Wedding Woes

You need time...and probably therapy.

Dear Prudence,

I’ve handled the legal side of this problem, but I don’t know how to handle the emotional side. I ended my otherwise great marriage to my husband “Mark” of five years last October, because he wouldn’t protect our two toddlers. He left our kids unsupervised multiple times over the years with a convicted child abuser on his side of the family and lied about it. The kids were unharmed, but so many things could have happened. He lied through his teeth about doing it, and when I found out he tried to convince me to stay claiming he “knew” they’d be safe because they were too young to be at risk with his relative. Then he felt so guilty in the divorce that he gave me every single thing I asked for, from custody to asset division. The custody and parenting plan lays out clear protections for our kids, and they’re working. I keep my contact with Mark to the bare minimum legally required by the parenting plan and otherwise have cut him out of my life completely.

I’m grateful that the kids are safe, but I still can’t move past trying to find red flags that would have warned me about this earlier in the relationship. It hurts so much that I’m still in love with someone that would put our vulnerable kids at risk, and feels so out of character for him. I thought knowing he was so dangerous to our kids, and cutting him out cold would get me past him, but I intrusively think about happy moments and the way he loved me, our dreams, our plans, our sex life, and our jokes all the time when I’m trying to move on with my life. He’s not a good man, and I feel so guilty about this, and like I can’t tell anyone because it would be a betrayal to my kids. I’m lucky to have lots of safe, high-quality childcare from my sister and parents, and they’ve all been encouraging me to try dating again. My friend also encourages me to get back out there and carefully vet a guy, either that or in my mom’s words “find someone casual for fun while we take the kids for a weekend a month,” but I can’t figure out how to get over Mark. How do I move past this and try to meet someone else? I miss him so much and I shouldn’t.

—I Want to Want Someone Else

Re: You need time...and probably therapy.

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    You need to seek a therapist.

    And from what you're describing, Mark's good quality is that he's caring of others however he's also not nearly protective enough of the vulnerable.  So he made some pretty terrible choices but there's a reason you fell in love with him.

    You also see that there's a HUGE reason to not trust him.  So don't.  You can have good sex and a relationship with someone you trust.
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    Therapy for self forgiveness. 

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    Therapy is really needed.

    The LW isn't there yet, but once she does start dating, she'll probably have a hard time trusting her judgement.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
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    I'm not sure that the behavior you're looking for "red flags" on now would have had warning signs in advance - had you ever noticed Mark being irresonsible or dishonest before you had kids? You said yourself that leaving the kids with an abuser and lying about it was out of character for him. I think you need to stop beating yourself up over not seeing this coming. Therapy can help with that, and it can also help you learn to trust others and yourself again. It will take time, but it's worth it.
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    I've been thinking a lot lately about how we have a tendency to polarize people into "good" and "bad" people, but that's just not the reality of how humans are. You can be an incredibly irresponsible parent who makes terrible choices and also be a kind and caring partner. You don't have to beat yourself up for loving the good parts of Mark in spite of bad parts meaning you can't be with him.

    But yeah, therapy. 
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