Ask Lisa: My Daughter Won’t Give Up On Her Ex


Daughter and Mother having a discussion outdoors

Dear Lisa,


My daughter’s husband left her and their two small children about nine months ago. I am worried about her because she still holds out hope that her ex-husband will come home. The divorce has been finalized (he didn’t want custody of the children so it went through relatively quickly) and they were married in the Catholic Church but she refuses to look into the annulment process, which is something I want her to do so she can be free of this man. But she insists she married her ex-husband for life and she wants to wait for him to come to his senses and return to the family. She spends a lot of time at church praying for this to happen. I’ve tried to talk some sense into her but she refuses to see that he’s not coming back. All her friends think she’s crazy for wanting him back and they are worried about her, too. How can I help my daughter get over this man who has hurt his family so terribly?


– A Concerned Mom in Michigan


Dear Concerned Mom,


My heart goes out to you! No doubt, you are suffering terribly as you watch these events unfold for your daughter and grandchildren and it’s only natural that you would want to help and protect your family. Your daughter is lucky to have you on her side.


You are dealing with one of the blurriest issues of divorce I can think of, which is handling your daughter’s desire to wait for her husband to come back while you believe the best thing to do is for her to move forward and leave the past behind. My suggestion to you at this moment is to step back and let her wait. Please allow me to explain why.


First, it sounds like you’ve done a great job raising your daughter because she understands the permanency of marriage and is willing to forgive her ex-husband for his transgressions. Her willingness to forgive him and take him back alone is an act of heroic virtue these days. The message society gives us is, Get rid of the bum! Make him pay! Very few people, if any these days, are willing to endure the hard work and suffering that comes with healing a marriage.


Here are some reasons why it would be important for you to continue to press your point with your daughter:


  • If her ex-husband was physically, verbally, or emotionally abusing her and/or the children
  • If there was some other danger present in the home (pornography, etc.)
  • If she has become depressed to the point she is incapacitated and doesn’t leave the house or needs help taking care of the children.


If none of these circumstances are part of the equation, my advice to you then, is to give her the space she needs to be true to her conscience. You helped her cultivate her conscience the right way, and now she needs to follow it until she feels a different direction is needed.


There is nothing wrong with hoping for the restoration of her family. Although a rare occasion, husbands have come back to their wives before. It also happens that sometimes husbands see the error of their ways and want to come back, but the wife has become so hostile and angry that she is the one blocking the door, making it impossible for the family to be unified again. It shouldn’t matter if her friends think she’s crazy for wanting her family restored, it’s her life.


Second, if your daughter is spending a lot of time in prayer over this situation as you explained, then I would trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Of course we know that God won’t force her ex-husband to return, but He will lead your daughter on the right path. When the time is right, she will know if and when the time is right for moving forward and beginning a new life for her and her children.


In the meantime, I’m sure having you around for positive support means the world to her. Let her talk about it as much as she wants to talk about it and you don’t have to give her all the answers. She needs to figure this out for herself. Just listen to her and support her, as you already have been, and you will be giving her a priceless gift.


Please count on my prayers for you, your daughter, and all your family.


Feel free to send your comments, questions or disagreements to



  1. Heather-983600 June 27, 2016 Reply

    I think this is terrific advice. After all it has only been 9 months. Sometimes people flake out for years and come back to the marriage. I would add one more caution to the list Lisa gave. If her x-husband is seeing prostitutes, which is common today with porn addictions, that would put both your daughter and the children in danger with these people showing up at the house or passing a disease on to her.

    My mother keeps pushing me to find another spouse, but I am just enjoying making friends and if anything turns into something then that is great. If not, God will show me His plan for my life. I am divorced and annulled, but you cannot push these things. My mom constantly pushes and it causes problems with our relationship. I just wish she would listen instead of trying to solve a problem that really isn’t there. I just wanted someone to share my feelings with.

  2. Mike-1213837 June 18, 2016 Reply

    I’m amazed by the number of people commenting here with the attitude that “the man isn’t going to change, so the mother should quit poking her nose where it doesn’t belong”.

    a. Catholicism is founded upon the very idea that people can change and become saints. And you’re prompting this mother to give up on her daughter’s admirable determination and hope that God will help her husband become a good man?

    b. This woman is honoring her marriage, in the Church, yet her own mother calls the man her “ex-husband” (there’s no such thing) and pushes for an annulment (as an annulment were something you get, not a confirmation of an existing problem). The woman is spending her time in CHURCH, praying that her husband will return! I cannot think of a better response to her situation, but her mother is trying to “talk some sense into her”.

    c. The husband, though failing his duties in the worst way, is this mother’s son-in-law. He is part of her family, her daughter’s chosen spouse, and yet there is no concern for him at all. I wonder what this mother’s reaction would be If her daughter had left HIM, instead of the other way ’round. How is it that she once considered him a suitable husband for her daughter (or didn’t bother to express her misgivings for him) but now chooses to treat him as a by-gone part of her daughter’s life that is best forgotten? A separation is good for NO-ONE; not the mother, not the wife, not the husband, and certainly not the children. And yet this concerned mother is doing her best to complete the rift in that joining which “no man shall put asunder” rather than doing her best to mend it.

    d. Certainly, the possibility of the husband refusing to return is present and likely. That does NOT excuse people (friends, family, not-so-well-wishers) from inundating this poor wife with the deluge worldly “just forget him and get on with your life” advice. When a loved one dies, do you “forget ’em, get on with your life, and find somebody to replace ’em”? No! You pray for them, remember them, and hope with all your heart that they are in Heaven. They were a part of your life, and even when new people come into your life, you make sure that they understand that without the deceased, you wouldn’t be who you are. But this woman’s husband left her, so (since it’s unfair) she gets to just forget her wedding vows (because he did it first!) and act like he never existed. No; she is handling it in exactly the way a Catholic wife and mother should. She turned her eyes to God, knowing that in him, all things are possible. Even if He chooses not to give her husband the grace to acknowledge his wrongs, He will give HER the strength and the grace to continue to be a Catholic mother and wife in the face of all difficulties, even the harshest. One of those graces should be that the wife will have a Catholic mother and father waiting to help her through all of those trials, not two worldly parents insisting that “you deserve better”.

  3. Anne-786009 March 30, 2013 Reply

    Dear Mom,

    Nothing you can do about the annulment…It is her life, just let go and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY, and GOD OUR FATHER, will do the rest…My mom always stayed out of her 9 children’ personal life and I learnt from her…We all have a challenging life to live and at our time and everyone deals indiffernt ways..Just be there for her…My son married a woman who is not baptised and their 2 beautiful children are not baptised either and all I do each day and during Communion is offer them up to GOD and he does the work…My son got married on top of a mountain by a real nice Lady Minister and I prayed for nice weather, Yes I am a very devout Catholic and do an hour of Adoration each week, but our children are GOD’S children…Yes I worry about my children and I have a daughter who is not married and has children, just grateful she did not have abortions and that is a Blessing. I will Pray…

    Anne in Ottawa, Canada

  4. Kathy-730470 March 25, 2013 Reply

    I think she is hoping because she has really not accepted that he left. She is not in the acceptance phase yet. She needs to see a counsellor so that she can accept and move on.

  5. Jessica-943679 March 24, 2013 Reply

    Women always give men a second chance. That is just my opinion. For those who disagree possibly have not been in a marriage with children and had that situation occur. Unfortunately, it is a second opportunity for the man (or women)to repeat his same actions. It maybe necessary for women to do this just so there is no doubt in their heart when she is betrayed that it is definitely over. If she listens to her mother and deep down longs to go back she will live in regret. She will feel what if…what a waste of time, especially if the outcome would of been the same. She needs a therapist. Whatever she does is her choice not her mom’s. She has to live with her mistakes and learn from them.

  6. Chelsea-743484 March 24, 2013 Reply

    I don’t see what’s wrong with the woman waiting for her husband to return. The wife, if separated from her husband, has the duty to reconcile with her husband if it is possible (Roman Catechism and 1 Corinthians ch. 12 vs. 10).

    IF she has good reason to believe the marriage is valid, then the divorce is merely a separation of bed and board, not a dissolution of the marriage… Also, if it is a valid marriage, and cannot be proven to a moral certainty otherwise, she will not be granted a Decree of Nullity.

    • Chelsea-743484 March 24, 2013 Reply

      Pardon me, that reference is supposed to be 1 Corinthians ch. 7 vs 11!

  7. Hector-898563 March 24, 2013 Reply

    My heart goes out to true christians that really try to hold on to thier beliefs and so forth;But lets be real about this,should she wait for ever or to a certain period only??Also,many of this men some times wind up with another woman and already starting another family—-so what does she do or think then?/This questions should be answere by her feelings and God alone,her MOMMY should buss off for awhile to let her daughter get a sign from GOD about this matter.Im almost certain ,that sooner or later GOD will search her true heart and respond accordingly!!

  8. Marguerite-935945 March 24, 2013 Reply

    Give her time. I left a very bad marriage after 27 years. Even though I was the one to initiate the divorce I still prayed for a reconcilliation. After 4 years I am finally finding peace. She is doing the right thing, taking her sorrow to God for His help.

    • Erlin-960021 May 23, 2013 Reply

      I have been in the same situation as yours. I need inner happiness and peace. Any advice?

      • Frieda-881749 June 15, 2013 Reply

        The Holy Spirit helped me so much when I left a 26 year marriage on the advice of his family! I was hoping for an intervention, but his family was not interested in pursuing one. Then the lies came out and I truly believe it was God’s work that cleared my blindness. Concerned Mom will have to allow her daughter to discover the “true” nature of her broken marriage, if it is broken. Also, her daughter will have to recognize the power of the devil and evil as they are so ever real. Weirdly, my ex would sign his correspondence to me with a quote from Dr. Faust. He truly did sell his soul to the devil.

        For those who are trying to heal I strongly advise Kristin Armstrong’s book, “Happily Ever After.” It truly is a remarkable daily devotional. My Catholic church had a separated and divorce group that was spectacular. I also attended Lisa Duffy’s Journey of Hope class, which helped me put things into perspective. I also read a lot on psychology,( men who cheat and lie), and also did counseling and did not realize the lessons that God was giving me so that I could be a better person and help others with similar experiences.

        I pray regularly for the families that go through divorce, because of the immense pain it causes. I also pray for the children of divorce as they truly are the innocent victims of this awful process.

  9. Jacqueline-198 March 22, 2013 Reply

    My heart goes out to the daughter but how can she trust him after what he did, trust is a huge element in a marriage (and relationships overall), that alone would make me leery…I hope and pray she finds peace and healing and proceeds with her annulment, he abandoned their marriage, and family, that speaks volumes as to the level of his commitment. I hope mom finds peace as well.

  10. Stephen-427110 March 22, 2013 Reply

    She needs to see a therapist. No way around this and no shame in doing so. Co-dependence can ruin your life if you let it.

  11. Cliff-924625 March 22, 2013 Reply

    The saying “Time heals all wounds” comes into effect here. The hurt will go away eventually.
    As family & friends, the best is to keep company and your presence will help relief the loneliness for transition. Don’t impose and be helpful would be my sharing.

    Have faith and do your magic and let God does His miracle.

  12. Olivia-111035 March 22, 2013 Reply

    Excellent advice, Lisa. There are stories of saints who travelled a similar journey as the daughter.

    May God’s grace and wisdom guide each person in this family in the way s/he should go. +

  13. Marge-938695 March 21, 2013 Reply

    Sharon, I have to disagree with your comment about getting out of alcohol situations. This is not something to be decided capriciously. Depending on the situation, a firm talk and professional help can salvage the problem drinker and the relationship. It did for my family.

  14. Marge-938695 March 21, 2013 Reply

    I realize, being a mother of grown kids myself, that a parent never stops wanting the best for the children.

    That said, how is it Mom’s business what daughter does from this point on?

    There’s nothing in the original letter to suggest that the husband is doing anything more than sowing some wild oats. Mom should shut up and offer to take the children on outings so daughter can start building a new life for them.

  15. Sharon-947268 March 21, 2013 Reply

    Personally, I think it takes more strength and courage to get out of an abusive marriage. Many people continue because of fear of the unknown or because its familiar. Two more points that should be added to the list are: Get out of any situation that has drug or alcohol abuse or any financial abuse!!! People who do these kinds of things to their families have totally represented themselves in a marriage anyway and can never be trusted or respected! Life is way too short and precious to waste on being miserable. Much better to be alone and live in peace. If you keep a positive attitude and trust in GOD, good things will come your way!!!

  16. Nilda-834707 March 21, 2013 Reply

    Wonderful advice from Lisa. Way to go Lisa!

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