Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: a woman who feels her husband has used him, a husband not taking his medication and a partner siding with a couple’s kids.
QUESTION: My husband and I divorced fairly three years ago and worked hard to keep things friendly for the sake of the children.
We both managed a close relationship with them, seeing them daily, but now he’s met someone new and has become very distant.
I only see him when he calls to collect the children and if I call with a problem, he as good as says: ‘Sort it out yourself’.
Now he’s decided to marry this new woman and I only found out through a friend. When I asked him, we ended up having a really nasty row where he said he has no feelings for me anymore and that I might as well get used to it.
I know we’ve been divorced for three years, but this hurts so much and I feel used.
FIONA SAYS: I’m sorry you feel your ex-husband has been using you, but I’m afraid I’m not quite clear why you feel this way.
You’ve not indicated that your relationship over the past three years involved any intimacy – just a mutual understanding to help raise the children.
I suspect that, while you continued to see each other on a daily basis, it was easy to fool yourself into thinking the divorce had never happened. Clearly, he had moved on, but it sounds as if you never really did if you were also expecting him to sort out problems for you.
His new relationship means you now have to accept that you really are divorced – and I’m sure this hurts. I wonder if you’re worrying that if there is a new woman in their father’s life, the children will build a relationship over which you have no control.
You may even fear they will prefer her to you. I’m sure that won’t be the case, but you need to recognise that it’s important they spend time with their father and that will mean spending time with her too.
Hard though it might be, it will be better for all concerned if you can continue to operate as a team. I’m sure there will be times when that feels like the last thing you want to do but, for the sake of the children, it will be worth it.
Talking to a close friend about your feelings may help you to move on, but if it doesn’t or you feel you can’t, do contact Relate.
When there was no-one else in his life, your ex was probably quite happy to help out and to see you regularly, but now he’s looking for a new life in a new relationship. You need to do the same.
Try and get out and about to meet new people or consider changing direction in some way – perhaps a career change or taking up a new interest. Anything challenging that will take you out of yourself, take you to new places or some new directions anything new that will help you deal with this loss more easily.
QUESTION: I put on quite a bit of weight over the past couple of years and decided, three months ago, to diet and do more exercise. It’s been slow progress – I’ve only lost a stone, but I haven’t given up.
The problem, though, is that my partner teases me constantly and makes ‘fat’ jokes. I’ve told him he’s being hurtful and pointed out that he’s not exactly skinny himself, but it’s like he’s unwilling to stop.
What’s wrong with him? I’d have thought he’d be pleased to get me back to the way I looked when we first got married?
FIONA SAYS: Firstly, well done for losing that first stone – it’s not ‘only’ a stone, it’s a significant amount of weight.
Secondly, please don’t be discouraged by your husband’s thoughtless comments, if he’s overweight himself, he’s probably feeling a bit threatened by your obvious success.
It may be he’s afraid that the new, slimmer you will be attractive to other men and you won’t be attracted to him anymore. Perhaps he’ll hope you’ll stop losing weight so he doesn’t have to face his own weight problem.
Tell him, once again, that you find his comments hurtful and you want his support, not his negativity. If he still tries to undermine what you are trying to do, you may have to adopt more extreme measures – a few comments about his own spare tyre might help.
Don’t give up though – if you keep losing weight, he won’t be able to make fat jokes anyway.
QUESTION: Our GP told my husband he has raised blood pressure and put him on medication. The doctor said it was nothing to worry about and as long as he used the prescribed medication, it shouldn’t unduly affect his life.
The thing is, he keeps forgetting to take it and, if I remind him, he just gets shirty with me. I’ve tried to get him to understand that this is important but he just shrugs it off.
My kids and I need him around, but why can’t he see this? He’s really worrying me.
FIONA SAYS: Your husband seems to be in denial. Some people react like this when faced with the prospect of there being anything wrong with them. They think that, if they ignore the condition, it will go away but, of course, it doesn’t. By reminding him that he has a problem, you’re reminding him he’s not invulnerable and he’s probably a bit scared.
Encourage him to talk about this and see if you can find out what is bothering him. Rather than ask him to take his medication, why not ask him why he doesn’t want to? It might be worth getting him to talk to his doctor again as well.
If he still doesn’t, it might be worth enlisting the help of another family member – his mum perhaps?
QUESTION: I feel as though my partner is undermining everything I do with our children. He won’t back me if I discipline them and has even told me, in front of them, that they’re right and I’m wrong.
He’s making me out to be the tyrant while he’s their ‘friend’. I know this must sound as though I am paranoid and jealous, but it really is getting me down. It’s like nothing I do is right and my partner just pulls the rug out from under my feet all the time.
We have three teenagers and I feel they need all the help and guidance we can give them. It would really help if he could understand that if only we presented a united front, things would be easier all round.
Our son is already very aggressive and I am sure the atmosphere in the house isn’t helping.
FIONA SAYS: It seems to me that you are both channelling your own conflicts through your children. This is very unhealthy and could, if you don’t change, leave them feeling that the problems in this marriage are their fault.
Whilst differences in approach aren’t necessarily bad things – they can help to give a balanced view – I agree that parenting is far more effective when there is agreement.
This won’t come though, I feel, until you can both acknowledge your marital problems and take steps to deal with them. I am sure that, once your children no longer feel they are in the middle of a battlefield, things will improve.
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.