Richard Hogan: My kids see me as the bad cop and want to live with their dad

I don’t like the person I’m turning into. Please help me before I lose my children
Richard Hogan: My kids see me as the bad cop and want to live with their dad

Richard Hogan: "The fact that your partner met someone else and started a new life is a traumatic experience for you and your children."

I read your articles every week and always find them helpful and practical. Please can you give me some advice? 

I’m a 44-year-old mother of three. I separated from my partner in 2020 and things have been very difficult. 

I don’t think I’m managing well, I find myself shouting at the kids more than ever. It doesn’t help that my ex-partner allows the kids to be on their devices all the time. So I think the kids see me as the bad cop and always giving out to them. My daughter said to me yesterday, ‘I want to live with dad’. My heart is broken. 

I didn’t want to separate from my partner, he met someone else and I think that is the main reason I’m finding it all so hard, I’m not sleeping. I’m also embarrassed about what has happened, and my mother says all the wrong things. I know I’m angry, I was never like that before. 

I don’t like the person I’m turning into. Please help me before I lose my children.

Thank you very much for writing. The first step on this journey to healing is acknowledging the impact it has had on you. The fact that your partner met someone else and started a new life is a traumatic experience for you and your children. Not sleeping and shouting at the children would illuminate that you are currently overwhelmed with all that has happened in your life. Understandably so. Separation is one of the most difficult life changes we go through as adults. To expect yourself not to be impacted by all of this is an unrealistic expectation and probably adding to your sense of blame. Mind your expectation of yourself. 

This is relatively new in your life, so there is a process you have to go through to heal. The first thing I would recommend is linking in with your GP and explaining to them all of what you are feeling. I do think it is important that you access a psychotherapist to help you work out the complicated feelings you are experiencing. There is nothing wrong with you. Remember that. You have been let down by someone you trusted and loved. And that is not something you should be embarrassed about. 

It is incredible how we internalise someone else’s behaviour and blame ourselves for it. Why should you be embarrassed? You didn’t bring this into your relationship, and you didn’t disrupt your children’s life. 

So again, why are you embarrassed? Because your partner left you? So you think that is a comment on you? Perhaps, it’s a comment on him? Perhaps by blaming yourself you are doing yourself a further disservice. This is time for self-care, not self-loathing. 

You did nothing wrong here. Unfortunately, relationships break down. What was in your partner's head and the reasons why he launched out in this new relationship are unknowable and will not allow you to heal. I am using the word ‘heal’ repeatedly for a reason. You have experienced a hurt that needs to heal. But you are slowing down that process by blaming yourself and feeling embarrassed. I would also recommend avoiding talking to your mother about it, it seems to cause you distress.

I can imagine you are internalising what you think people are saying. But the reality is, no one would say anything negative about you and what has happened in your relationship, and if they did are these really the people you would take advice from? So, changing how you see this should stop you from ruminating on imagined societal discourse. 

The fact that your sleep is disrupted is understandable. You have gone through a major life change during a global health crisis. But as I say, this is a time for self–love and self–care. You will get through this experience and it will not define your life journey. You say you are fighting with your children more. It sounds like your ex-partner is playing the popular game and you are stuck parenting. You can never give up your parental authority because one parent is playing the friend card. 

Children do not want their parents to be their friends, they need their parents to parent them. But there is a difference between parenting your children and taking your frustration and pain out on them. They are going through a considerable amount of change, too. So, you need to have someone you can talk to, to let out all the frustration, pain and hurt you have felt in the last year. This will help you be in a better parenting position. 

I have worked with many families that have separated, you are not losing your children. You are just going through the healing process as a family. But it is important that you find a healthy avenue to express that hurt and keep it from your children. Of course, they know that you are upset. You are all upset. And you will all get through this, and you will model for your children how you manage disappointment and hurt in a dignified way. It might not seem like it now because you are so close to it, but things will improve and you will feel like yourself again. Perhaps, even better.


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