Tell Me About It: Some of my so-called friends are attending their lavish wedding
PROBLEM: I am beyond frustrated at how my life is turning out. I am 51 and my ex-husband is about to marry the mistress that he left me and our two daughters for.
My widower partner refuses to marry me because he doesn’t want to upset his only daughter. When my ex-husband left, it was so humiliating. To our neighbours and friends, we appeared to have everything, two kids, two dogs, lots of money, a holiday home and a beautiful house. We were the envy of others. Then he left me for his mistress who is 15 years younger than him and she left her husband for mine. As a consolation prize, he bought me a valuable house complete with a tennis court and I receive sizeable maintenance ensuring that I do not have to work. That was all just to make himself feel better about leaving us.
He and his mistress are wealthy independently of each other and are both in the same profession. They built an amazing new house in a nice area and they have a child now. My daughters and I were certain that they would break up and in truth, I was waiting for their relationship to meet its demise. I really thought that it was just a matter of time, so this upcoming wedding has come as such a blow to me. I was patiently waiting for their break-up, not their wedding! Some of my so-called friends are attending the lavish event.
I played such a clever game that I was certain that my actions would get the better of them. I have made certain from the outset that my children would have nothing to do with her, insisting that all access took place at my house thereby cleverly alienating her and their child. I thought that that and a few other clever moves would drive her over the edge but sadly not. To demonstrate my acceptance of things, I have been clever enough to send my children to their family events such as the skiing holiday that I used to be part of and my ex-husbands child’s Christening.
My hopes of their relationship failing have been dashed and now I am just left with the hope that I live longer than him to cash in on his life insurance policies that I hung on to in the divorce settlement.
When he left us, I set about doing what one does when your husband leaves. I lost a lot of weight (the divorce diet) and I found a new man. He lives down the country and stays with me a few nights a week. Our relationship has lasted for a few years. The problem is that he is a widower with one very “precious” daughter. She does not get along with my eldest which makes things very awkward. I have to pretend to be the doting stepmom to her for my partner but in truth I resent her terribly. The only reason why he will not marry me is to protect her feelings and to protect her inheritance. Her mother died young when she was a small child and it seems that she comes first no matter what. I don’t have the same chemistry with him as my ex-husband. I have come to an accommodation with him, but I don’t see what I should continue to put up with him refusing to get married. It’s important to me to be married again.
I want to be married again for respectability and to show everyone that I have got on with my life
ADVICE: I’m afraid that getting on with your life will require more than gaining respectability. You are currently fuelled by resentment and are spending your time trying to fake caring for a relationship that is not your primary focus. It is very understandable to be hurt and full of grief for the life that you have lost but you are adding to your suffering by continuously comparing your life to your ex’s. Inevitably you create more hurt and anger for yourself by feeling that your ex’s life is working out better than yours – the answer is not that he should be seen to decline but rather it is that you should focus on your own self and happiness. This is not an easy task as it seems you are subsumed by rage and this will not allow you to be free – free from your past relationship and free to create genuine love and relationship in your life.
There is a very wise saying: ‘resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die’
There is a very wise saying: “resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die”. What this means is that your current perspective and actions are guaranteeing your own suffering while you hope the other person is feeling the same way. Your husband seems to have committed fully to his new marriage and he is including your children in this. You use the word acceptance in your letter, and this is indeed what you must now put into action.
Full acceptance is the only way to freedom for yourself: you need to accept as a fact that your ex-husband is having a good life. You need to accept that your children have a right to a relationship with him and his new family and you need to accept that your new partner has a deep loyalty to his daughter. You do not sound as though you are in love with your partner and while you may get away with faking this for a while, it is unlikely that this pretence will last.
It is okay to have a relationship to help you recover from your marriage break-up but now you might need to end this so that you can deal with the issues that are surfacing. If you succeed, you may then feel free enough to contemplate another real relationship for yourself.
You say you do not have to work, and this may be a problem for you right now as you have endless time to consider your ex’s success. Finding something to occupy yourself, such as volunteering or sitting on a local board, as this might give your mind something else to focus on and gradually you may find there is something underneath the rage that needs your attention. Psychotherapy would offer you a space to explore your hurt in a safe way and you should engage in this before you force a commitment that you might later regret.
Indeed, this decision to force marriage might also have untold effects on your own and your partner’s children and it is incumbent on you to take this into account.