Ask Ellie: Stop engaging in adult daughters' blame game

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I’m lost as to how to answer my 21-year-old twin daughters when they say my divorce from their father makes them mistrust the young men they date, then blame me.

I’m 48, divorced 10 years ago after a 12-year marriage. I met someone several years later and we’re very happily married.

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My problem is not knowing how to respond and advise my twin daughters who were 11 when their father left.

We saw a mediator then to discuss joint custody. We were told this most important messaging for children of divorce: It wasn’t their fault, we both still love them, we’ll both always be in their lives, etc.

But their father got involved soon after, with a woman with her own younger children (a son and a daughter). Within a year, he moved with them across the country.

Also, while he didn’t badmouth me outright, he did criticize “ambitious women like your mother” who preferred their jobs to being at home.

A low blow. I stayed home with them till they went to kindergarten, then worked part-time. When full-time work became available, I was always home for breakfast and dinner and packed lunches for them to eat at school. Weekends were always family time.

Now, both daughters are meeting dates through University, part-time jobs, and online.

They discuss and create very firm opinions on all of these young men, which end up relating to my divorce.

These include anger that I didn’t try harder to prevent a divorce, that I married too young which was the root problem of everything, and that I should’ve left my job to fix things or, preferably, till they were 16 with less constant need of parents.

They view their father’s move away with another woman and her children, as also my fault. I’m desperate for some helpful responses.

Divorce that Keeps Hurting

These are now adults, young women involved in studies, jobs, socializing and dating. They’re frequently meeting and reacting to new situations and people.

To frame all these experiences in light of their parents' divorce and their mother’s part in it is a cop-out on their ignoring their own part in dating relationships.

Perhaps it’s because they’re twins that they share constant mutual support.

But the result is that instead of analyzing their own behaviour and testing different approaches, they fall back on the blame game.

I suggest that you do not explain or counter everything that they say is your fault. Find opportunities to just spend positive time with them — in person when possible, otherwise in a video chat — showing interest in their many activities and experiences.

Stay in the present, focused on them but occasionally mentioning some positive events in your life. You’re not their therapist.

Be the mother/woman you are today and let them deal with their past … hopefully with professional counselling if needed.

Readers’ commentary regarding the pandemic’s effects on people awaiting surgery:

I’m just days from scheduled surgery which I’ve desperately wanted for 18 months.

The operation and long healing-time won’t be pleasant. Due to the pandemic, medical appointments have taken months longer than before. Required diagnostic testing has been delayed, rescheduled. Months passed before prerequisite day surgery.

I waited in discomfort and fear. Each delay exacerbated symptoms.

Now I fear it’ll be cancelled because of increasing COVID numbers, because some groups of frustrated individuals will forget the common good and derail the schedule for me and countless others awaiting surgeries.

Dear Ellie: Over a year ago we were invited to a nephew’s wedding. We were recently advised that the wedding’s proceeding subject to COVID protocols and we’re no longer invited to attend as we didn’t make it to the “top 25” of guests.

I’m okay with this but wonder about the appropriate choice of a wedding gift. We want to send something but aren’t sure how much money we want to spend.

Pandemic Wedding Gift

Being dis-invited can initially raise confusion when it comes to your gift choice. On the one hand, it’s meant to congratulate a nephew and his chosen partner, so you’d normally judge the sum of a cheque you write or item you purchase based on your family connection.

On the other hand, you’ve been flatly informed that as relatives, you didn’t make the cut.

But these difficult times of restricted gatherings call for understanding and generosity. Give what you would have, normally.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Don’t accept adult children’s blaming your divorce for their dating experiences. They must take responsibility for their decisions/behaviour.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

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