HomeHealth AdviceCarolyn Hax: How to handle awkward feelings for a co-parent

Carolyn Hax: How to handle awkward feelings for a co-parent

(Nick Galifianakis/for The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: I share a friendly co-parenting relationship with my 9-year-old daughter’s father. It hasn’t always been easy. We were in a newish relationship when I got pregnant, and he left only a few months after she was born.

I dealt with a lot of feelings of anger and abandonment at the time, but he has since apologized, admitting he was overwhelmed and ashamed of his actions. I now consider him to be one of my closest friends.

Recently, we’ve been spending more time together as a family, and I find myself developing feelings for him. I want to say something, but I’m worried it’ll make things awkward between us if he doesn’t reciprocate.

How should I approach this? Should I tell my daughter’s father I have a crush on him, or should I just take a step back and let things subside? I’ll admit, a small part of me thinks he might feel the same way, too, but I don’t want to screw up the good co-parenting relationship we already have.

— Have Feelings

Have Feelings: “I’m worried it’ll make things awkward”:

Yes, it might.

And if it does, then you push through the awkwardness to the other side. Even speak the possibility of awkwardness to him out loud, to say you won’t let it stand in the way of your friendship if he doesn’t feel the same way about you.

So many of us see awkwardness as a static, permanent thing, but people are built to become accustomed to virtually everything, given time. Whatever is novel in our lives eventually becomes old, familiar, normal.

So you can tell your truth, possibly have some awkwardness, and then just keep going — keep holding up your end of your co-parenting arrangement, keep inviting him to things you typically invite him to, keep just living your half of a close friendship. Awkwardness is just the byproduct of an uncomfortable change, and this change, like any other, will wear into something familiar eventually. Trust that.

And, please, don’t “step back and let . . . subside” loving feelings that could, if reciprocated, enrich three lives beyond measure. This is so worth a try. I hope you’ll write back with an update.

Re: Feelings: Also, keep in mind that you’re talking about a process and not an on/off switch. You can have a process that moves however quickly or slowly each of you needs, to understand your feelings for each other. Do some dating and spend some time alone together without the “glue” of your daughter. You’re not necessarily asking him to commit right now, today, to a life together — although he might know immediately that a relationship with you is not right for him. But take the risk, for sure, and let him know how you feel.

I’d also suggest that you not frame this as a “crush.” That has a connotation of something more superficial than what you’re experiencing.

Anonymous: Great points, thank you.

Write to Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at wapo.st/haxpost.



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