DEAR FIONA: My husband cheated, but I’m the one being punished

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Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on a painful divorce, what to do when a carer’s own health declines, and a teenager who’s discovered her father is watching porn.

QUESTION: I’ve been married for 25 years, and thought happily until I discovered my husband’s been having an affair with a ‘friend’ for over two years.

I have started divorce proceedings but, three months after throwing him out, it feels like I’m the one being punished. Our friends, who were nearly all joint friends, have drifted away and our sons seem not to want to get involved.

My head’s all over the place – sometimes I feel really angry, at other times I can’t get through the day without crying all the time and hate myself for being so weak. I have no real friends that I can lean on and my sister lives in Australia. I’ve had a few chats with her via social media, but the time difference doesn’t make it easy to have a long heart-to-heart.

What makes it worse is that my husband seems to be carrying on much as before. He’s moved in with the friend, and when I saw him in the gym last week, he was laughing and joking with his mates like nothing had happened. And he blanked me too!

It seems like everyone is rejecting me, and if this is what 25 years of marriage gets you, you can keep it.

FIONA SAYS: Please don’t be so hard on yourself, you invested 25 years in a man who betrayed that trust. Moreover, a marriage that had seemed sound has now failed, so it’s no wonder you feel as you do.

That said, please don’t feel that you are being rejected by everybody. People often find it difficult to help in these situations because they simply don’t know what to say for the best. Also, try not to judge your sons too harshly, as it’s possible they too are finding the situation difficult and may be trying to avoid taking sides.

You are three months into a divorce that could take weeks or possibly months to complete, so you need to prepare yourself for what could be a lengthy process. You’ll cope better if you have support, so I suggest you make a start by visiting Relate and the section dealing with separation and divorce.

You could also look at the divorce and separation section on the Family Lives website. Both organisations also offer counselling, if you feel that might help.

You might also find local support groups which would give you the chance to talk through your problems with others going through the same thing. There are also social groups out there, where you could meet others to simply have a chat and cup of tea and talk about anything other than divorce.

In the meantime, avoid making any hasty decisions, give yourself time to come to terms with what’s happened. Before long, I am sure you will start feeling more positive again, and this will put you in a better place to close out this chapter and move onto the next one.

QUESTION: My sister is 33, has learning difficulties and has always lived at home with our mother. This has not been easy, but for the last couple of years it has been even more of struggle because mum’s health is starting to deteriorate.

She finds it increasingly difficult to cope and, while I would like to help, I have three young children and a part-time job to hold down. I am increasingly worried about what will happen when mum’s health fails completely, but she seems unconcerned, saying that something will come along. What can I do?

FIONA SAYS: I think you’re right to be concerned, as this is a complex issue and accessing care services is never straightforward.

I suggest you contact Mencap and investigate what support is available. At some point, the care services will require an assessment of your sister’s disability, which may prove difficult if your mother refuses to participate.

In which case, I suggest you take every opportunity to convince her of the need to plan now, so that your sister can have the best available care when the time comes.

QUESTION: My husband and I run separate businesses from home. His work involves a lot of time out of the office and, because of this, I’ve always dealt with his calls – but he is so disorganised.

Most of the calls I deal with are about missing paperwork or missed appointments, and apart from getting me down, it’s starting to impact on my business.

We have an otherwise happy relationship, and I’m worried this might be affected by our work problems. I don’t know what to do next.

FIONA SAYS: It would be a great shame to allow this to affect your relationship, so I suggest you talk to him soon.

Explain that it’s getting you down and starting to affect your business, then suggest he gets his business calls diverted to his mobile phone, rather than the office.

Being in his car a lot shouldn’t be an issue with modern hands-free kits, and hopefully he’ll realise just how disgruntled some of his customers are.

Once he does, perhaps he’ll make a greater effort to be more organised, but even if he doesn’t, it shouldn’t be your problem any more.

QUESTION: I have known about my dad’s porn habits for a while, after accidentally stumbling upon it in his search history.

He watches porn at least every other day, at most twice a day, and the videos he watches have progressed from, well, ‘normal’ ones to teen and hardcore videos.

I find this particularly upsetting because I am only 16, the age that most girls seem to be in these types of videos, and I don’t know what to do – should I tell someone or just accept it?

DEAR FIONA: There’s much to be concerned about here. Firstly, what on earth is your father doing making it so easy for his 16-year-old daughter to view porn? Is it that he doesn’t know how to hide it, or does he just not care?

Secondly, why are you viewing the material? It’s upsetting you, so don’t look at it. Simply delete whatever entries you find in the browsing history or use another computer – in the library if there isn’t one at home.

I do think you should be talking to another responsible adult. As you don’t mention a mother, I assume she isn’t with you to talk to him and make him stop?

Exposing you to this and troubling you in this way is a form of abuse, and he absolutely needs to stop doing it. If you don’t have a family member you can talk to – or even if you do – contact Childline on 0800 1111 for help and advice. You can also use the one-to-one chat facility through their website.

You are in a bad situation, and you certainly shouldn’t be putting up with it one moment longer.

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