Son closes off to my new relationship - Advice Needed
Good morning Beyond Blue Community
I am writing to ask for advice. I am now completely lost with what to do.
I came out of a 20 year marriage 17 months ago now (so Jan 2021) which was a very trying time for all concerned. I have two boys aged 19 & 16 who struggled to come to terms with their mum & dad separating after so many years.
Both boys were living with me at home through last year and I then finally sold and moved out of the family home back in February this year. My eldest son now lives with his partner's parents property and my youngest boy stays with me 4 days a week and with his mum 3 days a week.
The week I moved house (first week of Feb), I met a lovely new partner who I have been dating ever since. It was strange how everything aligned, she lives locally, we have the same interests, we just make each other happy and have been seeing each other everyday since. It's the happiest I have been in many years to be honest.
Over recent months, both myself and my new partner have decided to commit to each other and get engaged. My youngest son however suffers with massive anxiety and as such hasn't really communicated with my partner even though he says that it isn't her, just the condition he is in. He panics in public spaces, hates crowds and generally doesn't cope well with change.
Yesterday, I told him that I was engaged and he has since closed off completely. He won't talk about it and has now gone to his mums to stay. I feel so incredibly guilty that I have upset him but I also feel that my happiness is important and at the end of the day, I am going to be spending the rest of my life with this person. I have told him that nothing has changed. Things will be the same as they are right now and that the marriage side of things won't be until next year but he just is completely shut off. His Mum found a new partner within 3 months of the separation and he moved in within 5 months. I spent all of last year making sure my boys were ok but now that I have my happy back, I just feel that I am not being allowed to make decisions to shape the future I have with this new lady in my life.
Any advice you have would be appreciated. I love my boys but I am struggling at this point to know if I have made the right decision by them.
I am very sorry to hear about your situation and that you are struggling.
I hope you know that it is a great thing for you to meet someone who makes you feel loved and happy. If your partner is willing to be kind and patient to be part of your family, part of your son’s life, then there is no reason why you should doubt your decision to be together with her.
I think you and your son should spend more quality time together as it is important for him to know that you will always be there for him no matter whom you let in your life. It might take time for your son to accept your new partner and the changes, as the separation was a painful experience for him to go through. Patience, time, and efforts are always the keys for people to adapt to changes and process their unpleasant emotions.
Still, please don’t lose hope that things won’t improve, as I am sure your son will eventually be able to accept the changes if you continue to care. Perhaps you can spend more time weekly doing activities with your son that he enjoys doing. Taking time to avoid mentioning this topic to him and focusing on just some good quality bonding time between you and your son might ease his anxiety. If you don’t mind me asking, have you considered for your son to speak with a counsellor to find better ways of coping with his anxieties? My sister didn’t like the idea of my parents trying to force her into doing something, so perhaps just let him know that regardless of his decisions, you will always support, respect, and keep working on improving the situation. Having your reassurance would mean a lot to your son, and I am sure he will be appreciative when he can see how much effort you put in because you care about him and his wellbeing.
I sincerely hope your situation will improve! It is not easy what you are going through so please look after yourself well too. We’re always here to listen to and support you 🙂
Dear Mark h~
Welcome back. I"m very glad you have found someone you relate to and want to get engaged. You have had a hard time since the start of last year and found the loss of your previos relationship hard to understand and bear.
Your younger son has found it very hard too, but was with you -it was just you and him - apart from the days he went to his mothers' -where it was mum plus new partner plus him. I believe you mentioned in a previous topic that he did not like ot go to his mother's.
When you become engaged and come to live together it will be him plus dad plus new lady. So I'd imagine from his point of view he will have lost any familiar refuge.
I've no easy answer, you are responsible for your happiness in you future life , to simply live permanently for one son and disregard your own welfare does not strike me as a good long term plan.
Apart from anything else children do grow up and leave or change attitudes
You have said he has an anxiety condition and this situation has made things worse, resulting in him not talking and going to his mum's - a place he did not appear keen to go to before.
Do you think it might be an idea to put a hold on formalizing your new relationship? I do not mean stopping seeing each other, but not emphasizing the fact by becoming engaged at this stage (though with an intention of doing so later)?
Your son would appear to have two things that feed off each other, an anxiety condition, and a feeling perhaps of loss or abandonment. By having the two of you staying together as father and son, if you can persuade him to come back, that may give him time to have his anxiety conditon addressed by medical personnel.
If that does not seem to happen then that might be time for a re-think. I would expect you would want to talk this over wiht your new partner and obtain her views.
I know you have spent a year looking after your children alone, and more time may seem terribly long. Do you think his elder brother may be able to help?
Many thanks for your words of support. It means a great deal.
I think you are absolutely correct and I am trying to support him in this as much as I can. Forcing him into any kind of situation isn't the way to go and so, I have kept quiet and believe the most sensible approach is to continue to build my life as I truly feel I have done nothing wrong. My son did see a counsellor for about 12 months to talk through his anxiety issues but unfortunately that lady left her practice and whilst I have tried to get him to see someone new, he refuses to go.
For now, I am supporting him in whatever decisions he makes but I just wish he would get to know my new partner as she is a wonderful person with so much to offer. She also has a teenage daughter the same age with anxiety issues too, so she is willing and able to just be there and offer support whoever she can.
Many thanks again for all of your words. I really hope this sorts itself out because it's now quite awkward here.
Thanks for your reply and yes, it's been a challenging time since the separation. It's now been 17 months since myself and my ex wife split and in that time, I have done a lot of soul searching and have come out the other end a much stronger person.
It's quite awkward here now since telling my son of the engagement. I have however told him that nothing has changed, this lady is not moving in and there is nothing that will alter in his world apart from the fact that one day, we will get married together but that is a long time ahead.
My son has ended going to see his mum 3 days a week and stays with me 4 days a week. This is something that has been in place now for around 3 months but it seems to be working quite well. At the end of the day my ex partner met a new man three months after separating with me and had him move in after six months. I had to allow myself time to process and finding this new partner was purely by chance and somewhat 'fate' inspired. She is amazing in every way and is so supportive with everything I do which is amazing.
My partner has two daughters and her youngest who is also 17 suffers with massive anxiety too. Even so, they are both really happy for their mum and for me too. It's been a celebration in their household whilst with me, it's the total opposite. My eldest son is fine with everything but my youngest is now almost ignoring me because of this decision. Part of me wonders if he would be happier with his mum where he has accepted her new partner and if that is the case I have no choice but to support him in that decision. I want the best for him but I so wish he could be happy for me. He doesn't want to talk about it and I think forcing him to talk is the wrong thing also.
It's all very hard. As I say it's awkward here now and he finds it hard to even look at me but that's probably his anxieties. It is what it is I suppose. I spoke with my counsellor yesterday and he said to me that it's time to focus on my happiness now and as long as I am here to support this young man to the best of my ability, I am not doing anything wrong...who knows. All I want is to live the best life I can live and whilst it's insanely difficult right now, I hope it will improve in the future.
Thank you for sharing your story. You sound like an incredibly supportive father who has been through some tough times and the fact that you've reached out for advice speaks volumes.
From my limited experience with young people and separated parents, I am aware that there is an element of grief accompanied with any significant change. Whether that be divorce, living situation or even a parent having a new partner. I guess dealing with these changes is best done alongside a supportive figure such as yourself and a mental health professional. I'm aware that your son is reluctant to seeing a new counsellor but perhaps gently reminding him that changes in circumstance can exacerbate his anxiety (even though he says its not related) and that it might be a good idea to find out how to come to term with this might be a good route. Apart from this, the other main remedy is usually time and patience. Each person deals with change differently and in their own time. Sometimes patience and giving the person that space to grieve is the best thing to do.
Additionally there are always resources that you both yourself and your son could consider if counselling is not an option. I'm aware he is 16 but services such as kids helpline and headspace are great when it comes to supporting anyone under the age of 25. Kids helpline also have a parentline which supports parents such as yourself who might be facing a tricky situation/decision with there young ones. The link is here: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/issues/how-parentline-can-help-you
I hope this helps a little bit. Please keep us updated.
How lucky are you having met your wonderful new partner eh , what a nice thing to have happened after going through everything else.
As for your son , think your pushing it a bit too much , time time time, could be another yr ever a few yet. Divorce is just so damn bad for our kids they go through so much and l think a lot of parents expect way to much from them especially with new partners. lt was 5yrs before l intro'd mine to my d , or even spoke about her. She already had to deal with her mums new bf in her face , l didn't want her going through that with me too on top of everything else.
l'd just be gentle and very slow with him about it, no expectations or pressure, don't push anything or have it too in his face. Even tell him it's ok you understand he doesn't have to be anything with her it's you and him that count and that'll never change. Spend time with him just the two of you , maybe as he comes and goes he'll have to say hello and goodbye to her or say a few things at least but just leave it at that and give him time time time. My d was great about my gf she really likes her and vv but by the time l let it out she was starting to actually want me to have somebody anyway which l noticed so that was when l let it out and hoped she'd be ready. We're aren't together full time though matter of fact my gf's been interstate a lot so that still leaves my d and l heaps of just us time to atm anyway,
Good luck, patience and understanding of his situation in all this is the key imo..