top of page

Will separation damage my daughter? How to manage split damage


My husband and I are separating after 10 years of marriage. I'm not sure if it was a mid-life crisis, his spending more time in Asia or being the superstar in his new bank that changed him.  Not only has he turned into one of those MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra), he has also become a collector of women.He announced over WhatsApp that he was leaving the relationship. Then just before a trip to Africa to select interns for his bank, he asked to have the "talk" in a cafe near my office.  He said he didn't want the commitment any more because of his work; he needed to move on and he was seeing someone else.  I was heartbroken but it did not come as a surprise.He also suggested we should talk to our adopted teenage daughter in the cafe after his return so she won't create a scene. Our daughter has been finding it difficult in the six months since he changed job.  Her father has made it clear that when he is in town he would now rather spend time with his godson and the boy's mother for mountain bike training than see my daughter and me.  I worry for my daughter about the long-term effect of having a father who wants to break the news of our separation in a cafe, so he does not have to face any drama. I want her to be able to love and trust men, although not be gullible like myself. How can I prepare my daughter for this nasty talk?


I am proud of you. The crosses you've had to bear would have unhinged many women.  But instead of weeping in despair you still think of the consequences this will have on your daughter's life. That is a real act of love and bravery.However, to help your daughter, you first need to help yourself.


You realise that you shouldn't have had to sit through his talk justifying his actions, so why do you think your daughter should?Her developing sense of self and your recovering sense of self and pride should not be overshadowed by his lifestyle choice.  I would suggest you and he talk to a counsellor (separately first) and let the counsellor be the mediator for the talk of separation.


Your husband has already moved on physically and emotionally, but he might still care about your daughter.  Besides, helping his adopted daughter to cope with the separation surely will gain him admiration.  Also, his bank likely will pay for the therapeutic service. Once you agree on what to tell your daughter, deliver the news together in a safe environment.  Your daughter deserves to be treated with dignity, and to have her childhood protected.  Teenage girls need role models of both sexes when forming relationships.  If her father isn't the best person, find an appropriate adult so she can share her worries and hurt.


Many banks have very good health care plans. While you are still married, make good use of it for yourself and your daughter.  You will need emotional support during your divorce, to rebuild your self-esteem and your life.  Lawyers handle your legal and financial matters, but they are not there to hold your hand during the most difficult times.  Your daughter could also benefit from working with someone to help her see how worthwhile she is. 


Her father's lack of interest in her is a loss that she will need to process to affirm that she is lovable.  While you are still under his medical insurance, you should also have a full physical check-up - you don't need the threat of diseases to be added onto your list of worries.Be kind to yourself.  Many emotionally abused victims harm themselves (with alcohol, or by overeating or not eating).Don't be too hard on yourself.


Once you have been hit by a truck and survived the ordeal, you will naturally look harder the next time you cross the road.  But don't let the experience stop you from crossing the road again.  Everyone deserves a second chance, including you.


Lora Lee is a child therapist and parenting counsellor with a background in developmental psychology, play therapy and post-separation counselling

SCMP, Lifestyle, Family & Education, Relationships: 3 March  2014

bottom of page