Ask Ellie: Apologies, sobriety, first steps in therapy after inappropriate text

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When a partnership involves each other’s children, it is essential to respect/protect/treat them as your own.

Dear Ellie: My partner and I, together for a decade, share a home. We both have adult children and sometimes his or mine stays as we live in a different town from them.

Recently, my daughter spent the night with us while I was visiting family in another province. While I was away, my girlfriend sent him a very inappropriate text that rocked my world and hers too.

He has never been inappropriate before, has always been kind/supportive to my children, and they have respected and trusted him.

It’s all gone now. I am full of anger and anguish. My daughter plays the shorts with me. I’m thinking of sending my partner to pack.

I love him, but I lost respect for him. The tension in our house is now toxic. We sleep in separate rooms.

I’m afraid my daughter will never visit us or me again. With great distress, she told her closest male relative what had happened, and he immediately called me with the news while I was away. Imagine my anger and disbelief!

When I got home, my partner’s explanation was that he had had several drinks. He normally drinks a single wine or beer.

That’s not an excuse. He said he didn’t know why he did what he did, or said what he said. He also seemed to blame my daughter. I wouldn’t listen. I said it was his action that was responsible, no one else.

I spoke to an advisor who gave me choices but was very friendly. My partner is visiting his family, so I have time to reflect.

Can our relationship be saved?

Facing a crisis

Any thoughts of staying together should start with his full apologies to your daughter, to you, and to the other close person who got involved as a result of what he said.

The comment you described to me (I won’t repeat it) was really disgusting. This is one of the worst verbal mistakes a family member can make and it won’t be easy for you or your daughter to forgive.

You’re right that alcohol is no excuse. Since he’s not even a regular drinker, his crossing the decent comment line revealed an instability within him.

He had blurted out what he was really focused on… a sexualized perverse comment that shocked and disturbed everyone involved.

As for the question about the future of your relationship, you already answered it: “I love him, but I lost respect for him.”

He is the one who needs to be advised so that you even listen to what he learns. For now, these three steps are essential: an apology, no alcohol, enlightenment through therapy.

Reader’s Comment concerning the effect of your column as an informative source of motivation:

“I am a clinical psychologist who has had a thriving practice for over 20 years. I love my job and I excel at it. However, chronic pain and my own mental health issues over the past seven years have kept me from practicing in my field.

“In the meantime, I am drawn to reading your advice and feel ‘connected’ to what you are saying that is making a difference in people’s lives. Now I also want to make a difference.

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Elijah “You clearly always had it in you. I am honored to have encouraged you.

FEEDBACK Regarding the divorced woman, 41, sharing custody of daughters nine and seven, now dating someone online (April 12):

“Her ‘first love’ is now divorced too and is interested in her again. The girls are probably fully aware of him.

“But the guy online says he ‘wants to discuss life together’ and thinks the relationship is more serious and advanced than she seems to be feeling.

“I suggest she start with a coffee date and a serious chat with her ‘first love.’ She also needs to be honest with him about her current online relationship.

“Then she should sit down and be honest with herself. The girls will start asking questions, so she has to think about what lessons she would like to teach them.

“Also, she has to be careful not to cross any lines with her ‘first love.’ She might end up with no one. Also, she only needs to choose ONE partner in the future.

Ellie’s tip of the day

When a partnership involves each other’s children, it is essential to respect/protect/treat them as your own.

Send your relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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