Dilemmas: I've ruined the family Christmas

Rosie has ended her 30-year marriage in a friendly way, but the children blame her. Her married daughter, who has children, says there's no point celebrating Christmas now, and her son's going abroad with his wife, in pique. Her parents say she's ruined everything. Rosie wants to spend Christmas with her new boyfriend but her husband wants to spend it with her. What should she do?

VIRGINIA'S ADVICE

I HAVE a feeling that everyone will be writing in saying: "But what do you want, Rosie?" It's very fashionable to encourage people to put themselves first. That exceptionally unpleasant and selfish phrase, "Go for it!" features in too many of my letters. And this time I'd like to put a case for those who would, on occasions, like to put other people first.

Now Rosie has split up with her husband. She's "gone for it" and I'm certain that was a good move. But whether she has to "go for it!" to the hilt, is arguable.

It doesn't really matter how amicably you split up with your partner, the children are going to experience it as a family split, and although Rosie and her husband may be very happy to part, it doesn't mean that everyone else is keen on the situation. Everyone else being people like her parents and her children, who depend on the stability of a central family life.

When you split up with a partner, it's not just between you two. You have also to consider all those people who depend on your partnership. So having been selfish, and probably rightly so, perhaps Christmas is the time when Rosie should think about being unselfish. It's only for a day or so, after all, and if it means a lot to her children and her parents why not?

Now her son has said he's going to go abroad with his wife. Rosie should find out whether this is what he really wants to do or whether he's running off in an embittered rage. It might be what he and his wife have been dying to do for the last few years, and only a sense of duty binds them to the family Christmas.

Her daughter sounds the most hurt. Anyone who says they're simply going to give up celebrating Christmas, despite what the grandchildren might think, is very angry and upset indeed. It might well be worth getting back with her husband just for Christmas so that her daughter's hurt can be lessened. And then there are the parents. I think they ought to be made well aware of the fact that the split was amicable and that Rosie is still friends with her husband.

So my feeling is that for everyone's sake, for this Christmas at least, Rosie ought to get together with her husband, have a family Christmas, and show a united front. In the long run it will do her good. After all, if her husband's not upset by the split, how can the rest of the family be furious?

By seeing the husband being friendly and nice, they'll hopefully take a cue from him. If he's not angry, how can they be? Yes, I'm sure Rosie would like to spend this Christmas with her new lover. But she's had her own way a lot recently. Next Christmas, who knows? But this Christmas, when everyone's feeling mortally wounded by the big split, is the time to present a united front and say: "We may not be living together, but as far as you're concerned, we're still mum and dad."

In the long run this would be a good move for Rosie. It would dissolve the blame and make everyone feel more relaxed and compassionate. It's a big Christmas, too, with the Millennium ahead. So, in the last Christmas of this century, I think Rosie and her husband should make a show of togetherness, as evidence not just of the death of their old relationship but of the birth of something new.

READERS SAY

What is best for you?

I think there are times in people's lives when they seem to move on and leave behind much of what was familiar. Fresh opportunities arise which lead to new relationships, new work, new activities and so on. Perhaps this is such a time for Rosie.

Initial thoughts can be very revealing. After reflection it is all too easy to change one's mind, retract something, or even deny what was said. Rosie's initial desire is that she would like to spend Christmas with her new partner. Does she really want to spend Christmas with the man she has left?

Similarly, does she really want to sacrifice her happiness in order to succumb to the desperate needs of her son and daughter?

It seems to me that Rosie is taking a few risks and trying to build a new life after the death of her marriage. Now she needs to ask what is best for herself. After all, she has experienced many years of marriage. Her family are adults and it is up to them to deal with their own feelings of loss. However, they are extended family, and family members can continue to support each other through thick and thin.

NICHOLAS E GOUGH

Swindon

Wiltshire

Family is being selfish

My advice to Rosie from today's Independent dilemma is as follows. Rosie must have had very good reasons for separating from her husband; her family should respect this and stop emotionally blackmailing her.

Rosie, after 30 years of marriage and bringing up a family, surely it's now time for you to do what you want. Spend Christmas with your new man friend and enjoy yourself. If your family really care about you, they will see that you are doing the right thing and they are being selfish and manipulative.

ALAN SMITH

Leeds

West Yorkshire

Please yourself at Christmas

Now is the time that Rosie should "go for it"! She's broken up with her husband, and her family have simply got to come to terms with the new situation. If they blame her, wrongly, that's their problem, not hers. Let them sort out their own Christmases for once, instead of depending on "good old mum".

If Rosie wants to spend this Christmas with her new friend, fine. If she wants to go to the Bahamas on her own, fine. But now she's her own woman, and for the first time in her life she can do what she wants to do.

MARCELLE PETERS

Liverpool

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My first marriage was very violent, but I'm now with a lovely man who absolutely hates conflict of any kind. We used to have a good sex life, but I realised that it was becoming a chore for him, so even though we're both highly sexed, we satisfy ourselves. But the trouble is that he no longer even cuddles me.

I've become so frustrated that I have one-night stands with people at work, which isn't doing my reputation any good in the office. I'm tired, resentful and irritable. Our relationship isn't good or bad, it's just a grey nothingness.

Do I stay with him because he's a stable and pleasant companion? Or should I leave him and become another middle-aged "want it all and want it now" person, searching for the ultimate lover?

Yours sincerely, Erin

Anyone with advice quoted will be sent a bouquet from . Send letters and dilemmas to Virginia Ironside at `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182; or e-mail dilemmas@ independent. co.uk, giving a postal address

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