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February 20, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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Shouldn't my happiness matter?

Question:

Please help me. I'm 14 and in love with a boy that my parents have banned me from seeing because he's from a community that's very different from the one I grew up in. I'm very different from my family. I tell them very little because whenever I feel like I can trust them they give me a reason not to. I love this boy with my whole heart and we're in a very good place right now, but then my parents found out that I'm back seeing him and have banned me from going out. I feel as if there's no point in living anymore. I finally get to be happy and get the boy I want but then they go and mess it up. I'm very close to just ending my life because something bad happens every time I'm happy and I don't think I can deal with this last hit.

I need to know what to do. I'm contemplating leaving or killing myself. I don't want to go on without the boy I love. My parents have banned me from seeing him and pretty much leaving the house. I'm scared and lost and confused. I have someone that makes me happy, shouldn't that matter? Please help me.

Ava, 14 years old

Answer:

Dear Ava,

Please do not give in to ideas of killing yourself. First, how would that affect your boy? Do you want to impose the suffering of grief on him? Second, sometimes failing at a suicide attempt is worse than succeeding. You may have such severe brain damage that you end up as a "vegetable" for perhaps 50 or 60 years. Doesn't bear thinking about, does it?

Killing yourself is forever. A failed attempt can be a life sentence. In contrast, you are now 14. In your country, the "age of majority" is 18. That means that leaving things as they are is a 4 year sentence. Do you reckon you can survive 4 years of minimal contact with him?

Of course, I don't know this boy. I don't know you. I don't know your family. From where I sit, you could be 100% in the right: this boy may be perfect for you, you may live happily together ever after, and your family's judgment could be wrong. It is also possible that you are blinded by love (we all do that), and your family is right to keep the two of you apart. He may be totally unsuitable for you. I can't tell.

Suppose that the two of you stay faithful to each other for 4 years, then get married. The result could be great, or it could be a disaster. If you have children early, those kids will have to bear the consequences, either way. So, it would be great to be able to predict this in advance.

In my psychological work, I've often helped people in their 30s who were married -- but had an affair or a series of one-night stands. They felt terrible, and wanted to restore their marriage, and couldn't work out why they'd been so stupid. I know, 30 seems ancient to you now, but let me assure you, the years fly.

Every such situation is with a man or woman who became committed to a partner too early in life. It was joyful love, then a couple of kids by 20, bills to pay, boring work or housework or both, the honeymoon long gone and now nothing much to talk about. So, they felt unhappy. They'd never enjoyed the freedom and lack of responsibility most teenagers have when they are unpaired in a group of friends, or when going from one light-hearted boyfriend-girlfriend relationship to another, learning. Therefore, they yearn for that freedom -- and get themselves into a lot of unhappiness.

I've worked with another couple who had a different story. They became boyfriend-girlfriend at 16, and never looked at another person. They were madly in love. Then, at 20 years of age, she broke it off. She said, "We need to have experiences with others. If we still want each other in 5 years, we can have another go." When they came to me, they'd indeed married at 25, after a few partners each, and had been together again for 10 years. Their problem was a work injury to the guy, not relationship issues.

What I am saying is that you and your boy may be doing yourselves a disservice by being too committed, too early. If he is right for you and you for him, you can still team up in a few years. In the meantime, you can save a lot of unpleasantness by keeping in touch with him, but giving permission to both of you to have fun with others. And this will get your family off your back.

One final note: the reason this issue is so terrible for you is that for quite some time, you have focused all your attention to it. It is the most important thing in your life, and I am sure you spend hours thinking about it. Attention is a fertilizer: whatever you focus on grows. So, while it is reasonable for you to give time and emotion to this problem, also do your best to focus your attention on other things. Examples are: become interested in school work. Engage in sport, music, amateur acting, whatever. Fill your days with things that need commitment and work and time, and the relationship issue will become less distressing.

Your new grandfather,

Bob

This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.

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