Dear Debby,

My husband and I are recently separated and we are trying to keep it friendly for the sake of our children. But I've just discovered he started a new relationship shortly before he left me. How do I handle the upcoming holidays? I don't want to keep him from seeing our kids (they are away in school now) but I can't tolerate to be in the same room with him.


Recently Separated


Dear Recently Separated,

It is very important that you remain cordial and polite with your ex-husband and not speak negatively about him to the children. The children are totally innocent and the most important people in this unfortunate situation. They are trying to cope with suffering a loss in their lives and do not deserve to be caught in the middle. This rule is crucial to remember! Not only will you be doing the right thing for your children, it is the best thing for you in the long run. Your children will eventually understand what the reality of the situation is and they will come to deeply appreciate how you protected them from the pain of what was going on. No matter how dishonest your spouse's behavior was, if you speak negatively about him to your children and bring this down on them, they will associate some of that negativity with you. (Ever heard of the saying "Killing the messenger"?) You also leave yourself open to being accused of "driving him to it" with your behavior. Anyway you look at it, it is best for all concerned to take the high road.

HAVING SAID THAT, what he did hurtful and painful. You have the right to tell him that as far as the children are concerned, you will be polite, communicative and responsible. But, as far as he is concerned, you have separate lives and he will have to make arrangements to see the children separately, at yours and the children's convenience.

The first holiday season will be a bit awkward but it will soon pass and become your new life. It is better for the children to be with individual happy parents than joint miserable ones. Work very hard building a happy life for yourself and try to avoid dwelling on what he is doing. Every minute you focus on his life is one that you could have spent improving your own.

Happiness is the best revenge!

Best to you!