Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on a woman who wants to leave a loveless marriage and a widow who is struggling to find new friends after the death of her partner.
QUESTION: Please help, six years ago my parents pushed me into a loveless marriage with a miserable man. He lives only for his job and has no respect for me or any interest at all in starting a family.
If I do anything that he dislikes he shouts at me. On a few occasions, he’s slapped me. I know I should leave him, but I have no means of supporting myself and my parents have said they’ll disown me if I leave him.
I feel so trapped and unhappy, but what can I do?
FIONA SAYS: This is a desperately sad situation and I am not at all surprised you feel as you do, especially given the callous attitude of your parents.
There’s a suggestion in your letter that this may be an arranged marriage and I am conscious of the fact this may bring certain cultural sensitivities into play.
However, my own thoughts are that any relationship that is violent and creates this much misery is simply not fit for purpose and should be stopped.
I know you are scared, but there are several agencies in the UK that offer support to women trying to escape harmful relationships.
As a first step, please contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline (Freephone 0808 2000 247) at any time. They will point you to an agency who will support you and help you find your feet again.
Your parents may be angry with you but if they understand your unhappiness and the abuse you’ve faced, they may relent in time.
QUESTION: Back in June I left my boyfriend when I discovered he had been seeing someone else.
I found out when I took his mobile phone into a store to be repaired. When I later collected the phone, it had been left unlocked and I found he had left a voicemail message from her on it. It was pretty graphic and left me in no doubt about what had been going on.
When I got home, I dumped his phone into a sink full of water, packed my bags and left. I haven’t seen or spoken to him since.
I later found out through a mutual friend that my ex had been seeing this other woman before we had even got together. When I asked why he hadn’t said something during the three years we were together, the friend apologised but said they had been under the impression it had ended some time ago.
Now, six months on, I still feel so angry and betrayed. I wish I could let it go and move on, but I can’t.
Would it help if I arranged to meet my ex again and told him how hurt I feel?
FIONA SAYS: It might, but please be clear in your own mind about your motives for contacting him. Might it be possible that a part of you is hoping for a reconciliation?
If this is the case, you’ll need to be prepared for the possibility that he has already moved on. He might now be living with this other woman and how would that make you feel? Could you cope with being rejected again? Do you really want to rekindle a relationship with a man who has already betrayed you over several years? Could you ever really trust him again?
I say these things not to be hurtful, but to get you to consider the most likely outcome here, which is that it really is – and should be – over.
However, if this is genuinely just about explaining your feelings and venting a little steam so you are then able to move on, a meeting or phone call might help.
Alternatively it could also be confrontational, bitter and leave you feeling worse than you do at present. Given this, and the possibility you might still be thinking about a reconciliation, I think you’d be better advised to discuss your feelings with someone not involved.
A Relate counsellor could help you to let out your anger in a safe, controlled manner and guide you on the best way to move forward. Because move forward you must – you need to let go of your anger somehow to be free to develop new relationships.
Trying to start something new while you still feel so bitter is very risky, as the baggage you’re carrying will colour a new relationship, for better or worse.
If the new partner is good to you, you might see him as better than he really. If he’s in the least aloof you might, unjustifiably, think the worse.
Anger is a difficult baggage to carry around with you all the time. Put it down, let the past go and move on – your ex isn’t worth your energy.
QUESTION: I am 57, fit and live on my own after my partner died four years ago. Although I still work, I feel there is little else in my life.
I don’t have many friends and I’ve tried going to a few local social clubs but, to be honest, most of these seems to be nothing more than an excuse to drink, which I don’t like.
What else can I try? I feel I am stuck at that in-between age – not old enough to join retiree groups, and too old for youngster clubs.
I am not getting down about this yet, but if it carries on much longer, I might.
FIONA SAYS: I get the sense you’ve only really tried social clubs so far, but there are many other ways to crack this nut.
You’re fit, so consider a sport activity, which could be anything from swimming and yoga to rambling or golf. Alternatively, you could try clubs for more passive activities like chess or bridge.
If you can sing or act, then try amateur dramatics or choral groups in your area – and even if you can’t, they need people to help with costumes, sets, props and administration. Other options include adult courses that might be vocational, arts or crafts.
Finally, you might also consider volunteering for a charity that appeals to you. It doesn’t really matter what you do, it only matters that you do something to meet new people.
When I moved a few years ago I made a strong group of new friends through yoga. I hope, by one route or another, you find friends.
QUESTION: I am a single mum with an 11-year-old daughter. I haven’t had a holiday overseas for 10 years so was delighted when a work colleague invited me to accompany her to Greece for two weeks next spring.
Her partner has had to pull out and she is letting me go in his place for free. Another friend has kindly offered to look after my daughter which is great as her daughter and mine are good friends.
The problem is my mum, who is in her seventies, has said she would like to look after my daughter too.
Although they get on okay, my daughter isn’t that comfortable around her for any length of time and, to be honest, I’m not sure my mum remembers what looking after a child is all about.
I know she’ll be upset if my daughter doesn’t stay with her, but what should I do?
FIONA SAYS: This is never easy but I think the most important person to consider here is your daughter.
I suggest you explain to your mother that you’re worried your daughter will miss you and that you believe this is less likely if she’s with friends of her own age.
Explain she’s going to be staying with a trusted friend and tell her you hope she understands. Hopefully she will and be happy that you have the chance to go on a fabulous holiday.
It may well be that you’re worrying unnecessarily. Although she has said she wants to do this, deep down she may be relieved not to have to.
If she seems upset, I suggest you arrange for your daughter to spend a weekend with her some time soon. It wouldn’t do your daughter any harm to make the effort to get on with her grandmother and it would be a second opportunity for you to have a short break.
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.