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 ASK ZELDA: Our relationships expert Zelda West-Meads answers your questions

ASK ZELDA: Our relationships expert Zelda West-Meads answers your questions

Zelda reads all your letters but regrets that she cannot answer them all personally

How can she avoid an acrimonious divorce? 

My lovely daughter, who is in her early 40s with two young children under ten, has just served divorce papers on her husband without warning. He is absolutely furious. She knew he would explode as he has a terrible temper and she has been quite frightened of him throughout their marriage. He is wealthy and very controlling and he says he will fight tooth and nail to keep his money and access to the children. My daughter has had to use all her savings to pay her lawyer and is now running into overdraft. The only way we could help financially is to mortgage our house. We love her so much but think that if we do this, her husband might think he has been let off the hook financially. She cannot bear to stay with him until the children are grown up. What can she say to ease the tension without prolonging the agony? I think they have both fallen out of love.

I expect that it was a huge shock for your daughter’s husband and this is one reason why he is so angry. To you it might not have seemed the most sensible decision; however, it is understandable, as she is scared of him. The trouble with controlling men (or women) is that when things are not going their way, they tend to get even worse. Could she and the children live with you while the divorce goes through and the house is sold? If not, your daughter (or you, or perhaps his parents or siblings) could explain to him that it is very damaging for the children if the parents have an acrimonious divorce, and ask him to be civil and keep his temper for their sake – if he is always angry, he probably won’t have a very good relationship with them after the divorce. She could also remind him that he doesn’t love her and that, as painful as it is now, he will be happier in the long term. Any settlement should leave her financially comfortable (and hopefully with custody of the children) so she should ask her lawyer if she could pay their fees after the divorce. They might be able to make her husband pay her an allowance. Ask them, too, what the legal position is if you lend her money. It would be best not to mortgage your house at this time in your lives. Your emotional support in helping her stand up to her husband is vital and I am sure she is glad to have such loving and supportive parents.

My partner’s ex aims to win him back 

I recently had a massive row with my partner of five years and we split up. He immediately started going out with another woman, who is manipulative and only seems to be interested in naming-and-shaming people on Facebook and taking endless selfies – she is 46! Our private life has been plastered all over social media. My ex now wants me back and this woman has asked if she can come to my house to talk it through. I have told him that if we do get back together, he has to cut off all contact with her. However, I think she’s determined to keep him no matter what.

I expect that the reason your partner initially thought this woman was so wonderful was because he met her on the rebound from your argument. However, it now sounds as if he is having second thoughts about her as he wants you back – perhaps not surprisingly given how you describe her. I don’t think it is a good idea to meet her, and certainly not at your house. I suspect she only wants to tell you how wonderful their relationship was, how great he is in bed and how he does not love you, which may not be true but which would be very hurtful. If you and your partner do want to stay together and you still love each other, it sounds as if your relationship needs some work. I suggest contacting Relate ( for counselling together to help you handle arguments better and decide what to do. 

His son is coming between us 

Six months ago I met a lovely man. We get on really well and now see a lot of each other. He has two children who live with his ex-wife but visit him at weekends. The problem is that his son, who is 15, hates it if his father sees anyone else or has a girlfriend as he fears that his father won’t love him as much or won’t spend any time with him. I am now uncertain about the future of this relationship, but I do care for this man very much and these feelings are returned.

I imagine his son is pretty upset by his parents’ separation and minds that he sees less of his father, so he may worry that if someone new comes into his father’s life he will see even less of him. Also, children of divorced parents often hope that their parents will get back together. His father needs to tell him how much he loves him and gently explain that they won’t be getting back together but that he really wants to spend lots of time with him. It is important to encourage his son to talk about his fears and give him lots of reassurance that a new girlfriend will not mean that he will love his son any less. It is also important that he does not allow his son to control his life. He needs to take things reasonably slowly so, perhaps for now, he should do some fun things with his son and his other children which include you, but also sometimes see them on his own. As for the future, try not to worry. If you are patient and kind and take a bit of a back seat, in time his son should start to feel more relaxed and accept that you are part of his father’s life and hopefully come to enjoy your company, too.

  • If you have a problem, write to Zelda West-Meads at: YOU, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS, or email