Sons and lovers

'We try to make it as relaxed as possible because children pick up on those bad vibes'
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Mel, 42, lived with John, 41, for eight years before having Adam, seven, and Max, four. They separated when Max was six months old.

`John didn't want children, having had an emotionally distant father who beat him. Selfishly, I got pregnant "accidentally on purpose", through desperation. I felt the old biological clock ticking away, wanted him, wanted children, wanted everything and couldn't see any other way to do it.

Friends he rang after the birth said he sounded ecstatic, but he could never forgive me for becoming pregnant in the first place. After that, there was a slow deterioration. We had counselling, but John decided he wanted space. I found out later he had been seeing somebody else.

I was very keen that John would maintain as much contact as possible. Now the average is him coming here one evening a week and one day at the weekend. We try very hard to make it as relaxed as possible because I think children pick up on those bad vibes - they're very sensitive to whether Mummy and Daddy are happy. John calls most nights and chats to both of them. If I answer the phone, I try to suppress all that anger and hate, say a few niceties and then pass the phone over to the boys. We arrange days out. They can be difficult, but I try to behave as if I'm out with a friend. The youngest has said a couple of times, "Why is Daddy in London?" and I've always said, "Because he doesn't love me any more." The questioning tends to stop at that point.

The boys have spent some time with John and his new wife, and initially my jealousy and hatred towards her were very strong. The first time they visited they were full of "it's a huge house and they've got a CD player and bathrooms everywhere", and how his wife's car was brand new and convertible and you pressed a button and the roof went down. I looked at my rusting heap outside my tiny little house and had to grit my teeth and say, "That's nice." What's made it easier is the knowledge that it's what the boys want and that it would have been very cruel of me to have said no. The difficulty is knowing that he married somebody else just a couple of months after he left, when he never married me, and that we'll never be a couple again.

Overall, I suppose it is the best thing, but sometimes I think it is dishonest, trying to maintain the contact between myself and John. There is still a certain amount of love and caring there. I don't have a new partner and sometimes I wonder whether this arrangement is stopping me from moving on.