Q: I was married for 17 years. We met at the university, but she stopped when she got pregnant on our honeymoon.
We had three children and were very busy, separately. I knew many years ago that we had grown in very different ways. Her life was almost all about the children. I spent what time I could with them. She did not share my other interests (my work, sports, fitness).
I had an affair with my colleague. We got married after divorcing my wife four years ago.
I have stayed close to our children and we all come together. My ex and I are more than civic when they are around our children and when there are serious questions to discuss.
But she has been diagnosed with depression from the day I left. She is on medicine, sees a therapist, but speaks regularly about suicide (never attempted). My oldest daughter says that her mother often cries or sleeps.
I feel guilty sometimes, but have no idea how to help her.
ONE: Nobody will give you a medal for care, but it's important that you do for everyone's sake.
She must continue her treatment. The sessions are her safe place to try to understand what happened and heal.
But you, your children (her parents?), A close friend, can warn her therapist and her doctor about any worrying changes. Keep the numbers handy for everyone, including a mental health unit of a hospital – if the suicide query escalates.
In the meanwhile, see a counselor himself. Another professional may have suggestions on how to make your one-time fault an approach that can help your ex focus on engaging with life again.
You can not be her rescuer, but you can take some responsibility when she is at risk of hurting herself.
Q: Our adult daughter's husband can not work because of a medical problem. He has been waiting for an unlikely disability payment. My daughter is the only breadwinner and her job is in danger.
They will move in with us (plus our grandchildren, 4 years) and / or get us to support them financially.
After many years of struggle, we finally have some savings if one of us (both early 70's) needs home care, medical equipment, etc.
Our other adult children (four more grandchildren) also need, but have not requested help.
We love our daughter, her spouse and our grandson. However, I feel that they should expire any pension savings (RRSPs) or other savings before returning to us.
We feel guilty if we do not help them keep their houses, but we fear losing our own savings, security and independence and peace. (Three more people in our house are three to many).
But my daughter experiences great stress and I do not want our decision to be the reason for a breakdown.
ONE: There are other ways to help. Research the potential disability payment route (go online: Canada has a website to make a disability requirement if you live in the United States, disability plans are more vague but should be pursued).
Also insist that the couple meet with their bank manager and accountant and use their own savings and RRSPs for now.
Encourage them to discuss possible opportunities with an accountant – eg. the couple rent their house out and move to a smaller, cheaper apartment.
Explain your personal concerns for your own future to this couple. Then encourage your daughter to see her doctor to cope with her stress while the couple is wondering how to handle this change.
Ellie's tip of the day
Feeling guilty of fraud / divorce does not change an ex's response, but attention to mental health signals can help others respond to her needs.
EXPERT ADVICE. IN YOUR INBOX: Subscribe to the star's advice newsletter, get the latest on relationships, etiquette and more.
Read Ellie Monday to Saturday Email [email protected] or visit her website, ellieadvice.com. Follow @ellieadvice.