My three children say they never want to see me again – The Guardian

The dilemma I am a loving mum of three happy, intelligent children in their 20s who are at college. Ten years ago my marriage with their father broke down while we were living abroad. I feel my efforts were never appreciated, as their father is very domineering.

I remain in Europe, but my children are back in London and see their father often. For five years I have been living with a man and for the first time I feel loved, cherished and supported. The children have met him and seemed to like him, but the mood took a dramatic turn recently when all three attacked me by email on the same day saying I was a snake in the grass and that my new man was a freeloader. They say they never want to see me again or have any contact as I am going after a share of their father’s pension as part of the divorce settlement.

The vehemence and hatred has shocked me. I love my children so much and need them like I need air to breathe. I had a breakdown as the kids blocked me from all email, Facebook, SMS accounts, etc, so I have no way of communicating with them. It’s broken my heart.

Mariella replies Telephone them? I appreciate it’s an old-fashioned means of communication, but there’s an immediacy and intimacy to it that can’t be undervalued. If you block your number they won’t see that it’s you and the art of surprise may be enough to elicit some sort of explanation from one of them for what sounds, as you describe it, totally irrational behaviour.

How painful and shocking to be on the receiving end of such a splenetic outpouring from those you love most. No wonder you are heartbroken. Are you in touch with their father? It sounds like a conversation between you two would be a step in the right direction. Then again maybe that’s not a possibility.

Judging by your tone there is still a lot of lingering resentment and you appear to be suggesting that his domineering nature eclipsed your parenting role in your children’s lives. Otherwise why lob a grenade in by asserting that for the first time you feel “loved, cherished and supported”. While that may well be true it has little bearing on current events, aside from your new partner’s potential to comfort you.

Passions don’t tend to rise to such meteoric heights on a single provocation so I suspect they’ve been running high for a while. The old adage “there’s no smoke without fire” lingers temptingly over your letter. Whether or not you are planning to lobby for a share of their father’s pension pot is not clear. If you are it would be naive to think that such a move, no matter how justified you feel it to be, would not have repercussions. I don’t think it justifies their extreme response, but your desire to promote your “loving” parenting with such force raises more questions than it answers.

You say your marriage broke down a decade ago and that you’ve been with this new man for five years, which makes me think it’s rather far down the line to be addressing your divorce settlement. If you are totally in the right, as you appear to suggest, and your kids are totally in the wrong with their unexpected broadside, then you have a right to feel hard done by. However, if there are any shades of grey you won’t be helping your cause by sticking rigidly to your version of the story.

This sounds like a discussion that should be taking place between you and your ex-husband. Could you two have been slow to sort things out between you, leading to confusion and resentment on all sides? Your children’s action is unilateral and co-ordinated, which suggests they were given information they were not previously in possession of. It also hints at your relationship with them requiring further contemplation on your part.

For three intelligent young adults, who have previously felt nothing but empathy and love for you, to suddenly come out so strongly against you there has to be some provocation or, at the very least, some cause. Yet according to you this is a thunderbolt in a blue sky. I can’t solve your dilemma, not least because you have given me only a restricted glimpse at current dynamics and no insight into past history.

Blocking you on social media is an infantile way to deal with any problems and, anyway, is a medium that limits our capacity for self-expression. But there has to be more to your story than the one you are narrating. Statements which demand sympathy, like you “need them like I need air” and allusions to an unspecific breakdown won’t solve your woes. Someone needs to act with emotional maturity and it might as well be you. Whatever the causes, any resolution will have to address past mistakes and current misdemeanours. None of us can lay claim to emotional perfection so the best place to start reconciliation is to establish where we may have got things wrong. I wish you well in resolving this sad state of affairs.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to mariella.frostrup@observer.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

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