Monday 22 January 2018

Dear Mary: I just can't bear the thought of my children turning out like my wife

Mary O'Connor

Mary O'Connor is a relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist who offers advice in her weekly column.

I am concerned about my ex-wife's behaviour and the effect that it may have on our two teenage children.

My ex-wife's maintenance package is exorbitant.

However such was my relief to finally get out from her clutches that I happily agreed to part with a house worth in excess of €1m and also agreed to pay all the bills and a large sum in annual maintenance.

She has never had to stand on her own two feet. I am tired of her haughtiness and her sense of entitlement and the example that she is showing to our children on her €100k plus per annum windfall.

My partner and I now have a baby and my partner is the polar opposite to my ex-wife. She is an honest, hardworking and kind person. She is the type of role model that I would like for my children. She accepts responsibility for herself and she is totally independent and secure in herself. She has made her own way in life, carving a successful career and business.

My ex-wife is in her late forties and she appears to have no intention of ever working again. Shortly after I left, she squandered €5k on a course that I paid for and she did not even bother to complete it.

She constantly plays the poor mouth to our children. She tells them that she gave up her career for me and her children. She tells them that she cannot provide certain things for them because of her lack of finances. I often look back and think that she saw me coming and I feel very foolish for having married her. However I do not regret the birth of our wonderful children.

She has always been useless with money. She is obsessed with creating a perception of herself to others of a person who is an independent, super- accepting mother that gets on with life graciously despite her painful separation. She has always acted the martyr and the victim to others and she relishes those roles. On the dark side however, she engages in dishonest, manipulative and controlling behaviour in a bid to elicit sympathy and admiration from others.

Some examples include lying to people about our children's coping ability with the separation and phoning my partner's office, telling stories about us to her colleagues.

My relationship with my children is very good because I have worked tirelessly at maintaining contact ensuring that they know that I am always there for them and I have always been honest with them about the separation.

Sometimes it breaks my heart to leave them with such an incapable, dependant, attention-seeking individual.

I need advice on how I can ensure that my children do not end up like their mother. How can I counteract her behaviour and teach them to be responsible independent individuals unlike her?

I have never said a bad word to them about their mother but I don't want them to buy into her nonsense either. My own family and our previous circle of friends and neighbours see through her at this point as she went too far with her post-separation antics.

Mary replies:  Your teenage children's personalities have already been formed so there is very little more you can do to ensure that they develop as you would wish. Leaving aside the wrongs and rights of your separation you have done everything that you can do to ensure their happiness. You have provided for them materially and in giving them as much love as you possibly can.

Most importantly, you have never belittled their mother when speaking to them and this is something that they will appreciate more and more as they grow into adulthood. I hope that they are also getting to know your partner and can see how happy she makes you.

Children are incredibly perceptive - especially teenagers - so I would not be at all surprised if they have by now formed their own opinions of their mother's behaviour. You have actually come out of the divorce very well. I realise that monetarily you have had to give up a lot but you now have a second family and a partner who seems to be a very good and level-headed person. You are getting a second chance at happiness which is denied to a lot of people.

Enjoy it while you can and continue to look forward rather than back.

My dying relative wants to be waked in the church

An elderly relation of mine has only a number of weeks to live.

He has begun speaking about funeral arrangements.

For the past year or two in our parish it has become increasingly common for parishioners to use the church as a wakehouse rather than the funeral home.

The priest has no objection to this and a lot of people find it a comfort as they find the funeral home a cold place - cold spiritually that is.

However, there is one woman who is heavily involved in the church who is very opposed to this practice.

She has got to hear of my relation's wish to be waked in the church rather than the house or funeral home.

She is causing a lot of distress for the family as we would like my relation's final weeks to be peaceful.

She has complained to the priest about my relative's wishes and she says she is going to go to the bishop to have this practice stopped immediately.

There is no talking to this woman.

She has her head set on destroying my relation's final wishes just because it doesn't suit her way of thinking.

Is there anything I can say to her to stop her upsetting everybody?

Mary replies: I AM not quite sure how waking in the church is different from leaving the deceased person overnight in the church.

This is what always used to happen, although I am aware that with the shortage of priests for one thing and also people's preferences it has become more common to wake the person at home.

Your relative, however, has voiced a preference for being waked in the church and the dying person must at all costs be kept happy as he approaches his life's end.

Perhaps you could arrange to see the parish priest and explain your predicament and ask him to intervene with the woman who is objecting.

As he has been agreeable so far to church waking he should be on your side.

Even if the woman were to go to the bishop as she has threatened I can't imagine that her voice would hold sway over that of the parish priest.

She is trying to use bullying tactics and as such will probably back down if she is confronted.

This woman does not sound like she practises Christian charity no matter what God she worships.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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