Tell Me About It: When they are not with me I feel guilty, like I am living a different life
PROBLEM: I left a very unhappy marriage four years ago, I have two children. As my marriage was ending, I met the man I felt I had been waiting for all my life. Having met through a mutual friend, I asked him out. I liked him immediately and felt we were meant to be together. He was kind, considerate, generous and thoughtful. I could talk to him about anything.
After a couple of months, I told him how I felt. He was cautious of my situation and suggested we remain friends. Our friendship continued for a couple of months before we finally got together. What followed was the most beautiful, intense and loving relationship I will ever know. Our intimacy was something I have never experienced before, we had a deep connection. We discussed our future together and over time I introduced him to my kids. He was great with them and looked after them on many occasions, they loved spending time with him. He was fully committed to us and so supportive.
My relationship with my ex is stressful, it causes me anxiety and concern for the children. I worry and feel guilty about how the separation will affect them, long term. When they are not with me, I feel guilty, like I’m living a different single life and it is something I have difficulty with. Sometimes I feel having a failed marriage in one sense means I can’t enjoy myself without feeling guilty. I worried about taking the steps with the kids of having a new partner in our lives.
This led to a lot of worry and anxiety resulting in me ending my relationship which has been very painful. I deeply love him and care about him and I know I will probably never replace what I had with him or find it in another relationship. I feel like running away and feel it is best to be on my own, but it is so upsetting as I have lost my best friend in the process. I feel like I need to think less about my needs and focus on my children.
I left my marriage because I was so unhappy and now, I feel like I am unhappy all over again. I know that he is hurting, and he has told me he will give me the space that I need and will always be there for me. I miss him terribly and feel lost without him. I just don’t know what to do. I feel like I’m on my own and as my kids get older, they will move on with their lives and I will remain on my own. I am giving up something incredibly special, but I find it so difficult to allow myself to be happy and find the right balance
The pain and loss I feel is overwhelming, I don’t want to lose him, but I want to do what is best for all of us.
ADVICE: Your letter is very clear: you were unhappy in your marriage, to the extent that you developed a deep emotional connection and attraction to another man while the marriage was ending. While this is not ideal in that it is difficult to separate the two things – separating and beginning something new – it did happen, and it seems that this reality needs to be accepted. It is hard to understand why you let your guilt overwhelm you after you had successfully introduced your lover to your children and had left your marriage and this is worth investigating. Why do you feel you do not deserve happiness? Surely a happy and functioning mother is good for children?
Guilt is a primary emotion and it is there to tweak our consciousness into questioning what we are doing and checking if we need to make reparation. I suggest you do this now: check if your marriage is indeed over and if so, then accept the reality of that. If so then you are a separated woman and as such are free to seek other relationships. This has to include your children and the effect it will have on them, but it seems that you are deeply concerned about them and are already measuring any action against their wellbeing.
When you look to the future (for your children), you are full of fear and are now suffering the guilt you might feel should they not do well. What this means is that no matter what happens in their lives, you will feel responsible and do penance accordingly. Do you honestly think that this is good for you and your children? Surely you want them to grow up with a mother who is not on edge with worry or who makes decisions based on fear and guilt?
If you want to teach your children to treasure love, accept responsibility and to act with commitment, you might consider doing all these things with the man who is waiting for you to choose him. This does not mean that you will not be challenged or face difficulties but committing to a relationship is supposed to stretch us. It is in fact, another stage of development.
The main way to help your children deal with the separation is to engage with your ex-husband so that you two can learn to parent successfully. There are many ways of doing this: mediation, parenting courses or family therapy – and while it can be difficult to get agreement on these, it is worth perusing with determination and optimism. Let go the guilt and replace it with the principles you want your children to have: self-confidence, faith in your decision making and follow-through in your decision-making.