Learn to accept partner’s divorce decision

My husband has left me, saying it’s because of his daughter, who is very disrespectful and when disciplined, both of them left. He wants a divorce. I have tried numerous times to save my marriage but to no avail. We have been married for a long time. What do I do?

I am sorry that your husband has left you, as you say, because of his daughter. I assume she was your step-daughter.

It seems, in spite of the length of your marriage, he chose to leave and he gives the way you treated his daughter as a reason or excuse.

However true this may or may not be be, it seems clear he was not as committed to your marriage as you were. For a marriage to work it requires commitment from both partners, not just one.

You have been the one trying very hard to make your marriage work and your husband seemed to have made no effort and appears to have lost interest in the marriage and wants to divorce you.

As difficult as it may be, my advice to you would be to accept his decision to divorce.

This will allow you to start going through the mourning period after a breakup and to establish closure so that you can move on.

It’s different for each person, but a divorce, especially if you are the partner that does not want it, can be very painful to accept.

But there is not much you can do if your partner does not want to be married any longer.

Give yourself credit for trying several times before, but the time has come for you to mourn the end of this relationship and to create a time-space for you to find yourself again and perhaps in the future, meet someone new who loves you and who is as committed to your relationship as you are.

Acceptance takes courage but it’s to your own benefit that you close this chapter of your life and turn the page to a new one, which I trust, will be filled with much more joy and fulfilment. I wish you strength and courage.

I am a divorced dad. I would like to know how to build a relationship with my teen twin daughters, who are 15 years old, after the divorce. They both live with their mother.

It’s clear that you are a concerned father. If you had a good relationship with your daughters before your divorce, this would be helpful in developing your relationship further but if not, you can always start afresh by spending as much time with them as possible.

Make yourself available to them as often as they need you.

In addition, I hope that you and your ex-wife have a relatively respectful relationship towards each other as this would make it easier for your children to communicate with both of you.

Children should never be left to choose between parents. This is an impossible and painful expectation that some parents place on their children after a divorce.

They fare much better when their parents try their best to be amicable and respectful toward each other, never vilifying or putting the other down in front of them. Although parents may hold resentments toward each other, the children should never need to know this or take responsibility for the emotional care-taking of their parents.

They need to know that their parents are coping with life and love them unconditionally.

Also, very importantly, is to respect their developmental needs, which, during adolescence, includes the need to prioritise their friends (more than their family), have a consistent and safe home-base to return to, and not be shamed in any way.

Divorce for a child at any age is difficult and allowing age-appropriate discussion around it helps them make sense of a very difficult experience. Teenagers are able to engage intellectually and emotionally about these topics and what helps them is when parents explore their thoughts and feelings around what happened and why, and to listen to what they have to say, even if it hurts to hear their truth, which might be contrary to yours.

Try not to be defensive and just listen and let them know you understand how they feel.

Other teenagers may not want to verbalise their feelings but just being with them and doing things with them that they enjoy, helps to nurture your relationship.

Daughters need their fathers as rolemodels of love, strength and courage but also to be a shoulder to cry on when needed.

I wrote to you before on WhatsApp. The topic that you touched on in December might be the answer to my problem (“Understanding personality disorders”, December 2) .

But now I still don’t know where to go look for help. I suspect my husband falls into category C (of personality disorders). I can’t stand the suspicions any longer.

I would advise you to firstly encourage that your husband has an assessment by a professional psychologist so that you can gain clarity as to what kind of problem he has. He may have a Cluster C personality type but he may also have some other kind of mental problem which can include paranoia.

This particular symptom can be a part of different mental difficulties including delusional disorder, psychotic disorder, and various anxiety disorders. It is therefore best that he gets assessed properly.

You could perhaps encourage him to go Lentegeur Hospital and see one of their psychologists at the outpatient unit. There may be a waiting list but I would think if it’s urgent they would see you sooner.

If your husband refuses help, I would encourage you to see them anyway for support and counselling for yourself in terms of how to deal with his condition.

I read your column and am totally inspired by you. Your accurate and detailed answers show your passion and drive for what you do. Thank you for being a positive energy in the community. Love sent your way from a reader, Warda.

Thank you, Warda. Doing this work is indeed a passion and an honour for me.

It warms my heart to hear that readers, like you, find the column very helpful and inspiring. Sending you warm regards too.

* This column will appear every two weeks. 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. Write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za or send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774. Provide sufficient information about your difficulty.