Q: I'm 17 and my parents separated when I was 14. There used to be lots of rows, mainly about his drinking, and it was horrible. I love my dad, but not when he has been drinking, as he turns into a different man altogether. So now he lives in an apartment and my brothers and I stayed in our house with my mam.
I still see my dad every weekend and we get on really well because he isn't drinking now. But it's not great because we always have to go somewhere with him, and I like to hang out with my friends at the weekend because there is school during the week.
The real problem, though, is that my mam has a new boyfriend and I don't like him. At the beginning, we didn't see very much of him because she went out with him. But now he is in our house all the time and the worst bit is that he stays over and I can hear them having very loud sex, and it just turns my stomach.
I said to my mam that I'd rather he didn't stay the night and she said that I should get over it, that she is entitled to a life, too, and that I'll have to get used to having him around. He doesn't treat me badly or anything, it's just that I don't get on with him.
My two younger brothers think he's fine because he plays football with them and my dad didn't do that and, as I have no sisters, I'm the only one in the house who has a problem with him.
Now Mam is suggesting that we meet up with his kids because he is also separated and I absolutely don't want to do that.
What should I do, because she won't listen to anything I say?
A: YOU have had a huge amount of change in your life, and change is a thing that most people find very difficult to cope with. Even a simple change, like having somebody new cut your hair when you go to the hairdressers, can be difficult. The family unit as you knew it has now changed forever, and even if you didn't like a lot of what was going on with your parents rowing, it was something that you were very familiar with.
We all expect that our parents will be together forever -- and will live forever, when we are younger -- and so you have had to adjust to a new family system where they live in separate houses. I'm happy that you continue to have a good relationship with your dad. Of course, it is not ideal having to see him at weekends rather than him being around all the time, but when you finish school you will be much freer with your time whether you go to college or to work, so the current arrangement is not going to last forever.
I feel very strongly that there are boundaries around children and parents with regard to their sex lives.
Neither should encroach on the other, and too much information is definitely a bad thing. It is difficult for anybody to hear their parents having sex; in fact, it is much easier to believe that they don't have it at all.
In your case, not only are you being made aware that your mother is having sex, but she is also having it with somebody you do not like -- and it is in the bed that she shared with your father. That is a lot for you to bear.
Could you broach the subject once more with your mother, specifically with regard to hearing her having sex? Tell her that you find it deeply upsetting for a variety of reasons, and if she refuses to stop then I suggest that you play your radio really loud in order to drown them out. This will, of course, upset not alone your mother but the rest of the household, and I don't know what your sleeping arrangements are, but it will make your point and something will change as a result.
You need more time before you can think about meeting his children. You haven't accepted him into your life yet, so it would not be appropriate for you to meet them.
All of this is particularly difficult for you because you are the only one who does not get on with him, so there is really nobody in whom you can confide.
There is a wonderful service called Teen Between, which is part of Relationships Ireland and it is specifically for teenagers such as yourself whose parents are either going through or have gone through a separation. You will be able to discuss with a counsellor in confidence the many issues that are concerning you and talking really does help. It can be contacted on Freephone 1890 380380 and the email address is teenbetween @relationshipsireland.com. Donations are negotiable so don't worry if you feel that you cannot afford it; cost will not be an issue.
Submit your letters to Mary anonymously at dearmary.ie.
Sunday Indo Living