Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries — Divorce, Debt and Divided Loyalties
Here, advice on dealing with divorce, debt and divided loyalties
Q. I split with my husband two years ago after 12 years together. Unfortunately, he left me with a massive amount of debt and I’m facing bankruptcy. He has a daughter, 19, who I’ve been best friends with since she was five and we’ve enjoyed a wonderful relationship – until now. My issue lies with her, her mother and their family. I’ve also had (or thought I had) an amazing relationship with her mother – at least until my ex told his daughter how much he gives me per month, which is a lot more than he gave her mother. I’ve been generous with my step-daughter but now it seems she wants nothing to do with me unless I have money to offer. I recently gave her a gift of money (more than I could afford) to congratulate her on exams. She ignored my recent birthday, which was a first. I’m confused and deeply hurt.
Barbara, Ashford, U.K.
A. What a sad situation. Especially since you built a solid relationship with your step-daughter and her mother over all those years. No doubt you had to work hard to do that. And it’s really too bad your ex-husband “had to go and open his big mouth,” as Debra McLeod puts it. She’s a Calgary-based former divorce mediator turned relationship expert and the creator of the website addaspark.com. “When money comes into the picture it turns people into baracudas.”
“Go shopping,” says Debra, who suggests inviting your step-daughter to spend an afternoon with you and shop for a pair of boots, a new winter jacket or a house-warming gift for her new apartment. It’s simply a way to be together. (Anyone who’s had teenagers can attest to the effectiveness of this type of bribery.) You’re really just buying time with the girl and she’s getting something she needs/wants. “It’s not right, but it’s real,” says Debra. “And it’s just a phase.”
But if that doesn’t work you’ll need to start lowering your expectations. Stay in touch with cards, social media or phone calls, Debra suggests, but be realistic. “Even if you’re right and you want to be vindicated and you want them to understand, they can still take things and twist them and you’ll end up looking even worse.” It’s worth a try to stay in touch, but be prepared to let go.