Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] I want to break up with my lesbian partner, but still want to see her daughter

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] I want to break up with my lesbian partner, but still want to see her daughter

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'I don’t think co-parenting is possible, knowing my partner. It will be the end of all communication. Help me please!'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three 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.

Hi Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,

I really need your advice. I am currently in an unhappy relationship with my partner, who has a 3-year-old daughter whom I love so dearly and with my life. 

The problem is, me and my partner cannot stand each other anymore and we both acknowledged the fact the we’re just staying together for kid.

I don’t see things working out for us anymore but I also cannot imagine the pain I will go through if I am separated from her daughter.

Just a bit of history: We’re a same sex couple. Three years into our relationship we broke up, my partner dated a guy and got pregnant, but they didn’t stay together. We got back together while she was still pregnant – I think around the third or fourth month of her pregnancy. We raised the kid together, and she calls me “daddy.” I love her like she’s my flesh and blood.

I am not worried about breaking up with my partner. I fell out of love a long time ago (I guess I shouldn’t have gone back to her in the first place) but what breaks my heart is the possibility of never seeing “my daughter” again.

I don’t think co-parenting is possible, knowing my partner. It will be the end of all communication. Help me please!


Dear Em,

Thank you for your message.

Disputes over children during a breakup are unfortunately a common story. What makes matters worse is when the society in which people facing these types of issues refuses to acknowledge reality and enact laws safeguarding adequate rights to preserve access to the defenseless minors caught up in the ensuing imbroglio.

Ideally in your situation you and your partner (let’s call her Cora) would be doing your utmost to minimize the damage to your “daughter” when you finally split. An amicable agreement regarding access would perhaps be the most obvious way forward. Unfortunately you seem to rule this out altogether, which leaves you with a dearth of alternatives since you have no blood connection to your “daughter,” and thus no legal standing whatsoever.

A potential ray of sunshine may be that with the passage of time Cora will come to realize that her daughter’s well-being is best served by seeing you rather than cutting off all communication.

However, it is worth considering that if you and Cora have stayed together thus far because you both are willing to sacrifice for the good of the child, despite not being able to stand each other, life will be much easier after separating and it would then be illogical and perverse not to continue to prioritize the well-being of the child.

If you place the child at the center of your separation discussions, you may find that Cora is more flexible than you currently imagine.

All the best,
JAF Baer

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Dear Em:

Thank you very much for your letter. I am so sorry that you are going through some very understandable separation anxiety. 

Actually, separation anxiety, which implies a disorder due to an overly intense (and oftentimes unrealistic) fear of losing a loved one, is the wrong description for your grieving about the (seemingly inevitable) loss of your daughter. 

You do not have misplaced anxiety, but a realistic fear, based on what you see and know, of what will be a predictable result of your relationship with Cora formally ending.  

I have consulted with many lawyers and lesbian friends and they all agree with Mr. Baer that, given the antediluvian laws of our country, you have less chance than a snowball in hell to claim legal rights to your daughter.

UNLESS, maybe if, you refrain from saying anything nasty when speaking to Cora. Yes, it may be difficult, but the fewer things said in anger — especially the comments meant to hurt — the fewer reasons for Cora to deny access to your daughter. There will be less impetus to exact revenge on you, which alas, in many situations, means the children become the pawns.

UNLESS, maybe if, you can move the relationship from one where you cannot stand each other to one where each of you is happier without the other in the same room and maybe later, even to the point where each of you realize that, in the past, it was great fun to be together and just because it isn’t now, does not mean either you or Cora has lost your likability, your integrity, your innate basic good worth and, indeed, your ability to have and give fun!  Fun you may both not want to share with each other, but you can still have with your daughter and a slew of other people.  

UNLESS, maybe if, once Cora’s pain diminishes to the point of not wanting to hurt you by denying you access to your daughter. 

I don’t know how reasonable your ex will be regarding your and your daughter’s basic rights to be with each other. This will depend not only on how angry she is at you, but on how able she is to separate her needs from your child’s needs and also from your needs. Among those needs are financial and babysitting, and the sooner you both accept (maybe even relish?) that you both are in this for both the joy and responsibilities, the better it is for everyone. Finally, it will also depend on how able Cora is to accept that it is not only about her/him/them but about other people too.

It isn’t right and it isn’t fair, and it will be a long time coming for it to be so.  

But those horrible facts are not sufficient reasons to not do the best you can, even if it means being nice to Cora who may be the last person you want to be nice to at the moment. But you know something, Em, your feelings about Cora may change for the better, as may hers/his/theirs for you…which will also be good not only for you both, but also for your daughter who, I hope, continues to be the main focus of your relationship.

My very best wishes,
MG Holmes


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