I’ve been separated for seven months. Our three kids (21, 18, 14) live with their Mom.
All three no longer speak to me.
My ex-wife painted me as the bad guy who left, despite my enduring a verbally and emotionally abusive marriage for years.
I’m seeking counselling guidance on how to work things out with my kids.
I’ve offered to pay for the whole family to seek counselling.
What else can I do to help mend the relationship with my kids?
Also, when and how should I introduce my new girlfriend? I’ve been seeing her for a few months and feel I have a future with her.
Not the Bad Guy
Now is not the time to introduce your girlfriend.
Your kids can do the math: Dating someone seriously since seven months after leaving the family. She may be great but the kids won’t be open to getting to know her until they’re open to talking to you.
On mending your relationship with them: Go slow. Keep up your own counselling.
Don’t pressure them to get counselling (they may see that as blaming them for the breakup). You need contact before you can influence them to get help adjusting.
Ex-spouses often blame the partner who left, that’s not new.
However, it’s wrong to only cast blame one way, because the emotional effect on kids of parents’ splitting up, is often harsh - feeling “abandoned” by a parent, having their life made complicated, and embarrassment among their friends.
Be their father in spirit and understanding. Email them, phone even if they hang up, show up at school events even if they don’t acknowledge you (but avoid any scenes).
Stay hopeful. Offer to meet each one for lunch somewhere. Listen to their stories. Don’t tell them yours.
Time will help you handle this period better, if you’re open to their needs without imposing your own.
My elderly mother-in-law (MIL) said about my nephew that he’s “a bad grandson” for not having a similar relationship with her as my son.
My MIL told me that my sister-in-law (SIL) responded, untruthfully, that my son only visits her to eat.
I asked my SIL to apologize. She stressed that it was a private conversation, and then denied making the remark. I haven’t spoken to her since.
My MIL later reported something mean and untrue that my SIL told my nephew about my husband.
For years, she’d told me lies and cruel things my SIL has said, as well as the faults of other people.
Now, I can’t ignore these reports.
My SIL never acknowledges that she did anything wrong.
My husband and I want nothing more to do with his brother and SIL. His mother, believing that her two sons are very close, now blames me for “tearing the family apart.”
She believes that someone wronged is as responsible as the wrongdoer to make peace.
I don’t trust that my SIL will stop being cruel and dishonest, or that my MIL will stop badmouthing people.
My husband says I should ignore all of this, but I can’t since I’m the one that’s blamed.
What can I do?
I’m with your husband. This is petty nastiness. Giving into it just drags you down.
Since you’re not like them, be proud and stay aloof.
Attend what you have to, suggest that the two brothers meet on their own, turn away from badmouthing from either woman. Change the topic or walk away.
FEEDBACK Regarding the “perfect man” whose behaviour changed and he admitted to depression but refuses to seek professional help (Jan 10):
Reader – “Speaking as someone who knows this situation all too well, there’s no need to read in between the lines here because he gave her the answer.
“But I don’t think she wanted to hear his refusal to do anything about his depression.
“He knows he has a problem, and has made it clear (especially after snapping at her when she attempted to offer help) that he’s not interested in addressing his issues.
“You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
“She says she doesn’t want to leave him and still sees a future with him. That’s fine, as long as she’s okay with a future that’s exactly the same as it is now.
“He won’t change, and at some point her voluntarily wasted effort and claims of exhaustion will just make her a martyr.”
Tip of the day:
Children need persistent gentle contact, e.g. emails, phone calls, texts, even if rejected, to know the separated parent still loves them.