Caroline West-Meads: ‘I’m devastated by their betrayal’

ask caroline

Q. One of my former friends is dating my ex-husband. I’m so upset. It feels like such a betrayal, especially as she knows all about how difficult our marriage was. My ex is full of charm and charisma – and he was always fun to be with and very affectionate. But that’s the problem: his charm meant other women were always attracted to him. I forgave him for the first affair but when I discovered the second, I asked for a divorce. He moved out just over a year ago and we’ve managed a reasonably amicable separation so far for the sake of our two teenage children, but now I just feel so betrayed.

I would never have him back because I could never trust him again, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love him. I had a brief relationship but I haven’t met anyone else. I miss my ex’s sense of humour, his company and doing things with him and the children. And I miss the fantastic sex. So when I heard that my former friend was dating him, it was like a blow to the stomach.

I rang her to explain how hurt I was, but she just said that as I no longer wanted him she didn’t see that I had a right to control his life. I explained that she wouldn’t be able to trust him because he’s a serial womaniser, but she said that perhaps it was because he had been in the wrong relationship. I’m distraught and have been crying a lot. My other friends are appalled that she’s seeing him. How do I come to terms with all this?

A. It is so sad when someone who seemed like a close friend turns out to be the opposite. She is not only riding roughshod over the feelings that you still have for your ex but also, by being blind to his faults, she is implying that you were not enough for your husband – while she is. This is not true, of course, but it’s not surprising you feel hurt. And if she comes crying to you after the relationship breaks up (which it will), don’t be the one to offer comfort.

It may be that your former husband is subconsciously punishing you for leaving him, as I suspect he wanted to behave badly while keeping his marriage. However, feelings don’t just stop overnight and you’ll still miss all the bits that made you first fall in love with him. So write in a notebook everything that he has done to hurt you. Add in large letters: ‘Can I really still love someone who treated me this way?’ Whenever you miss him, look at the list and remind yourself of his flaws. This will help to lessen his hold on your feelings. Don’t be tempted to rush into other relationships just for physical contact – it will leave you feeling empty.

Unfortunately, your former friend will now be involved in your children’s lives for the meantime, which they will find confusing and you will find painful. Try not to criticise their father too strongly to your children as they need to maintain their relationship with him. I strongly recommend counselling to help you come to terms with this loss and betrayal; try

‘His personal hygiene is a big problem’

Q. My son’s marriage has broken up. He has two children but he can’t afford to rent, so he and the children stay with us a couple of nights a week and he spends the rest of the time with his new partner. He tells us it’s temporary as he needs to clear some debts before renting. My problem is he rarely showers or washes. My husband (not his father) and I think it is disgusting. We have tried to say jokingly that he’s grubby, but he just laughs. Are we being oversensitive? Is it a generational thing or should we get more heavy-handed with him? We are in our 60s and he has been away for 14 years.

A. Of course you don’t want to upset your son, but you also shouldn’t have to put up with this. I think that you can lay down the rules a little more firmly – but also with tact and kindness. When people are low or depressed they can neglect things like personal hygiene, and it sounds as if he has a lot on his plate. So tell him calmly but firmly that while you both enjoy his company and want to help him get back on his feet, his body odour makes him unpleasant to be around – and that he needs to address this.

Point out gently that it is not a great role model for his children, and that it will affect his relationships with his new partner, friends and colleagues. Explain that if he wants to continue living in your house, he must shower every day. If he laughs, tell him those are the rules, and that his children are welcome, but he must stay elsewhere if he can’t stick to them. Being a solo parent is tough so your son might benefit from contacting, the charity for single parents.