Saturday, 8 October 2011

Kirsty's Dilemma

The Dilemma

Hi Babs,

I've never used anything like this before so you'll have to bear with me if I waffle. I'm a 25 yr old mother of a beautiful toddler. His father and I have been together 7yrs but since the birth have been growing further and further apart. The financial strain and differing expectations on how family life should be have just caused argument after argument. We've tried 'date nights' which resulted in another screaming match and him leaving me alone in the middle of town to meet his mates. Our sex life is non existent and if it does happen i have no interest/enjoyment. I know in my heart the relationship is dead but feel like leaving makes me a 'bad mum' and selfish. If I'm being honest there's also the fear that I'll be alone forever if I leave him.

Any of your thoughts are welcome.

Thank you

Barbara's Response

Hi Kirsty

I am sorry you are experiencing problems. It's a common myth that children glue couples together. In fact they often do the opposite due in part as you say to 'differing expectations'. If you feel there is no mileage in the relationship then in my opinion staying together for the children isn't a good enough reason and neither is the fear of being on your own. It is my belief that children fair better with two happy parents rather than two unhappy ones. I do understand the difficulties surrounding your situation and I am not saying any of the options available to you are easy. Before you do anything my suggestion would be to write down the pros and cons of staying in the relationship. When you've written them down extend the communication with yourself by asking yourself  'what makes me think or feel that' at the end of each statement by using the word because. An example of a con could be we are always arguing because? He doesn't listen to me because? He thinks I'm always nagging because? So on and so forth. Continue with 'because' until you run out of steam so as to clarify what you think and feel.  Another good question is 'what advice would I give to someone in my situation'? The reason is because that is often your answer. If you can't afford counselling which I would suggest  there is are a couple of good books on my recommendations page Baby Shock and Moving On which may help. 

Thank you for using the problem page and I do hope you have found it useful. 



  1. It sounds as if Kirsty's other half is a little immature and cant face the real responsibility of family life. The 'Date night' sounds contrived to me. As if he was showing willing, but really wanted to see his friends and so a row was convenient. 'Cynical me eh?'
    On the subject of being a single parent, I was the product of a broken home and feel my parents should have split years before they did.
    Probably as it would have affected me less. Blazing rows with a child as an audience are things that aren't forgotten. I remember a lot of fear and blamed myself for some of it.
    Kirsty sounds like a responsible parent, and will go on to give her child a calmer life if she makes a break sooner rather than later. She clearly adores her child and in his own way so does her partner, he just doesn't seem to appear to accept the change in his life.

    By the way Kirsty, you're 25 not 95. Enjoy your baby and dont think this is the end of the road for your love life, it'll happen!!

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more Babs you should never stay together for the sake of children. I stayed in an awful marriage for 17 years and "thought" that I was doing the right thing by staying together as a family – how wrong was I.
    Life as a single mum was hard – financially but so rewarding in that fact that we were free from the awful times we had when we were a “family”. In fact they were the happiest times when it was just me and the two girls. It won’t be easy but you will get through it with the help of family and friends and children do adapt so very quickly. Sometimes children of single families have good quality time with both of parents just separately.
    I was able to move on with my life and met my second husband who has just changed my life for the better.
    And Kirsty – being a single mum is not a bad mum it’s a mum that wants the best for her child.

  3. Thanks for your comments anonymous and Sheila - interesting that both of you agree on separation being the most useful option sometimes? I do think fear often keeps couples together. My viewpoint is that even if the couple have not been able or willing to resolve their issues it is still possible for them to have a better diivorce or separation in support of their children. I think children take the cue from their parents? If the parents deal with it well. The children will cope?

  4. Dear Kirsty,

    I have to say, your situation sounds very familiar to me. I have two very young children and my relationship with my husband isn't great. We don't get much "fun" time together, almost never touch each other and have major money issues, which we're not very good at working together to solve.

    However, I keep telling myself that this is not the time for us. Having young children is hard work and saps both of us of any energy we might otherwise expend relating to each other.

    As the children get older, I'll be able to work more, our money issues will ease, the kids will get more independent and life will get easier. For the moment, we are treading water, our time will come.

    I don't like the idea of your husband leaving you in town while he went off with his mates. Doesn't sound like a very nice thing to do, so it must be difficult to respect or like him when he does stuff like that. Mine makes me feel the same way about him. But I know that ultimately he is a good man and we were madly in love. I have faith that things will get better in time. Perhaps I'm being naive, but it's enough for me to go on for now.

    Best of luck.

  5. I think what your saying cat-cat is that you're lumping it in the hope things could get better. In my opinion they could get better now - see Relate guide on my book page? I do agree, however, that some of the problems sound like lifestage issues but in my experience if you don't focus on the now in your relationship then when the kids are off your hands you're more likely to turn around and think who is this man and.... Thank you so much for commenting it does help to see other points of view? My advice would be start doing things for you now!

  6. Unfortunately, Kirsty’s situation is nowhere near unique. It might do to start with my conclusion: Dump him love.

    It is not in anyone’s interests for a child to see 2 parents going at it like Tom & Jerry, where every pretence at civility ends up like Prime Ministers Questions. Barbara’s comments are particularly sensible, in my experience, ‘staying together for the sake of the children’ is nothing but a recipe for wasted years, and possible resentment of the children and fear of all relationships. The opportunity cost inherent in ‘staying together’ is immense, it is debilitating corrosive to the human spirit and constitutes a poor example for children brought up in such an environment.

    I am however saddened to see a measure of finger pointing among the comments: ‘immature and can’t face the real responsibility…’ is particularly telling. Under most circumstances, leaving a lady in town and going to meet one’s friends sounds boorish and deserving of the sentence of transportation, but might it just have been that in the context of the interaction, the safest or at least harmful course of action. There are two nay, 3 sides to every story, what he says, what she says and what actually happened. To leap to judgement on hearing one side is at best dangerous.

    If I were in a situation in which I failed to feel respect or affection – indeed this is the most reciprocal of all relationships – and after being sufficiently open minded to seek help from professionals and well wishers alike, the only course of action open would be to walk.

    The grass is always greener on the other side. I do not advocate single parenthood, indeed single motherhood blightly, and I fail to see this a get out of jail card for the man – we should not as a society allow men [yes, despite my androgynous name, I’m one] to shirk their responsibilities –emotional and financial simply on account of a breakdown in the relationship with the mother of their children.

    Dump him love.

  7. Thanks Babs (and indeed all over you) for your advice. I have put it into practice and asked myself the questions you suggested. I've discovered what I've always known, that I should leave. But the fear and the practicalities of making it a reality are holding me back. What about the house? The mortage? How to handle bringing Owen up separately but together? Everytime I think I've got will to go I come up the 3 more barriers to leaving.


  8. thanks Kirsty for getting back up in touch with me. I do understand your position. I guess when the time is right you will take action. All of the obstacles could be dealt with if and when you are ready. In the interim take care and remember it's ok to get in touch again if you want to