My boyfriend and I met and fell in love three years ago, while we were both married to other people (we both have children). My marriage ended quickly. He felt he should try to work it out with his wife, but this past summer they filed for divorce. We brought our relationship out in the open. I know what we did was wrong, and I’m ashamed that it’s part of our history. My family accepts that we’re together. His family blames me for his divorce and thinks that I’m with him only because he’s financially stable. They stay in contact with his ex-wife and refuse to acknowledge my existence. His mother told him that it would be better for his kids if he moved away and let his ex-wife have sole custody. This Thanksgiving my kids are with their dad, and his kids are with their mom. My parents are going away to see relatives but I can’t join them. My boyfriend decided to spend Thanksgiving with his parents and siblings and their families, even though I’m not welcome. I understand that he wants to see his family. If we’re going to have a future, though, at some point he’s going to have to insist that we’re a package deal. Is it reasonable for me to still be punished in this way? Maybe I should just accept that I have to spend a solitary Thanksgiving.
I agree that if you two stay together his family is going to have to accept you, but his divorce is still quite recent and the feelings about his affair run so high that his own mother thinks he should abandon his children. So it’s going to take a lot of work to get them to come around; it’s possible they never will. But this first Thanksgiving is not a good test for you to press your case. I can understand you’re feeling abandoned, but you should either volunteer at a shelter or see if a friend can have you join their dinner. Your boyfriend wants to try to repair some very frayed relations with his family. It makes sense for him to spend time with them. Even though he’s not with his kids this Thanksgiving, it will be a huge benefit to them in the long run if he has decent relations with his extended family, who continue to be part of the lives of his children. Let this go this year, and lay low where his family is concerned. Maybe some less fraught holiday—try Arbor Day—he can tell his family it’s time they got to know the woman he loves.
I am a veteran public school teacher at a very needy school. I work in a small group setting with students who have academic trouble. I love my job and I love my students. However, I find myself having a very hard time enjoying the holiday season knowing the dire living situations that some of my kids are in. I report to authorities what is actionable. I buy snacks and coats when I can, and have even bought alarm clocks for kids whose parents aren’t getting them up to come to school. My school has some good programs to help fill the gaps. But when I am buying groceries or Christmas presents, I think, “How is it that some of my kids have food and presents and so many others at my school will be spending Thanksgiving break just waiting for school to open back up so they can have two meals a day and a safe place to be?” With SNAP benefits being cut, so many more of our school families are struggling. My husband is very supportive and never fusses at me for the things I buy for students, but he does encourage me to let go of the worries while I am at home. Do you have any advice?
Thank you for this reminder of what the spirit of the holiday season is really all about, and how grateful so many of us should be for simply knowing there will a warm bed tonight and food tomorrow. Your devotion is admirable, and so is your ability to make a difference in such an individual way. You should find solace that day in, day out, year in, year out, you are working to heal the world. But you have to keep in mind that you are like a doctor who treats the sickest patients. Yes, you should bring compassion to your task, but you can’t do your job to the best of your ability if you’re overwhelmed with the pain of the people you’re helping. You have to be able to put a limit on your worries so that you can recharge. You are also carrying too much of this burden alone. You can’t be the main community resource for these kids. There must be organizations that work to provide coats, food, and Christmas presents, to which you can pass along the names of your pupils. Enlist some of the school administrators to help make this happen. The work you do with your students can help them make better lives for themselves. So it’s essential for you, and them, that you don’t get burned out.
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