I have never been close to my dad since he and my mum separated. At the time I was only eight, so I don’t remember much about it.
By the time I was ten, my parents reconciled and my dad was back in the house. As time went on he attempted to reach out to me and I was nice to him, but we weren’t close.
He made more of an effort with my brother and I was closer to my mum because, being a teenage girl, I needed her to talk to about girls’ stuff.
Now I’m 19 and have recently started at UB, but a few days ago I found a text on my dad’s phone.
It was from anotherwoman and read: “Hey, babe, I miss you.” I noticed that there were many texts from the same woman, signing off with “I love you” or “I miss you”.
This isn’t the first time my dad has cheated. He had an affair after my brother’s birth and the woman gave birth to a daughter who is my half-sister.
I feel sick to my stomach every time my dad looks at me. I can’t believe he’s doing these things again after all these years. This year is my parents’ 20th wedding anniversary and now I don’t know what will happen.
Part of me wants to tell my mum and another part wants to confront my dad, but I know he’ll deny it. I feel so confused and don’t know what to do.
Well, this is a horrible situation and you must feel very alone with this information. Even if your dad admitted an affair to you, it doesn’t mean he’s going to confess all to your mum.
There’s every chance he’ll plead with you not to spill the beans and promise he’ll end things with this other woman.
I would tell your mum what you’ve found, then the burden is off you and it’s up to your parents to deal with the situation as adults.
But even if it comes to light that your dad has been cheating and your mum kicks him out for a while, she may decide to take him back. Even if you don’t agree with it, you have to accept that it’s her life and her decision to make.
It sounds as if you are harbouring a lot of resentment for your dad because he wasn’t there for you when you were younger.
Maybe you also need to get those feelings off your chest and admit to him you feel let down. Why not let it all out?
Perhaps it’s what you have to do if you want to start a fresh page and build a positive relationship in the future.
My relationship with my boyfriend is breaking up, leaving me with our 6-year-old daughter.
The reason for our parting is because I can no longer put up with his cheating ways.
In the end he has to make a choice between the latest in a succession of new loves and me.
Despite our differences he has usually been a good father to our daughter and I know that she is very close to him.
He still wants to see and have time with her, and whilst I am not opposed to that, I don’t want another woman to be involved.
Please could you advise me on how to deal with these emotions.
If your relationship is breaking up you probably feel emotionally battered and physically drained.
You can wake having panic attacks in the middle of the night, and day-to-day life feels impossible. You’re at your lowest, and it’s hard to cope with anyone else’s needs – even your daughter’s.
With the best will in the world, it’s easy to snap if a little one cries for Daddy when he’s just left you for another woman, or a youngster moans that, “Mum would have remembered my football kit,” if you are a dad struggling to bring up a child on your own.
But how you and your former partner handle your children’s feelings through this crisis will affect the rest of their lives how they get on at school, how they behave towards you, how likely they are to get into trouble with alcohol and drugs, whether they can form happy relationships, how they will behave as parents.
It’s a huge responsibility, just at a time when you don’t feel you can cope with anything more.
But the basic guidelines on how to protect them from the worst of the fall-out from your relationship breakdown are quite straight-forward.
I often hear from parting parents who assume that, because they save the rows until the children are in bed or out of the house, they don’t know there’s anything wrong.
They believe that babies and toddlers who aren’t yet speaking don’t understand the rows and so won’t be harmed by them.
In fact, babies, toddlers and children of all ages are like extremely sensitive emotional satellite dishes finely tuned to their parents’ reactions.
They pick up the smallest hint of tension let alone outright anger.
They may not say anything about it but will be unsettled by it, feel unhappy about it.
Sooner or later their behaviour will reflect their distress.
It can help enormously if parents – maybe dads especially – take the time and make it easy for them to talk about how they feel.
Letting your ex spend time with his daughter will give them an opportunity to sit down for an honest heart-to-heart chat.
Of course try to keep any rows away from her, but be as honest as you can with her. Don’t try to pretend nothing is wrong.
Say you aren’t getting on but emphasise – as long as it’s true – that you and your partner both love her. Keep spelling out that it isn’t her fault – lots of children blame themselves for their parents’ relationship breaking down. Give her lots of hugs and reassurance.
Ask your daughter how she feels, if she has any worries – you will be surprised how much she instinctively understands of the situation.
Banning her from seeing her dad won’t help. If the two of you have parted ways and aren’t getting back together, you will have to accept that there is another woman in his life.
Your daughter too will have to come to terms with her emotions – just as she would if you meet someone and move on with your own life.
Talking to a councillor will help – see the list of contacts provided on this page.
WHERE TO GET HELP
- Lifeline Botswana - 3911290 (Face-to-face Counselling), 3911270 (Telephone Counselling)
- Childline Botswana - 3900900 (Children’s Issues, Counselling, Parenting Skills)
- Men’s Clinic – 3909402 (Male Sexual Health)
- Heart & Hands of Compassion - 73516022 (Face-to-face Counselling)
- BOSASNet – 3959119/72659891 (Substance Abuse Education, Prevention & Rehabilitation)
- BOCAIP - 3916454 (Counselling, HIV Testing, Care & Support)
- Ipoletse HIV/AIDS Call Centre – Toll Free Numbers 0800 600 700 / 711600
- CEYOHO - 3919958/71763659 (Counselling, HIV Stigma Reduction, Behaviour Change, Health Education and Support for Young People)
- Women Against Rape - 6860865 (Counselling, Legal Aid, Emergency Shelter)
- Kagisano Women’s Shelter Project - 3907658/9, 3900516 (Counselling, Medical & Legal Aid Support for Women and Children affected by Domestic Violence)