Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective for a man whose drinking has ruined his relationship and a husband who can’t decide if his marriage is over.
QUESTION: I’ve been with my girlfriend for seven years and we’re both divorced.
She was married for over twenty years and has three kids, while I was only married for a year – there’s 17 years between us.
I’ve battled with bouts of depression and drinking, which was putting a strain on our relationship. We decided I had to stop or risk losing her.
I stopped drinking straight away but then, when she was at a friend’s wedding, I started again because I was anxious and afraid that she might meet someone there.
It put a massive weight on us and I said I’d get help for it, but I didn’t. I’m not one for opening up about my problems and my girlfriend knew something was up.
So for Dutch courage I took a drink to help myself open up, but as I hadn’t eaten that day due to stress, that didn’t exactly go to plan. Now she has ended the relationship due to the lies I’ve told and she says there’s no going back.
I’ve told her that I’m going to go to a local support group, but that doesn’t seem to be changing her mind. Please help me.
FIONA SAYS: Not opening up about your problems has got you where you are now, but you’ve made a start by writing to me.
If it was your girlfriend writing to me, I’d be telling her that someone who persistently lies to her, distrusts her and drinks to excess isn’t a good bet for a long-term relationship.
You’ve told her you’re going to do something before, so telling her you are ‘going’ to do something again doesn’t give her much faith that you will.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a helpline you can reach on a daily basis. Visit alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk or call 0800 9177 650 where you’ll find the support you need to change the way you think about drinking.
Your girlfriend has three children she is responsible for – she won’t want to bring them up around someone who lies and drinks to excess.
You need to change not just your drinking habits but also the way you think about life in general, if you’re going to stand a chance of winning her back. ‘Dutch courage’ doesn’t work and as for your depression – alcohol will only make this worse.
Talk to your doctor as well as a support group – maybe consider asking for a referral to a psychotherapist who could help you with confidence issues.
Once you have started down this road, then approach your girlfriend and see if she will consider her ultimatum. She is more likely to be receptive if you can prove you’ve done something to help yourself but, if she’s not, that doesn’t mean you should stop working at this.
Whilst you owe it to her to try and turn your life around, more importantly, you owe it to yourself too.
You will never be the person you’re meant to be while you rely on alcohol to alter your moods and outlook.
QUESTION: Four years ago, my husband and I divorced over what, to me, was his unreasonable behaviour – he was constantly chatting up younger women.
Our daughter, who was then four, stayed with me during the week and every other weekend she went to her father. About three months ago, the school social worker contacted me and said that the school suspected my ex had been sexually abusing her.
I stopped her visits immediately and the police were involved, although they’ve now said he’s unlikely to be charged because there’s not enough evidence.
The whole thing has been a nightmare and I can’t believe I was so stupid not to have seen this was going on for so long.
My daughter is having counselling and they think she’ll be alright but I feel as though I’m falling apart.
FIONA SAYS: Let’s get one thing straight, assuming the social worker is correct you are in no way to blame. There is no way you could have reasonably known what was going on so, please try not to feel guilty.
Having said that, no matter how many people tell you this, the guilt won’t go away completely and I think that you too should consider counselling.
Thankfully your daughter does not seem too traumatised by this and it seems she is receiving all the help and counselling that she needs, but it is your needs that are not being met.
Please consider talking to the social worker who may be able to source some local counselling for you too. You may also find it helpful to contact Parentline Plus on 0808 800 2222. This is a free, confidential 24-hour service for anyone with a parenting problem.
Finally, you do not say if your husband is contesting this or not. If he is and it goes to court, do make sure the social worker is prepared to stand by you.
The last thing you need is for the judge to insist on re-establishing visiting rights if there is any doubt.
QUESTION: 12 years ago, when we got married, we agreed we’d wait to start a family until we were financially secure.
It was very hard at first as my wife had always been fond of children and often became very upset when friends of ours had babies.
Three years ago, though, that all seemed to change as she threw herself into her job, took up fitness classes and joined all sorts of clubs. Now she seems to have lost all interest in starting a family and I’m the one who feels the time is, at last, right.
We’re both in our mid-thirties, settled and can give our children a good home, but although I’ve tried to raise the issue with my wife, she just isn’t listening and I don’t know how to get through to her.
FIONA SAYS: Most family disagreements can usually be resolved through compromise. However, decisions to start a family or not simply cannot be reached by compromise – you either do or you don’t.
In the last three years, your wife has changed a lot and this does not surprise me. Indeed, she’s done everything I would have advised her to do had she contacted me a few years back wanting to start a family and being dissuaded from doing so.
From what you have said, it seems that your wife is avoiding the issue completely. So before you can go any further, I think you should consider where your relationship is.
If you cannot get her to talk in an open and honest way about her feelings on having children, will she talk openly with you about other things?
I wonder if there is a bigger problem in your marriage than just the issue of whether or not to become parents. Only when you can talk can you really find out where you both stand.
Hopefully, there is enough understanding and willingness between you to make your marriage continue to work.
I think you should be prepared for the possibility, though, that your wife no longer wants children.
QUESTION: For the past four months, I have been living in limbo. My husband left suddenly, saying he wasn’t sure he loved me any more and since then, he’s been staying with his sister, but popping over to see me at least twice a week.
I’m not sure if there’s another woman involved – a couple of times when I’ve phoned him, his sister has said he’s out, so I really don’t know.
I’ve told him I love him and want him back, but whenever I try to get him to talk he says I’d be better off without him and that perhaps I should get a divorce and find someone else.
I am so confused and hurt by all of this – surely, he must know if he loves me or not? If he thinks I should get a divorce, why does he keep coming back to see me?
FIONA SAYS: I suspect that he is just as confused by this as you are, and he may well be depressed too.
Drifting between you, his sister and perhaps a ‘girlfriend’ means he’s not moving forward, and his reluctance to decide could be because he’s hoping someone will make a decision for him.
He can’t go on like this. It’s hurtful and unfair on you and, ultimately, will damage him too. He needs to talk it through with someone who will help him make decisions and, if he won’t talk to you, I suggest he considers seeing a Relate counsellor.
Once he has clarified his feelings, he will hopefully let you know where you stand and you can both move on with your lives.
Whether that is together or not, I cannot say but – with a chance it may not be – I suggest you start looking to do more with your own life.
I’m not suggesting you find another partner, just that you have interests, hobbies and, most importantly, friends you can look to if it turns out your marriage is over.
Write to Fiona Caine c/o Elise Brewerton, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth PO6 3EN or email@example.com. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence, nor pass letters on to other readers.