Divorce or the ending of a committed relationship is always hard, but particularly when children are involved. One of the toughest parts is integrating the different families and figuring out how to parent when you have children who are no longer living with you full time. This gets even more challenging if your children are living in two different countries, as may be the case for ex-pats in Europe. Here a recent column I wrote on this topic, and you can read the original article here: English Informer in France
My partner has kids in two different countries and it’s tearing us apart
Dear Dr Jules
My partner and I have been together for six years, but things have been increasingly difficult since his ex-wife took their kids back to England 2 years ago to be with a new partner. He says he finds it really hard being away from his kids there, and also feels guilty if he is here feeling happy with me and the kids we have together. He has left me a few times as he finds it all so confusing, but he always comes back. Increasingly I start to wonder if I want him to come back next time he leaves or goes back to visit his kids as it seems so rocky between us.
I can see why you are finding this so hard, as you are never sure where your partner’s heart is. From his perspective I can imagine it must be terribly difficult to have children living so far away. He must be a loving father to work so hard at keeping close relationships with all his children, in spite of the difficulties spending time together.
On the positive side he has been able to keep a good enough relationship with his ex-wife so that he can stay involved in his children’s lives, and he also has made a home with you and works to support you and your family. I wonder how much time he spends back in England and if you would ever think of travelling with him for those visits, or if his children ever spend time staying with you? Have you ever discussed relocating to England so the two families can live closer to each other, and thereby reduce the stress on your partner?
The bottom line here is communication, communication and then more communication. You are both feeling conflicted and uncertain about where you stand and where you want to be. You do, however, have parenting responsibilities for a number of children, and how that is managed is something you need to resolve going forward so that everybody is clear of the expectations and needs. Whether you can make the relationship with him work is going to be a tough decision, but I hope it is one you can make together.
Divorce and forming new families while retaining close ties with children from previous relationships are all very tough situations to navigate. Counselling can be helpful for individuals, couples and families in providing support and a non-judgmental space to explore your options and make positive changes.
For more in-depth help and counselling, consider contacting Dr Jules in person