I’m divorcing my husband but I can’t tell my mum because she never liked him’

My mother-in-law’s long-term partner has recently left her. They’d been together 12 years, although they never married, and he was a very big part of our family.

It was completely out of the blue and my mother-in-law is shocked and devastated. He hasn’t been in touch with my husband or anyone else in the family – he’s literally disappeared with no explanation.

He told her there was no one else involved, but that he’d just fallen out of love with her and wanted to make the most of the life he had left and that was it. Should we try to reach out to him?

He was a grandpa to our kids, so what do we tell them and how do we support my mother-in-law?

This is sad for all concerned. You can try to get in touch with him, as long as you’re doing it out of love and not anger.

His decision was hurtful for people left behind, but it’s also a brave decision he’s probably struggled with a while.

He probably feels very guilty and thinks you all hate him. So, if you want him to know you’d still like him to be a part of your lives in some way, it’s a good idea.

But if you want to scream and shout, then I’d resist the urge.

It’s his decision at the end of the day and sometimes you do have to walk away from a relationship, knowing it will hurt a lot of people.

Remember, you don’t really know what their relationship was like behind closed doors.

In terms of your mother-in-law, let her know you’re there for her and let her talk when she wants to vent. It’s difficult to explain to children, but the most important message for them is that he still loves them and it’s not about anything they’ve done wrong.

Dear Coleen

I’ve been married for four years, but we’ve recently decided to separate and start divorce proceedings.

My husband and I are both OK with this decision and just want to move on.

My problem is, I don’t know how to tell my parents, specifically my mum, who told me the marriage was a bad idea from the word go.

She said it would never last and was quite cruel about my husband, so we ended up falling out badly over it.

It turns out she was right, but it will kill me to admit defeat because I doubt she’ll be sympathetic.

Even if she didn’t agree with my decision, I feel she should have supported me. Can I rebuild my relationship with her?

Coleen says

You have to swallow your pride and ego, and say: “Mum, you were right.” You made your own choice and rightly so – and yes, your mum should have been more supportive, but maybe she saw something you’re only seeing now.

Rather than rowing about it, just hold your hands up.

She might say: “I told you so”, but look at it this way, at least your relationship can move forward.

And if she carries on gloating, then just say: “Look, Mum, it’s not easy for me and whatever you thought of him, I loved him at the time or I wouldn’t have married him.”

The best thing you can learn in life is to admit when you’re wrong and not be smug when you’re right. It’s only pride that gets in the way. You can both learn something from this and move on positively.

Dear Coleen

I’m a woman in my 30s and have a very good friend I’ve supported a lot over the years, as she was in an emotionally abusive marriage.

I took her and her kids in with me at one point and I’ve always been there for her.

Thankfully, she left her husband and they got divorced, but it was still tough for her afterwards, getting back on her feet and coping with two children on her own.

Now she’s met someone else and he’s actually a really nice and decent bloke.

However, since they got together a few months ago, she’s dropped me like a hot brick and whenever I do see her, her new partner is always there.

She’ll say: “do you mind if J comes, too?”, and what can I say? I can’t say no after all she’s been through.

I’m happy for her and don’t want to put a spanner in the works – she deserves to be with someone lovely – but I would like to see her on her own once in a while and I worry that our friendship doesn’t mean as much to her as it does to me.

What would you do?

Coleen says

I would let her have her moment. She ­probably thought she’d never meet anyone lovely after what she’s been through. I get that it’s difficult when you’ve been there for her through thick and thin, and been the person to prop her up, then she meets someone and you don’t see her for dust.

But since I met someone through a dating app a few months ago after being on my own for a long time ­post-divorce, I’ve kind of been on your friend’s side of things – and it is a juggling act.

People are thrilled for me but, equally, I have been guilt-tripped a bit as well because I’m just not around as much as I used to be.

But I think it’s fine to say to your friend: “I’m so happy you’ve met this man and I think he’s great, but I would love it if just you and I could go out sometimes and catch up because I miss seeing you”.

You’ve been through a lot together and I’m sure she’ll take it in the spirit it’s intended.

Also, your friend is in that really intense bit of a relationship when you can’t bear to be apart from your new love, but that will settle down in time and I’m sure she’ll be more available to see you and her other mates