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Ask Ellie: Sex between divorced parents shocks adult kids

Love, marriage and even sex are all perceived differently, based on people’s experiences and understanding.

Dear Ellie: I’m 53, divorced for three years. Neither my ex nor I have married or lived with someone else since our break-up. I’ve dated a couple of men casually, but mostly go out with my women friends or in mixed groups.

But my sex life is surprisingly active and regular since it’s with my former husband.

We were always passionate together from the beginning, and even while apart, we can’t give it up. You might wonder why we divorced. But the answer is simple and I believe more common than people realize: We cannot live together happily. I’m very social, thrive in the company of many, and love parties and celebrations.

My spouse was the opposite. He loves a quiet night reading at home, with few interruptions. He loathes cocktail parties and small talk, preferring a thoughtful debate on a major topic e.g., the environment.

Once our son and daughter each started full-time jobs in other cities, we felt that living apart was the only way to stay amicable, respectful, and connected so that we could still be “family” when our children visit, marry and have children.

So, it happened that my ex dropped by one night to discuss things and we ended up in bed, as sexually aroused as ever.

We’ve since met almost weekly, at my townhouse or his apartment (we sold our family home when we divorced).

Now, an issue has arisen: My son arrived one night without calling first, and realized that his father had been in my bedroom with me. He was visibly shaken as if we’d been “cheating!”

He stayed only a short while, and I heard the same tones of shock/judgement from my daughter when she later called.

How do I help my adult children understand that we’ve always loved each other, and that divorce was the only way we could stay close friends and care for each other when needed?

They seem to think that, if we can still have sex, we had no right to break up our family. Now my ex and me feel badly misjudged. Our view is that, had we remained together into senior years and older, the love we had for each other would’ve got lost due to our very different social vs. personal interests.

How do we resolve this misunderstanding and hurt feelings from our children?

Still Passionate Ex’es

Don’t overreact. Tell your children there was never a lack of love between their parents or between you two and your children.

Naturally, when youngsters, they didn’t focus on their parents’ separate interests… i.e., Dad was a reader, Mom loved being with people, and socializing. Those daily differences were the norm in their home and they never thought about how they affected you two.

Remind them, if true, that, at no time did you two fight openly, nor speak ill of each other (you’ve mentioned having a loving bond throughout the marriage).

If they’re having a problem with middle-aged sex, brush it off. What they’re really reacting to, is what it means in terms of your divorce.

Spell it out: You both expect to be there for each other through all the years ahead. You love each other, period. Sex is a natural part of life, and it’s always been important between you two, no matter the other differences.

Let this information settle in their minds. Hopefully, they’ll soon stop thinking about it… or else they’ll start to have a new understanding of what profound love can accept and embrace.


Reader – “My grandkids call me “Abuela” for “Grandma” in Spanish. My daughter-in-law asked me when my first grandchild was going to be born “What is the word for Grandma in Spanish?”

“So that’s my name now with all my grandchildren and my husband adopts it sometimes, too, as it’s also used as a term of endearment.

“To “Nonna” - I say go for it, if you like the Italian one, for Grandma. There’s nothing to be ashamed of from other beautiful languages.”


Reader – “I’m a counsellor myself and, despite gender equality issues, I’m also fascinated by the differences in behaviours between men and women, much of which has been substantiated by current brain research.

“I often refer couples to the (now rather ancient) book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray, to help build better understanding of communication differences between these “aliens” living together in one home.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Love, marriage and even sex are all perceived differently, based on people’s experiences and understanding.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].