My ex-husband decided he didn't want to be married anymore - he felt that he was choking and was on responsibility overload. He was 50 years old and we had a 2 year old and a 5 year old. He also had a special friend from work that he needed to talk things over with. I knew this from cellular itemized phone bills and intercepting messages. He says that the relationship didn't start until after we were divorced but as I see it an emotional affair is the same as a physical affair.
It's been 3 years since our divorce and I recently met someone special that I introduced my children to and my ex knew I had. He has my children for the month of June and last week introduced "her" to my children. My children do know of the special relationship they had during our marriage - we argued about it while we were still together. In only a week she spent the night while my children were there and I'm starting to feel insecure about my role as their mother. I miss them terribly and when I hear that they've been somewhere together I get pangs of, "What's my role now?" Rationally I know no one can take my place but it's still a change I'm going through. By the way, I do not convey my ill feelings towards this woman to my children. I pray that she is good to my children and ask God for a way to forgive her and my ex.
Would you please provide some insight into what I can/should do to better help me cope with this latest situation? Would you please jot down the name of some books available that can provide me with some healthy advice in dealing with this very sensitive subject?
Juani (43 year-old woman)
Sadly, yours is a tragedy that is all too common. None of the old certainties hold with the erosion of society: religion, commitment, and responsibility. We are taught that human nature is selfish, and this is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I am glad there are also people like you, who don't put yourself forward as the only one whose feelings matter. In your few words, I could see that the welfare and future well-being of your children are essential to you, and you are ready to sacrifice your own feelings in the service of ensuring that they are minimally scarred by this experience.
Good for you.
Every breakup always hurts everyone involved. And the children are the worst hurt. So, you are doing the right thing.
However, I'd like to set your mind at rest. You will ALWAYS be their mother; no other person will ever replace you in that role. Even when they become adults, your role will always be that of Mother in their lives.
Of course, there are situations where children reject one or both of their parents, and sometimes this comes to a crisis point as a result of the parents' divorce. You will find, though, that there were already serious rifts before the breakup, and the enmity would have been there regardless.
Let me give an example of a typical family. These are real people I know. John and Rachel had a son, and then split up. Both married other partners. John's second lady already had two daughters, and they had a son together. Rachel married Phil, a man with two children who live with his ex-wife, and they had two daughters together.
John and Rachel's son lives with his mother, but goes to extended access visits to his father. He calls both his father and stepfather interchangeably 'Dad' or John/Phil depending. When in one home, he refers to the other man by his Christian name. Just the same, although Phil is all-important in his everyday life, John is the man he loves the most and tries to please and impress. Similarly, Rachel is his mother, and always will be so. His stepmother is someone he likes or even loves, but she is 'Carolyn' to him, never 'Mother'.
If your ex-husband's new lady is a decent person, your kids will gain rather than lose, and therefore you will gain. She can become an ally for you, someone you can trust them to, someone who can bring variety and interest into their lives. She will never replace you or threaten your position.
This is why your intuitive reaction of not saying bad things about her is correct. You should ensure that neither pair of parents ever uses the kids as weapons against the other. That is the most damaging thing that can be done.
As for books, try to find 'Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered' by E. Mavis Hetherington. A colleague who specializes in this field has recommended it to me. Since you have left your email address, I'll be able to send you his contact details privately.
Now that you have a new 'special person' in your life, I hope you can move forward. Don't look on the 'other woman' as a threat but as a potential resource in building a good future for your kids.
Have a good life,