Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective for a woman is worried about pregnancy, an old friend who’s become a nuisance, and a 19-year-old with controlling parents.
QUESTION: I’m so fed up with my parents who treat me like a small child, even though I’m now 19.
They don’t want me to go out on dates and say it’s because they’re worried about me, but I think it’s because they want to control me.
I’ve explained to them many times that I’m an adult and that I’m capable and careful, but they won’t listen. They say the risk of drugs, rape and sexual diseases are just too great and that they want to keep me safe for my husband.
I’ve no intention of getting married to someone they pick out for me, but I’ve been seeing a lovely guy I get on with brilliantly. Doing it behind their backs has been difficult as my father always wants to know where I am, who I’m with and what I’m doing.
The need to keep lying to my parents is becoming a real strain and I am not sure how much longer I can keep it up. Why can’t my parents understand that I am an adult and just leave me alone?
Surely I am old enough to make my own mistakes and learn from them?
FIONA SAYS: I agree, but my expectations and those of your parents are probably very different, so please try not to judge them too harshly.
I’m sure they love you and are concerned for your safety and, as you live with them, it’s not unreasonable to expect some restrictions on what you can and cannot do. It’s also not unreasonable to expect to know where you are and what time you’ll be in.
You say you’re not willing to marry someone they pick out for you, which leads me to believe you come from a culture of arranged marriage. If that is the case, and you’ve been brought up to mix with others who don’t have that expectation, there is almost inevitably the risk of conflict from time to time.
You will want to be able to go out and mix with other young people and go on dates, like your peers do. Their expectations are that you will behave as they would have done when being brought up.
Telling them about your boyfriend could well bring this conflict of backgrounds to a head, but having a secret relationship and lying isn’t going to give them confidence in you. Explain to them that this relationship is already a serious one and say that you’d like them to get to know your boyfriend.
If you can start to be less confrontational and respect each other’s viewpoints, hopefully life will be a lot less stressful. If your parents can accept your choice of partner, perhaps they will be less controlling of your behaviour.
If, however, you think they will try to force you against your will to marry someone of their choice, you need to inform yourself, in advance, of what to do.
The Government website has a section on ‘Forced Marriage’ and there is a very comprehensive, useful handbook you can read when you click through.
I hope your problems won’t escalate and that you are able to resolve things with your parents in a way that you’ll all happy with.
QUESTION: I think I need help – I’ve only been married for five months and I think I’m pregnant already.
I’m only 23 and my husband and I talked about having children in the future, but not yet. I hadn’t thought it would happen for several years.
I am excited but I’m also terrified as I know nothing about babies and even less about childbirth as my mum died when I was born and I was brought up by my dad who never re-married.
I don’t know who I need to speak to, or what tests I have to go through. I don’t even live near my home anymore as we just moved to be nearer to my husband’s job, so I don’t have a doctor yet.
This probably sounds really pathetic, but I genuinely don’t know how I’m going to cope.
FIONA SAYS: I can see this has thrown you into a complete panic and it’s natural to be apprehensive, but if you get too wound up your health – and possibly that of your baby – is likely to be affected.
I think your priority is to find out if you are indeed pregnant – if you’re assuming this because you’ve missed a period, you may be wrong.
You can buy a test kit from your local chemist but, whatever the result, you’re going to need a local doctor so I suggest you make that a priority. You can ask neighbours for recommendations but remember what makes a great doctor will vary from person to person, so listen to what they say and then decide.
Alternatively go to the NHS website and click on ‘Services’ to find and review all the GP practices near you.
You and your husband really need to be talking, too. If you are pregnant you need to be planning and, if you’re not and you’re not ready to be, you need to be looking at more efficient forms of contraception.
If you are pregnant your doctor will talk to you about antenatal care and what you can expect, and the NHS website will help you here too with a whole section on ‘Pregnancy and Birth’.
I’d also suggest the National Childbirth Trust as a great way of getting to know other mums-to-be locally and it’s also a valuable source of advice and information.
QUESTION: My daughter has separated from her partner and seems to be struggling to look after her two-year-old son.
He’s a happy little soul and comes to me to be looked after twice a week so she can work part-time. I don’t think she’s feeding him properly as he eats enough for a grown adult whenever he comes to me!
I’m not suggesting she’s mistreating him because, as I said, he seems to be such a happy child but I do wish she’d find herself a nice man and get married again.
That way, at least, my grandson would have a stable, safe home to live in. Although I’ve tried to talk to her about this, she won’t listen to me.
FIONA SAYS: Finding a new husband really isn’t going to guarantee a safe, stable home for your grandson. It might, but there again, it might make his life more difficult – what if the man she marries doesn’t really accept another man’s child?
Now she’s a single mum, finding a partner isn’t so easy as he’ll have to form a relationship with the child as well as with her, and not every man wants a ready-made family.
As a busy, working single parent, she’s probably struggling and needs your love and support, not your criticism. she certainly shouldn’t be under pressure to get married.
I am concerned, though, that your grandson seems to be so hungry. It may be that your daughter doesn’t cook food he enjoys, but it could also be she’s short of money and can’t afford to give him enough to eat.
Do try anD find out if there’s a problem as that’s something you could help with – perhaps by sending the little boy home with some pre-prepared meals.
QUESTION: My husband’s old school friend moved near us earlier last year. We’d not really seen him since our wedding 10 years ago and so, to begin with, it was nice to catch up.
However, he started coming round when he knew my husband was going to be out and I was going to be on my own. I felt uncomfortable and, when he hinted at the possibility of an affair I wasn’t entirely surprised and told my husband.
My husband had a word, but he laughed it off and said I’d misunderstood. The visits stopped though, until a couple of weeks ago when he just showed up again.
I don’t know if I should tell my husband or confront this man myself.
FIONA SAYS: Old friend or not, this man is a nuisance and his behaviour is bordering on harassment.
Confronting him on your own could be risky – he’s denied any inappropriate behaviour once already. Lock your doors and don’t let him into your house until you’ve had a chance to talk to your husband, then both see him together and tell him his visits must stop.
If he still persists with his visits, your only other option is to speak to the police – just because he was once a friend doesn’t mean he has any right to behave like this.
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.