This father, if he listens to Dear Abby, could make a choice that will have a negative and life-long impact on his relationship with his son. Dear Abby definitely got this one wrong!
I read a Dear Abby column recently from a dad who was divorced when his son was 9. His ex-wife married the man she had an affair with and they now have a 12-year-old son. This Dad’s son, now aged 24 brings his half-brother with him on visits to dad. Dad is remarried and says he is in a “good place” but wants his son to stop bringing his half-brother because his presence stirs up emotions about the past.
Dear Abby agrees with Dad that he can write to his ex and explain that it’s too painful for the boy’s visits to continue and that dad can have a conversation with his son to explain it.
I disagree with Dear Abby. Before Dad writes to his ex, I’d like him to think through the consequences of this. There’ll be many occasions in the future when is son might wish him to be present – his wedding, birth of a grandchild, family Thanksgiving, family celebrations. If Dad sends the message now that he can’t be in the presence of half-brother, he’s telling his son that he won’t be able to deal with these family occasions.
At best, his son will be trying to figure out how to have Dad at special occasions in his life without causing a scene or making it awkward. Can you see this Dad sitting at the head table at a wedding?
At worst, Dad won’t even get invited to the main occasion and if he’s lucky he’ll get invited to a secondary event, held because he can’t be comfortable around his son's half-brother. No word on how Dad feels in the presence of his ex. If he doesn't want to be around the half-brother, I can't imagine he is going to find being around his ex-wife anymore comforting.
Dad’s proposed action will be forcing son to choose between his half-brother and his Dad and that’s not a smart parenting choice even if the child is an adult.
Dad says he’s in a “good place” now however the marriage ended fifteen years ago and memories of his ex’s infidelity are still stirring up an intense emotional reaction? It sounds like dad still has self-work to do and I would suggest he start by examining his role in the end of his marriage. And the role he will want to play in his own son's life in the future.
Most experts agree that both spouses play a role in infidelity and that an affair is usually a symptom of more fundamental relationship issues. So while mom had the affair, how did dad contribute?
Was he emotionally unavailable?
Was he disinterested in social activities?
Was he career-focused and absent from parenting?
What was Dad’s behavior during the marriage that may have contributed to the infidelity?
Identifying the real problem is the path to self-growth and healing after divorce and infidelity and offers potential rewards for his present relationship. It’s also the path to forgiveness and acceptance. That forgiveness may be for his ex but the most important person to forgive is himself. The potential benefit of that is huge: a continuing and improved relationship with his son.