Style Sex & Relationships

Saturday 21 September 2019

Dear Mary: My daughter refuses to accept my new partner

Pic posed by models
Pic posed by models
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Conor

I'm sitting here alone on the fourth anniversary of my wife's death. She died after a long and hard battle with cancer. My two daughters were so supportive and kept checking on me, while going through college.

Three months after my wife's death, I started getting out and meeting up with old friends. Two of my old friends used to come and visit, and we had lovely evenings with dinner, loads of chat and laughs. My second daughter was actually at a couple of these evenings. Eleven months later something sparked between one of these friends. Nervously, I asked her out on a date and, surprisingly, she said yes. Three years later we are in a wonderful relationship.

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When I told my daughters I was in a relationship, first of all they guessed who it was. They were shocked naturally, and asked me to take it slowly. I tried arranging dinners and meeting for coffee, but they were always busy.

My family and my late wife's family are delighted with me finding a new companion. However, my daughters are still making things difficult. When asked to family functions, my partner is being blocked from coming by threats by my second daughter, who says she's not welcome and we don't know her.

Last Christmas, I made a decision to draw a line and told both of my girls this would be the last family function my partner would be excluded from. I said I had tried to arrange coffee and get-togethers for them to get to know her.

Recently my dad asked me and my partner to go to a family get-together. When talking to my younger daughter, I told her that both me and my partner had been invited. She hung up on me and I received a load of texts with a lot of abuse. I decided to ignore it and we went to the event. My daughters never arrived. This upset my dad.

Since then I've had no contact with my daughter. I've tried reaching out on text. My eldest daughter is chatting with me and is now abroad. But my second daughter is being very stubborn and will not accept my new relationship.

Last summer I had a heart-to-heart talk with her, explaining it was one of her mother's wishes that I find someone I could enjoy life with again. I explained my need for companionship and that as much as I appreciated her checking in with me, I felt she had her own life ahead of her and I couldn't be a burden.

I suggested we go to counselling, which was shot down straight away.

I'm torn. I'm with a wonderful woman with whom I have found love again. My family have all said they haven't seen me look so well and happy in a very long time. But I just don't know what to do with my daughter. I feel like I'm being bullied.

I'm now at the point of shutting her off.

Am I missing something?

Mary replies: The only thing you are missing is the love and understanding of your second daughter. I found myself getting increasingly angry when I read and then reread your letter. You have done everything right. You obviously had an excellent relationship with your late wife and over the period of her illness discussed what would happen when she was no longer alive. You got her blessing to have somebody else in your life and this has happened. Even your wife's family are happy for you, and it sounds like your eldest daughter has now come around to accepting your new partner.

It often strikes me that people who have had very good relationships and have then been bereaved often find it easier to move on than those whose relationship with the dead person was not so good. I presume it is because they have no regrets about how they treated the person while alive, and have very little 'if onlys' to ponder on.

Mothers hold a very special place in most people's hearts - not a day goes by that I don't think of, and miss, my own mother. Your daughter is obviously still very much grieving her loss and may even have been in denial while her mother was ill. She has said that she doesn't know your partner, but she has met her and spent some time with her. She is obviously deeply resentful of somebody taking her mother's place, and this is understandable.

However, the fact is that she is not taking your wife's place, and is not a replacement. She is somebody new in your life, part of your ongoing journey, and somebody who makes you happy.

You must have suffered greatly watching your wife battle cancer and it must have been incredibly sad to watch her die. But I'm sure you have lots of lovely memories of earlier times together and they will have given you strength to keep going when things were very bleak. That and the fact that her suffering was over.

You should try one final time to explain things to your second daughter. A letter would be best as she will have time to reflect on what you say. Explain once more that your new partner has her mother's blessing, that she will never be a replacement, and ask that she make some effort to get to know her better. After that there is very little that you can do - it is a pity because I feel in years to come she may regret what she is now doing.


Mary O'Conor is a sex therapist and relationship counsellor.

You can contact Mary anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, 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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