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Ask Ellie: Apology, sobriety, therapy first steps after inappropriate text

When a partnership involves each other’s children, respecting/protecting/treating them as your own, is essential.

Dear Ellie: My partner and I, together a decade, share a house. We both have adult children and sometimes his or mine stay over as we live in another town from them.

Recently, my daughter stayed at our place overnight while I was visiting family in another province. While I was gone, my partner sent her a very inappropriate text that shook my world and hers, too.

He’s never been inappropriate before, has always been good/supportive to my children, and they’ve respected and trusted him.

That’s all gone now. I’m full of anger and angst. My daughter’s acting short with me. I’m considering sending my partner packing.

I love him, but I’ve lost respect for him. The tension in our home is now toxic. We’re sleeping in separate rooms.

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

When I arrived home, my partner’s explanation was that he’d had several drinks. He normally drinks only one wine or one beer.

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

I’ve spoken to a counsellor who left choices to me but was very sympathetic. My partner’s visiting his family so I have time to think.

Can our relationship be saved?

Facing a Crisis

Any thought of staying together must start with his full apology to your daughter, you, and the other close person who got involved in the aftermath of what he said.

The comment, which you described to me (I won’t repeat it), was truly disgusting. It’s one of the worst verbal mistakes a family member could make, and won’t be easy for either you or your daughter to forgive.

You’re correct that alcohol is no excuse. Since he’s not even a regular drinker, his crossing the line of decent commentary revealed an instability in him.

He’d blurted out what he truly had focussed on… a bawdy sexualized comment that has shocked and disturbed everyone involved.

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

He’s the one who needs to get counselling for you to even listen to what he learns from it. For now, these three steps are essential: Apology, no alcohol, enlightenment through therapy.

Reader’s Commentary regarding the effect of your column as an informative source of motivation:

“I’m a clinical psychologist who had a thriving practice for over 20 years. I love my profession and excelled at it. However, chronic pain and mental health issues of my own over the past seven years prevented me from practicing in my field.

“Meanwhile, I’m drawn to reading your advice and feeling “connected” to what you say that makes a difference in people’s lives. Now, I want to make a difference again as well.

“Thank you for giving me inspiration and motivation towards making a plan to get back to what I love to do.

“Thanks, too, for making a difference in my life without you even knowing it!”

Ellie — You clearly always had it in you. I’m honoured 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 interested in her again. The daughters are likely fully aware of him.

“But the online guy is indicating that he “wants to discuss living together,” and that he feels the relationship is more serious and further along than she seems to be feeling.

“I suggest she start with a coffee meeting and a serious discussion with her “first love.” She must also be honest with him regarding her present online relationship.

“Then, she should sit back and be honest with herself. The daughters will start asking questions, so she needs to consider what lessons she’d want to teach them.

“Also, she must be careful not to cross any lines with her “first love.” She could end up with no one. Plus, she needs to choose only ONE partner going forward.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

When a partnership involves each other’s children, respecting/protecting/treating them as your own, is essential.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.