Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: grief, a nosy sister and a young marriage
QUESTION: My wife of 40 years died last month, and it’s like my whole world has collapsed.
I’ve always prided myself on being tough and able to roll with the punches, which has meant not showing my feelings.
Now I feel completely beaten down and since her funeral, I’ve been on my own most of the time. I’ve refused company, even though friends have offered, and I just mope around this empty house and cry.
I’ve never shared my feelings with strangers and it’s a surprise to me that I’m writing to you, but I can see that I can’t go on like this.
My wife was my soulmate and I miss her so much that I almost wonder if it’s worth going on without her.
FIONA SAYS: I am so sorry for your loss and, as you and your wife were together for so long, it’s going to be particularly hard for you to live without her.
You are going through the most devastating experience anyone ever has to suffer and I’m not at all surprised that you feel completely beaten down.
You may find it hard to share your feelings with strangers but you might be surprised how many of them would be willing to offer you help and support at this tragic time.
If you really feel you can’t turn to your friends, do think of contacting CRUSE, the national bereavement care charity.
Strangers they may be, but these are people that really do understand what you are going through. Please don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed about asking for help - everyone needs a hand sometimes.
QUESTION: I am planning to get married next summer, when I will be 18 and my fiance will be 20.
My parents refuse to accept the idea and have said they think I’m too young. They won’t listen when I try to argue with them about it, and we’ve had some furious rows.
They’ve not come right out and said they won’t support me, but they refuse to discuss my wedding plans with me and I think we may just have to go it alone.
I’d like them to be a part of it, but what can I do to convince them I’m serious?
FIONA SAYS: As so many young marriages fail, I’m afraid I can understand your parents’ reluctance to be too encouraging, especially if they’re not convinced by your fiance’s feelings for you.
You say you’ve had some furious rows and that you want them to be part of this wedding, but have you and your fiance tackled your parents together? Has he actually told them he wants to marry you – or, better yet, asked their permission to do so?
I know this sounds very old fashioned, but if they haven’t seen any involvement from your fiance in the plans you’re making, that may be what they’re waiting for.
Unless they’ve spoken to him and discussed how he feels, it could be that they think this is all fantasy on your part.
What words are you using when you talk to them? Do you say ‘I’ am engaged; ‘I’ am going to get married; ‘I’ am planning this wedding, or do you say ‘we’?
They need to be convinced that he is a part of this and it might help if the two of you were to face your parents together, calmly and encourage them to explain what is worrying them. It could certainly help to take the conflict out of the situation.
Don’t lose your temper, and let them have their say, because it could be they have some valid points to make, especially bearing in mind how many marriages fail.
If you still feel as strongly that you want to get married, then calmly explain how you feel and ask for their support.
If they won’t give it and you are still determined to marry, you will have to make your plans without them.
One other thought: for some parents, no boyfriend is ever good enough for their little girl, and this could be the problem with your parents.
Only seeing you and your fiance happy together will dispel their doubts, so, all the more reason for them to meet him and get to know him better.
There are plenty of couples who have made a great success out of marrying very young, and there is no reason why, if the two of you are truly in love, you can’t make a success of it too.
QUESTION: I’m about to go back to work, now that my little boy’s started at nursery, and my sister has offered to come in and clean for me, as she’s not working at the moment.
I could certainly do with the help and can’t afford to pay anyone the commercial rate, but I’m worried about giving her access to my home when I’m not there.
I don’t mean I think she will steal anything, but she can be nosy and I’m concerned she might go through my stuff.
I don’t really want her looking at my bank statements and personal letters and stuff, but I don’t know how to tell her without hurting her feelings.
FIONA SAYS: I don’t think you can say anything without causing offence, so either you have to refuse her offer or find some way of ensuring THAT she can’t see your private things.
Many people use a lockable fireproof case to store important papers in and, if you filed away everything you don’t want her to see in that, she need never know you’re hiding them from her.
If she comments on it, just tell her that loads of people have them as it’s fireproof and a good way of organising all your paperwork.
You could even offer to buy one for her as well – just make sure it doesn’t have the same lock.
QUESTION: I haven’t had a boyfriend in ages but I spend a lot of time with a very good friend who is gay.
He is great company and very easy going, and while I know it’s silly, I find myself being jealous of his other female friends.
There is nothing sexual about our friendship or his friendship with these other women, but that doesn’t stop me resenting the time that he spends with them.
I don’t want to spoil this friendship with this senseless jealousy, and I’m worried it may drive him away, but how can I stop myself seeing these women as a threat?
FIONA SAYS: If all of your emotional wellbeing is tied up in this one friendship, I’m not surprised that you feel threatened by any time that he spends with anyone else.
It sounds as if you don’t have many other friends, and however much you enjoy your friend’s company, that’s something you need to tackle.
You already know how destructive jealousy like this can be, so you are right to want to deal with it. It almost certainly stems from a lack of confidence on your part and getting out and about, making new friends and doing more would certainly help you.
You don’t mention him having a partner, and perhaps he doesn’t have one, but one day that may change and you need to be prepared for it to happen – especially as he’s such good company.
You’ll be able to cope better if you have other friends you can turn to.
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.