I was married for 17 years. We met in university but she quit after she became pregnant on our honeymoon.
We had three children and were very busy, separately. I knew years ago that we’d grown in very different ways. Her life was almost totally about the kids. I spent whatever time I could with them. She didn’t share any of my other interests (my work, sports, fitness).
I had an affair with my co-worker. We married after I divorced my wife, four years ago.
I’ve stayed close to our children and we’re all getting along. My ex and I are more than civil when around our kids and when there are serious matters to discuss.
But she’s been diagnosed with depression from the day I left. She’s on medication, sees a therapist, but periodically talks of suicide (never attempted). My eldest daughter says her mother’s often weeping or sleeping.
I feel guilty sometimes but have no idea how I can help her.
No one will give you a medal for caring, but it’s important that you do, for everyone’s sake.
She must continue her therapy. The sessions are her safe place to try to understand what happened and heal.
But you, your children (her parents?), a close friend, can alert her therapist and her doctor of any worrisome changes. Keep the numbers handy for all, including that of a hospital mental health unit - if the suicide talk escalates.
Meanwhile, see a counsellor yourself. Another professional may have suggestions on how to turn your sometime-guilt into an approach that might help your ex focus on engaging with life again.
You can’t be her rescuer, but you can take some responsibility when she’s in danger of harming herself.
Our adult daughter’s husband can’t work due to a medical issue. He’s been waiting for an unlikely disability payout. My daughter’s the sole breadwinner and her job is at risk.
They want to move in with us (plus our grandchild, age four) and/or have us support them financially.
After years of struggle, we finally have some savings in case one of us (both early 70's) needs home care, medical equipment, etc.
Our other adult children (four more grandkids) have needs but haven’t requested help.
We love our daughter, her spouse, and our grandchild. However, I feel they should exhaust any retirement savings (RRSPs), other savings etc. before turning to us.
We feel guilty if we don't help them keep their house, but we fear losing our own savings, security, and independence and quiet. (Three more people in our house is three too many).
Yet my daughter’s experiencing huge stress, and I don’t want our decision to be the cause of a breakdown.
There are other ways to help. Research the potential disability payment route (go online: Canada has a website for making a disability claim; if you live in the United States, disability plans there are more vague but should be pursued).
Also, insist that the couple meet with their bank manager and accountant, and use their own savings and RRSPs for now.
Urge them to discuss feasible options with an accountant – e.g. the couple rents their house out and moves to a smaller, less-costly apartment.
Explain your personal concerns for your own future to this couple. Then, urge your daughter to see her doctor to manage her stress while the couple figures out how to handle this change.
FEEDBACK Regarding the woman whose former therapist (now dead) had asked her to date him, soon after he’d seen her professionally (November 20):
Reader #1 – “I’m a woman and I say, “OMG! Get over it… he’s dead now.” She did the proper thing at the time (when she walked out on his suggestion they start dating).
“She’s now married, so move on. Maybe she’s harboring concerns, like "what if I’d dated him?" But she didn’t.”
Reader #2 – “Too much unknown here to make a judgement. I cannot understand why the former therapy patient still feels badly about this. I suspect she felt some attraction towards her former therapist and now feels guilty for some reason.”
Ellie – Two opinions that miss the point. As a patient, she’d revealed her “secrets from childhood to adult intimacies” and he soon after broke the professional code by treating her as a potential sexual partner. She feels emotionally demeaned by this.
Tip of the day:
Feeling guilt from cheating/divorce won’t change an ex’s reaction, but alertness to mental health signals may help others respond to her needs.