My wife of 14 years and I drifted apart before the pandemic. I worked long hours and also travelled regularly to the US for my job. My wife decreased her job hours to part-time because she was often the sole parent to our son and daughter, ages 11 and eight.
Given the frequent separateness of our lives it wasn’t surprising that I became involved with another woman, a Canadian who was my US-based colleague.
But Covid-19 came and my wife and I both worked from home and helped home-school the children. Though we managed fairly well, the gap between us in sexual desire and commitment widened.
When my colleague was able to return and I could see her after her quarantine period, I told my wife that a separation leading to divorce should begin. She agreed and wanted me to move out as soon as we explained what was happening to our children.
That’s the hard part. I’m keen to introduce the kids to my “friend.” They will see she’s a nice person. Also, she’s living alone here and we want to be together.
My wife insists that I say nothing until we both learn what are the least harmful ways to tell children that we’re going to divorce. So, my questions are simple: How do we tell the kids? And when can I introduce my girlfriend?
Since it’s a mutual decision, it’s best that you both talk to the children together, so they’re not confused by different sides.
Decide ahead what’s between you two as a couple (that you’ve been seeing this other woman for a long time) and what you want to tell friends and family.
Keep your explanation to the children age appropriate. But be prepared that a child may ask you surprise questions, e.g. Don’t you love each other? Do you still love us? Are we still going to the cottage together with Mommy?
It’s essential that the kids are told that you’ll always love them, they did nothing wrong, and you both still care for each other.
If you two agree, you can tell them you have a friend you want them to meet later but leave it at that. There may be tougher questions after the story gets circulated and they overhear gossip, e.g. “Did you love this other person when you were still with Mommy?”
The answer for young kids is this: That’s an adult story and doesn’t affect you children. Mommy and I have never stopped loving you. We’ll both look after you, help you with schoolwork, take you to sports and activities when they’re available.
Here’s the hardest part: At some point you have to be clear about your basic arrangement, e.g., Mommy and I think it’s better for us to live apart.
Meanwhile, go slow on information about “Daddy’s friend.” First, discuss with your wife what she’s comfortable with your saying at this early stage of informing the children.
Do not suddenly introduce this woman unexpectedly in a “chance” meeting somewhere. Let them first get used to your having moved out.
A last warning that carries more significance than you may realize: Do NOT tell your children about a breakup in the marriage on a holiday - not Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.
That backdrop adds drama and weight to the revelation and is always remembered in the future. Example: “We ran to see the Christmas tree and my Dad said to sit down first, he had something to tell us...”
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the Florida trips by Canadians that I don’t believe you or your readers have mentioned:
“There is a moral issue here.
“I have read that Florida is distributing vaccines to those over the age of 65 as a higher priority than for health-care workers, teachers and other critical workers, if they are under age 65.
“Also, the distribution of vaccines to wealthier areas is faster for those over age 65. So many poorer people over the age of 65 are getting left out for now.
“As a Canadian, I would not feel comfortable getting a vaccine in Florida ahead of the various categories mentioned above.
“I don’t own property in the US, but even if I did, my opinion would be the same.
“I am 70 and have also worked very hard my entire career. We cancelled our trip to California this winter and stayed home.”
Tip of the day:
Telling children about a pending divorce requires thoughtful preparation and agreement on what’s age-appropriate to be said.