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Ask Ellie: Marital separation can lead to growth and reconciliation

40% of divorcing couples are interested in marriage restoration, according to a survey in the U.S.

Dear Ellie: Like many other couples, my husband and I (married at 26 and 23) discovered only after we had children that we were both unsuited to marriage. We were just finishing our schooling in very different fields, and both excited about our “own” lives.

The kids were a gift but we became a task force instead of a team. We had to afford daycare, had to hurry home when the other worked late, had scarce time or energy for intimacy.

By the time I was 30 and he 33, the children were ages six and four and our home life chaotic. I said “divorce” and we both just went silent.

Eight years later, I now believe that breaking up can be good for a marriage … and thankfully, he agrees.

It made us do the once-unthinkable — live separately, and date/have sex with other partners. But we learned what we didn’t know we needed.

I learned how essential my children’s father is in their lives. No matter how hectic our early home/work life had been, the kids had never doubted his love. His weekends were for them, and me, too, if I chose.

I learned that you can turn yourself into a self-serving observer of life rather than a much-appreciated team player regarding essentials.

We met each other’s new partners, stayed amicable regarding kids’ visits, schedules, etc. and put on bright faces during the two years (him) and 18-months (me) that those unions lasted.

Now ages 14 and 12, our children talk openly with us about the “friends” we had in the “other time.” They say they didn’t dislike them; they just weren’t the same as “us.”

Thankfully, my former “ex” and I feel that same way about each other. We’re married again.

Happy

Ellie: A moving story yet not as unusual as one might think. The website OnlineDivorce mentioned in an article updated in August 2021, looked at an Institute for American Values survey which mentioned that 40% of divorcing couples are interested in marriage restoration (with chances lower for people 60 and older).

The major take-away here is the ability of both of you to put career/personal drives not aside, but in perspective to the totality of what you wanted in life.

Dear Readers: One of the challenges of this column is reading a cry for help that gives minimal details.

A Dec. 16 letter about the writer’s boyfriend was especially vague — “if I say anything wrong, he’ll get mad… I shake and beg him to stop and I cry. I’m afraid of him … and I’m scared.”

Those comments strongly suggest she’s anticipating/experiencing physical and emotional abuse. I moved to the immediate need that she make a private secure plan to leave him.

I suggested using a secure computer (library/trusted friend’s), search “abused women’s shelters, local YWCA for help. There are many such agencies in Canada, easy to find online. If worried that he’ll find out, I suggest she alert the police about his behaviour and her fears.

I’m grateful for a reader who did an immediate online search for this woman and sent me the following sites available in Ontario (across Canada there are many more):

* Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres

* Support Services for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse

* Ontario Victim Services

* The Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Care and Treatment Centres

* Legal Aid Ontario – 24/7 Domestic Abuse Hotline

* Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses – 24/7 Staffed Shelters

* Assaulted Women’s Helpline: 1 866 863 0511

Dear Ellie: I get that the rising Omicron cases have heightened some people’s other fears e.g., not having enough money from low-paid/part-time jobs.

But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to rip people off which happened to me a couple weeks ago.

I’d pre-ordered take-out foods from a local deli, for my two hungry sons, my husband and myself: a large family-size and a regular-size pizza, two salads.

When handed over, I lifted off the smaller pizza and saw the price written on the cover of the larger one.

But the young guy at the corner quoted a price, with his back turned to me, that was $40 higher than what was written! I protested and he immediately mumbled “Okay, okay.”

Do I tell the restaurant’s owner?

Undecided

Your hesitation says a lot about you. He’s a part-time worker who knows he could lose his job. Instead, you’ve given the gift of understanding. Shop there again.

Ellie’s tip of the day

When divorce becomes inevitable, confront what led there. As you change, so can your future.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.