How's Your Marriage, Doctor?

Physician's Money DigestNovember 2005
Volume 12
Issue 15

Recently I wrote about male doctorswho divorce and then dateor marry a much younger woman.I focused on what attracts oldermale physicians to these women, andvice versa. I now want to discuss theissues they may have with their children.

Like children of divorce in general,physicians' sons and daughters havemixed feelings about meeting dad's newgirlfriend. Although there are many factorsto take into account, the length oftime that their parents have been separatedis key to children accepting a parent'snew loved one. Have they had sufficienttime to mourn their family as itonce was and accept that mom and dadwill not be getting back together? Thefollowing are some other questionsfathers may consider:

  • Are your children comfortable withthe current relationship that they nowhave with each parent?
  • Do they need order, sameness, andpredictability—stable family functionsthat were lost prior to and because oftheir parents' divorce?
  • Are they worried that someonenew in a parent's life will disrupt therecently found equilibrium?
  • Do your children feel that this newperson will take away time, affection,and companionship from that parent?
  • Even if they are ready to meet aparent's new partner, do your childrensense that their mom is threatened, andwill they be seen as betraying mom?

On the positive side, children mayopenly accept a new girlfriend. Theymay be concerned about their father,that he's alone and maybe lonely andneeds someone in his life to love. If theyare struggling with their mom, they maythink that dad's new girlfriend may benicer than their mother, perhaps morefun and not so strict.

Bear in mind that an age difference of20 years or more between their dad andhis girlfriend is harder for adolescents toaccept, especially if that child is a daughterand her father's girlfriend is not mucholder than her, the same age, or evenyounger. Led by anger or blind rage at afather's decision to date a woman whocould have attended school with his children,they may threaten to never speakto him again or adamantly insist thatthey never meet her. Could children notwant to meet their father's new girlfriendbecause they have formed a pact withtheir mother against their immature,self-centered, and insensitive father?With these shared views, it's hard for thechildren to meet dad's girlfriend withoutfeeling like they've abandoned theirmom. And if they do eventually meether, they may hate her.

The good news? Most of these childrensoften over time, but this can be aslow and agonizing process that takesyears, not months. If you're in a situationlike this, consider counseling withyour kids. A skilled therapist will createa safe milieu for everyone to air theirfeelings and listen to others. This shouldhelp all of you strive to create a new andredefined family.

, a clinical professor in the

Department of Psychiatry at the University of

British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, is the

author of Doctors' Marriages: A Look at the

Problems and Their Solutions (Plenum Pub

Corp; 1994) and How's Your Marriage?: A Book for Men and

Women (American Psychiatric Press; 1998). He is the past

president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and welcomes

questions or comments at myers@telus.net.

Michael F. Myers

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