Friday 19 January 2018

Dear Mary: Shattered 
by our son’s 
fiancee betrayal

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Question: Our son was going out with this gorgeous girl for a few years, and some months ago he asked her to marry him. My wife and I were over the moon as we don’t have a daughter and our son’s girlfriend Sheila (not her real name ) had become like one to us.

She met with my wife often for coffee and they were always nattering on the phone about the wedding and making the most elaborate plans. We really loved her.

Our happiness was shattered some months ago when our son suddenly told us that he had broken it off with Sheila. We tried to find out why but he just said it wasn’t going to work and he didn’t want to talk about it.

He moped around the house (he was still living at home) for two months and then said that he was moving into an apartment with a couple of friends. He was in such a bad mood all the time that we were almost glad to see him go. He comes back every Sunday for lunch but it often seems like someone has died.

My wife was terribly upset that we had lost Sheila but of course she did not want to be disloyal to our son so she never got in touch with her again. She did write her a letter and got a very brief reply but that was it.

Out of the blue last week she met Sheila in a shop and she just had to say to her that she was so sorry that our son had broken it off with her. But to her (and my) astonishment Sheila said that he had not broken it off with her but SHE had broken it off with him.... because he had been unfaithful to her and she could not forgive that. My wife came home in a terrible state.

She now says that I have to have it out with our son but I’m not sure that that’s a good idea. What’s the point? Sheila is not going to forgive him. He will get mad at us for interfering. 

What do you think?

Answer: It is always difficult when couples split up as there are divided loyalties, and very often it is impossible to remain friendly with both parties. You had taken Sheila to your hearts and so you must genuinely miss her, but of course your allegiance is to your son.

He is obviously very upset at what has happened, and is probably giving himself a very hard time for being the cause of the break-up. You don’t say whether he was unfaithful to her on an ongoing basis or whether it was a one-off, but it was serious enough for Sheila to call off the wedding.

I feel that there is nothing to be gained in you telling your son what you know. He has to live with the result of his actions, and from what you say he is very unhappy. Perhaps in the months to come he will feel able to confide in you, perhaps not. Right now though, he will be processing what has happened and he does not need to have to be answerable to his parents as well. Most people have done things that they regret - for instance, there may well be some things that you or your wife would prefer that your son didn’t know about. It must be difficult for you to see him so out of sorts when he comes for Sunday lunch, but all you can do right now is to be supportive and show him you care.

It is highly unlikely that they will get back together again, but if that were to happen then you would have to re-assess the situation. In the meantime try to be as understanding as possible, put up with his moods and eventually he will come out the other side and start enjoying life again.

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