Tell Me About It
WITH ANGEL DONNETTE ROBERTSON
I have been divorced for a couple of years, but my ex-husband and I have remained friendly. I cook for him. He helps me take care of the house and goes with me when I have to make a big purchase. We talk often throughout the week. About eight months ago, I started dating another man, and the new man is uncomfortable with my relationship with my ex-husband. He has asked me to limit the relationship to contact regarding our grown children. I really like the new man in my life, but I feel he is overreacting. Do I have to give up one relationship for the other?
Would you be comfortable with your new man assisting another woman in making large purchases? Or helping her around her house? Or her cooking for him? Or the two of them talking often throughout the week? Wouldn’t that feel a little like the other woman was receiving some of the energy and focus that would otherwise be directed towards you?
Although some divorced couples can maintain a close, friendly relationship without crossing boundaries, constant contact certainly increases the risk of temptation. It is so easy to fall back into the habit and comfort of an old relationship. So, I understand your new man’s uneasiness with your current relationship with your ex-husband.
Do you have to cut back on your interactions with your ex-husband just to please the new man in your life?
No, of course not.
But he doesn’t have to stay, either. He has every right to feel safe in his relationships, and he is telling you he does not feel safe with you.
So, you have to decide which is more important to you. The remnant of the old relationship? Or the possibility of the new?
Only you can say.
For years, my daughter and her husband have said they are “waiting” to have children, but none of us are getting younger. A couple of weeks ago, when I broached the subject with my daughter, she admitted that they have decided to remain child-free. I know my son-in-law is the one who doesn’t want children, and I told her he was just being selfish, not wanting to give up his hobbies. She told me I was wrong and stormed out of the house, and we haven’t spoken since. I just don’t want her to wake up one day regretting never being a mother. How can I get her to listen to me?
First, you are assuming that your son-in-law is making a unilateral decision. You may be right. But you could also be very wrong. We often think we “know” when we don’t.
Your daughter may actually want to remain child-free for herself. She may find her fulfillment in another area of her life. Perhaps she has never addressed the topic with you because she knows you have your own strong feelings. Perhaps she is sorry that she will not give you grandchildren and has been reluctant to disappoint you.
However, even if your son-in-law is the one completely responsible for the decision, you surely shouldn’t encourage your daughter to have children with a man who doesn’t want them. Children require a lot of time and patience, as well as love. He may not have those commodities to give. If so, he is actually making a mature and responsible decision. Forcing him into fatherhood is not only unfair to him but also the child.
Your daughter may regret never being a mother. Or the two of them may change their minds and have half a dozen. Or they may remain childless without any regrets.
No one can actually predict the future with any accuracy.
But they are adults and have to make their own decisions — whether you agree with them or not — and suffer their own consequences.
So, call your daughter and apologize for overstepping your bounds. Tell her that you accept her decisions. Mourn your loss of the possibility of grandchildren. And then hold your tongue on the topic for ever after.
Angel Donnette Robertson is not a professional counselor, but she has a lifelong appreciation for the beauty and complications of relationships.
Have a relationship question for Angel? Contact her through her blog at www.angeldonnette.wordpress.com. She will select reader questions to answer, along with questions she finds, in upcoming issues of Inside Columbia’s Prime.