My boyfriend left his wife and we have been together for a year and his adult children will not talk to him. It is taking a toll on him, it’s really bad and then he turns his pain into resenting me – and we have the most beautiful relationship. I am desperate to help him work through it, but I am not finding any resources that apply.
I am hoping you may have some suggestions.
This situation is extremely difficult and there is emotional pain for everyone involved. The obvious option for him is to seek mediation with his wife so that they can properly talk through the issues and have a joint position on all the important things such as finances, their parental relationship with their children and working out what is fair.
This is such an important thing to do that family mediation is provided free by the State, as it is recognised that the trauma resulting from separation can be large and span generations. However, judging from your comment that your partner takes out his emotional pain on you, he may not be open to, or able to face, the problem and this does not auger well for you.
As his children do not speak to him, can it be assumed that your relationship began before his marriage ended? If this is the case, then your boyfriend may have to do some reparation before his family can forgive him and allow him back into their lives. It may well have been that he was unhappy in his marriage for a long time and instead of tackling it he found that his attention was drawn somewhere else, ie, to you, and he only found the energy and courage to leave when he had something worthwhile to leave for.
His wife and children will not understand this unless he himself understands it first and then finds a way to communicate it to them. In other words, he has work to do on himself and from what you say he is unlikely to arrive at this consciousness on his own so will need to be motivated and supported in doing so. You say that your relationship is beautiful, but all relationships face adversity, and it is how it is dealt with that gives the relationship depth and solidity. The beginnings of love are when we often stretch ourselves into being the best version of what we can be and you might just be at the tail end of this and so can mobilise your power to push things along. This means that you should take action now and that you are very clear and serious in what you take on.
Your partner needs help and it seems that he has great capacity to tolerate unhappy situations so you must mobilise the two of you to seek support. Initially, you could tell him straightforwardly that this situation cannot go on and you are determined that he takes action, with either psychotherapy or mediation as a starting point. If he baulks, as might be expected, you should tell him that you are going for psychological support yourself and that you will be talking about him, and he can participate at any time.
There is also the view that we should seek the best outcome for the most people affected
In order for this to be real, you should seek a family therapist (familytherapyireland.com) who can provide individual or couple therapy. Then you must be true to your word and do exactly what you said. You are starting out on a life together and what you set up as patterns now will be embedded for the future — do you really want to be the punching bag for his trauma and upsets? Hold strongly to the belief that we are all capable of change, if the right circumstances allow for it and your boyfriend has potential and the motivation (his misery in this case) to accept the nudge towards self-awareness.
There is also the view that we should seek the best outcome for the most people affected and, in this situation, this includes your boyfriend’s adult children and his wife. His children feel rejection and they no doubt hold the view that he chose you over them and this is the cardinal sin in parental relationships, ie, children always expect the parent to put them first, even when they are no longer dependent. The point here is that their feelings of rejection and horror may not be entirely rational, but these feelings need to be aired before a more nuanced view can evolve. All involved are suffering and the first step towards healing is talking or at least having some kind of engagement.
With Christmas coming, your boyfriend could be encouraged to send cards and presents and an offering of some kind of short engagement — a coffee perhaps. This demonstrates to his children that he has not given up on them but will always try to reconnect. They may refuse at first, but his ongoing invitation may eventually wear down their resistance allowing a tentative regrowth to start. Resentment only produces hurt for everyone and the expresser of it usually wants to be understood and helped but they get the opposite.
A Buddhist expression captures this well — Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die. Do not let this situation develop into a habit in your relationship and trust that change is possible with the support of your love.
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