Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: a threatening ex, jealousy and having an affair
QUESTION: A couple of months ago I bumped into an old boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him for three years when we were at university together, but, after more than a few drinks, we ended up in bed together.
I know it was stupid, as I’ve been happily in a relationship with a man for the past two years, and now I feel that I have put all of this at risk. What’s worse is, my old boyfriend is pressuring me to have sex with him again.
I saw him last week to try and tell him to stop pressuring me, but he forced me to go back to his place again, threatening to tell my boyfriend if I didn’t. I got away from him as soon as I could, but he has continued to send threatening texts since then.
What can I do? I am so frightened.
FIONA SAYS: Your ex-boyfriend’s behaviour is totally unacceptable and he must be stopped.
I know you are frightened, but I suggest you tell him he is committing a criminal offence and that you will report the blackmail to the police if he doesn’t stop.
Hopefully this will make him see sense but, if he continues to put pressure on you, would you be able to confide in your boyfriend? You’ll have to assess how you think he will react to the news that you have slept with someone else.
If you think this is likely to go badly, please do talk to someone you trust. It’s important you are able to share this burden with someone who will not judge you and who can offer emotional support.
Whatever else you do, please also consider contacting the Women’s Aid helpline on 0808 2000 247 or visiting Women’s Aid’s website. The organisation does more than help with domestic violence in the home. It offers support for any woman affected by controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour from partners or ex-partners.
It will be able to advise you of your legal rights and support you in an approach to the police if that is what you decide to do.
Finally, please do not let this situation simply drift. The longer you leave it, the harder it will be to convince others you are genuinely trying to end it.
Yes, you have made a mistake, but this does not give your ex the right to threaten and coerce you like this.
QUESTION: My ex-partner has told me I can only see my four-year-old daughter if she says it is okay. Basically, this means I only see her when my ex needs something doing around the flat or needs a babysitter.
Last week she let me visit for two hours, but made me put together some flat-packed furniture. In the end, I only had about 10 minutes with my daughter. Surely this isn’t fair?
My dad says I should have a right of access to my daughter and says I should talk to a solicitor. Is he right?
FIONA SAYS: I agree – your ex-partner’s behaviour does seem unfair. I can’t comment on your father’s view that you should have access to your daughter, but it is generally considered a good thing for a child to have contact with both parents.
However, this is very much a legal issue and in all cases, it is very much driven by the rights of the child. Given this, if you want to change the situation, you should seek advice, and a solicitor that specialises in family law would certainly be able to help.
Additionally, you could also contact Families Need Fathers, a charity with a national helpline (0300 0300 363) that offers advice and support for fathers separated from their children. It can also assist with any approach you make to a solicitor.
Please be aware that, even if you can work out a solution that gives you more access to your daughter, this will not be a completely open arrangement. There will almost certainly always be an element of this being at the convenience of your ex and your child.
QUESTION: I have been living with my partner for eight years and in all that time he has always been really jealous.
He never likes me going out and always wants to know where I am going, who I am going to be with and what time I will be back.
While I am out he constantly sends me texts, and if I don’t respond, he calls me. If I’m as little as 10 minutes late, he gets really angry.
He has never hit me and I really do love him, but I am not sure how much longer I can cope with this.
FIONA SAYS: Jealousy is destructive and unreasonable, and once it is entrenched like this, it takes a real commitment from both parties to get it under control.
This assumes of course that it is possible to get the jealous partner to accept that a problem exists, and agrees to get help. It’s this, I think, that you need to tackle.
He needs to understand that in trying so hard to hang on to you, he risks the one thing he is trying to avoid – driving you away.
Encourage him to see a relationship counsellor with you and if he initially refuses to engage, contact one yourself. Contacting Relate would be a good place to start – you could try using their live chat service through the website.
QUESTION: A long-running affair came to an end four years ago when the man I was seeing moved overseas with his family.
It hurt like hell at the time, and it took quite a while for me to move on, and although I’ve had a few relationships since then – nothing that has lasted – I was thrilled when I heard from him again.
Apparently, he’s now back in the country with his wife and wants to see me. He and his wife are starting a new business together and have had another child, and I can’t wait to see him as I just know that this time it will be different.
Is there anything I can do to make sure it works?
FIONA SAYS: It would be irresponsible of me to try and offer you any advice on how to make this affair work, even if I could suggest ways to make a success of it.
It’s wrong on so many levels – this man cheats on his wife then leaves you high and dry to move overseas. Then, after four years with no contact, he returns and expects to pick up with you where he left off.
What on earth makes you think this time it will be any different? He has returned to the UK still married to the same woman and with another child. They’re starting a new business together too. Does this really suggest to you that he’s even considering leaving his wife and family for you?
The stark truth is that this man will almost certainly never leave his wife and I think, deep down, you probably know this. He’s a liar and a cheat and if he can continue to get uncomplicated sex with you, as well as retain his family life, why would he change?
If you’re happy to go ahead with a relationship on that basis, I doubt there’s anything I could say that will stop you, but I won’t offer you any suggestions on how to encourage him.
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.