Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Jeremy Baer,
I wrote last month asking for advice how to break things off with Rita, the mother of my child. Thank you for your honesty. I guess I did not make it clear last time that I want to leave Rita. I realized that Rita and I are two different people and such differences will only make a tumultuous relationship. My family also doesn’t accept Rita as she comes from a different background and religion.
I love Dee, my long-time girlfriend and I want to marry her. I told Dee about my indiscretions with Rita.
Now, I want to end things with Rita but I don’t know how. These days Rita has been preoccupied with the baby and has not brought up the idea of marriage. I dodged that bullet before when I told her to prioritize the baby. I am hands on with the baby, i.e., visiting frequently and checking up regularly through calls and texts.
However, Rita believes that I am doing all of those for her and the baby when in truth and in fact, I am only doing it just for the baby. I am just civil with Rita. I don’t know if Rita has noticed but I no longer hug or kiss her. The only time I’d touch Rita would be to assist her. I will always respect Rita as she is the mother of my child. It is different with Dee. I can’t help but be near her, to hug her, hold her hand, and kiss her.
I am already distancing myself emotionally from Rita but I still want to be a part of the child’s life. I want to break things off with Rita without angering her in preventing me from seeing my child. I also prefer not telling Rita about Dee.
I want to spare Dee from any anger Rita might lash out.
Can you please advice me how to break things off with Rita?
Thank you for your email.
Firstly, you were quite clear in your initial email that 1) you wanted to end your relationship with Rita and instead marry Dee and 2) you wanted to break up with Rita without prejudicing your relationship with your child. Basically, you want to have your cake and eat it i.e. get the best from both relationships (a child from one and a wife from the other) and move on without any of those pesky recriminations so common from women abandoned by their lovers.
Now, you say that you thank us for our honesty. That is fine and of course much appreciated but the purpose of replying to your original email was to set out some options for the future for all of you. I suggested that you were particularly self-centered, telling us plenty about yourself, virtually nothing about your two lovers and then expecting us to conjure up a strategy for dealing with Rita out of nowhere. And, lo and behold, email #2 follows the same pattern.
You still seem to think that procrastination, or dodging the bullet as you term it, is the best policy and that indirect messages such as distancing yourself from Rita and not touching her are a better way to proceed than actually having a frank conversation. Of course you may be right – after all you know Dee and Rita better than I – since there is no surefire way of emerging a hero from this mess.
The one positive aspect of all this is your desire to support and bond with your child. This may give you the necessary room to maneuver with Rita. She will probably welcome the continuing presence of a father in her child’s life, especially if your financial support is a significant factor (but you do not even mention this so perhaps money is not an issue).
Finally, I have no strategy to suggest that will guarantee how Rita will react when she finds out about Dee. Certainly, if she entertains any notion that you two could get together again, postponing the day you tell her is scarcely designed to improve matters. Wishing you the best of luck.
Thank you very much for this, your second letter to us. I would also like to thank Mr Baer for agreeing that we publish your letter so soon (or, indeed, at all!).
He did not want to, because he felt we had already answered all the concerns in the above letter and indeed, he is right. And I also thank him for answering you relatively calmly, instead of saying something like: “Read my lips. We’ve already discussed all this.”
But I prevailed upon him to agree to answering your letter this week for two reasons:
It ties in beautifully with last week’s column which will give you an idea of how Rita might be looking at your situation.
It is also an opportunity for you to take stock and understand yourself — and your attempted machinations — better. Specifically, your asking the same question when you do not get the answer you want; your asking the same question with a semi compliment (I imagine to sweeten the semi scolding that follows).
This, actually, works when dealing with relatively mababaw (superficial) interactions, like “giving feedback.” The best way, supposedly, is the sandwich approach: compliment, then criticism (what you really want to say, then another compliment. Surely you see the absurdity of such advice (even if-ahem-this is what you tried on us)?
I bring this up hoping you will see that this sort of interaction 1. Does not work; 2. May actually work against you because it can be irritating. It implies how little you think of the person, thinking s/he can be taken in by such a maneuver, and finally, 3. You, Rita and Dee deserve far better than that.
You wrote “I guess I did not make it clear last time that I want to leave Rita.” As Mr Baer pointed out, it was clear and 2nd, we DID answer your concerns.
And if you truly did not get that, it was: clear and honest communication, the danger of keeping secrets and the necessity for self awareness.
My concern now is: Did you actually believe what you said? That we did not answer your question? Or was this merely a manipulation (albeit with the good intention, perhaps, of not making us feel we were incompetent). Please tell us if there is yet another way to interpret this behavior… because this has implications with the way you deal with other people in other circumstances.
Learning how to listen to what Rita, Dee, Mr Baer, myself and other people say would serve you in good stead.
Simply repeating things to Rita as if she were deaf rather than anxious, hurt, upset, saying that your goals are different will not change things. Also, there is no advice we can (or would want to) give you on how to tell Rita so she does not prevent you from seeing your child. Rita will behave the way she will behave, with or without our advising you. Things are too important to pussyfoot around, hoping the right phrase or good timing will make her more amenable to the bombshell (you do not consider yourselves a couple and don’t want ever to be) you will be telling her.
Being part of your baby’s life is not a favor Rita bestows; it is your right. And a responsibility. Engage the services of a lawyer and explore your options. Speak softly, but find out what big sticks you have at your disposal.
Request for clarification: When you wrote “I told Dee about my indiscretions with Rita,” did you tell her the full story? That you and Rita now have a baby? If you did tell her, then congratulations! You are on your way to being the man your child needs you to be.
If you did not tell her (…yet), it is not the end of the world. You now realize your tendency is to say mere half truths rather than what really needs to be said. What needs saying is there is a child who will be a part of your (and thus, Dee’s) life should she consent to being your partner/wife.
Forgive me if our answers are not what you had hoped for. But I hope you will see that they are the concerns that need addressing asap.
Good luck and all the best, dearest Carlos,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.