Virginia Ironside: Dilemmas

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Dear Virginia, I’ve recently married again to a man I love dearly, but he’s told me that he doesn’t want me to see my ex any more. My ex and I have a great relationship – we were childhood sweethearts, and have two children so we see a lot of each other. But my husband’s become jealous, and wants to stop my ex having a cup of tea when he collects the children. After a lot of discussion, he’s grudgingly said it’s OK, but that he won’t be around at those times. It makes life so awkward for us all and I can’t help feeling angry. It’s so silly. What can I do?

Yours sincerely, Emma



On one level, I have never heard anything so utterly immature and pathetic, but I’m afraid this attitude isn’t going to make for change, which is what you want. Try to put aside your angry feelings and imagine what your husband might be feeling.

Presumably he feels that your ex and you have a brilliant relationship. Probably you do. Then, for some reason, he must feel that you still find your ex attractive – or perhaps that he finds you attractive. This sexual threat could be particularly difficult to bear. And when he comes over and has tea, and no doubt you laugh and joke and refer to old and happier times and mutual friends, your husband feels redundant.

How can you make things easier for him? Would it make things better if your ex-husband were to ask him for a drink now and again, on his own, to talk about the children, perhaps – ask his advice on how to handle certain situations? He doesn’t really need to need advice, but somehow your husband’s ego has to be boosted. Perhaps your ex could encourage the children to make a card or a model while they’re with him, that he thinks your husband would enjoy seeing, so he’s the first person they want to see when they come home, rather than you.

Perhaps you could make the occasional remark about how, although you like your ex very much, he was hopeless in bed. Or had a dark side that is never revealed now you’re separated. Rather than rejoice in the fact you have such a good relationship now, harp on about how awful it used to be. Explain that you know how difficult it must be, but that it is good for the children to see that you all get on together and sets them a good example for when they face tricky situations when they grow up.

Does your ex have a new partner? Couldn’t she come over now and again, so that there’s be another person for your husband to bond with? Is there any chance that you and your husband might have children of your own? Once that happens, if it’s on the cards, the whole situation will change immediately.

Your husband feels threatened. We all feel threatened now and |again, and even though it’s usually irrational it doesn’t stop the feelings being painful. You may feel you’ve got enough childish behaviour with two kids on your hands, but since he’s already made one concession to the situation, I don’t think it would take much more to turn your husband into a fully working adult.

You need to talk

Is he just jealous of your ex- husband or is it other people/men in general? You say you have discussed this, but do you feel this was a real discussion and got to the heart of the problem? When he says he doesn’t want to be around when your ex is, does he still want to know what you talked about? Does he want you to meet in the house but not anywhere else?

Does your new husband realise that this is going to be a lifelong commitment? There will be many times over the years when you will be meeting to discuss your children for any number of reasons.

Have you examined how you are around your ex-husband? Your new husband may not be able to cope with seeing the two of you together. |If you were childhood sweethearts, he may find it difficult to see the affection and intimacy that you had for each other still reflected in your relationship now.

You need to talk about this again; this is not going to go away.

Jacqui

By email

Tell him you love him

Well done for maintaining a civilised relationship with your ex-husband. This is so rare these days and I think is commendable. I’m sure it makes life so much easier and more pleasant for your children. As for your current husband, did you not discuss this situation before you married and establish boundaries?

Your husband needs to think about how it would affect your children if you were to stop their father coming into their home. Why should they suffer because of his insecurities? You should also ask yourself, if you give in to this demand, who else might he ask to stop calling at the house – friends, colleagues, or anyone else he may feel threatened by?

I would suggest that you sit down with him and explain that it is he |that you love and want to be with. Make him aware how difficult and awkward he is making things. He should have more respect for your children and above all give you the one thing all good marriages build their foundations on: trust.

Shereen

By email



Respect his feelings

I’m left wondering which counts for more: “I love him dearly” (making your husband sound like a cosy old pet) or “a great relationship” (with husband number one, who obviously still lights your fire). Do you have any regrets, Pam? It sounds to me as though you might have, and that your husband is picking these up. Unless you really do want to go back to your ex, you need to be very aware of your husband’s sensitivities. I’m not surprised he doesn’t want to be around your ex – he’s the odd one out when those children are present and must feel like an interloper in his own home. What should you do? It’s hard to say, but a proper realisation of the situation and a genuine respect for your husband will help point you in the right direction.

Don Manley

By email

Give him a break

It’s rarely acknowledged just how hard it is to be a stepfather. Just when your husband feels he’s getting somewhere with your children, along comes their real dad to remind him of how thing can never be between them. Give the man a break. Your priority is to calm his fears about your relationship with your ex and reassure him that you love him – and that he’s doing a great job.

F Forster

Bristol



Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, At 18, my daughter, Kirstie has told me she never felt she had a proper childhood because we were too busy caring for her disabled sister, Polly. It’s true, Polly took up a lot of our attention and time, but we always tried to show Kirstie we loved her just as much. And anyway, what could we have done? Polly’s health has deteriorated and she is now in a home, but Kirstie says it’s too late to make it up to her, and we should have put Polly in a home long ago. We are devastated. What can we do?

Yours sincerely, Philippa

What would you advise Philippa to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent.co.uk, or go to www.independent.co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Naked Wines ( www.nakedwines.com)

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