Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: a loveless marriage, an affair and a reclusive friend.
QUESTION: My husband is a loveless man who, after 11 years of marriage, shows me little or no consideration in anything I do and certainly no affection. If I could, I would leave him, the problem is I have no means of supporting myself.
When we first got together I had been working for our local council for four years but had to give this up, at his insistence, after we married. I suppose I should have realised then that all was not right, but I was young and thought I had found the love of my life.
Now, at 34, I can see no way out of the trap I have built for myself. I am miserable and depressed all the time. My husband controls the money, giving me only enough to run the house.
I have no formal qualifications, other than the A-levels I got at school, and no means to pay for further training. Thankfully we don’t have children – though I would have loved a family, it would have been a disaster with this man. Please help, I feel so trapped.
FIONA SAYS: Life must seem bleak right now but please don’t give up. I think you would feel more positive and less dependent on your husband if you had your own income – however small it is.
There are many service industry jobs that require little or no qualifications, for example cleaning or working in shops and restaurants. I accept that some may not be very fulfilling, and I am not suggesting for a moment that this is what you’d want to do for the rest of your life.
However, it will provide an income and some may give the opportunity for in-job vocational training. Crucially though, a job would also give you the confidence and resources to explore other career or education options, if that is what you want.
It will give you choices and, while going back to work may seem daunting, there are several resources available to help you. I suggest you make a start by using the National Careers Service website which has a wealth of advice on looking for jobs and how to apply for them.
It also has links to a number of other support tools including Jobcentre Plus when you’re ready to start job hunting, and sources of funding for training.
There are also many recruitment agencies you could approach and some have links to free online training courses, but avoid any agency that requires you to make any advance payments. Other online resources offering free online courses include open.edu and futurelearn.com.
If you do not have access to the internet at home, your local library should have terminals available, though you may need to book these in advance. It might also be a good idea to make an approach to the HR or personnel section of your former employer – you have four years relevant experience and they might have a suitable opening.
However you get there, a measure of financial independence should give you the will and confidence to move on from this unhappy marriage.
QUESTION: My husband forgot to take his mobile phone to work last week and I spotted that he has a gambling app on it. I am now worried sick that he is gambling in secret and may be running up huge debts.
I haven’t said anything yet because I don’t know how he will react, especially as we have always been very transparent about things in the past. Should I make an issue of this or just let it slide? I don’t know how I’d cope if he’s become addicted to gambling.
FIONA SAYS: The presence of the app doesn’t mean he has a gambling problem, he may not even be using it. However, as you have been open with each other in the past, I can see why you might be concerned by what appears to be a secret.
I think your only option is to talk to him and tell him that finding the app worried you, then ask him if there’s a problem. Hopefully, he was just curious and hasn’t used it, or perhaps he has always made the occasional bet and hasn’t said anything before because he feared you’d overreact.
If what he says doesn’t reassure you though, I suggest you contact Gamanon for support and advice.
QUESTION: I have been having an affair with a friend’s fiance. I know you’ll think I’m terribly wrong, but when we first started having sex he said he was going to leave my friend anyway.
Six months on they are still together and what’s more, he said last week that they’re getting married. I got angry with him and threatened to tell my friend that he has been sleeping with me.
He begged me not to do this and promised we can still see each other, just not as often. I still want to be with him, but it seems so unfair to me. How can he do this to me?
FIONA SAYS: The same way he can cheat on your friend for six months and still expect to marry her, or the same way he can string you along for six months then expect you to sleep with him after he’s married, just less often.
I am sorry if this sounds harsh, but he simply doesn’t care. If he’s willing to hurt the woman he is going to marry, what makes you think he’ll treat you any better?
The longer you let this continue the more you will be hurt and the more likely it is your friend will find out. End it now and look for love with someone who is genuinely free to return it.
QUESTION: I made a new friend last year at a conference and we hit it off straight away. He lives close to me and we’ve stayed in touch, but the problem is he never wants to go out.
He works all week and then goes into recluse mode in the evenings and at the weekend. He rarely answers his mobile phone and ignores most of my texts and social media posts.
I have managed to drag him out a few times though, usually by persistently ringing his doorbell. I hate having to do this and the silly thing is, once we’re out, he seems to really enjoy himself.
I know he studies a lot and has exams planned for the next few years but surely, he needs to get out more than this.
FIONA SAYS: Most friendships are lopsided to a certain extent, with one party doing most of the work to maintain contact. When it’s very unbalanced like this though it can be frustrating, as you’ve found.
You made it clear that you want to see him more often but, given his response, I think there is very little you can do about it. If he is happy as he is, any further pressure from you is only likely to make him withdraw further, especially if he’s studying something that’s important to him.
Perhaps you should accept this is how this friendship will remain and look to make other new friends but keep in touch with this one. You never know, in a few years’ time, when his exams are done, he might turn into a real social butterfly and make up for lost time.
Write to Fiona Caine c/o Elise Brewerton, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth PO6 3EN or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence, nor pass letters on to other readers.