Dear Mary: My widowed partner's family accept me, so why are others so nasty?
My partner is the widowed father of two very young boys. His wife died after a long battle with breast cancer two-and-a-half years ago. We met five months later and very slowly began dating. My partner is a wonderful man, he adored his late wife and will grieve for her forever.
I also know he is capable of loving me fully, while loving and missing her. We waited a year before I met the boys. I adore them, they are very loving and chat openly about missing their mum. My partner feels I have brought laughter, warmth and structure back into the house.
His own family and his late wife's family have been very welcoming as they both knew she wanted him to find love and as time has passed, they recognise that I am not stepping into her shoes.
Recently, a neighbour expressed her disapproval of him being in a new relationship and implied the boys would suffer as a result. While he shrugged it off at the time, this hurt him deeply. There have been other minor hurtful comments from other people.
I feel very protective of him. He went through four years of his wife's terrible illness and he and the boys will miss her forever. I feel so angry with this woman. I don't care about her opinion but I feel like telling her to keep it to herself. How can my partner and I deal with such comments, or deflect them, or avoid having to justify our relationship?
Mary replies: I'm sure you and your partner are both counting your blessings that you found each other, particularly after all he had been through with his wife's illness and subsequent death.
I always found in counselling that those who had lost a spouse after a very happy marriage were able to move on much more quickly than those who had a difficult marriage.
I surmised it was because they had nothing to feel guilty about, and because of this, were able to get on with living while never disrespecting the memory of their loved one.
It's wonderful that those who matter in your partner's life, such as family and children, have warmly accepted you into their lives. I understand your feelings of anger at his neighbour's remarks and the best way to deal with what she says is to ignore it, but that is easier said than done. So the next time she, or somebody else, says something to him, he should very gently say that contrary to what she thinks, the boys are grateful to have another female in their lives whom they know cares for them.
He can then add that nobody will ever replace their mother and that he is surprised at her lack of sensitivity in saying that they will suffer, and he wants to assure her that they are adapting in all sorts of positive ways to you being in their lives.
In this way, he can turn the tables and let her see that she is the one that is trying to hurt everybody by her nasty comments.
One wonders if she has ever heard of Christian (or indeed any other sort of) charity.
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org 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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