I am in a relationship with another woman who has a 10-year-old daughter. She told her daughter that we love each other to which her daughter replied, “I know.”
Now, I am not sure what exactly she “knows” but when I stay over, I sleep downstairs in another room. I’d like to stay with my girlfriend in her bedroom, which is upstairs, near her daughter’s bedroom but my girlfriend is not sure how to explain this to her daughter. What would be the best way to tell her daughter that we want to sleep in the same bedroom?
–Randi from Denver
I’m not sure you should be sleeping in the same bedroom yet. This situation should be handled the same way a mother would deal with having a boyfriend sleep over Would this mother be okay with her daughter knowing a man was staying overnight? Now, granted you can’t get married to each other, so the line between being a girlfriend to a life partner not nearly as clear as when a “boyfriend” is officially a “husband.” You need to take into account how long the mother has been single before you came along, how long you and she have been dating, and how serious you are about your relationship. All of these factors will affect how a child reacts to a new person in the bed of their previously single parent.
Although personal time frames can vary greatly, I don’t think brand new love interests should stay overnight when their are children involved. I address this issue in Chapter Three of Families Like Mine: “Waiting at least until the infatuation has subsided can help a parent see more clearly whether the relationship has staying power.” (pp. 85-91) Some parents have a three-month rule, or six months or even a year to make sure that the relationship is solid so that the reason for sleeping in the same bedroom can be explained as a loving, mutual partnership rather than one defined primarily by sexual attraction.
As for the conversation your girlfriend had with her daughter about how you “love each other,” I think it was too vague for a 10-year-old to even have the tools to ask questions. She needs to hear the word “lesbian” (or “gay” or “bisexual”) to get a clearer understanding of what you mean. She “knows” you love each other, but she might she’s supposed to pretend it’s a friendship love, like the way she and her fourth-grade best friend “love each other.”
I say you lay off the sleepovers altogether until you and your girlfriend are on the same page about how serious your relationship is and when you will both be comfortable telling her daughter.
Finally, don’t even think about sneaking into your girlfriend’s room late at night and leaving early in the morning. You will get caught and this 10-year-old could end up among the dozens of kids who have sent me emails after walking in on their mother and their mother’s “friend” during an intimate moment. It is a terrible experience for them, so just don’t risk it. For now, intimate encounters need to be at your place.