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Dear Mary: My children are threatening to disown me because I have found new love


Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Q: I'm in my late forties and I've been married for almost 25 years. I have been separated for almost two years. I still love my wife but I cannot see us working through our problems as I have had huge financial trust issues, as well as other problems with her, for a number of years. We have four young adult children who are finding it extremely difficult to deal with the separation.

I met a woman who is several years younger than me six months after separating who has been a tremendous support throughout the drama. My family learned of her existence soon after, and as you can imagine they were not happy. My kids tell me that I can't be with her or they will have nothing to do with me which breaks my heart.

My wife still hopes we can reconcile although we tried counselling which hasn't worked. My wife also has a number of health issues which I have concerns about and feel responsible, as I'm the first one she rings when she's unwell. I know it defeats the purpose of parting but how do I say no?

I'll always love my family without doubt but I love the girl that I met. She's gorgeous, very understanding, caring and very patient in the most trying times of the relationship and I know she loves me.

What can I do to be with my partner and do what's best for everyone involved?

Mary replies: An important factor in all this is that you met your partner six months after you had separated. So your relationship with her was not responsible for the breakdown of your marriage as it was caused by the other issues that you mention.

Your adult children must know this and it is very unfair of them to hold you hostage because of this relationship.

I fully understand that their allegiance is to their mother but you are also their parent and you deserve a shot at happiness after what has patently been a very difficult marriage, at least in later years.

Nobody goes into marriage expecting, or indeed hoping, that it will break down. But it is inevitable that it sometimes happens and that separation and in some cases divorce is the only solution.

You tried counselling, which is always worthwhile, even if it is only for both parties to realise why separation is the only option. Unfortunately it did not result in you and your wife remaining together but it did show that you were willing to try to make things better between you.

What you are trying to do now is to keep everybody happy and that is practically impossible. Many years ago I attended a workshop on blended families which was a revelation.

The participants were all given a part to role-play in a scenario where a husband was picking up the children from his ex-wife and taking them for the day to spend with him and his new partner. We all gave our feedback afterwards as to what it was like to inhabit a particular role for a little while, and I remember that the person who role-played the husband found it the most difficult of all.

He described it as being 'piggy in the middle' trying to satisfy everybody and not being able to.

You must feel a bit like that.

So let's look at things logically as they now stand. You are trying to support your wife, from a distance, especially through her health issues.

You are presumably still supporting your children financially and trying to be a good father, albeit that you are not living in the family home anymore. You are trying to keep your partner happy even though a lot of your time is being spent juggling the different strands of your life. The person who is giving you support right now is your partner and I'm glad that you have her in your life.

Children can be very selfish, thinking only of how all of this affects them, but in a few short years they will have gone on to live their own separate lives.

The time has come for you to explain to them that you deserve a life also. Tell them that you will always be there for them and that you realise this is difficult for everybody.

Ask why they want you to be miserable. Then say that blackmailing you into choosing between your partner and them is very unfair and that by doing this they will not get yourself and their mother back together, but they will succeed in driving a wedge between them and you.

What has happened between their mother and yourself happened, and nothing can undo that. Your four children are probably reinforcing each other in their dislike of your partner.

They may feel that you have replaced their mother with her, which is not the truth. Explain also that even though you will always love their mother it just wasn't working and so the only option was separation.

Then, and this is the difficult part, you will have to forge ahead with your life taking one day at a time. You will make yourself ill with stress if you continue trying to make everybody happy. But if you can look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are doing the best that you can, and that you are happy with your choices, then that is all that you can do.

You have to look after yourself, although it is hard to do this. I sincerely hope that everything works out for you.

Sunday Indo Living