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Ask Ellie: Divorced parent's new love can spark family conflict

Deep down, some kids blame themselves for the failure of their parents' marriage

Dear Ellie: My love has agreed to marry me. But our situation is now rife with conflict, heated up by my 22-year-old son.

My ex-wife of 16 years and I had a strained marriage. We divorced six years ago. Our son, and younger daughter, seemed to accept the situation. We parents stayed amicable to maintain family ties.

When my fiancée moved in with me two years ago, I introduced her to both children.

Suddenly, I was dealing with a raging young man who told everyone he knew, that my fiancée was “out for money.” He threatened a court challenge to our marrying.

He’s continued to spread nasty/false rumours about my fiancée, refuses to come to our house when she’s there, and has threatened to sue me for his “inheritance” that’s written in my will.

I don’t want to lose my relationship with my children, nor lose the woman I’ll marry as soon as we’re past this.

How do I assure my son that I still love him, while he becomes nastier to my partner?

Distraught Father

Stand your ground on two fronts: 1) You love your grown children but won’t allow your son or anyone else to rule your life. You will marry your fiancée. 2) You’ll do whatever it takes to convince your children, that your parental love hasn’t just disappeared.

But nasty gossip and court challenges will only broaden the breach in your family.

See a lawyer to discuss your son’s stated legal threat. It seems unlikely that he can sue for his so-called “inheritance,” since you’re alive and well and can write a new will.

Perhaps your “amicable ex” can talk to your son about his extreme fears about the marriage, for the sake of his mental health.

Or, you can seek personal counselling to help you better understand what’s really driving him.

Possibly, he never truly accepted the divorce, and hung onto the belief that his parents would re-marry. Or, he may inwardly believe (as kids sometimes do) that he carried some blame for it.

If the therapist thinks these are possibilities, ask for the most effective way to have your son (and your daughter) get professional guidance over this devastating impasse.

Dear Ellie: My sister moved into my parents’ home several years after my dad’s death. My mother was relieved, my sister happily sold her condo for a profit.

She now wants to move. But she’s gossiping that my mother’s manipulative, cold, and poisoned her daughters regarding men and marriage. We’re all single.

I told my sister that I wished she’d never told me that I was NOT a premature baby and, instead, my mother got pregnant before getting married and blamed my dad the rest of his life.

She lost her temper, saying she’d confided in me, and called me a nasty name. But my brother agreed with me. Why turn on our elderly mother?

My sister and I have been best friends. BUT I cannot even speak to her after this bizarre outburst.

Do I suggest she get therapy and risk more insults, or move on, allowing her and Mom to figure things out while I wait for an apology?

Concerned Sister

Move on. Emotions are too high on this “secret” of many years ago, which is irrelevant to your life. He was always your father.

Also, your relationship with your sister remains important to you, so don’t sit waiting for an apology. Instead, re-connect on what does matter to you… the old feeling of “best friends,” and mutual family forgiveness.

Dear Ellie: I’m a widow, 60, who fell in love three years ago with a man, 70, I’d known for years.

Our relationship is very good/kind/loving. However, I’ve discovered that he separated five years ago, but still isn’t divorced. They’re in touch.

Living together now upsets me.

He’s agreed that he needs to get this sorted. Almost a year later, he’s changed nothing. I’m more upset at this than anything.

Should I ask him to leave, with the possibility to restart when he’s free, or accept that we have a great relationship in other ways?

Just Carry On?

If you can carry on for the sake of an otherwise “great relationship,” do so. But his knowing it’s upsetting you and doing nothing about it, is likely to erode the relationship.

Say so. If nothing changes, the relationship isn’t as great as you’ve thought. Or he’s even more afraid to upset his ex-partner. If so, move on.

Ellie’s tip of the day

A divorced parent’s new marriage can arouse extreme anger/fear of losing parental love and generosity.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.