Q: My mother is separated and is having an affair with our neighbor. I want her to get back with my father. Her affair makes me insecure as she seems to even ignore me at times. I feel hurt and rejected and also want to experience a wholesome family again. What should I do?
Ans: The notion of kinship-based families made of two parents, kids and maybe grandparents, extended family living together is changing. Many individuals are divorced, separated, remarried and part of multi-partner families consisting of step-parents, co-parents, romantic partners, step-children, etc. You feel that your setup is less wholesome because your parents are not together and your mum is in a relationship with someone else. Wholesome families can exist even if biological parents are separated and living apart.
What makes them wholesome is not proximity but the ability to stay attuned to each others’ feelings and needs, as well as, the capacity to resolve conflict in a sensitive way. Talk to both your parents about your feelings of insecurity, hurt, and rejection if you want to actively contribute to bonding with them. They will always be in your life but it is your responsibility to be vulnerable and express how you feel.
It is also important for you to ask how they are feeling. Separations are not easy and parents often find it difficult to share their negative emotions with children. Ask your mother about her new relationship, make her feel safe to talk about it. Her ‘affair’ could also turn out to be a new family member, a great guy to connect with and learn from.
Remember that structures with more adults involved also translate to more love, resources, and people available for support. Address your feelings and don’t shut off from the people involved. Speak to a professional who can support you to communicate effectively with your parents. Families are changing and not necessarily for the worse.
The writer is an Intimacy & Relationship Coach, Founder of The Intimacy Curator, an organisation promoting self-discovery through emotional and sexual wellbeing (www.theintimacycurator.com). (Have a query? Send it on firstname.lastname@example.org)