WWYD? Letter from a reader

I received this letter from a reader, and it struck a huge chord with me. I don’t know what my answer would be as I can relate with this issue. Please weigh in with your thoughts.

My friend’s daughter is thinking about becoming engaged to a divorced father several years her senior. Like me, she was divorced with one small child, a four year old. The divorced father has a contentious relationship with his ex-wife and three out of his four children are exhibiting abnormal behavior. They have sought my advice – should she continue the relationship or break it off? For once, I am at a loss. My inner voice says “No matter how much you love this man, his life will drag you down. It will exhaust and frustrate you. Outside sources will control your daily life. Your needs will take a back seat to theirs. It cannot be helped. You deserve more and so does your child.” But how can I say this when I did the opposite? Or is that the point exactly? Can you ask your readers what they would answer? Thanks

There are so many of us divorcees in the same boat – we want another chance for happiness, but if that happiness comes at a potential cost to us – is it worth it?

In many of even the most civil divorces there is often strife and disagreement. Add a tempestuous relationship with an ex spouse – it could be like opening one’s home to dynamite.

I have much to say on this matter, but for reasons that I am sure you will understand, I am keeping my opinion to myself. But we want to hear from you.

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10 Comments

  1. Hannah says:

    That’s a tough one. I’d say, on the one hand, that she should not tell her daughter that this man “will only drag her life down.” That would be inappropriate. She’s an adult, a parent, and she can choose what she thinks would be the healthiest path in life for herself: only she can see into her heart and know just how much generosity and patience is there. Sometimes being in a relationship where you have to support the other person emotionally doesn’t just cause the partner in need to grow; it causes the giving partner to grow and learn, too. Sometimes it’s a gift to be able to give someone help, and to have that experience.

    However, what gives me pause are just the pragmatic details of the situation. If he were, say, an emotionally fragile person and she wanted to help and comfort him, that would be one thing. But he has troubled kids, and sometimes it only worsens the situation to introduce another parent to the mix. If his kids are troubled, maybe he needs to focus on them for a while, even if it means painfully putting his own relationships on the back burner. That’s his decision to make, though. It could mean staying in a relationship, but tabling marriage until the rest of his family life is more stable. This could also make the kids feel more secure, because they’ve already had one huge, rocking event in their life — their parents’ divorce — and a longer relationship would give them time to adjust to the next big change — a new step-parent.

  2. Chana says:

    I understand, but when I saw the initial question from the person who asked– I was so hoping to read your response…

  3. Z! says:

    First of all, how fresh are the divorces? How old are his kids? Does he live in the same city/neighbourhood as the ex-wife and what are his visitation/custody rights? Are both parents still Frum?
    I’ve heard a saying, I do not know if it is true- but “50% of second marriages fail because of the children”. It is not uncommon, though not always easy, for divorced parents to date for longer than singles date, for the reason of emotional health and well being of all involved.
    Although one cannot ever go into a situation knowing the future, it certainly doesn’t mean you should go in blind. If both parties have their eyes wide open and will be able to deal with the situation with love, patience, understanding and laughter, then they will be fine. The best antitode to emotional poison is unconditional love- which it sounds like all of these people need a lot of.

  4. lady lock and load says:

    I would be concerned about the four year old child and if these children with abnormal behavior would have an effect on him/her. From this letter, we don’t know enough about the situation.

    • OlyC says:

      This was my concern too.

      What is “abnormal”? A moody, mouthy fifteen year old who’s parents are newly divorced? (Not really all that abnormal.)
      Or something unsafe/dangerous for a four year old to be exposed too?

  5. Mike S. says:

    How can anyone who doesn’t know these people possibly provide useful advice? “Abnormal behaviors” and “contentious relations” with former spouses come in a wide range of severity. One would have to know the situation well and have some idea what positive characteristics the man has to compensate to offer any sensible advice. The only advice i would give is to seek advice from people who know all the parties well.

  6. Kathy says:

    I agree with Mike. Without some knowledge of the “abnormal behaviors” and their causes, it is extrememly difficult to offer much meaningful input. How much time the children are with the father, and how well that works with the mother would significantly impact on the dynamic of the new relationships. Based on what little is provided, being very cautious is the best I could offer.

  7. fille says:

    In general, when a mother tells a daughter not to marry a man she is in love with, it will be counterproductive.

    So I think she should try and limit the losses and stand ready to pick up the pieces if her fears become true.

    Stay near her, don’t argue with her…

  8. Naftali says:

    I would strongly recommend that the friend’s daughter take it extremely slow and try to ascertain the extent and cause of the children’s “abnormal behavior.” When I married for the second time, I had noticed some errant behaviors in my stepsons during the courtship and was told that some of them are on “medication.” I idealistically thought that having a positive father figure in their home would help them overcome their difficulties. Boy was I wrong! It is very difficult to resolve such problems if you don’t have the right person guiding you. Unfortunately, my second wife was a lifelong patient of therapy and the therapists never figured out her issues (which, unfortunately, I believe that I finally figured out after 8 months of marriage). The bad mix of her kids and my kids was certainly a catalyst in the dissolution of our marriage. However, it was more my second wife’s own personality issues that prevented her from buidling a healthy relationship with me and my children. But I have not given up hope that G-d can send each of us our true Zivug.

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