q I am a man of about 80 years old and recently I have been worrying about something that happened almost 60 years ago.
I was married to my first wife for 20 years, but we divorced when our daughters were teenagers.
Before we got married, she told me she had had a baby when she was 18, but was sent to London to give birth and forced to adopt it. This was the 1960s, when this was common practice.
At 18, my ex-wife was forced to give her son up for adoption.
I don’t know if he ever told our daughters. They are now 50 years old, have their own adult children, and if they know, they have never told me anything.
I confided in my mother shortly after I got married and my second wife knows it too: we were married more than 30 years ago and have a daughter and grandchildren together. Sadly, my ex-wife died four years ago.
My daughters are still close to their sister, their aunt, who knows the past, but I don’t know if she has told them anything. I am not sure what to do. Should I talk to them?
TO It’s sad that you and your first wife never felt able to have this conversation with your daughters, and I wonder if it was because she carried a burden of unwarranted shame. As you know, her story is just one of tens of thousands in a tragic legacy of young mothers forced to give up their babies for adoption from the 1950s to the mid-1970s.
Women (sometimes still children) were often taken far from their homes and forced to give birth without family support or prenatal care. Emphasis was placed on hiding something that was considered embarrassing rather than offering support to the mother and baby.
I wonder why he haunts you so much now. Perhaps with the death of your late wife and her advanced age, you are thinking about your own mortality and realizing that if you don’t tell your daughters, this story will die with you.
In life in general, more problems arise from not talking about things than the other way around – and my initial inclination is that your daughters should know this.
In life, more problems arise from not talking about things.
However, a word of caution. Although they are old enough to deal with the emotional situation, her daughters might be upset that her mother never told them about her half-brother, especially since she is no longer alive to answer her questions. There is also the half-brother to consider.
While it can be wonderful to locate an adopted sibling, things don’t always work out. If he was placed in care or has had a difficult life, he may resent the daughters his mother raised.
So first of all, talk to your wife about all this, but also contact pac-uk.org, a charity that supports those affected by adoption, to talk things through and help them decide the best course of action. If you get along well with your late ex-wife’s sister, it would be a good idea to get her opinion as well.
He’s not sure whether to get back together with his ex.
q I have been divorced for five years and recently met a lovely man. Things were going well until he dropped the bombshell that his ex-wife was begging him to come back. He says that he doesn’t love her, and that he loves me, but it is difficult for him during the week to be away from her children, both under 12 years old.
He has told me that they miss him too and that his ex is not coping well without him. He has asked if we can stop seeing each other for a few months while he decides. Should he give it time or leave?
TO The most difficult thing for divorced parents is to see their children only part-time. It’s why people often stay in difficult marriages (at least until their children leave home).
However, if you accept this agreement, you will suffer agony while he weighs things. And even after a few months, he may still be undecided.
By saying that she doesn’t cope well without him, her ex tries to hold him responsible for her happiness. If they really aren’t a couple anymore, then that’s not her role, while the flip side is that he’s clearly kind in not wanting her to be unhappy.
My concern is that his dilemma could last for years, if you let it, so you need to talk to him about the pain he causes you. You could give him some time to decide;
I suspect that if he comes back, they may break up again. However, without telling them, set your own deadline. If, for example, six months from now you’re still caught up in the emotional turmoil of his ex’s life, it’s time to move on.
In the meantime, don’t stay home waiting: go out, have a full social life, and stay busy.
YoIf you have any problems, please write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email email@example.com. You can follow Caroline on X/Twitter @Ask_Caroline.
Caroline reads all your letters but regrets that she cannot respond to them personally.