Question: Dear Luise: I need very serious advice. My ex who is my son’s father is having lots of problems in his marriage and he keeps telling me about them and how he regrets rushing into marriage. My problem is this is the very same man who cheated on me with this girl. After we were engaged to be married he disappeared, deserting me and our son in early 2004. He made sure he changed all his contacts so that I can never find him. I found out through rumors last year that he had gotten married to her. I never interfered with his life, made peace with what happened and told myself that I cannot hate him for not loving me the way I deserved, although it doesn’t excuse the way he treated me. I dedicated my life into raising my son and made a life of my own. Then late last year he resurfaced, said his apologies and I allowed him back into my son’s life. I kept minding my own business. With the recent bickering about how bad his wife is according to him, his friend told me the reason he wanted to make peace with me is because of the problems in his marriage and the truth is I hate the way he is putting me and my son in the middle of his problems. During the weekend he was supposed to have spent time with our son but due to his constant fights with his wife he cancelled the visit and decided to work. Mind you this was not the first time it happened and I am getting tired of him putting our son in the backseat whenever he cannot sort out his problems. He always looks so untidy, unhappy and tired, which makes me feel sorry for him whenever I want to tell him about how bad his behavior is doing to our son. So, how can I tell him this gently without being insensitive to his feelings? He is recently saying he knows he can talk to me because I am the only one who understands him. I know it’s emotional black mail. He had been diagnosed with stomach ulcers because of eating disorder. He has lost lots of weight. He is like a walking stick. Please help. Confused
Answer: Dear Confused: You don’t sound confused to me. You’re telling me what accepting his apologies is costing you and your son. I don’t see any confusion there at all. It’s very clear. The truth is you once loved this guy and it’s never easy to set boundaries under such circumstances. That’s what you’re up against.
This man has been grossly insensitive to your feelings and your son’s and yet you don’t want to be insensitive to his? Look at that more closely. Why? He gave you a raw deal some time ago. What is he giving you now? He’s unwell, unhappily married and unreliable. Whose fault is all of that?
This is a situation where you need to look at the consequences that come with letting him back into your life. The price is that you have to put up with his dysfunction if you want him even at the edge of your world. It sounds to me like you do. Please remember that it’s a package deal. You can’t change him or how he lives his life. And he’s affecting your life and your son’s in a negative way.
You need to look at the chaos that he creates and see if he offers enough that is positive to make it worth your while. You are responsible for putting yourself into the “middle of it” when you talked with him, and also with his friend, about his marriage. It’s time to face the fact that no one but you can decide whether to end his interference, modify it or let it continue. To call it confusing is to reinforce a head-in-sand attitude, when it’s actually your call. Blessings, Luise