Mourn loss of marriage before moving on

I am a 47-year-old woman who had been married for 13 years, then got divorced because my ex-husband had a child with another woman. It has been difficult to move on because I allowed my ex so much in my life, although he got married to this woman. He and this woman have tried so hard to belittle me. Where can I go to get the tools to move on with my life, for the sake of my girls and my sanity? I feel this is my time to move forward in life. Thank you so much.

It really makes me so sad and angry when I hear that people who choose to marry do not take responsibility for their decision to commit to someone and then also for the decision to have children.

Getting and staying married and having children are major choices we make and have life-altering consequences.

I am really sorry that your ex-husband failed to take responsibility for his marriage to you as well as for not contributing towards providing a stable home environment for his children. Instead, he chose to have an extra-marital affair and conceive another child.

In my view, he is wholly irresponsible and lacks maturity. However, we have no control over the choices, good or bad, that others decide to make.

Unfortunately, his poor choices have had a negative impact on your life as well as the lives of your daughters.

What I would like to highlight, and which serves you in good stead at this point, is that you are starting to realise that you need to take ownership of your own life, for your sake and more so, for the sake of your daughters.

They need you, more than ever, to be available and present to be able to respond to their evolving developmental needs, in mind and body. When you are preoccupied with the loss of your marriage and get stuck in ruminating over and over in your mind that you could have fixed what was done or get him back, or even rehash whose fault it was, you cannot fully participate in the present moment and be there for your children.

Start where you are, in the “full catastrophe” of the situation. Start to focus on what you have already, what is here and now in your life.

We can only let go of the past, by mourning our losses and letting it go. It is sad that it ended of course, but it has ended and we have to choose to look forward and not backward all the time.

Perhaps by you taking your life and power back from your ex-husband, your sense of pride and joy in yourself will be renewed and this will have positive ripple effects on your daughters.

You could benefit greatly from speaking to a psychotherapist or counsellor. Perhaps you could make an appointment at FAMSA on 021 391 6015, 073 843 3623 or email famsamp@gmail.com) and see one of their counsellors.

I wish you the courage to step back into your “present” life (a gift) and enjoy raising your daughters.

I am a married man who loves my family very much. My wife filed for a divorce because she says I am not the right husband for her but I love her very much. I try to keep the peace but I was almost stabbed to death by the man she says she loves now. But he has been abusing my children. I opened a case but nothing has come of that.

I also went to a social worker but nothing came from that either. I feel so stressed out because I want to be with my family.

She does not want me to see the children. It breaks my heart. I had the boys with me for the weekend and they said they want to stay with me. The divorce papers say I can only see them every second weekend but she doesn’t want me to even call them. Please tell me what I can do because I almost had a heart attack and a stroke.

I do freelance work as a sound engineer and don’t always have work so money is a problem at times. I don’t know where I stand with all of this. We have a date with a family lawyer and will be in court for the divorce after that. Please tell me what’s wrong with me.

Firstly, there is nothing “wrong” with you but in fact, so much “right” with you. You clearly loved, and continue to love your family very much and immersed yourself in your role as a father. I can understand that you feel totally devastated by the loss of the family you had built with your ex-wife and which I am sure you trusted would last.

As the vows go when we marry, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”.

I am really sorry this has not been the case for you and that you’re deeply hurt by the loss of the family you desired, gained, deeply committed to and which, sadly, ended.

The mourning of a shattered dream is what you are experiencing and it is very important that you mourn this loss. It sounds though, that you are still holding onto the dream of the family you had.

If you are, I urge you to start to mourn its ending and to eventually start to grapple with the knowledge and awareness of a life without your ex-wife, a new life, with new beginnings and opportunities.

However, your struggle to overcome your painful loss is further exacerbated by your ex-wife’s lack of consideration and compassion towards you in terms of this loss, as well as her refusal for you to have regular contact with your children.

To add to this, you say that the social support system which was supposed to have helped you, has failed you. I am truly sorry for this but I urge you to not give up. Try another social worker or go to the social development offices near you and find out about your rights as a father.

You have paternal rights by law. Unless the father is abusive, fathers have as much right to access to their children as mothers do. You may also want to explore seeing a lawyer at the Wynberg family courts or seek legal advice from Legal Aid clinics affiliated to universities. Take a bus, walk, ask for a lift from someone but don’t give up so easily.

Your children will also be proud and feel loved if they know that you did not give up but “fought” vigorously to be with them and to see them grow. Also, go to your nearest library and find books on dealing with the emotional effects of a divorce as well as read up about the legal rights of fathers in relation to their children after a divorce.

* Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist in private practice. While she cannot enter into correspondence with individual readers, she will try to answer as many queries as possible through this column or refer you to organisations that can assist. You can write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za

You can also send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.

Ensure you provide sufficient information about your difficulty as this will help Carin to give you a more considered and holistic response.