Ask Susan: My Children Are Paying For My Mistake

by Susan McKenna for

 I accept what I did in our relationship was wrong – but I don’t accept not being a father to our two children.

Right now my daughter is ‘echoing’ many of the same words my wife uses about how I need to be held accountable for the things I did five or more years ago and how I don’t care about or love my children as much. 

Needless to say we’re going through a difficult time and your words/perspective have shined a little light on the situation.  My wife professes to be a Christian who “prays for me” and I hope one day she’ll find the forgiveness and acceptance you found in your life.  In the mean time I want her to consider the complex feelings of our children.


Susan’s Reply:

Your wife is still hurting, even if it was 5 years ago.  Although you admit to “accepting” what you did was wrong, that doesn’t mean she did.  Whether right or wrong, her inability to accept what you did or her hanging on to that hurt is affecting your daughter and your relationship with your daughter.

I can suggest something that you might not want to do, but might want to consider, especially if it has a tiniest of chances to help improve the situation.

Through your acceptance of what you did, find a way to say to your ex: “I am sorry that our marriage didn’t work out, and for whatever I did to end it.  I never set out to hurt you, but I know I did and I know that you are angry.  I want you to hear, that I am sorry I hurt you.  I don’t want our children to hurt like you are.  But I also want you to know, I want to be a good father, but you need to let me be that person.  Can we try to focus on what will make the kids still feel loved and secure with both of us?”

You wouldn’t believe what that will do to restore communication, let go of the past so she can begin healing and improve your relationship little by little with your children, as it sinks in.  Again, you have nothing to lose, but it really does make a difference to wives who feel that they have been wronged.

Susan McKenna is a speaker on issues of single parenthood, and the author of Feelings Only I Know  and More Feelings Only I Know, both books deal with children and divorce.

Write McKenna at

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5 comments on “Ask Susan: My Children Are Paying For My Mistake

    Wow. Once again, i don’t believe a thing this author is saying. she should have listedn to her own advice during her marriage and divorce. If thsi is who i think it is, she has two messed up boys because of the way she treated their father.

    Divorce doesn’t wreck kids – One sick parent does…and you only have to visit
    You good guys aren’t gonna get the attention you deserve until you police your own ranks! I have an ex-son in law who who has re-married after divorcing my daughter 8yrs ago. This guy is NOT representative of most men… He divorced our daughter because he got arrested for sexually assaulting a 14yo friend of the family after supplying her with alcohol at a family party. He spent his wealthy brother’s money for the divorce and plea-bargained his charged down so he wouldn’t have to serve time. He’s an ass to this day and bully’s the kids with the help of his new wife. The kids love him but at 12.5 and 15 they don’t want to be told they have to keep their two world’s totally separate. The kids don’t know about his history. He won’t talk to our daughter about the kids. She has tried for the sake of the boys to pretend that he is a reasonable human being for years. He is a paranoid, drinking alcoholic who is so self-consumed the kids are afraid to upset him! Why would the courts allow a mother or a father with that kind of history to terrorize the ex and kids during ordered visitation for all these years? Oh, the 15yo is flunking out of school because he can’t concentrate on growing up and the 12 yo isn’t much better. Why can’t the poor kids decide when to see him under those circumstances? They know he has serious control problems and hate his wife for being as divisive as he is. You know… I just can’t say “poor guy”. You should see what it has done to the kids. [b][/b][i][/i][b][/b][i][/i][i][/i][u][/u]

    Woman who agrees completely!
    I have to say that after reading Susan’s perspective on the issue I was a bit disappointed. Yes every effort should be taken to encourage mutual communication and support, however this woman has obvious anger and emotional issues that cloud her judgment. She is including her children in her “pain” which is something that the state mandated parenting class teaches us not to do. It has been long enough for her to either move on or get help with HER issues. Being on the other side of the issue, I always nurtured my girls’ relationship with their father no matter what he did to me and that resulted in him respecting me as a mother and as a human being. Respect is earned and you get what you give. It also made sure our girls were loved and secure. Don’t hate on all women guys. We are not all MEN haters. I am dealing with a similar situation with my brother. He has shared custody across the board but his ex moved out of state saying he could see his daughter more if he allowed it. He has not seen his daughter in 8 months because she and her new husband deem my brother as unfit due to the fact that he lost his job and had to switch careers due to injury and was unable to pay his support for a time. DCS refused to modify or review so he was abused and harassed continuously by his ex and her husband even including trying to get him to sign away his rights. They refuse to allow us to even see or talk to his daughter and it is really out of hand. Now that he is caught up on support I and my mother are starting war on his behalf. He is convinced he can’t fight her, but I can. Cheers to all the men out there that want to be good fathers but still have a rough time like the rest of us.

    Two wrongs don’t make a right
    I agree with Harold, that man’s ex knows exactly what she’s doing and after five years there’s simply no excuse. She needs to get over her anger and bitterness and stop mentally abusing that child. It is my considered opinion that the harm she’s causing that child is worse than anything the husband has done as long as he wasn’t abusive to either of them.

    I have a situation what I left my wife simply because it was 22 years of unhappiness. My ex has told me a number of times that If I don’t want her I don’t want my children. Who thinks that way? Is a person supposed to stay in an unhappy relationship out of fear of his children being held for some sort of emotional ransom?

    Sadly, the courts don’t take this sort of thing into consideration although they definately should. Emotional abuse is abuse is abuse is abuse and should not be tolerated. It’s difficult to get custody of children on those grounds but I believe the law should be changed to give men more power when it comes to custody and visitation. It takes a lot to find a mother unfit when they continually ignore emotional abuse and using children to inflict pain because the relationship has ended for whatever reason.
    Divorce court is a woman’s realm. The family laws that govern these cases are so antiquated. Also, a lot of men are deadbeat dads and don’t really care about children. That makes us all look bad and it seems that we’re all lumped into one huge deadbeat dad category when it comes to getting our fair parental rights during divorce and separations. It’s a truely scarey place indeed for males.

    Nice idea, but let’s get real!
    I am in an almost identical situation as the letter writer. The sad fact is that a parent who alienates children from the other parent by disparaging that parent to the children is usually not acting rationally. Sure, saying you’re sorry and trying to get the alienating parent to “focus on what will make the kids still feel loved and secure with both of us” is nice, but the truth is that the alienating parent thinks he or she is doing the right thing, somehow “protecting” the children for the evil ex. Sadly, it is usually the mother who does the alienating, and the children suffer a lifetime of misery and confusion. Also, if the letter-writer were to say what Susan suggests, his ex would no doubt have a good laugh, at best. His ex knows exactly what she is doing, and she thinks she is doing the right thing. In addition, if the letter-writer’s ex is goofy enough to disparage him to his children, she has not taken her share of responsibility for the damage to the marriage. No parent should have to endure the pain this man and his children are going through by his ex’s disparagement. SHE needs to be held responsible for HER actions, and a big part of that is taking responsibility for her anger and keeping it from harming the children. Five years and still so angry? She needs to get over him. Having him say “I’m sorry, I was a bad boy, let’s work together for the sake of the kids” will only empower his ex to continue alienating.

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