Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: I’ve noticed a slight change in the amount of affection my boyfriend shows me. We’ve been dating four months. It’s a very slight change — do I coast and wait to see if it’s a meaningful difference or chalk it up to the plateau phase in the relationship? I don’t want to bring it up prematurely and risk looking needy if it’s the normal pattern of relationships. I know that it’s rare to maintain that initial level of attraction/excitement as a relationship progresses. Thoughts?
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(1) It’s four months! Geesh. Think long-range. It’s a helpful exercise whenever you’re in an awkward spot of any magnitude. Even something “bad” — say, he’s distracted by sudden feelings for someone else — isn’t calamitous at this point. You’d just part ways and carry on with your life.
Plus, he could be overtired, stressed by work, whatever.
(2) “It’s rare to maintain that initial level of attraction/excitement as a relationship progresses” is true, but since you barely know each other at four months, a “plateau” now sounds odd. A relationship with a future has a much more intense level of attention and attraction coming — the level of wow, this is love. If he’s already pulling away from you, for real, not just “since Wednesday” but steadily and without variation over the course of weeks, then this relationship isn’t progressing.
So, the answer is both calm down and take this seriously. Calm down about the day-to-day, but don’t rationalize away anything that sticks around long enough to be a trend.
Dear Carolyn: My grandma is in hospice and will likely pass away within a week or so. Do you have any advice on how to talk about this with my 3-year-old daughter? My grandma has dementia, so my daughter knows her but hasn’t had a super-close relationship with her.
I need some way to explain why everyone is so sad. Do I find a baby sitter for the funeral? I don’t want to scare her! And I’m not religious so those explanations don’t work. Boy would believing in heaven be handy right about now!
“Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children” by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. I used it and swear by it. I won’t say it’s emotionally soft, because it does have impact — but it’s about death and what has more impact than that. It’s just beautiful and clear about the fact of the life cycle, and I believe it’s a disservice to children to muddle the life-cycle message because we can’t get our own heads straight about it.
That said, yes, get a sitter for the funeral. I believe kids do belong at funerals for people they love, but age 3 combined with a not-super-close relationship say this is one best skipped. It'll be easier on you that way.
By the way — I’ve found the memory of the living is a useful substitute for heaven for the non-believer. “(blank) stays with me in my memory.”
I’m sorry about your grandma.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.