn’t love or even still miss your mother.) You are 16 and it will not be that long before you will be leaving and going on with your life. Wouldn’t it feel good to know that Sarah won’t be left without a life of her own? Take care and let me know how things are going for you. I care.
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