Published November 18, 2010
Q: Years ago my former husband was convicted of molesting our daughter (now age 9), and his parole will be ending soon. Our children (we also have a son, age 11) haven’t seen him since 2002 and neither one remembers him. I’ve been told he’s in a good church and is doing well. I’m trying to decide if he should have any contact with our children – even letters and pictures. I’m not comfortable with this and I don’t want to risk hurting my kids again after we’ve made so much progress. But I also don’t want my kids to hate me or blame me for not letting them know their dad. What do you think?
Juli: Your situation is such a difficult one! It sounds like you’ve had to walk through a lot of pain. I can understand your hesitancy to reconnect your children with their father, even in light of the healing and growth he appears to have experienced.
The parent-child relationship is sensitive. A child is in a completely vulnerable position, trusting a parent to provide safety and love. When a parent violates that trust in such a harmful way by abusing or molesting his children, he rightfully forgoes the privilege of parenting.
As harsh as it might sound, I would discourage you from initiating contact between your children and their father right now. They’re too young to understand that dad may love them, but may not be a safe person for them to be around. Perhaps you could encourage a relationship when they’re older (late teens or early adults) and less vulnerable to being hurt by their dad. In the meantime, their safety and innocence are your top priority.
Your children may be resentful that you’re withholding from them a relationship with their father. But parents sometimes need to make difficult and unpopular decisions that are in the best interests of their kids, trusting that with time they will understand.
Q: After two years of marriage, my wife says she doesn’t love me anymore. This is devastating because I love her with all my heart. There’s no abuse or nasty habits, we attend church regularly and we’ve both been faithful. But this is not the first marriage for either of us. Until I was asked to move out several months ago, I seemed to have a great relationship with her and her two sons. She says she’s “not happy” and unless her feelings change in 60 days, she’ll file for divorce. What can I do?
Jim: Your desire to preserve your marriage is commendable. It’s impossible to know for sure without more information, but your wife seems to believe that the marriage should end simply because she doesn’t feel “in love” with you any more. The strongest marriages grow out of a rock-solid commitment on the part of both spouses – a commitment that doesn’t waver with fluctuating emotions and feelings. In fact, it’s possible that if your wife could grasp the importance of the commitment she made to you when you got married, those feelings of love could return.
Regardless, it’s imperative that you and your wife find a quality marriage counselor during this critical time – one that can help you both work through your feelings and find a way back to that bedrock of commitment. (For help in finding a counselor, visit Focus on the Family’s website.) If your wife still feels the same way after visiting the counselor – or if she won’t agree to counseling in the first place – you should not beg her to stay. But I pray it won’t come to that.
Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the Focus on the Family radio program, and a husband and father of two.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.
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