Dear Thomas,
I feel so hurt. My boyfriend and I, who are both in our early 40's and divorced, have been dating seriously for 5 months. He told me last night that he has a 6-month-old baby with a woman he previously dated. He found out she was pregnant when she was 4 months along. He took responsibility for the medical expenses and is paying child support.

He is a man who made a mistake, and we both know that the child is innocent. But I feel hurt that he did not tell me sooner. He says he was scared I wouldn't understand, and I'd walk away. He has apologized over and over. I know he means it, but I feel sad, mad, and upset that he couldn't trust me. I am so mad that I want to walk away from him and this relationship. But I also feel I must be an adult about this and try to work it out. I feel like I am on a rollercoaster.

Dear Dizzy,
Many people in love arrive at a point where they feel they are on a roller coaster. It's amazing how often the image comes up—after all, it's not an everyday occurrence to ride on roller coasters! But love is indeed fast-moving, full of ups and downs and unexpected curves, dizzying, and sometimes downright nauseating.

You seem to have an unusually mature attitude. You want to find an alternative to the roller coaster, and I don't blame you. In the best of worlds, your new companion would have told you about the pregnancy and child earlier, but in love, communication is rarely perfect. Now you want to sort things out and get the relationship on track.

You say you're angry, so that's one issue to resolve. That doesn't mean just venting your anger—venting isn't terribly constructive. But it does mean expressing your rage by giving it clear language so your partner knows exactly how you feel and where you stand. This is the time to establish a pattern for the future. You don't want any more secrets of this magnitude and importance. He has to get this lesson from you now, forcefully and clearly.

You say you're angry because he couldn't trust you. The emphasis there seems to be on you, and how he doesn't see you as a trustworthy person. But right here is an important realization. You aren't perfect. No one is one hundred percent trustworthy. You can't expect another person to have such a high and pure opinion of you to give you absolute trust. That would be naïve. You shouldn't be naïve about your partner and trust him completely; nor should you demand that he trust you perfectly.

Once you establish that you and your partner are complex and imperfect but trying hard, you may go on to create a down-to-earth human relationship. It will be complicated, given the circumstances. You have to ask yourself if you can and want to deal with these complexities for years to come. Then you can decide if the relationship is worth it.

With your newly developed understanding of relationship and your less exalted sense of self, you can engage in many open-hearted conversations and eventually come up with a solution. Solid, engaged, mature, and thoughtful love can surmount many challenging obstacles. You need a philosophy, some good ideas deeply developed with your partner, to get you through years of complicated situations. You can do it, but now is the time to establish the foundation.

You can get off the roller coaster, but you may still find yourself on a bumpy road—a tamer image for the ups and downs of adult love. People in their twenties often don't understand the complexities of love. You are in a complicated situation because you are older. But remember—your more mature perspective could be a strength.

Remember to take life as it presents itself, not as you might idealize it. Open your heart, but don't close off your intelligence and your ability to be critical. Trust wisely with loving acceptance and forceful attention. Talk, talk, talk, and take time to create complex, mature, and down-to-earth trust between you. Keep building that trust. It will take a lifetime to mature. The ups and downs may never go away, but they will probably become milder, giving your relationship the stimulation and grounding it needs.
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