Ask Allison: 'I'm worried about bringing a new partner into my kids' lives'

Q: I left a very unhappy marriage four years ago, I have two children. As my marriage was ending, I met the man I felt I had been waiting for all my life.

I have never met anyone quite like him, he is the best friend I have ever had. After a couple of months I told him how I felt. He was cautious of my situation and suggested we remain friends. Our friendship continued for a couple of months before we finally got together.

What followed was the most beautiful, intense and loving relationship I will ever know. We discussed our future together and over time I introduced him to my kids. He was great with them and looked after them on many occasions, they loved spending time with him. He was fully committed to us and so supportive.

My relationship with my ex is stressful – he has moved on and is happier, but it causes me anxiety and concern for the children. I worry and feel guilty about how the separation will impact them long-term. When they are not with me I feel guilty like I’m living a different single life.

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Sometimes I think having a failed marriage means I can’t enjoy myself without feeling guilty. I worried about taking the steps with the kids bringing a new partner into our lives. This led to a lot of anxiety so I ended the relationship, which has been very painful. He says he will wait.

I left my marriage because I was so unhappy and now I feel like I am unhappy all over again. I’m afraid to move forward. I don’t want to lose him, but I want to do what is best for all of us.

Allison replies: Guilt, anxiety and fear of failure past, present and future is what I am hearing. I’m going to encourage you to vanquish these ghosts of your past as they are having a major impact upon the quality of your life today.

First up, let’s look at the belief you have about a failed marriage. You said you were deeply unhappy – is a successful marriage one that you stick out, for the sake of the kids as you sacrifice you and your ex’s needs?

No one wants their marriage to end, the pain and loss is tantamount to the grief of a dream you once shared about how your life would be. Did you have time to mourn the loss of those dreams and hopes?

It is a very painful but important step to begin processing what did and didn’t work and how you both contributed to the marriage ending. Below I have outlined some questions for you to answer. Take guilt and judgment out of this, step back and reflect upon the core themes or areas of conflict you experienced.

You are never in control of events or timings such as meeting someone new. If at all possible it may be helpful to go through the end of your relationship by yourself now. Perhaps this is the time to do this as you have the support of your partner that he will be there for you when you are ready.

* How is/was your parents’ marriage?

* If they are alive, how did they feel and/or support you through the break-up?

* What are their beliefs about marriage?

*What are your core beliefs about relationships?

* How and who are you in a relationship?

* Do you know your adult attachment style? It can be helpful to do the questionnaire to find out.

Your attachment style was formed as a child and is often re-triggered in adult romantic relationships. Uncovering belief systems and behavioural patterns that may have worked for you as a child but may not be in your best interest now can help release you from binds of how you believe you ‘should’ be.

Step outside of the guilt. The purpose of guilt is when you do something wrong, it feels so uncomfortable that it guides you to not do it again. Marriage and relationships between people are never as clear cut as this. However, you can reframe the guilt to begin to start living your life in a way that works.

How is staying guilty working for you? How is it working for your children and your partner? These are easy questions to ask but completely different when you challenge the origin of these beliefs and begin to consciously go about changing outdated ways of being.

You are trying to get on with your new life but it doesn’t feel like a good fit and it mightn’t be the ‘perfect’ fit that you had originally imagined. Moving from being a wife to being someone’s partner feels unacceptable.

But who really finds it unacceptable? Often your inner critical parent can manage how you think you ‘should’ feel, coming down heavy on ‘either/or’, right and wrong or black and white thinking. What would it be like to sit with how you are right now rather than how you wish you were? The choices you made to leave the marriage must have been incredibly tough but mentally you are still married. You are not cheating, but perhaps you are cheating on allowing yourself to be within a healthy relationship.

Bringing us full circle back to your attachment style, do you trust relationships? Do you believe they can work? When you have experienced a bad relationship you left it and when you experienced a good one you have sabotaged it.

Working through this with the help of a professional could release you from these limiting beliefs. What do you need to become clear upon what you want, what do you need and how can you go about getting these needs met in a safe intimate relationship.

This intimacy extends to the connection to your children as it could normal to project frustrations and regret which may be misplaced as resentment onto them. There are no guarantees in life, most painfully and spectacularly seen as they play out in relationships, but by not risking, risks it all.

If you have a query for this page, email Allison at [email protected]


Existing beliefs                                               

My marriage was a failure                                                 

I don’t deserve to ever be happy

lI find it uncomfortable living a double life


Healthy reframe

I chose to leave an unhappy marriage   

It is healthier for me and everyone important in my life if I am contented

We carry and play out many different roles as adults – mother, ex-wife, new relationship

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