My Husband Or My Son?

Posted on: 09 May 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Remarried, Lisa faces a dreadful dilemma. Should she follow her heart and her new husband, or put the needs of her 14-year-old son first?

Lisa Writes:

I divorced my 14 year old son's father five years ago.  Now I am married to Nigel, a man I love to bits and want to be with forever.  Yet my guilt, my past life and my sense of duty to my 14 year old son are creating a conflict within me that is ruining my second marriage.

I feel that I constantly have to choose between love for Nigel and duty to my son.  I do not know how to do this and in my efforts to do all I can to keep both of them happy, I seem to be upsetting both of them.

My husband senses my resentment towards him and my son senses that I do not always give him full attention. This leads to anger and frustration in both me and my husband as we know what we want, yet it seems unattainable.

I am very torn and just wish I could be happy in my marriage and feel love for them both without feeling I have to choose.

My son lives with his Dad, but I do see him three days a week after school when we do all the 'Mum' things.  My husband has been working in Switzerland since last October and that has made my sense of a split life even worse as I feel I should be here for my son yet I want to be in Switzerland with him.

How can I resolve this as it is making me ill?

Andy Advises:

There are a host of issues here.

Firstly, your son was only nine years old when you remarried, and I don't know why he lives with his Dad.  It is unusual for the father of a nine-year-old to be given custody when Mum is around.  Could it be that he might have preferred to live with you had he been given the choice?  Was it that your life style didn't permit you to undertake his daily 'care and control'?  Do you have shared custody, or does his father have custody and you have access?

Could it be that your son resents your husband for being able to share your life on a daily basis when he can't?  In which case, he is almost certainly very jealous of Nigel and in his immature mind, he thinks that if he 'plays up', he can cause a rift between you, which is exactly what he is succeeding at doing.  And if he does that, in his muddled head, does he think that if he causes enough mayhem, then perhaps he can have you all to himself.

Additionally, one of the problems with being 14 is that a lad has hormones coursing round his body in an uncontrolled manner, regardless of a complicated situation, and even in the most 'normal' circumstances, at this age he is having difficulty coping with his own fast-changing emotions.  Add the complications of the home set-up and it's little wonder you are all in such a stew.

I think your son needs professional help to assist him in growing up and understanding what happened and why and in order to come to terms with the situation as it is now.  It's really important for his future emotional health that he gets this help, and soon.  At 14, he is still young enough to be told to do as he is told.  You need to speak to his father about what is happening and however hard it may be for you, you need to be truthful with him about your son's effect on your relationship.  Then, one of you should contact the boy's GP and explain that he is clearly unhappy and in need of proper guidance.

I think you also need to be aware that your son probably won't even be living at home in just a very short time.  He certainly won't want 'Mummying' three times a week.  He does have a stable home with his father.  You do have a life to lead, and it extends beyond your son's growing up years.  If you were to choose to follow your husband, could you not arrange for your son to visit you for holidays on a regular basis?  Many divorced parents living abroad in your situation do exactly that.  All this would, of course, need to be discussed with the lad's father.  It needs to be a joint decision in your son's best interests.

Does your new husband get on with your son?  You don’t say, so I have to guess that perhaps not as well as you would like.  So, not only are you dealing with a resentful son.  You have a resentful husband too.  He sees the woman he loves desperately, trying to placate an angry teenager who is no doubt rude to you at times, yet this is not his son and he cannot say a word to protect you.

I also think you and your husband need some professional relationship advice on how to make the most of what you have, and if your husband loves you as much as you love him, then I suspect he will be happy to go along with this idea, to help you.

You clearly have 'baggage' and need guidance on a person-to-person basis, in a way I cannot possibly offer you long distance on a website.  Contact Relate, the relationship specialists at  You will find details of your nearest branch on their website.  You can see them alone - but I would suggest that your husband goes too so that you can both benefit from their expert advice.

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