Dilemma: my daughter cannot get over her divorce

Katharine Whitehorn / 07 March 2016

A reader writes to agony aunt Katharine Whitehorn with worries that her daughter is unable to move on from her divorce and is still in love with her ex-husband.

Dilemma: my daughter is stuck in the past

I am at my wits’ end on how I can help my daughter get over her broken marriage. Her husband walked out three and a half years ago, leaving her and two daughters of 15 and 17. 

The girls do not speak to their father and are getting on with their lives, but my daughter is not. 

She rings me two or three times an evening talking about her broken marriage and her mother-in- law, who constantly asks my daughter for help and tells her all about her son’s doings with his new child and partner. 

My daughter says she wants to break away from his family, but I know she really doesn’t because she can get up- to- date news of her husband, whom she still loves.

Katharine Whitehorn's advice

To be deserted is heart-breaking, but it doesn’t sound as if there’s any chance of her husband returning. 

It seems a great pity that her husband’s mother can still make demands on your daughter, who will be even more bereft when the girls grow older and may well leave home.

From what you tell me, I doubt if your daughter is ever likely to learn to let go on her own. 

She badly needs someone to break the spell, as it were; to make her realise she’ll never get her husband back and that she has to find some other way of living. Did the pair ever go to counselling before he left? And if so, was she resistant, or at all helped?

Short of being able to move right away from the hook into her old life that’s provided by her the mother-in-law – which presumably isn’t possible because of the girls’ schooling – I would think you must try to get her to Relate or something similar; maybe even getting quite tough about it. 

It may make you sound unsympathetic, but this obsession isn’t going to improve by just jogging along.

Find out about moving on after divorce.

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