Panel of Experts
Q. Hi Toby, My ex partner and I separated in November. In the very early stages of the separation, she was reluctant to let me see our 4 year old daughter until I had a permanent place of residence after I moved out. I had my daughter overnight at weekends for 4 weeks and everything was fine. In the last fortnight, it has went from her not wanting to stay overnight at the weekends to now not wanting to be with me at all. All she done today was cry for her mum. I have always tried to have things planned to keep her occupied but it just isn't enough. My daughter never once asked about her mum in the first month when staying over. I reiterated that she could call 'mummy' whenever she wanted but she didn't ask. I have a strong reason (almost proof) that my ex has been poisoning my daughter against me. I am absolutely devastated that not only does my daughter not want to stay overnight, but she was with me for 25 minutes before she was
inconsolable about missing her mum.
A. Thank you for your email. I am sorry to hear your news it sounds like a very distressing experience. Now, this is clearly difficult, but I think in the short term the best thing you can do is to try to keep calm. You and your partner have only recently separated so feelings will be running high and your daughter will be very aware of them and picking up on them too.
You are all trying to come to terms with a new phase of your life, living in new accommodation and so on. It may be a shock for your daughter being with you in your new home and I think you will have to try to be patient while she gets used to the idea of being there with you, without her mum. It may be that it’s not just that she wants mummy, but that she would like to be able to be back before her parents split up. So her calling for mummy is like calling for the past. It is her way of coming to terms with what is lost.
I think if you can try and stay cool and not get too upset by your daughter wanting to be with her mum that may help. So when she calls for her mum, it may be best just to take her back to her mum. You are working on a long term plan – that is; you and your daughter coming to terms with the fact that you have left, and that you are slowly starting to lay down the foundations of a new relationship together. It is easier said than done, but if you can be patient and not react too much this may slowly start to settle down. Your daughter needs to feel she can build up trust in this new set up. At the moment it may all feel a bit new and that may make her feel even more vulnerable and worried.
Whether your ex is poisoning your daughter’s mind we don’t know, you may be right, perhaps you can ignore that and just keep demonstrating to your daughter that you love her, and that you are there for her and that she can still trust you.
I can only imagine that you are in a very difficult position. Try to stay calm, given a bit of time it may start to settle.
Q. My daughter doesn't want me at her wedding. I thought I had maintained good relations with my daughter since her mother and I split up 15 years ago. She says its not her but her siblings and I have had a
difficult time with them - when I met someone new (about a year after the seperation) my wife started to blame my new girlfriend for the breakdown of the our marriage, complain that she was short of money even to to CPA, who said I was paying far more than I needed - and generally sullying my character to the children. I dealt with this without ever slighting their mother,and just let them vent their feelings, eventually my (now) wife and I restored good relations with all my children. It has come as a
devastating blow to hear this from my daughter and don't know how to react.
A. I am very sorry to hear that your daughter does not want you at her wedding, though as you say it sounds more like it is less to do with her feelings, and more to do with her siblings. You have maintained a good relationship with your daughter over the course of the last 15 years and I think your best course of action is to continue to focus on that even though this has wounded you. I imagine it may have upset your daughter too, after all she wants you there, so in this case you may have to absorb some of her pain and upset too at not having you there. This in turn may stir up some of the original difficult feelings around the breakup of your marriage.
I can well believe that you are devastated not to be invited and not to be able to be a part of the wedding, however it sounds like you may not have much choice other than to go along with this. You refer to the issue of blame which has existed between you and your ex-wife and which has over the years contaminated your relationships with the siblings. Though it sounds like you have worked hard to reduce this sense of blame it appears that it has not gone away.
This may not be possible but, is there a way that things can be improved between you, your ex-wife and the siblings before the wedding? Could you arrange to meet and discuss this? Is it possible to address the pain of the break up that has been stirred up by the impending wedding in such a way as to improve on things between you all so that this wedding can start from a better base?
Q. Hello there, I'm a mother to a beautiful four month old girl and have been with my partner for over three years. About two months into my daughter's birth me and my partner just dont seem to be able to get on. Its a miracle if we have a civil day together but now its getting to much. We've tried talking, taking couple hours away from each other but I just dont feel happy. I love him so much but I just dont know what to do. I hardly get any sleep, I go to university and am always so stressed out with everything. Any advice would be very appreciated, thank you.
A. Having a young baby is very tiring and stressful! Working on a degree course also brings it share of stress. The fact that things are difficult is not surprising but if you keep working at it you will get through this. Have you taken any time out as a couple without the baby? Most partners feel somewhat jealous of the baby getting all the attention even though they understand that it needs to be that way. What do you do for relaxation? I haven’t got time for that I hear you cry but just taking 10 or 20 minutes out of your busy day to listen to some calming music or to take a walk round the block noticing the beautiful autumn colours will help your stress levels. You might also consider taking advantage of the university counselling scheme to talk things through.
Jane McPhee-Simpson MBACP (Accred) MA PGDip PstDIP MBSSM
Q. I think my babys dad is having an affair, I've told him how I've felt and he just told me I was being silly.
A. The difficulty with this sort of problem is that he might say that if he isn’t but also might say it if he is! There is no easy way of knowing the truth here.
In general terms if someone is having an affair the other person often knows this at some level so it is always best to trust your gut instinct in these matters. Only you know what has made you suspect an affair and what evidence you have to support your suspicions. However, you also need to consider that having a baby and being a new single mum can make someone feel a bit insecure and when we feel insecure then our trust generally suffers. I hope that things work out for you.
Jane McPhee-Simpson MBACP (Accred) MA PGDip PstDIP MBSSM
Q. I have just got back in contact with my 3 and half year old daughter. She has no memories of me. We've seen each other twice now. The first time we went to the zoo and it was a lovely day, the next day when I turned up at her mums she was very shy, tearful and didn't want to know
me. By nearly her bed time I did manage to get a cuddle. I really want a good relationship with my daughter. Will it get easier? Will she know/hold it against me for my absence in her early years?
A. Thank you for your email. I am sorry to hear of the heartache that it sounds like you and your daughter are both going through. But, I do think you are doing the right thing both by yourself and her by trying to redevelop your relationship. It sounds like it is proving a confusing and painful experience for her and for you, but I think you should just try to take it steady, and be as predictable as you can be with her.
I think you should continue to arrange your visits and to try to take things as gently as you can. It’s probably not surprising that your daughter is finding it a bit strange now, but given time I think there is a very good chance that you will both become more familiar with each other. It already sounds like you are getting pleasure from each others’ company.
I think the thing to do is to try to demonstrate to your daughter that you can handle her being tearful and upset, it is not going to put you off. In time I think your relationship has every chance of settling down, and I think in the long run she will be glad that you made the effort to pick up your relationship with her now rather than leaving it another 3 years. Good luck!
Q. I have been seperated from my wife for six months, for two months my kids seemed ok but for the last four months my 10 yr old son won't see or speak to me. I have tried writing letters but they just seem to have
made things worse. I have no idea how to sort this out.My ex is not going to help resolve this situation at all.
Q. I have met a lovely woman with who i am starting a
relationship with.She will be the first woman i have wanted to introduce my children to,after being alone for 8 years. I want this to be successful for all of us,but i am afraid of the children's reaction. How do i go about this? my children are both girls, ages 10
A. Thank you for your email. It sounds like you have been very careful about who you introduce your daughters to and I am sure that as they get older they will be able to appreciate the care you have taken over this. It is hard to know what your girls will make of your partner but unless you move forward and introduce them you will not find out. They may be pleased for you and excited about the new possibilities that may open up for you and for them too. Perhaps you could introduce them to each other gradually, letting your daughters know that they are still your priority. Remember you are a person as well as a parent and these two aren't mutually exclusive - if you find happiness in a relationship this may have a beneficial effect all round.
Q. my husband was the best father in the world. Now he refuses to see my 9year old son. How can he sleep at night he has not had any contact with my son for 1 year , no cards nothing he works 2 miles from my sons school. Please try to explain.
A. Thank you for your email, I am sorry to hear of your situation.
It is very difficult to understand how your husband has gone from being the best father in the world, to being entirely absent from his son's life. I am sure you find this very upsetting and I can imagine that it leaves your son feeling very confused, and rejected.
So how can we think about explaining this? I don't know if these ideas help but, I imagine that this reaction on the part of your husband may reflect his anger and emotional pain at the breakdown of your marriage.
Sometimes actions take the place of being able to think and speak about feelings. When feelings are too painful and difficult to think about, instead of talking and working out what can be done, people act in alien and unfamiliar ways. This line of thought would suggest that your husband does not know how to think or process his feelings about the break-up of the family and has instead acted by taking himself out of the picture instead.
It is all the more painful when your son gets no birthday cards and all the while his father is only two miles away. We might wonder if your husband is feeling very rejected, and not knowing what to do with his rejection he has ended up rejecting your son.
It sounds like your son and husband were very close to each other, it is probable that your husband is missing his son very much but does not know what to do. Is there anyone who might be able to speak to your husband and suggest that he gets help with his feelings so that he can pick up his relationship with your son?
Psychotherapist & Counsellor
Q. OK - I write this question with some embarrasment!
My wife left me and my young lad 3 years ago. We had been married for 9 years. I now know she had been carrying on behind my back and when I look back I know she had been lying to me for about 6 months until she left.
She hardly sees our boy now - although I see her around town having great fun with her new bloke.
My trouble is I think I want to find a new love - but when I say that, I know I don't really want to. I can't imagine settling down with anyone again. I find this confusion depressing and just wonder if it is normal for men like me?
A. I am glad that you have found the courage and confidence to write about your situation. It sounds like you and your son have been through an awful time.
The whole experience has left you confused and depressed and wondering whether your response is normal. I think it is entirely understandable that you feel like this, and I am not surprised that it is so difficult to move on.
It is not just that your marriage and family has broken down, it is also probable that this experience has left you feeling very betrayed, humiliated and ashamed. This experience would be difficult for anybody to come to terms with. It also sounds like your wife is behaving particularly unkindly towards you and your son and sort of rubbing your face in her new relationship now.
I think it could be very helpful to your son and to you to concentrate on your relationship for the time being, it must be hard for you watching how hard is for him too. The experience of betrayal and abandonment will have shaken you both and I think it is probably right that you take time to gradually let your confidence recover. You are both committed to each other and that is a very good thing.
You didn't see this coming and it makes me wonder about the kind of women you are attracted to. I think that it is a good thing that you are taking your time thinking about your next relationship. It may be that you get involved with women in such a way as to lose sight of important things and of a sense of what the relationship is like.
You and your son have been through a huge upset that you are still coming to terms with.
It has taken courage to write about this, but you have found the courage and taken that step. I think your feelings are normal and understandable. Good luck.
Q. Hi Toby - my ex did the dirty on me and ran off with another man. That was ten years ago now and in that time I have not been able to form a proper relationship with another woman. Is this normal?