Q: I was married for 17 years. We met in the university but she quit after she became pregnant on our honeymoon.
We had three children and were very busy, separately. I knew years ago that we'd grown in very different ways. Her life was almost totally about the kids. I spent whatever time I could with them. She did not share any of my other interests (my work, sports, fitness).
I had an affair with my co-worker. We married after I divorced my wife four years ago.
I have stayed close to our children and we are all getting along. My ex and I are more than civil when around our kids and when there are serious issues to discuss.
But she's been diagnosed with depression from the day I left. She's on medication, sees and therapist, but periodically talks of suicide (never attempted). My eldest daughter says her mother's often weeping or sleeping.
I feel guilty sometimes but I have no idea how I can help her.
A: No one will give you a medal for caring, but it's important that you do, for everyone's sake.
She must continue her therapy. The sessions are her safe place to try to understand what happened and healed.
But you, your children (her parents?), And a close friend, can alert her therapist and her doctor of any worrisome changes. Keep the numbers handy for all, including that of a hospital mental health unit – if the suicide talk escalates.
Meanwhile, see a counsellor yourself. Another professional may have suggestions on how to turn your sometime-guilt into an approach that might help your ex focus on engaging with life again.
You can not be her rescuer, but you can take some responsibility when she's in danger of harming herself.
Q: Our adult daughter's husband can not work due to a medical issue. He's been waiting for an unlikely disability payout. My daughter is the sole breadwinner and her job is at risk.
They want to move in with us (plus our grandchild, age 4) and / or have us support them financially.
After years of struggle, we finally have some savings in case one of us (both early 70s) needs home care, medical equipment, etc.
Our other adult children (four more grandkids) also have no need but need help.
We love our daughter, her husband and our grandchild. However, I feel they should exhaust any retirement savings (RRSPs) or other savings before turning to us.
We feel guilty if we do not help them keep their house, but we fear to lose our own savings, security, and independence and quiet. (Three more people in our house are three too many).
Yet my daughter is experiencing huge stress and I do not want our decision to be the cause of a breakdown.
A: There are other ways to help. Research on the potential disability payment route (go online: Canada has a website for making a disability claim; 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.
Urge them to discuss feasible options with an accountant – e.g. the couple rents their house out and moves to a smaller, less expensive apartment.
Explain your personal concerns for your own future to this couple. Then, urge your daughter to see her doctor to manage her stress while the couple figure out how to handle this change.
Ellie's tip of the day
Feeling guilt from cheating / divorce will not change an ex's reaction, but alertness to mental health signals may help others respond to her needs.
EXPERT ADVICE. IN YOUR INBOX: Sign up for the Star's 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.