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If either of your DP's left for an OM/OW when you were a child - please come chat to me

(41 Posts)
TempEasterName Sun 31-Mar-13 20:46:34

ExH left to be with his OW 18mths ago. We had been together for 15 yrs ish. He had an affair for over a year (he did the normal thing of leaving and not saying why, coming back and continuing the affair and eventually I asked him to leave again.

It was pretty much the textbook story that you see here all the time. I was devastated. It has taken all my energy over the past couple of years to move past it (ish). My DC's are 4 & 6.

I have never said a bad word about their DF or his GF to them. I have also not told them that they were together when we were (think they are too young). I have been very friendly to their DF over this period of time (it has nearly killed me!) as I didn't want the children to have to deal with any negative feeling between us. He comes to the house one night a week (not routine due to work) to do bed time and they go to him EOW. I invite him to all birthday parties, school events. He has been living with his GF for around 6mths (it was left to my 6 year old to tell me).

They are asking me repeatedly to meet DF's girlfriend. Saying she wants to be my friend! I have said no. I say I am happy they have fun with her and that she is nice to them and I'm always glad to hear about their time with their DF and her but that she is not someone for me to be friends with.

I really really really do not want to meet this woman. I think she is nice to my DC (for now!) but she treated me absolutely appallingly for years (happy to be my ex's GF while I sat at home with our babies clueless). Every bit of emotional strength I have goes on keeping a polite relationship with Ex (obviously this is only because of DC) and trying to minimise the emotional effects on my DC.

What would you have wanted your DM/DF to do in this situation? Is it very damaging for them if I can't do this (I wouldn't want them to have to do it if they ever ended up in this situation).

Also do you think that they should be told at some stage that their DF's relationship started out as an affair and at what age. I would rather they didn't have to know this but am so worried about lying to them when the obvious question is asked (the 6yr old has skirted round the question already). I don't want both their parents to be liars and I'm worried about the impact on them if they find out when much older (some awful reveal).

tessa6 Mon 01-Apr-13 12:57:11

Just a quick point, OP I think you sound very smart and insightful when you say the kids might be engineering some of this. My sister left for an OM and even though it was dealt with very maturely and compassionately on all sides, the children (7 and 4) spent loads of time trying to get OM and ExH to 'meet up' or telling each of them how much they had in common with the other. it was heartbreaking really because they could sense there was a deep sadness or resentment there and they just wanted to 'make it better'. In children's thinking, if the two men could just be friends, everyone could hang out, their world would be brighter and happier and the sadness/confusion would disappear.

cooper44 Mon 01-Apr-13 13:02:13

another one here thinking you are doing everything right.
my dad left when I was four and my brother was six. my mum never ever bitched about my dad to us although god knows how because he really treated her badly. although I did witness some pretty horrific public rows.
I later really respected that my mum otherwise kept a lid on her feelings towards my dad - even when I was at university age and later she would still be very objective about him and never stick the knife in despite how acrimonious it always was between them.
I wouldn't have cared less about my mum and the OW being friends - in fact thinking about it it would have scared me probably. But it's probably different for your kids as you are managing to stay extremely calm and level headed. I didn't read all the other responses but someone said just breezily brush off the DCs asking you to be friends and that's probably the best thing. I can't imagine at that age that they would give it that much thought unless someone kept bringing it up?
I think the last part of your post is much harder - I just figured it out myself with my dad because it was blatant - he even took us to OW's house while he was still with my mum. Just awful. If they really persist in asking maybe say that their dad and the OW were friends and when they are older they will work it anyway.

Leavenheath Mon 01-Apr-13 14:12:15

Isn't it more a question of not lying when the children ask questions? I think that's what pisses children off, even if when older they can see why lies were more diplomatic, or sometimes face-saving. Don't forget they'll be asking the dad and OW too. If they say something different, that will need an explanation because even young children can work out that someone's lying in that event. Perhaps you can tell your ex that if you get asked questions you will tell the truth and advise him and his gf to do the same? I think it's very sad to read about some of the mums being written about here having to endure false stories and beliefs all to protect a man who started off the lying in the first place. I can't see how lies protect children at all.

flurp Mon 01-Apr-13 14:38:45

I won't lie to my dc but I do evade questions.
I have told my ex that I won't ever tell them outright what he did but when the question arises I will be sending them to his door and then he will have to be accountable.
I will also never let them feel like he left them. He left me but he is still their dad and he has been a fairly good one so far and they both worship him.
I think DS1 knows deep down but he doesn't want to hear it said, which is fine. He will face it when he's ready.

MayYouBloomAndGrow Mon 01-Apr-13 16:10:49

thanks to all for posting here, especially OP, as it comes at a time when I've been mulling over very similar worries. (We are possibly days away from telling DDs that we are separating, under similar circumstances). OP, you sound like you are doing a brilliant job.

I've not been in this position as either parent or child, but I've done an awful lot of reading about effects on children, so have formed a few opinions along the way understatement grin

About "being friendly" with OW
I agree with others... No Way. Here's why.

1. You are clearly not emotionally ready for this in anyway (completely understandable), so any friendliness could well be forced to such a degree that the kids may pick up on the awkwardness, and actually it would be worse for them, not better. I aim to work up towards indifference/civility by the time it is needed, i.e. 18th birthdays/weddings/graduations. I think that's an achievable target.

2. If the kids are driving this, it's important that you demonstrate where the boundaries are. From a child's point of view, you can see that it would be preferable if all of the significant adults get on wonderfully, then the kids could potentially have mum and dad with them at the same time, with the additional presence of OW/new partners being tolerated but irrelevant. I've read that kids are prone to "reconciliation fantasies", and that it's best not to act in such a way to fuel those fantasies.

3. It's also possible that this is being driven by ExH and/or OW. This is part of the script where they want everyone to be good friends, so that they can convince themselves and others around them that they did the "right thing", that the old marriage was dead in the water anyway, and that they have in fact acted in everyone's best interests. My view? Frankly, they can fuck off with their folie-a-deux, and learn that their actions have consequences, that they acted only in their own best interests and have to deal with the knowledge that they are truly selfish.

4. I am with you 100% when you say that you would like your children to learn that you don't have to be friends with everyone. My oldest DD is at an age where playground friendships are notoriously fickle, and I have been trying really hard to get her to back off from people who are being unpleasant to her, and focus energies on those with whom she can develop genuine friendships. I'd like to set a good example to her.

About how much of the truth to tell them
I'm really struggling with this one too. The advice in the books is to not apportion blame, yet to tell the truth. I cannot for the life of me work out how to do this when the two requirements are diametrically opposed. I'd welcome more views on this from people who have been there, as parents, children, relatives, friends, teachers, etc.

H is suggesting the explanation be that we "no longer have the same goals in life". While that much is true (I want a happy family life; he wants his ego stroked by OW and lots of lie-ins and no responsibility), it really does miss the point, surely? DD1 will say "what goals"? and try to steer us together again. Also, OP, I don't know where your H went after he left, but mine is planning to move straight in with OW, and is talking about contact via Skype. I'm not quite sure how long he thinks he can successfully brush OW under the carpet? Will she take a vow of silence and wear an invisibility cloak whilst H is Skyping? I think not...

I'm sick to death of half-truths and covering up for him, and feel like I've been living a lie since finding out about his affair. Not telling the whole truth really hasn't sat comfortably with me, even though I have done it for the best reasons (to protect DDs, and also elderly relatives). I would carry on covering up like a shot if I thought it was in the DDs' best interests, but from what I've read from others upthread, I don't think it is.

I will watch this thread with interest.

ginslinger Mon 01-Apr-13 16:16:25

My dad left when I was 7 and to begin with I saw him alone at my Granny's house. I think it was after 6 months that I saw him with the OW and she was very pleasant to me. Being a 7 year old I really had no idea what the reality of the whole thing was although I knew my mum was very unhappy but she tried not to colour my views. It never came up that they would meet when I was a small child although as I and my siblings grew up they did meet through graduations, weddings etc. People were polite.

Frankly, I would only meet her if you have to and you don't have to. It's going to be a long time before weddings and graduations and she might not be around when they happen.

TheBiskyBat Mon 01-Apr-13 16:41:05

I am fairly sure this is being driven by your dcs. I can't imagine this woman is keen to meet you - I would imagine she's terrified of the idea. If you want to put a stop to it, I would have a word with your ex, and make sure he and she are both "on message" about the fact that, as you rightly say, you don't always have to be friends with everyone, and that they are communicating that very very clearly to your children. It sounds as if you've done an astounding job in keeping the channels of communication open, so make the most of that and tell him what he needs to be telling them - it doesn't sound as if he can be relied upon to make sensible decisions without a bit of prompting.

I agree with the posters who said that weddings etc are all a long way away. However (and I am in no way suggesting that you and OW should be friends), have you thought about the not completely unlikely possibility that your paths may cross and how you will feel if you aren't prepared for that? What if your ex had an accident, and she was left looking after the children until you could collect them? Or if one of the children had an accident and he took them to hospital leaving her with the other? Wouldn't it be better if the first time you meet her, you're prepared for it?

I speak from experience - I refused to meet the OW (I did actually vaguely know her as she worked with my ex - I didn't know her well, but I'd met her at various work social events I'd been to and she'd come to my ex's 40th just before he walked out...) and then I found myself face to face with her unexpectedly (I was going away for the weekend, he had been away with work and his return flight was delayed - I had to go to catch my flight and had no option but to take the children there and leave them with her). It was horrible, and I wished after that that the first time I had seen her had been on my terms, when I had been prepared (and looking lovely!).

That's very different to being friends with her. That, of course, is never going to happen!

As far as the truth/lies go - I take the line that I will answer questions truthfully but won't volunteer information. I've never once said anything bad about either of them, but as the children grow older, they are getting more aware of how relationships work, and they are starting to work it out. I don't want to hide anything from them - dd (9) asked me the other day if Daddy had kissed OW while he was married to me, and I said that he had done. She asked me how that made me felt, and I said it made me cross and sad when I found out. But I wouldn't have said that if she hadn't asked. I think what is more damaging is constantly criticising the other parent, or making the children feel awkward about having a positive and loving relationship with them - and it sounds from everything you have said like you are doing an absolutely amazing job on that score!!

TempEasterName Mon 01-Apr-13 17:58:07

JaceyBee You are a better woman than me, due to being able to put it all behind you and spend time with your Ex and his DP. I wish you lots of happiness.

Something2say Don’t worry, I’m not saintly at all. Its taken me years to realize what kind of man my Ex has grown into. I’ve been through all the emotions under the sun. Its taken me almost the whole 18mths to get over him. I’m finally in a place were I don’t want him any more. I can be momentarily furious that the lovely young man I fell in love with 15 years ago turned into everything he once despised. Mainly, I don’t look back. Its like that man is dead and I don’t like the one who is here now. He’s not attractive to me. He is now the man who has hurt my DC and I suspect he will disappoint them periodically throughout their life (I hope not). I sometimes get furious when the children are upset and occasionally cross with myself that I chose him as their DF but he ‘acted’ a different part very well for 10 years, so I console myself that I couldn’t have known. My biggest regret is that the DC will never know what its like to have an amazing DF like I do. I’ll have to do my best for both of us.

Tessa6 I think you’ve hit the nail on the head and I can really see the DC’s point of view on that but sadly its not going to happen.

Cooper44 lovey to hear how much you appreciated your Mums efforts

Leavenheath Good point, I think I will have to have that discussion with ex

Flurp I also don’t want the children to feel like he left them but to be brutally honest I think an element of that is unavoidable. He did leave them as well as me. Regardless of whether EX tries to be a good DF (he does by his own standards), he was still only willing to do it after his ‘personal entitlement to happiness’ was met. Or to look at it another way, his desire to be with his GF was more important than his desire to be with his DC more than EOW and a couple of weeks a year. In my view that isn’t being a good father, its being a part time one – I know that’s completely unfair and lots of people end up in that position and its completely out of their control.

MayYouBloomAndGrow You seem to have gone through a very similar thought process to me and to have a similar outlook. I’m also going throught the same playground/friendship issue with my DD who’s answer to anyone being nasty to her is “maybe if I do everything she wants, she’ll remember we used to be friends” ahhhhhh! I hope you are doing ok. Feel free to PM me if you need to blow off steam/have a chat.

Ginslinger Thank you. I think I should be able to manage it by the graduation/wedding stage (well I’ll have to!)

TheBiskyBat You know my ex then! ‘it doesn’t sound as if he can be relied upon to make sensible decisions without a bit of prompting’ I hadn’t even considered the possibility that I might come across her in an unusual circumstance like that (please no!). How long is it since you and Ex separated. You seem to be doing brilliantly. I think you gave the correct answer when your DD asked about kissing. In my experience with children (not extensive) it can take them time to be ready to deal with/process things and that its sometimes better to do it in ‘bite size’ chunks which is what I’ve been hoping for. Your DD obviously knows intuitively and is putting the pieces together. I hope you are the DC’s are doing well. I won’t criticize EXDH but I just wish that I could tell them all about the lovely man that I chose to be her DF and how happy we were. But he doesn’t exist any more which is a pity! I do let her know about his positives (he is clever and good at golf and tennis………………….seriously, I must be able to do better than that).

AnonToSpareBlushes2 Mon 01-Apr-13 19:06:05

Hi there OP, and thanks for your reply. I do hope you are ok and that thinking things through is helpful for you.

You did ask me a couple of additional questions, which I'll answer now. The second one (which I'll answer first) was: when do you think is an appropriate age to answer a DC's questions more honestly? Well, I think it's when they basically ask the awkward questions that show that they know what's going on! There should be no need to lie. I think it's both sweet and honest to simply say 'mummy and daddy just stopped feeling the special kind of married love' at this stage, but when it gets to 'was daddy kissing OW while he was married to you?' then perhaps they've twigged and it's ok to answer in an honest but measured way... I reckon kids ask questions when they're ready! But I'm not a mum yet so perhaps I'm wrong! For me as a DC it happened gradually and organically.

Your other question to me was - how do I feel about my DF? Well, I love him - he's my dad and he's been there for me in some important ways. At the same time I am very well aware of his flaws and deeply unimpressed with him as a partner. I'm quite wary of men like my DF, much as I like him as a dad he is clearly a rubbish cheating lying partner. I actually think my DM should have left him before he left her.

In an ironic twist of fate I have just found out this morning (from my SM) that my DF has been doing the dirty on her! I feel sorry for her, but part of me also thinks, hm, what goes around comes around. Also - what is she thinking, not dumping him immediately?!!!!! Women with a bit of self-respect set a wonderful example for children.

UptheChimney Mon 01-Apr-13 20:00:47

what is she thinking, not dumping him immediately?!!!!! Women with a bit of self-respect set a wonderful example for children

That's an interesting comment, Anon I've always felt rather guilty at resenting my mother's helplessness in the situation my father put us in. My youngest sibling was only 7 at the time (6 of us in 9 years, yikes!!), and my mother was invested in the happy nuclear family.

My father wanted to get away from it. we were messy & noisy & expensive. So I never really believe in the "He didn't stop loving you children." He patently wanted to get away from us, but then I was older than most of the other posters who've posted.

I know how difficult it was for single mothers in the 1970s (I am a fair bit older than most of you I guess!) and how arsey my father would have been about money.

But I still feel I wish I could grow up & get over it betrayed and let down by my mother. And very badly prepared for life as an adult woman. But at least I feel something -- I don't feel terribly much for my father except for broadly familial love, and then indifference. He's reaped what he sowed with his children.

JaceyBee Mon 01-Apr-13 21:03:45

Haha, thanks OP but I'm not a better woman than anyone, believe me! Just really, really over him. That's all. But I totally understand your decision not to want to play happy families with yours. Contrary to what gets said on here sometimes, every marriage break up/affair is different and it may well not work for everyone.

Kahlua4me Mon 01-Apr-13 21:42:19

My parents split when I was 12 and db 10. Dad left my DM for his secretary, classic story of the seventies I think!
I am so in awe of my DM and the way she handled it as she shielded us from lots of pain but never said anything bad about df, to us anyway.
She did not have anything to do with df and ow, who got married and stayed together, until my df was dying when I was 20. Wewere all with him in his last few days and ow actually rang my mum and asked her to come over and sit with us all. I think my df must have wanted her there but have never asked her. Anyway she came and spent some time sitting with him and cared for ow too.

I think you can simply deflect their requests that you befriend her for now, certainly until they are older and understand more. The requests are probably from them as they are wanting everyone to get on.
You are doing a good job in helping them to deal with your split and minimising the impact on them. Try to answers their questions as honestly as their age allows. As they get older I think they will work it all out for themselves anyway, db and I certainly did.

something2say Tue 02-Apr-13 07:13:53

Hi again

I have nothing really to add to this but wanted to tell our family story too.

My father was a major philanderer. We are three children. They split when I was seven. I am the middle. We found out that he had an affair for four years! Four years!! Leaving my mother to cope with three unders fives, two dogs, a cat, a bird and a huge thatched roofed cottage with the builders in.

The one she left him over would be there when we went to stay. We were made to feel guilty for wanting to love him. I remember my mum asking for details about her and I said she had sort of fat lips. For a while my mother kissed me goodnight with joke fat lips as a way to make fun of her. It was confusing.

MayYouBloomAndGrow Tue 02-Apr-13 07:42:06

Kahlua - your DM's story has really touched me, esp the "cared for ow too" part. She must be an absolute saint, and I'm not surprised you are in awe of her. Do you or your mum have anything to do with OW now?

Kahlua4me Tue 02-Apr-13 08:00:54

No nothing at all.
She must have loved my dad in her own way, but she moved in with someone else only a week after my dad's funeral.
She also threw away all his belongings, clothes etc, before my db and I could get something to remember him by.
We decided not to have any more contact after that, but she decided the same as never contacted us again either.

Db and I were ok though as we have our mum and she eventually married our beloved step father.

Artesia Tue 02-Apr-13 08:09:16

Temp, you've had lots of great advice on this thread. I have been there myself (ex-h started an affair with someone he met on the Internet while I was pregnant, and left when DS was 8 months old. EX and OW are now married with a baby), and the one thing I would say is that, while you are doing absolutely the right thing in your kids first, you need to be kind to yourself too.

When ex first left (before I knew about OW), I used to let him come round to bath DS etc, but that stopped when I found out. He still saw DS regularly (couple of times a week), because I firmly believe that no matter what he has done, DS still deserves a good relationship with his dad, but not in my home. I needed to start reclaiming my life for myself, rather than letting things be dictated by the situation, and part of that was reclaiming my home for me. Didn't help that the ex used to still strut around as if he lived there whenever he came round! I am not suggesting being hostile, but just being polite but neutral/detached is good enough in my book. It's too much to expect you to be friendly with someone who has, bottom line, treated you very very badly and abused your trust.

As for meeting OW, happened to me by accident as I bumped into her out with my DS when his dad had him for the day (that's how I found out about the affair), but have never seen her since and am happy with that. I talk positively about them to DS, as I don't ever want him to feel uncomfortable or split between us, but that's as far as I can go. And if DS asks why daddy doesn't live with us, I am honest but matter-of-fact "daddy decided he wanted to live with OW, but he still loves you very much", and leave it at that. Hopefully it won't then come as a total shock when he is older and works out what happened, but at the same time it's not anything derogatory about his dad. (although I did find it hard to hide the look of total horror on my face when DS asked me to go round with him to meet ex's new baby!)

Not sure if that helps at all, but hope it does! For what it's worth, it sounds as though you are doing an amazing job, and your DCs are very lucky to have such a fantastic mum!

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