Ask Caroline: ‘My teenage daughter won’t talk to me’

Ask Caroline orange spring 22

Q. I am in my 50s, and six months ago I left my wife for someone else after years of an unhappy marriage. I don’t feel good about breaking up with her, but I really tried to make it work and in the end could see no other choice. My wife was always negative and would moan about almost everything I did. She showed me little affection and at times I wondered if she had ever loved me or only wanted me for my financial and emotional stability.

Eventually, perhaps inevitably, I started an affair after falling for a former colleague who lent a sympathetic ear. However, while I am now incredibly happy with my new partner – happier than I’ve ever been – I’m distraught that my teenage daughter won’t speak to me or have anything to do with me. Her elder brother is more sympathetic, but my daughter has sided with her mum. I know my wife isn’t coping well and I feel really sorry and concerned for her.

A few days ago, my daughter rang me shouting, ‘How could you do this to Mum? You know she can’t cope. How could you be so selfish?’ I know that my ex is vilifying me to our children. How can I get my daughter to understand that I was utterly miserable and had to leave?

A. It is heartbreaking that your daughter won’t see you. In your longer letter, it is clear that you really did try to make things better with your wife, including going to counselling. So when you say it was ‘perhaps inevitable’ that you fell in love with someone else, you might indeed be right, because you didn’t feel loved at home. Unfortunately, it will be hard for your daughter to see this.

Often when one partner leaves a marriage, even with a valid reason, the other gets all the sympathy. Moreover, young people can be judgmental, seeing things only in terms of right and wrong, simply because they don’t have the life experience to know how complex and difficult marriages can be. Also, of course, your daughter will see how upset her mother is and this will have an impact on her views.

I know it’s not a great deal of comfort now, but one day your daughter will understand the situation better. Hold on to that and, in the meantime, write to her. Keep it short and simple and be careful not to justify your actions. Just tell her how much you love her, how sad and concerned you are for her mum and that you wish you had not had to hurt her so much. Explain that you had been very unhappy for many years. If she tears your letter up and sends it back, leave it a while, then write again. Give her space and time to calm down – be patient, don’t try to force a meeting, just keep repeating that you love her. Hopefully, the continued contact with your son might help persuade her that you are not all bad.

You could try asking another family member or friend to explain gently to your ex that it can be very damaging for children to be alienated from one of their parents. That it is in your daughter’s best interests to maintain a good relationship with you.

‘Is he too nice to be good in bed?’

Q. I’m in my 30s and for the past six months I’ve been dating a lovely man. He’s kind, clever, funny and almost perfect except for one thing – he’s pretty average in bed. I can’t help comparing him with my ex, who was not particularly nice but with whom I ended up staying for four years because the sex was so amazing. I can’t help wondering if my new man is just too gentle to be good in bed. Do I have to choose between an average sex life with someone nice or a volatile man who is sexually exciting?

A. No, you don’t. Actually, very few people are intrinsically bad in bed. If a sex life is a bit lacklustre it’s often a combination of inexperience and an excess of politeness. Perhaps your boyfriend has not had many lovers or maybe, growing up, his family were prudish and so he is afraid to let go. You’re probably too scared of upsetting him to say anything.

But the only way through this, I’m afraid, is to tell him what you like in bed. Whatever you do, don’t mention the previous boyfriend, but perhaps explain that sometimes in bed it feels as if he’s nervous and you’d like a more confident approach. When you make love, try to move his hands (or other parts of his body) to wherever you want them or to suggest new positions. Sex in loving relationships tends to get better as you grow to know what each other likes. However, if you can’t get over the initial hurdles, you could try sex therapy: visit cosrt.org.uk or relate.org.uk. He sounds like a keeper so don’t give up.

Find more of Caroline’s advice here