Ask Fiona: My ex-husband ignores our kids at the park

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MY FIRST marriage ended badly two years ago. My ex-husband was a selfish man, who put his own needs above his family. He was cold, miserable and rarely showed affection – but what really hurt was how he almost ignored his two sons. He never spent time with them except to scold them, and it was always up to me to take care of them and pick up the pieces.

When he left I was happy to see him go and didn’t see him for about 18 months. However, he has now moved into a house nearby and we see him hanging out a lot. It seems that he remarried and now has a stepson. What really annoys me is that he spends a lot of time playing football in the local park with his stepson, which he never did with his real sons. And if we see him with a new woman, he seems like a totally different man.

My sons see him too, but he never even recognizes them, and I’m sure it must be upsetting for them. I’m now in a new relationship and my new partner is everything my ex wasn’t: caring, loving, and great with my boys, who think the world of him.

So why can’t I just ignore my ex’s behavior with his new family? Believe me, I tried, but I can’t and it makes me angry. What was wrong with us that he couldn’t behave like this? How do I get over it, and what do I tell my boys?

KM

FIONA SAYS: Please don’t blame yourself or your sons for your ex’s inability to be a decent and loving husband and father to you and them. The failure here was his. Much like his failure now to not even recognize his sons when he sees them. He may seem like a happier, changed man, but those actions still feel selfish and cold to me.

I know he hurt you and it’s probably very hard to forgive or forget, but please don’t let this ruin what you have now. You have a happy and stable relationship with a good man, who seems to have succeeded in taking on the role of father to your children, who seem to like him as well.

I guess you have no intention of letting your ex back into your life, so what do you gain by continually tormenting yourself about how happy he seems?

If you continue to obsess, you may also harm your relationship and possibly your health as well. Rather than investing all that emotion in him, try to focus on the family YOU have. Then, if you see him again, remember the good things you have now and how they are so much better without him in your life.

The trickiest question is what to do with your boys. The accepted orientation is that children adapt better to separation when they have some kind of contact with their father. In that case, I’m not convinced it would be in their best interest, but maybe it’s a conversation you should have with your sons.

Encourage them to talk about how they really feel about seeing their biological father so often. They may need space to process their feelings, where they won’t be anxious to upset the adults around them by talking about them or saying the wrong thing.

If they seem to be having difficulty, you may find it useful to contact Family Lives (familylives.org.uk) for advice on the best course of action. This charity runs an online chat service and helpline. Readers in Scotland can contact Children 1st (children1st.org.uk).

WHY AM I BLUSING TOO?

Every time someone tries to talk to me, I blush. And I’m not talking about a slight rosiness, I’m talking about a real beet red.

It started when I was about 13 and it seems to be getting worse. I always thought that was the kind of thing you came out of, but I’m 23 now and it shows no signs of getting better.

It’s especially bad if I have to speak in a group or, God forbid, speak to a room full of people. My job requires me to do this on occasion and it’s really embarrassing. What is causing it and is there anything I can do to make it stop?

EL

FIONA SAYS: Reddening is largely caused by blood capillaries receiving signals to expand at a time when they normally wouldn’t, pushing more blood to the surface of the body. It’s a completely automatic reaction and once a fight is started it’s nearly impossible to consciously stop.

Certain medical conditions can also cause redness, as can certain medications, so it’s probably worth talking to your doctor first, in case they need to rule out any of these things. Although very often there is no medical cause.

In adults, blushing is usually triggered by emotions such as anger or embarrassment and social anxiety. And the more intense the emotion, the redder a person turns. You’re right, blushing generally decreases with age, and that’s probably because we generally become more confident as we get older.

For some, however, it persists, and a lingering lack of confidence seems to be the main cause. If you think this applies to you, look for ways to reinforce it. Don’t avoid work situations where you have to talk, seek them out if you can. The more you do this, the more skilled you will become. And it looks like you’re doing very well.

Prepare well and don’t be thrown off if you feel yourself blushing. Your face is probably not as red as you think, and even if it is, does it really matter that the presentation is done right? Confidence-building classes exist and you can also try counseling or hypnotherapy.

Perhaps the simplest intervention is a good base coat of makeup to hide it. Finally, try not to worry about the blushing itself. The more you fear blushing, the more likely you are to blush.

MY 10 YEAR OLD CAN’T STOP ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT SEX

OVER the past few months my son has started asking embarrassing questions about sex. So far I’ve managed to hijack it, but I can tell he’s a little frustrated that I’m avoiding the issue.

My sister thinks I should just answer his questions because if I don’t he might get the wrong information from his peers or search the internet for answers, which could be much worse. I can understand that to a point, but 10 years old is surely way too young to be curious about sex. Not that I know how to talk to him about it anyway.

COULD

FIONA SAYS: I hate to disillusion you, but it’s normal for kids around 10 to start being curious about sex. They will often start having romantic feelings for other people around this age, joke about sex, or use sexual language. It’s also not uncommon for them to start masturbating in private.

Given that, I think your sister is probably right. Far better to get accurate information from someone who cares than to be confused by half-truths exchanged between friends. It can also deter him from searching for information on the Internet.

In this context, please ensure that any devices they access also have controls in place to prevent access to harmful material. If you find yourself unable to have this type of conversation with your son, there are many books available to guide you. An established classic in the field is Lets Talk About Sex by Robie H Harris, which should answer most questions confidently and clearly. Please try to share it with him, rather than give it to him to read. This way, you can answer any questions that might come to mind.

WHAT SHOULD I DO ABOUT THIS CASE?

I HOPE you can help me, because I have a problem with a married man that I have been seeing for three years. Two years ago he promised to split up, but there are still reasons why he hasn’t or can’t do it. And he still hasn’t.

I have an eight month old baby from him. I asked him to leave me alone, but he didn’t. He looks for me and comes to see me in the house. I do not know what to do.

CEO

FIONA SAYS: Your letter is very short and contains few details about your situation, so it is rather difficult for me to recommend a course of action. One thing I will say though is that if you have asked this man to stay away from you and he continues to visit you, you might consider talking to the police.

In the meantime, refuse to talk to him if he calls you and just close the door. If he has a key, change the locks. It should be clear to you by now that he never intends to leave his wife – married men are often reluctant to break up a marriage after an affair, even if there is a baby involved.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated confidentially and to protect this confidentiality Fiona is unable to forward your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets not being able to enter into personal correspondence.

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