I’m 39, a mum and I recently finished a relationship with a man (also a dad) I was seeing for over a year. We were both out of long-term relationships when we met and had a lot in common, so we fell pretty hard for each other. For the first time in years I felt I’d met a man I could trust, who loved me unconditionally. He wrote me pages of love letters and poetry, and we spent every minute together. Our kids also got on pretty well. I never saw even a moment’s anger – until the day we were at the park with his teenage step daughter, who has Aspergers.
Before lunch, we’d gone to buy sweets for all the kids. The Aspie girl became frustrated that she wasn’t allowed a drink as well, and spoke rudely to her father. At that point he became angry, and said to her “Right… now for doing that you will get NOTHING.” He then proceeded to draw out the punishment to the extent that when we were at the park he and the other children ate the sweets in front of her, and again he repeated several times, “You get nothing!” I felt extremely uncomfortable, as she was crying and he just carried on smiling and eating like she was invisible. I didn’t know why he was acting so over the top. The young girl was very upset, and when we got home she broke down telling him she never wanted to come here again. He shouted back at her “Good! Because you are a BITCH!!” He repeated this several times and even later, he repeated to me several times that she had acted like a bitch.
I tried to be polite, saying I couldn’t condone that treatment of a young girl, but that I knew it was hard being a parent and that I would do whatever it took to work with him to find solutions to these problems. He became angry with me now, telling me how wrong I was to question his ‘ideal parenting’ and although he agreed that calling her a bitch was wrong, said he believed eating the sweets in front of her was ‘exemplary parenting in the form of a punishment’.
Then it got even worse. Because I could not agree to that treatment, I tried to put it to bed but he insisted on trying to get his point across over several days. I became upset and we had an argument which ended with him saying he needed time. Then over the course of another two days, he pretty much destroyed me by text message. How I had ‘eviscerated his parenting’ and called him ‘cruel’, which was a synonym for abusive and something that he could never forgive me for. He dumped me by text, wiped my existence from his life and basically ripped my heart out telling me how I’d forced his hand and all of this was my fault.
He acted like another person. He refused to speak to me again from that day onwards, went on a dating site the SAME DAY and then wrote me a huge letter reiterating how it was ALL MY FAULT. I just feel so heartbroken and torn apart by him and what he did. I can’t even tell if it WAS me that did anything wrong anymore. I actually feel violated by him, like he used me for a year and everything he said, and did, and that we shared was a lie. How do I move on from this? How can I? I just need any advice please. Thank you. Leah
Okay, I can’t be the only one reading your letter and thinking you’ve had a lucky escape here. But you have. In regards to the sweets issue that kicked it all off, maybe that was a gross overreaction to a child that isn’t biologically his and tries his patience greatly. But in my view both of those aspects make his actions, as an adult and someone who should rise above a kid’s annoying behaviour (that she can’t even control) even more deplorable. The fact that he’s so pigheaded about his parenting and was so quick to end your relationship in such a juvenile way makes it even worse. I can’t see how you could have created a harmonious blended family with this guy – you’d always be on eggshells.
I understand you’re heartbroken. I’m sorry you’re in pain. Really I am. But I also think these things happen for a reason, and it’s a GOOD thing that it’s happened just a year in. You got to see a side of this guy you hadn’t seen before, and it made you uneasy. It didn’t sit right with you. It butted up against your fundamental values as a parent. That tells me you’re a damned good mother and you’re not about to excuse shit simply because you’re in love with someone. And hard as it is, now’s not the time to blame yourself or tie yourself in knots over the fall-out. There’s nothing you could have done differently, save be a different person who never dared to question his ‘exemplary parenting’. And that’s not who you are. You should be glad and proud of that.
How you move on from this is by taking it one day at a time. I know it’s a cliche, but it works – each day, each week, each month brings a little more respite from the rawness. It helps if you can do stuff that brings you joy, like hanging out with your kids. Going on a weekend trip and making some new memories. Organising a girl’s night out. I’d also try not to romanticise him or the relationship too much. Love letters and poetry are great and all, but not if they come with a side order of nasty parenting strategies you’d never be able to stomach long-term.
Love, reality chick