Dear Mary: Our daughter's discovery about her dad that has split the family
Published 22/10/2012 | 06:00
Q MY dilemma will probably seem insignificant to you, but I would like your advice, as I'm not sure what I should do. I was in a happy marriage for 24 years. We have two sons in their 20s and a daughter who is in her teens. Our marriage broke down when my daughter discovered her father masturbating while he was viewing pornography on the internet.
We were a very close and loving family. I loved my husband very much. You can imagine the devastation this brought on us all. So much so that my two sons by their own choice also became estranged from their father when they realised the dreadful effect this had on their sister.
It was a definite decision on my part to end the marriage, as I felt I had to protect my daughter from a recurrence of this behaviour, as I feel this could become, if it wasn't already, an addiction. I am a very loyal person and I felt totally betrayed by my husband. I feel that once trust in a marriage is broken, things can never be the same again. We agreed to an amicable separation, with an agreed plan to work on our children's relationship with their father.
After some meetings with their father, some communication began between him and one of my sons -- my other son is more stubborn -- but I felt it was a start, and I could see my ex was very happy to be working on the relationship.
What has happened now is causing my dilemma. My ex is going out with a woman I know. She's a nice lady, and very intelligent. She phoned me recently to say she had met my son and he had warned her off going out with his father. She said she was confused because he did not make it clear to her his reasons for this. I apologised for his behaviour and asked her if my ex had told her the reason why we had split up. She said he told her that I had an affair.
I'm not sure if I should tell this lady the truth as to what my husband did. I don't want to hurt her, yet I don't like the idea of her thinking I had an affair when it's not true. Also, I'm worried she may witness my ex, as our daughter did, and have to suffer the consequences of his actions, as we did. My children say that he obviously hasn't stopped this habit/addiction or he would be honest with this lady and tell her the truth.
Since this happened none of my children wants to have anything to do with their father and everything has been undone. They say they hate him for telling lies about me, and they hate him more because he's obviously still doing what caused all this trouble in the first place. My ex-husband is asking me why suddenly the children are not talking to him. I don't want to tell him his lady friend spoke to me regarding our marriage break-up as I don't want to cause a rift in their relationship, yet my heart tells me she should know the truth. What should I do?
I most certainly do not think that this is an insignificant predicament; I consider it very serious indeed. It is hard for children to realise that parents are sexual people -- most would rather believe that their parents don't have sex, and hate to be confronted by the confirmation that they are actually having sex when they hear them, or unintentionally see them having it. Similarly, parents generally don't wish to know of their children's sex lives.
So it must have been even more difficult for your daughter when she saw her father masturbating while watching internet images, to say nothing of the shock that he must have got.
I find it difficult, however, to see why this should lead to a marriage and family break-up. Because you assumed that he might do it again, if he wasn't already addicted, does not seem to me to justify what subsequently happened.
Regarding the lady whom your ex is currently seeing, there are all sorts of triangular relationships involved here. There is the relationship between your ex, yourself and your children. Then there is that between your ex, yourself and his girlfriend, and lastly there is one between your ex, your children and his girlfriend. All of them are having some degree of difficulty, and none of them is fully functional and happy.
You don't say how long he has been seeing his girlfriend, but it would be very difficult for him to have admitted to her what had happened. After all, the four people closest to him in the world had turned their backs on him, so he must have felt very low.
When there is a secret, we don't tell it until a great deal of trust has been established, and perhaps he didn't know what her views were on porn, and wanted to wait until he knew her better.
Unfortunately, he chose to implicate you, rather than saying for instance that he was the one that had the affair. This was wrong of him. It was also wrong of your son to approach her and warn her off seeing his father, making him out to be some sort of evil person.
I realise that your son is hurting on your behalf, and also possibly angry at the break-up of the family home, but that doesn't give him the right to interfere. I don't see that telling her the truth is going to make anything better -- you certainly should not interfere in their relationship as that will end any possibility of having a civil relationship with him. Ultimately, your lives will intertwine over the years, if only because of the children that you share.
Your daughter may well benefit from speaking to somebody regarding what she has been through. Relationships Ireland has a special service for teenagers whose parents have separated. It can be contacted at 1890 380 380 or email teenbetween @relationshipsireland.com. You may also feel the need to speak to a counsellor, as I am very aware that in all of this your wishes do not appear to matter, instead you put your children first.
What would have happened if it was you that interrupted his internet action? Would the marriage have broken up or would you have had a discussion with him and made your views known but remained married? The wishes of the children seem to be ruling the household, and that doesn't sit comfortably with me. Eventually the children will all leave home and make their own lives. I just wonder about the punishment not fitting the 'crime'.
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