Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Our dad abandoned the family. How can we forgive him?

This reader's father left the family for another woman last year. Now mum's taken him back, but his children are in a less forgiving mood

Share

Dear Virginia,

I’m 15 and last year my dad left us to go off with another woman. It made us all so unhappy but in a way it was a relief when all the rows stopped. My younger brother and I took our mum’s side and we didn’t want to see him again. We’d moved into a smaller home, and things were just starting to be OK again and mum had got a job and we were starting to be happy again, when dad asked to come back. Mum took him back at once, and forgave him, but we just can’t.  We hate him for what he did. I feel so let down. What can I do?

 

Yours sincerely,

Sonia (15)

 

Virginia Says...

What I want to know is: Have you told your father how you feel? I imagine that before your mum took him back, they had some proper conversations about what had happened. Presumably he didn’t just walk back in. No doubt she explained how betrayed she’d felt, he apologised and was bitterly remorseful, and he assured her it would never happened again. They might have tried to wipe the slate clean and build up a new relationship from scratch.

But, as you’ve pointed out, he’s forgotten about one thing: his children. Or so it seems.

Now, it could be that he thinks that since you thought so little of him to start with, your feelings towards him haven’t changed. It could be that he thinks, perhaps because you’re an undemonstrative family, that whether he’s there or not doesn’t make a pin of difference to you. Maybe – and this is a real possibility – he’s actually frightened of  discussing what’s happened with you because he knows how angry you’ll be. Or maybe he actually returned because he missed not just your mum, but you two.

I think it’s a lot to ask for you to have a conversation with your father. I think it would demand a maturity beyond your years – but if you felt you could have a proper discussion, without getting too emotional and accusatory, then by all means initiate it.

But I don’t see why you shouldn’t tell your mother how you feel. It was her decision to have him back, after all, and she should have perhaps made it one of the conditions of his return that he would have a long talk with you and your brother about what had happened. 

It sounds as if you’re not just angry at his causing so many rows to start with, and angry with him for leaving, but also angry with apparently being side-lined in all the discussions about whether he returned home or not, as if your feelings simply didn't count.

Join forces with your brother – two are always stronger than one – and ask your mother to sort this out on your behalf. And tell her you feel upset that she took a unilateral decision in allowing your father home without consulting you two. And don’t leave it open-ended. Tell her what you want to make things better. Insist on having a proper talk with your dad, after he’s been primed by your mum, and an acknowledgement, from him that you two have been almost irrevocably hurt by his behaviour.

After what’s happened I doubt it’ll ever be the perfect family – and remember that few families are perfect, when you scratch the surface – but it could be lot better than it is now.

Readers say...

Learn from this

Your parents have made a massive mistake one way or the other, either by splitting up in the first place or by subsequently getting back together. My family set-up was very similar and believe me, the difficulties you overcome now will make you more resilient in the future. Most importantly, learn from what is happening all around you and don’t repeat their mistakes.

Zoe, by email

Let him know

It’s understandable that you feel betrayed. You now need to be very careful and open both eyes wide to human nature. Your mother wants him back and you have to accept this. Hate is natural but ultimately destructive. My suggestion is that you ask for a specific time to sit and talk to your father. Say exactly how you feel – directly to him. Don’t bottle it up. Don’t lie awake at night thinking hateful thoughts – get it out in the open.

Your parents’ marriage might get stronger and survive this betrayal but it might not. Whatever you do, don’t start living off this hate and upset that you feel. Be bigger than this situation. Your father is still your father; tell him how you feel.

Maureen, by email

Next week’s  dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My six-year-old son nagged me so much for the past year that I gave him a puppy for Christmas. He loves it and so do I, but my partner (not his dad) hates it. He claims to be allergic to it (he’s not) and I once caught him kicking it when he didn’t know I was in. He thinks it should live all the time in the garden, even when it's freezing, and won’t let it on any bed or sofa. It’s causing real problems and last night he said I must choose – the puppy or him. But my son would be heartbroken. I wish I’d never got it. What can I do?

Yours sincerely,

Esther

What would you advise Esther to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose  advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Alan Titchmarsh MP?  

Alan Titchmarsh MP? His independent manifesto gets my vote

Jane Merrick
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies