I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that my husband is dating a woman 15 years younger (my kids told me about her) after 11 years of marriage and just a few months of separation.
He’s 41 with 2 young kids — it just feels so icky and like a punch in the gut (it would regardless, but feels even more so because of her age). I’m trying not to place any blame or harbor any anger towards her – he is a narcissist and I’m sure is showering her with affection and attention right now. In fact, I wish I could calmly tell her as a fellow woman and human being to RUN!
I guess what I’m most upset and disappointed about is that he has already brought her around our kids several times at a restaurant. They deserve so much more respect (waiting 6 months to be introduced to significant other, etc) and I feel like it has to be so confusing for them. How do you handle these feelings of betrayal and disgust?
Wow! It’s completely understandable how you would feel angry and betrayed. Divorcing a narcissist and then co-parenting with him is one of the greatest divorce challenges. You are right to be concerned about your children meeting a new partner so early in the divorce process. That being said, unfortunately, you can’t go backwards and undo the meeting.
You will be in a lifelong relationship with your children’s father.
The best thing you can do is to try to understand how a narcissist operates and to meet him there. This does not mean you should behave the same way, it means that you will need to work hard to find tools that will help you interact with him at a level that doesn’t sap your energy. Narcissists are masters at triggering their victims. The better you learn to control your triggers, the more in control you will feel and the less he’ll affect you.
For starters, there is a terrific book by Bill Eddy, BIFF (this stands for Brief Informative Friendly Firm). He actually teaches you how to use BIFF responses. Here are some helpful links to his materials:
Thoughts create feelings, feelings create action. If you can work on reframing your thoughts, you’ll go a long way towards having a manageable relationship with your ex.
With respect to your ex dating a woman 15 years younger and the children being introduced to her, your job is to make your children feel safe and for them to know that you love them no matter what. You will always be their mother and be there for them.
If their dad feels that dating a woman 15 years younger works for him, that’s his prerogative.
I know that sounds harsh but, you can only control what you can control. Unless she is abusing them or exposing them to inappropriate or illegal activities, there’s not much you can do.
I encourage you not to bad mouth her or your ex to your children. If they’re young enough, you can deflect the conversations. Sometimes there’s no good response, simply saying “I understand” and validating their feelings is enough.
Your children have conflicting loyalties. They know they are part of both of you. You don’t have to approve of his behavior,(and dating a woman 15 years younger), they will figure it out as they get older.
The stronger and more consistent a parent you are, the better your relationship will be with them. That’s what you can control.
Moving forward, when you finalize your Parenting Agreement, I encourage you to add a clause that specifies exactly when the children can meet any new girlfriends (and your boyfriends) in the future and under what circumstances. Your attorney should be able to come up with the right language. It’s a common clause.
There’s no way of knowing where your ex’s relationship will go and it’s not worth your energy to speculate (a very wise coach once said to me “don’t let him rent anymore space in your head”).
Anger only serves to harm you and take away from your own ability to heal and move forward. Keep working on avoiding blame and learning to adjust your mindset so you can take advantage of what life has to offer you in this next chapter.
Karen Bigman is the Founder & President of The Divorcierge. Karen partners with individuals faced with the myriad of emotions and tasks associated with divorce, acting as a guide and confidante, and consulting with them on how to navigate the emotional, financial and logistical issues. Karen holds a B.S.B.A. from Boston University, and M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, and an iPEC Coach Certification (CPC®). She is also a CDC® Certified Divorce Coach. Karen has been profiled in the NY Post, Financial Times and UK’s Daily Mail. The Divorcierge is global and now works with all genders.