Patricia Redlich

Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Husband Is Not Sociable


I got married a few months ago. I met my husband through a friend. He was always very quiet and never very sociable. That is now starting to become a real problem. He takes no part in organising any of our social life. Most parties, or gatherings we attend, are organised by me. What really bothers me, however, is that I have a better time without him. He doesn't normally initiate any conversations, leaving other people to talk first. Very often they then ask me what is wrong with him. This in turn means I enjoy myself less. I have seen him being sociable, so he can do it, but mostly he withdraws. This is embarrassing and makes me feel uncomfortable. Each time it happens I dislike him more and more. I'm now starting to think that I can't live with his behaviour and therefore must leave. After all, surely my husband should be allowed to be himself, shouldn't he? I am very unhappy and uncertain about what to do. If he doesn't change, how can I accept him? He also acts in a very distant manner around my parents. I'm at a loss to know what to do.

How on earth can you consider giving up on a marriage after only a few months? What are you, a woman or a mouse? And why on earth are you dodging like this? I understand only too well the desire to avoid conflict, with all the difficulties that go with that, but this is of a different order entirely. Where are the conversations with your husband about what's going on? I mean, have you had even one discussion with him about how he feels, why he is the way he is, how he sees things, anything at all?

I have no idea what's going on in your husband's head. The problem is, neither do you. Worse, you don't seem to have even thought about possible scenarios. The closest you've come to any kind of reflection is when you mention that your husband can be sociable, because you've seen him interacting, the implication being that he simply withdraws out of choice. Equally worrying, you don't seem to do much thinking about your own behaviour either.

You married a man who was always very quiet and never very sociable. Why, then, does it come as a surprise now? Or said differently, why is it only becoming a problem now? Had you absolutely no idea that his failure to be sociable might get you down with time? And how can you complain that he never organises any aspect of your social life? How could you not know what to expect? Where were you in your head when you were going out together?

Do you know if your husband is, perhaps, shy? Or does he lack basic social skills, perhaps because of his background? Is there a big difference between you in social terms, which could leave him feeling awkward when he's with your family and friends? Or is he, perhaps, sulky, or carrying a chip on his shoulder? What are the situations in which you've seen him being sociable? And what can you learn from observing them? What's he like when the two of you are together? Is he the strong silent type, or is he happy to chat?

Of course it's possible that your marriage was a big mistake. It happens. But you can't simply walk away uttering the trite little phrase that your husband should be allowed to be himself. That's a cop out which is beneath any decent person's dignity. And surely you can't wish to walk away knowing so little about what's really going on. Marriage has to be worthy of a little more input than that. It is an important institution, deserving of respect. And respect in this context involves some hard emotional work.

Yes, I know you're suffering. But you are also sleepwalking. Wake up and start communicating. You married the man. You owe him at least a hearing on what is going on in his head. Don't you think?

And you certainly owe yourself a shot at digging somewhat deeper into why things are the way they are.

Brother Ignoring debts


My father-in-law died recently. My husband took on the role of organising the funeral and financial arrangements etc. at the request of the family, for various practical reasons. My mother-in-law was in no fit state to deal with these matters at the time. The problem lies with one of my husband's brothers.

This guy has always needed a bail-out at various stages of his adult life, usually requiring a LOAN here and there and NEVER repaying his benefactor, who was usually his own father. And this has gone on despite the fact that he is by no means the most financially needy in the family. My husband requested a small amount of money from each of his siblings to cover a shortfall in the cost of the funeral. At the time all the siblings agreed and were happy to contribute. It was not a large sum. All bills were paid, and the money has now been collected from everyone - except the said brother. My husband paid his share instead and is now terribly upset, not because of the money owed to him, but because this brother is trying to get away without contributing to the cost of his own father's burial. It's the principle of the thing. And of course he's now avoiding all my husband's attempts to contact him.

The problem now is that the other siblings are putting pressure on my husband to force his brother to cough up and not let him get away with it, yet again. This leaves my husband caught between a rock and a hard place. If he puts on the pressure, his errant brother will unquestionably go to his mother and complain - and she, of course, knows nothing and would be complete devastated that her children were arguing over the cost of burying their father. On the other hand, the siblings are ringing us constantly, all fired up. All of this is adding distress to my husband's grief, and he doesn't know which way to turn.

Much is made of toxic family dynamics at Christmas, when the scattered clan come together and tear each other apart. It fades into insignificance beside the difficulties a family death can bring, particularly when a parent dies.

Two things may be happening in your husband's family. At a simple level, the siblings are trying to establish some sense of justice, having felt angry over the years that their father effectively favoured their errant brother. Even if he didn't love this particular son more, and didn't prise him more highly, he certainly indulged him. Sisters and brothers never entirely lose their sense of fair play, so they feel entirely cheesed off when one individual does a disproportionate amount of taking. And of course the chances are that he also gave less, thus compounding everyone's sense of grievance.

At a more complicated level, they may all have tried really hard to protect their father - and by extension their mother - from the financial burden. They may have worried about how things were going to pan out for their parents as they got older and more financially vulnerable. They may well have felt hugely frustrated in their attempts to advise, or intervene, when their father put his hand, yet again, in his pocket. They may even have gone to bat for their mother against their father, tried to fight her battle for her, even if this was not explicitly stated by any of them. And now the renegade has shown his true colours again, failing to be grateful, or to play fair, even in death. So they are angry.

The battle, however, is not theirs - not then and not now. It was their father's business then. He did what he wanted to do. They can't win the fight posthumously. Fairness cannot be achieved retrospectively. They have to live with that. And it is your husband's business now. He's the one who is out of pocket. Hence he is the one who has to decide what to do. He cannot be asked to fight a battle on behalf of the others.

I think your husband is wise in wanting to let things be. There is no point in pursuing this brother. He will not cough up. His type never do. And just for the record, if this brother does start approaching his mother for money, or even just with the story of the funeral costs, neither your husband nor his other siblings will be able to control that situation, anymore than they could control what their father did. It's important your husband should never feel guilty about that. Your husband needs to explain firmly but gently to his siblings that he's letting this go - and then quietly retreat into a place where he can grieve.

I Don't Fancy My Husband


I've never found my husband physically attractive and, to be completely honest, the worst sex I've ever had was with him. The reason we started dating was because he was unlike the other men I'd been out with. With hindsight, that may have been a mistake. The real problem is that I do love him, but ever since my son was born three years ago, I've been repulsed at the thought of any kind of physical contact with my husband. I know there's nothing wrong with my libido and I still find other men attractive. I don't want to leave my husband, but how do I reconcile my love for him with my inability to feel comfortable making love with him?

Yes, of course you can love someone without being sexually interested in them. I'm just not sure what kind of marriage can be made out of that particular scenario. How do you envisage your future together? What kind of fate, exactly, are you planning for your husband? Or for yourself, for that matter? Is this to be a celibate existence, for the rest of your lives? Are you planning on having affairs? And what are you offering your husband? Are you suggesting he should play happy families with you but go wandering for sex?

I can understand that you don't want to leave your husband. It's a scary world out there, particularly as the single mother of a young child. But at the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time, marriage is based on sexual love. It's about endless other things too, but sex is central to the emotional contract we make when we walk up the isle, or enter the registry office. So what you're suggesting is that you end your marriage and enter a different kind of agreement - well that's the reality if you edit out the sexual contact. Yes, of course couples accommodate differing sexual needs. And yes, some marriages are celibate. For that to work, in the sense of both partners being happy, it has to be consensual.

And what's this about bad sex? Maybe I'm missing something, but you sound as though you think good sex is something a man gives you, rather than something two people create together. Is he inept? Does he come too quickly? Has he no notion of the need to set the scene? Is he conservative? And aren't those all things that you could do something about? Especially as you say you love him, which means, amongst other things, that you are fundamentally on his side, feel kindness and respect for him, and want things to be right for him, as well as for yourself.

Finally, I do have to ask you. What on earth were you thinking of when you decided to go out with, get engaged to, marry, and have a baby with a man you didn't find physically attractive? Or asking it a different way, what has changed? Why does the sex put you off now? Why are you feeling uncomfortable now, but didn't then? Or if you always felt uncomfortable, why does your discomfort suddenly matter so much that you're trying to bend your whole marriage out of shape? I think you have a bit of figuring-out to do, don't you?

My Lover Threw Me Over


I've made a right mess of my life and I need help on how to go forward. It all started four years ago when my best friend died. This man was also my wife's cousin and close family friend and left a wife and a young family after him.

I coped by throwing myself into doing all I could for my friend's wife and children. There was much sorting out to do in relation to his business. Unfortunately, this led to an affair with his wife and I fell deeply in love with her. It lasted three years and came to an abrupt end recently when I found out that she was seeing someone else. When I confronted her, she claimed that she had fallen out of love with me and was waiting for an opportunity to end "us".

This was a defining moment for both of us. She no longer depended on me, and quickly forgot about me by putting all her energy into developing this new relationship. This man promised everything that I couldn't. She introduced him to everyone in the family, including my wife, and they were all delighted that she had found love again.

My problem is that I am broken-hearted and angry at how well things have worked out for her, despite lying and cheating on me. We meet on a constant basis as we have a business connection as well as the family connection. She refuses to discuss our affair and says it is in the past. She has confessed it to her new lover, while I have no closure and am forced to carry this dark secret alone. I now feel a tremendous amount of grief, and shame, for a lost love - and am possibly suffering postponed grief for a dead friend - all in silence.

I know I have done wrong and let my wife down badly. I contemplated telling her, but feel it would do nothing to relieve my burden while it would devastate her. I have been diagnosed with depression, but none of the medication is working. My wife has been a tremendous support and loves me deeply. Ironically, this almost makes things worse. Unfortunately, while I love her, I am not in love with her. I'm still in love with my ex-lover even though I accept that the affair is over. I wish I wasn't and wish I could transfer the feelings I have for her back to my wife. How do I begin to rebuild my life?

You could begin by ditching the self-pity. Don't you know the most basic rule in life, namely that the wrong-doer doesn't get the luxury of saying he's having a hard time? And he most certainly can't feel sorry for himself. You chose to have an affair. It's gone south-ward. Tough.

And that's letting you off lightly. We could tell this story differently. You made a move on a newly widowed woman, who not only saw you as a support because you were her husband's friend, but who also depended on you for business reasons. She was vulnerable. Even if she made the first move, a kind man would have side-stepped, allowing her time to get back on her feet. A married man with any decency would definitely have backed away. It could be argued, in short, that you've broken faith with two women. Not to mention the fact that all of this is effectively happening within the family, so very definitely in your own backyard. Not nice.

There's something else you apparently don't understand. As her married lover, you had no claim on this woman at all. She didn't cheat on you. She simply found someone else. Just as you hung onto someone else, namely your wife. I'm sure she did lie to you. But you were living a lie anyway, having a secret affair with a member of your wife's family and close friend. She's been lying for three years to your wife, just as you have. Lies were the basis of your relationship. How can you whinge that she then failed to come clean on finding a new lover? And don't you see? You have absolutely no right to be angry at her. Affairs carry no commitments.

The really troubling thing is that you are so self-absorbed. Not to mention the fact that even now you're failing to take responsibility for your own actions. You say you unfortunately had an affair, as if it were entirely beyond your control. And while you mention shame, it doesn't ring true, to be brutally honest. Failing to tell your wife just sounds like self-interest, rather than true regard for her feelings. And the depression sounds a lot like angry disappointment that you can no longer have this woman on the side. I mean you clearly never intended to make an honest woman of her. Did you? So you could, therefore, logically say that you're feeling low because you can no longer cheat and lie and break your marriage vows.. Can you see, now, how no-one would feel sorry for you? And that it is entirely inappropriate that you feel sorry for yourself?

Sometimes happiness is simply a question of taking stock. And then being grateful for what life has given you. You have a loving wife, a close family circle, children perhaps although you didn't mention them, and a functioning business. You are also now rid of a woman who was a partner in crime, someone who was prepared to cheat and lie, right in the heart of a supportive family network. You're getting a second chance, an opportunity to make good. If you want to, you have the choice to become the kind of man who deserves such bounty. It's your call.

Dead Brother Abused Me


Reading the recent letter from a girl whose brother abused her, I finally felt that someone knows what I am going through. But it's still so hard to write it down. It happened when I was around 10-13 years old and I am now 24. What's made it even fresher in my mind, is that my brother died recently. I'm mourning him, because he was my brother and all my family are suffering. But I'm also glad that this secret is now gone with him to the grave and I can move on somewhat. He never apologised to me, or mentioned it again. I always wondered why me, and how could he have done that to me. It just stopped one day and that was that, like it had never happened.

I have never had a boyfriend and my friends joke that I'm fussy, but I'm not. No one seems to have any interest in me. I've met boys, kissed on a night out, but that's it. Nothing further. This is what gets me down now as I think I'm going to be on my own forever. My friends are starting to pair off, but I have never met anyone whom I liked enough. I don't think I have a problem with intimacy, the right one just hasn't come along. I don't know where I'm going wrong. Or am I tarnished for life?

I have a loving family and a job I like, so I have a lot to be thankful for. It's just that this secret is hanging over me. I can never tell my family. It would ruin them. It's bad enough losing a son without having to hear what he did. I suppose I should see a counsellor but I don't know if I could go as far as to talk about it. Plus, I can't really afford it. I suppose I just have to get on with my life.

As you can see, the secret hasn't gone to the grave with your brother. You are carrying it around with you. You're thinking about it. And unconsciously you've undoubtedly erected barriers to any romantic involvement. Of course you are not 'tarnished'. The fact that you were abused does not make you any less worthy of love and respect. You are blameless. Your heart and spirit are free to love.

I know I've said it before, but the worst part of sexual abuse is the lingering feeling the victims have about being bad, or dirty, or tarnished to use your word. It's hard to shake their conviction that they were somehow to blame. Look at your question about why your brother chose to do it to you. Deep down you fear you have some fatal flaw. In reality he chose you because you were an easy target, for whatever reason. And that has to do with circumstances that were completely outside your control as a ten-year-old. Somehow, there was a failure within the family to ensure your safety. Maybe it was nobody's fault - we're not playing the blame game here. The point is, it certainly wasn't your fault. Your brother behaved very badly. We don't know his story. Nor do we need to. All you have to do is make sure you ditch these negative feelings about yourself.

I do strongly believe you should talk to a counsellor. This is familiar territory, as you can see from the recent letters on this page. You are not alone. You are very vulnerable right now, not least because you feel alienated from your family since your grief at your brothers death is, very understandably, mixed with relief. That kind of conflict brings real emotional distress. It's uncomfortable, painful, disorienting, but it's also an opportunity for psychological change. See, you've written to me. Take the next step and seek out a specialist counsellor. I promise you, the relief will be enormous. And those unconscious barriers to romantic relationships will slowly but steadily break down too. That, by the way, is also a promise, not because I have some magic powers, but because that's the way the emotional world works.

Husband Doesn't Desire Me


Is it normal that sex should nearly completely die out in a marriage? We've been married six years, have two young children, and are naturally busy with day to day life. My husband has no interest in me as a woman. We love our children dearly and take great pleasure in them and are good parents together. As a couple, we seem to have hit a wall.

My husband likes to go out for a few pints at the weekend and I don't mind him doing this as he relaxes after the week. It is hard for us to get out together as babysitters are expensive and it is difficult to face into minding small children when we've both had a late night.

I feel very unattractive to my husband. He nags that I haven't lost weight after the births and he points out other women who had babies around the same time and who have their figures back and look well all the time. I don't know how they do it. I work part-time, mind the children, keep the house, do the shopping etc. Where do other women find the time to take care of themselves and their relationships?

I feel sad when I think about my husband and the lack of closeness between us. I then try and pull myself together and remind myself of how lucky I am to have two healthy children. I feel guilty that I have let myself and my marriage come to this. I should have worked harder to lose weight and keep my husband's attention. I now don't even mention sex to him as I feel stupid and know he doesn't fancy me. It's only like forcing him to love me.

I know I just sound sorry for myself. My husband is a good man and a good husband and father. It's just that I don't know how to get things back on track and wonder if it is too late. We are not heading for a separation, but we are heading for a lonely marriage which is very sad to contemplate after such a good start.

No, you don't sound sorry for yourself. You sound concerned about your life, which is intelligent, right and proper. My only wish is that you would feel less disheartened. There is no need. You and your husband have a rich life together. And it is certainly not too late. Adjusting to two small children is no joke. Something invariably gets shifted to the back-burner. All you have to do now is prioritize differently.

I don't think this is just a question of weight. Romance has taken a back seat. The two of you have become smothered in the role of parenting instead. Wife has been replaced by mammy, and a mammy who is tied to the house. And although your husband may not be aware of it, my guess is that he's now thinking as a dad rather than a lover. So it's not a question of you neglecting your relationship. You both have.

Change that. Find babysitters, whatever other cost-cutting exercise you have to engage in. Get out twice a week, together, on a date. And it doesn't have to be a late night. A movie and a cup of coffee somewhere is enough. Or even just a stroll around the town, or local neighbourhood, and maybe one drink. Your husband can still have a couple of pints with his mates. You simply have to ensure that you have something similar - namely a conversation with friends that is not just about babies. Maybe you'll find that kind of company at Weight Watchers. Yes, you do have to lose some weight. That's not because your husband is making it an issue. Ignore that. Your weight-loss is for you, an important psychological statement that you're moving back into being an attractive woman, who also has two children.

Most importantly of all, do this for yourself, rather than as an anxious attempt to please your husband. Do it because you're wise enough to see a relationship needs nurturing. And do it because you want to feel that spring back in your step, that zing of being an attractive woman as well as a great mother - and not just attractive to your husband, but to any hunk who happens to walk by. The reason for this is simple. If you feel you're only doing it to win back your husband, then you run the risk of feeling resentful. Worse, you'll be looking for rewards from him, and will then feel terribly distressed if he doesn't jump back into harness quickly enough. Because who knows? Maybe his lack of romantic interest is due to his own exhaustion and his own preoccupation with parenting.

Finally, don't exhaust yourself. Simply let things slide, or maybe look at the way domestic chores are divided. You're both earning, even if unevenly. Is the home front tended by the two of you? Full-time working husbands have a tendency to think housework is a female affair, and part-time work a mere walk in the park. Check it out. Chin up. This is going to be an exciting adventure, and a timely change in your lifestyle. Enjoy it.

I Love Too Much


I find it very hard to fancy someone. When I do, I fall for them really hard and it takes me months, sometimes years, to get over them. In recent years I have fallen for men whom I met through work. They have been very intelligent and great company and I have seriously fancied them - even fallen deeply in love. They tell me, and show me, that they are crazy about me. However, all of them have been in relationships, so my relationship with them was always platonic. I would never break up a couple. But in the process of falling for them, and then grieving for them, I'm closed off to meeting someone else.

I am 31, a former model, have a great job, and am great at living life to the full. I get asked out a huge amount of times, even when I'm just out for a walk, or in a supermarket. I don't mean to sound vain, but I am extremely good-looking and this is something a lot of people comment on. For me it has been more of a problem than a plus, the reason being that men can see me as a trophy, and women can see me as a threat, so I get very badly hurt. I usually keep this to myself as nobody will have empathy if they think you are saying that "it's tough to be beautiful".

I really really want to meet someone, but I haven't had a proper boyfriend in nearly 10 years. I am not gay. I have questioned this,  but I'm not. I really wouldn't care if I was. I just want to love someone and for them to love me. I have so much to give, but I'm terribly fussy. Please help. I don't want to end up alone. There is something blocking me from finding love and I really don't know what it is.

Beauty is like financial riches. It can cloud the issue of why someone is really in your life. So yes, it can be tough to be beautiful.

You, however, are making it an awful lot tougher. Look at what you're telling me. You fall for married, or otherwise committed men. They adore you. And then you back off. And you wonder why other women see you as a threat? Don't you think they know that you either like the safety of the unattainable, or the conquest of someone else's man? Either way, can't you see that this makes you an enemy? And do you think it helps for one minute, that you proclaim you would never break a couple up? Don't you see that the exercise of your power is what makes you so dangerous to be around? The fact that other peoples' happiness is in your control?

Believe me, I am not trying to be nasty to you. I am trying to tear down the veil which stops you seeing the truth, namely that you are the maker of your own destiny. It's not your beauty which is isolating you. It's your behaviour. And yes, I do understand that there is something serious blocking you from finding real love. You're dodging any kind of sexual involvement. Falling for men in committed relationships, combined with an attitude of never breaking up a couple, means you can keep it platonic. You get all the attention you crave, carve out a kind of controlled intimacy, but never have to take the sexual plunge. And no, I don't think you are gay either. At least it's not the only possible explanation. I think you could well have been emotionally damaged at some early point in your life, leaving you either terrified of sexual involvement, or else hooked on seduction, which is all the more compelling because it is never consummated. No, it is never a good idea to try and make a diagnosis on the basis of one letter. I'm not doing so. I'm just trying to paint some possible scenarios.

You're not fussy, as you put it. You are emotionally crippled, or blocked as you say yourself, which is very different. And yes, this handicap is relegating you to a very lonely life. I don't like suggesting therapy all the time, but you do need to disentangle your emotions and fears and belief systems and perceptions. And from where I'm sitting, it looks like that's going to require some professional help.

My Brother Made Sexual Advances


I have a terrible secret from my childhood that causes me a lot of distress at times. I have never gone to a counsellor about it because I feel, deep down, that I was to blame to some extent. And I'm afraid that it would not be considered serious enough to require counselling.

I was in boarding school from the age of 12 and when I came home on my first break, my brother, who was three years older, started to try and engage me in sexual behaviour. He came into my bedroom many times in the middle of the night. Apart from the first time, when I didn't know what was happening, I never let him do anything again. I used to dread going home until I eventually made it very clear that I would tell our parents if he continued - even though I dreaded my parents finding out. After that he was quite horrible and mean to me for years, and made it clear that he hated me. He was a very awkward teenager, withdrawn and not good with people.

Now I'm in my mid-forties. I have had a couple of good relationships, though none of them led to marriage. Ironically, I am the only sibling who has any contact with this brother - even though he still can't look me in the eye. I stay in contact because I am fond of his children, and because I feel sorry for him. He has fallen out with the rest of the family, for various reasons.

I blocked out much of this for many years, but now that there is so much talk of sexual abuse in the media, it became impossible not to think about it. Why did my brother do this to me? How can I put it behind me once and for all? I think I have forgiven him, but, if so, why does it still distress me so much? I would find it very difficult to talk to someone face to face about this. And this is the first time I have ever written it down.

This notion of 'forgiving' just gets in the way, to be frank. It hinders clarity of thought. I'm not saying that it's irrelevant. I just think the whole concept of forgiveness belongs in a sort of parallel universe, psychologically speaking. So we'll leave it to one side for the moment, if that's OK with you.

The reality is that you and your brother have unfinished business. And while I'm sure you are fond of his children, that's not the whole reason that you're still involved in his daily life. You're in there because you're seeking some kind of solution, some form of emotional clearing-out, a sort of day of reckoning. Listen to what you're saying. He can't look you in the eye. You are still distressed. You two have an unresolved past. And both of you are dancing around it, dodging any conversation, yet failing to disengage either. You are both waiting.

It's understandable that you would find it difficult to talk to someone about the past. It's complicated. Something happened which you clearly saw as wrong. And from a simple standpoint it was abuse. No 15 year-old boy should attempt to be sexually intimate with his 12-year- old sister. It's just that sometimes these situations get emotionally muddled. Family intimacy has to be carefully monitored. Which is why parental alertness is so necessary. Maybe you were a lonely little thing at boarding school. Maybe you felt a bit isolated from the family, which was part of the reason you were afraid to tell your parents. So you attempted to micro-manage the situation.

And maybe your brother wasn't a terrible villain either. Maybe he was a lost soul, wrongly seeking solace by approaching you sexually. Certainly he was exploiting the situation. But maybe you somehow undertood - or at least felt - that he was doing it from a position of lonely weakness, rather than out-and-out badness. He was your brother, and perhaps felt you were kindred spirits. Or at a very simple level, distant parents terrified you into thinking you had to handle this yourself.

Either way, in your attempt to protect yourself, the unhappy and unsavoury and unacceptable situation lasted for a while. Sadly, that led to you feeling somehow guilty, reinforced the tendency of all abuse victims to feel it is somehow their fault - even though it isn't. You are guilty of nothing. You were 12 years old. And you perceived your parents as distant.

I think you should see a counsellor and talk this through. Yes, like I said, it will be difficult. It will also be infinitely rewarding once you get going. Putting words on a past hurt, in the presence of a professional who can make us feel safe, works like a kind of magic. The burden lifts. After that, you can consider whether to open the discussion with your brother, or not. You may even simply decide to disengage from him. Or just lay the past to rest, in your own head, and in the process change the dynamic between the two of you. With time you'll learn what is the wisest route for you to take. But do take your courage in your hands and seek someone to confide in.

Daughter Trapped In A Relationship


I am very concerned about my 25 year old daughter. She is living with her boyfriend who is 39, and they have a six-month old baby girl. Her boyfriend also has a ten-year old boy by a previous relationship who comes to visit regularly, once during the week and every second weekend.

My daughter doesn't seem to have much freedom. She has a part-time job five mornings a week and he takes care of the baby while she works. He works an evening shift five and sometimes six nights a week, so often goes to bed in the afternoons. He also often has to work on bank-holidays. She does all the housework and shopping. She also has to be there for his son when he visits. They have only been out together as a couple about three times since the baby was born, although they know I would gladly baby-sit for them.

He doesn't want her to visit friends, but she is alone for long hours while he works. She even spent New Year's Eve on her own, as he didn't want her to celebrate it with anyone else and he had to work. Her only social outlet is her job, which she badly needs for the sake of a chat and a bit of social contact. She doesn't even go to something like a keep-fit class, as he thinks she should be content with just being a mother.

All this is pulling her down, and she was particularly distressed over Christmas. She has known her boyfriend for over seven years and broke off the relationship several times and she didn't feel he had much regard for her. Now she says that nothing has changed. I'm at a loss about what to do.

You know what I'm going to say. Your daughter can't settle for complaining to you. She has to act herself. Certainly she can confide in you, and is lucky to have you. But the decisions must be hers. All you can do is listen, and give gentle pushes in the right direction. Set a date for a definite babysitting night, rather than just making a general offer. Get her membership for a keep-fit class. Organise a social evening starting at your house, where she can then head off for a drink with her friends for an hour or two while you hold the baby.

Your daughter and her partner are certainly working hard and life is not easy for them. I don't think that is his fault. So it's important you don't simply demonise him. He does seem to be restrictive in his attitude to her having friends, or socialising without him. But you don't know to what extent that's because he simply hasn't got the space in his time-schedule or head to help her make that happen. It might be different if she went to him with a clear game-plan, babysitting organised etc. And anyway, it's her task to stand up for what she needs. If she's being bullied into loneliness and social isolation, that's down to her. She could lovingly, but firmly, stand up for herself.

Help your daughter, in short, to be pro-active, but quietly retreat from any attempt at taking sides. You don't want to end up being responsible for her, and her baby, no matter how much you love her.

Angry At My Husband


I am a middle-aged woman, married, with five grown-up children. My husband is a good man in many ways, but we have issues.

I am very very angry at him, but this was suppressed into depression for many years. Recently, I did an intensive one-week personal transformation course and the result is that all this anger is coming up.

I am so angry and feel so very hurt by his behaviour with other women over all the years of our married life. For example, many years ago, when my best friend visited us, he took her out dancing and held her in a very intimate manner. I felt so humiliated and sick. Yet he said he did nothing wrong! And last year, at a family wedding, he leaned over and patted my cousin's thigh, in front of me. She's not married, and I still wonder if she considered this a "pass". When she visits now, the conversation is solely with my husband and I am barely acknowledged. I find this outrageous. My husband says I'm making a big to-do about nothing. I could go on forever with examples, which would get us nowhere.

How do I get him to see the effect his behaviour has on me? I feel he has no respect at all for me. No wonder I've been depressed all these years, not being able to deal with this. Now I feel I can tackle it. I'm expressing my anger, my hurt and my disappointment. And I'm insisting on being treated with respect in future.

But sometimes I feel my husband doesn't want to hear. It's like he's stuck in some adolescent stage of emotional development, and won't move on. How do I deal with this in a more effective way? Or do I admit that the marriage is over? I mean I do feel he cares for me at some level. Also, how do I best cope with my cousin's visits - and the fact that she ignores me? I feel so humiliated in all these relationships. That friend of mine whom he danced with so intimately al those years ago is also visiting soon and I am dreading it. When these women call, I feel embarrassed, humiliated and put down. How do I deal better with all of this?
Years ago a very wise therapist told me to be prepared for terrible anger to surface once therapy started. He suggested I take up some vigorous form of exercise, or martial art, or whatever, and build it into my daily routine. It would help to discharge the ensuing distress. He was right.

The point is, being angry is fine. In fact it's necessary. Angrily attempting to assert yourself, however, is a waste of time. It's worse. It's counter-productive. You can see that yourself. You are insisting, very vocally, that your husband treat you with respect. You are telling him how angry, hurt and disappointed you are - and nothing has changed. Yes, depression is, amongst other things, suppressed rage. And yes, accessing that anger is good. But getting angry of itself doesn't bring about change. You need to use your anger in order to get clarity - and then coolly go about asserting yourself.

First of all, differentiate. Flirting with other women is one thing. Having a woman regularly visit your home who ignores you is another thing entirely. It's unacceptable. But wilting like a wallflower waiting for your husband to rescue you won't help. Since she's a cousin - and obviously a close one at that - you probably don't want to bar her. So put yourself centre-stage in every conversation during her visits. Open the door when she calls, ask your husband to get the tea and sandwiches while you two women talk, discuss clothes, hairstyles, make-up, the menopause, engage in gossip, hold a monologue on your kids' latest exploits - and smile. Do you understand? Drop the hurt withdrawal. Don't wait for your husband to give you pride of place. Use your anger instead to give you Dutch courage and put yourself bang in the middle of all interaction.

I seem to be saying this a lot lately, but marriage is also a question of power-play - all relationships are. Your husband flirts, wittingly or unwittingly, precisely because you don't like it. It makes him feel strong. Yes, pathetic I know, but in truth we're all a bit pathetic. It's the human condition. And yes, it is deeply disappointing. But that's all it is. He's saying no to your request that he desist. That's not actually lack of respect. It's a limit of love. To which you have several responses. You can shrug off the disappointment, sadly even, but with resignation rather than rage. You can actively intervene, as in competing, laughingly taking his hand and putting it on your thigh, cutting in on the intimate dance, sitting on his knee when your old friend comes to stay and you're all relaxing with a drink after dinner. Or sometimes just absent yourself from the silliness. What you don't do is continue to ask, or insist, that he consider your feelings. That, whether you like it or not, is part of the power-play. You have to rescue yourself.

I know it's hard to get your head around, but your husband's silly behaviour doesn't actually humiliate you. It shows him up as a somewhat limited man. And no, it's not humiliating to stay married to a man with limitations. It's wise not to be distracted by the lesser things in life. So you are not diminished in the eyes of your friends. This man isn't abusing you. He's just being somewhat less than perfect. And who isn't? And don't you see? It's your lack of proper self-esteem, your sense of helplessness, your belief that you can't compete, in an appropriate manner, with anyone who crosses your path, which is leaving you feeling so vulnerable.

Your husband's behaviour is truly a side-show. Take a longer look at why you feel so powerless. And then do something about it.

Depressed Mother A Burden


I come from a family of six and I am the only girl. As long as I can remember, my mother has been depressed. She was in psychiatric care when I was younger, but she has not taken medication in the last 30 years, hence her down-hill spiral. Visiting her is like Negativity Central. My brothers don't care and we are not a close family.

My main concern is my dad. He is a quiet man who is bullied all day every day, walking on eggshells, he says, in case she explodes. He worked all his life. My mother didn't. But she controls the money and gives him small amounts. Yet she spends serious money on very expensive clothes for herself. She accuses him of attracting other women, and there are many women she hasn't spoken to for years as she thinks they fancy him. She tells tales about him, for example that he tried to push her, when in fact, as my father explained, she had got into a rage at him and tripped over. He still does all the shopping and cooking but I am very worried as they are getting old. She stays in every day moaning and crying. I hate visiting her as she will not listen to any helpful suggestions. Everyone else is to blame, not her. I no longer allow my children to visit as they feel uneasy when they are there.

I am married to a wonderful man who doesn't understand why I still visit. But I am still drawn. She has never hugged me or shown any emotion. But my dad always hugs and smiles, even though he is unhappy. She is making me very unhappy too. She needs help but won't accept any and my father is too weak to leave her. What do I do? It can't go on like this. Do I stay away and just ask my dad to visit us? Christmas was another nightmare.
You clearly love your dad, he clearly loves you, and it's wonderful to have that relationship. You can't, however, fight his battles for him. You can't change his relationship with your mother. You can't defend him from her bullying. Those are all tasks he can choose to do, or choose to avoid. And he's clearly choosing to avoid - for now, anyway. So be it. You must accept his decision.

With your dad's battles out of the way, you should have a somewhat clearer picture of your own battle with your mother. Because, of course, you're also fighting to get some love or recognition from her. I don't think you'll get it, one way or the other. She doesn't sound like a rewarding kind of mother. But you certainly won't get it by trying to make helpful suggestions on how to solve her problems. Don't you see? She doesn't want to solve things, she wants to complain. It's part of the dynamic of her personality - and the dynamic of her marriage too, for that matter.

Just imagine what it would be like if you totally accepted that you can't change her. Wouldn't that make it a whole lot easier to be around her? I mean, could you envisage fulfilling some sense of duty towards her by simply visiting, or helping out in some practical way, from time to time, without the burden of believing it's your task to fix things? Because to answer your husband's question about why you visit her, dumping all duty towards a parent is very hard to do. Most people try to make a go of it, which is what you're doing. And I think that's right, in as far as you can manage it of course.

You'd definitely find the whole situation far more rewarding if you settled for enjoying your dad, as and when you can. I don't know if he'd come and visit alone. Maybe he would. Either way, the time with him should be about enriching both your life and his, not by fruitlessly trying to change things, but by revelling in the happiness of loving each other. So you both bear the burden of your mother. Fair enough. But that could just be accepted, and set quietly to one side. Couldn't it? And wouldn't it be nice?

Unfaithful Husband


I am a 40-year old married woman with four children. My husband is ten years older, and we have been married over 18 years. Looking back, I rushed into the relationship, and marriage, without knowing much about him. I understand now that I viewed my marriage as an "escape" and a "safety-net" from an unhappy home life and childhood.

From the very early days of our marriage, I suspected that my husband was unfaithful. I didn't actually get proof of this until recently, when all my previous suspicions were confirmed.

I suppose the major cracks started to show when the children arrived. He simply wasn't interested in family life and let me carry on doing it all, despite the fact that I worked outside the home too - and still do. I do hold my hand up and take responsibility for my part in allowing this to happen. I guess I always wanted to avoid conflict and carried on as best I could.

When his infidelity was finally revealed, my husband suggested that we go to marriage counselling. I agreed. However, over the years I had often asked him to go to counselling and he had always refused. And the counselling got us nowhere, to be honest. I felt so betrayed and disgusted that I could never really be part of the marriage again, however much I wanted to for the sake of the children. We decided to remain living in the same house, however, since we are heavily mortgaged.

He is now on anti-depressants, and spends his whole time with his elderly parents - an excuse for not spending time with the children - or else is asleep on the couch. He is cranky and irritable and roars abuse at all of us when he is put under the slightest bit of pressure - like loading the dishwasher or making a phone call. His mistress has long since dumped him.

His brother recently said to me that he thinks I'm not doing enough to help my husband and blames me for his depression. He knows nothing of the affair. I've been to see a counsellor myself and felt I was doing well, but lately I think I have become 'stuck' again. I worry about the damage being done to the children. But I also worry that they will be damaged if we separate.

This isn't, actually, about the children. Like all people who avoid conflict, you are full of resentment. You hate your husband for every battle you never fought. And this isn't about his unfaithfulness either. It's about the way he failed to be a proper participant in the marriage - and the way you stood there and let it happen. Yes, I know you say you take responsibility for allowing him dodge, for facilitating his absence from any real form of parenting. Maybe you do, up to a point. You clearly haven't taken responsibility for your own unhappiness. That's why you are still stuck, as you put it. And you are stuck. You're stuck in rage.

That rage stopped you being constructive, when your husband asked that you go for counselling as a couple. You went, but you didn't participate. You certainly didn't go there with an open heart and mind, or with any kind of willingness to find a solution. You tell me that yourself. You were too disgusted to participate in the marriage ever again. Your husband opened a door, even if only in naked self-interest. You chose not to walk through. Put another way, you decided to stay angry instead. But you didn't take the apparently logical step of ending the marriage entirely. Instead of throwing him out, you've left your husband in the awful role of useless lodger. Sure, he's actively participating in this terrible scenario, but it's you and I who are talking here, so we'll stick with what you're doing.

Some things need to be clarified here. Your rage didn't begin when your husband's infidelity came to light. You've been angry with him all your married life. Everyone who puts up with stuff in order to avoid conflict is in a rage. The anger just stays underground, secretly tearing away at the heart of the relationship, defused but none the less deadly, sabotaging any real communication. The only difference now is that your husband's bad behaviour came out into the open, in a way he couldn't avoid admitting. So you felt free to hit him with everything you had. Open rebellion became possible.

What I'm saying is that the problems in your marriage were not all down to your husband.

How you're punishing him makes a lot of psychological sense. He's shut out of the marriage. He's shown up clearly as a wash-out, for all to see, which effectively sidelines him in terms of family life. He's where he always wanted to be, as you see it. Only it hasn't worked out for him. He sits there, angry, depressed, and almost entirely useless, abandoned by his woman. He's a mess. Deep down you thought you'd find that rewarding. You were doing OK for a while. But angry revenge never works for us. That's what you're now finding out.
Children are hurt whether a couple stay together in awful circumstances, or split up. So forget the kids. It can't be about them. Either you wish to pick up the pieces of your marriage, or you don't. It's your decision.

My Sister Lacks Persoanl Hygiene


I am in my fifties and live with my widowed sister and her two sons, both of whom are in their twenties. It is her house. I have a job and am content with my life. My sister has independent means, stays at home and I go out to work. I contribute to the cost of running the house, help with housework at the weekend and do all the work in the garden, which I enjoy. I also do running repairs. My sister looks after the household bills, food shopping etc. Her sons have their own lives and are often away. We get on well enough and have settled into a routine.

The problem is my sister's attitude to personal hygiene. She doesn't think it's important. She almost never takes a bath or shower, just washes at the hand-basin - and not much of that either. It's the same with her clothes, not changing often, leaving dirty ones lying around on her bedroom floor. When she goes out she dresses up and you would never guess from her appearance just how careless she really is. There's a constant stale smell in the house, especially upstairs and coming out of her room. It's not pleasant sitting too close to her either.

A few times, when it was really getting to me, I tried to raise the issue with her. She got angry and told me it was none of my business. I could tell from her reaction that she thought I was mad getting upset about something like that. But hygiene is important to me, both personally and in the house. To me it's to do with self-respect and respecting others. I know you often say that we can't change others, but can change our own reactions, and in the process maybe change the situation too. I've thought about that, but I can't see what I could possibly do. Certainly I can't imagine how I can have any effect on my sister's behaviour.

I don't want to have a falling out about it. She is my sister and we do get on well, and agree on other things. But this is starting to really affect me. I can't bring the subject up again. She would see it coming and the defences would be up immediately. It would just be another row. Am I over-reacting?

To say anyone is over-reacting is a put-down. Because the feelings are very real. So no, of course you are not over-reacting. You do, however, have to be careful about letting a particular problem become an all-consuming focus for your attention. Even worse, endowing any particular behaviour with too much meaning is the slippery slope to serious discontent. There is no moral dimension to poor personal hygiene. I'm not even sure it's a question of respect as you put it. It's a convention of modern life, more or less. That's all. Keeping food safe is different. That involves a potential health hazard. But failing to wash to the point of smelling somewhat is a sort of personal choice isn't it?

Living with anyone is difficult. The trick is to skim over the annoying bits and concentrate on the good bits. Cultivating selective perception is an art-form. It's also essential for survival in any relationship. No, I'm not saying you are wrong to dislike your sister's behaviour. I am saying that you should be careful not to park all your irritation and distress at the door of her failure to wash. I am not criticising you. We all feel irritation and distress with those close around us. It's a fact of life.

Rows are no use. I think they probably almost make you feel rather vulnerable, since it seems you have no ownership rights to the house, and hence, if the chips were down, your sister could pull rank and put you in your place. Well that maybe the way it feels anyway. This subliminal sense of helplessness, or powerlessness, is probably feeding your discontent too. But aside from all that, rows are no use anyway. You could take some direct action, quietly and innocuously of course. You could resort to regularly opening the windows in the house, particularly upstairs, you know, just by the way. You could also settle for sitting on the other side of the room, or dining table, or sofa. You could slowly but surely take over the washing, starting with your own stuff, and then asking your sister if she had anything for the machine. You get my drift.

The bottom line? I do honestly think that you are offended by your sister's refusal to do as you ask, for your sake. I also think that for you it's a demonstration of your relative powerlessness in the relationship - as you perceive it anyway. And I think it reinforces in you your sense of being the one who is dependent. Can I tell you something? That is what happens to all of us, irrespective of our circumstances, when our wishes are not respected. The wise learn to accept that their power is limited. Then the fretting stops, the unhappiness eases, and we are at peace.

My Husband Is A Flirt


I have a problem with my husband's wandering eye. Time and time again I have addressed this issue with him. Don't get me wrong. He is a wonderful person and does a great deal for me. However, he never says I'm beautiful, and is never proud of me in any way. And I could accept that, accept that he is introverted about such things. What I do not understand is that he seems to have no problem saying that so and so is beautiful, or so and so is nice, or sweet, or wonderful. If he can express himself freely when it comes to other women, why is it so hard for him to say such things to his own wife? He keeps telling me that he has feelings for me in his heart, pointing to the said heart in the process, and it appears I am to be content with that. He never says anything nice to me, but then wanders around looking at other women, even flirting with them, and I am right there. That hurts so much that I now wonder if this marriage will work. Because I can no longer take it. I know I'm not here to change him, but if he has no respect for me, what is the point of staying in the marriage?
You clearly need a crash course in power politics. And yes, they most certainly do exist in marriage. But before we start, this is not a hanging offence, your husband is not a bad man, and it's not about a failure to respect you.

Of course your husband could tell you how wonderful you are. And of course it's crappy nonsense for him to point to his heart, and remain wordless. Worse, it's ham acting, boring and ridiculous. The reality is that he doesn't want to praise you. His power lies in withholding. He is an insecure man, who feeds off your need to hear nice things. Yes, that is pathetic, and sad. But the truth is, he feels psychologically safer saying no. As long as you desire praise, he feels reassured that you need him.

Yes, of course we all desire praise. But to need it, as you do, to constantly ask for it, despite all the refusals you receive, displays insecurity on your part. Do you understand? You are handing your husband the power to say no. And weak as he is, he's exercising that power. If you like, it's a form of masochism on your part, constantly putting yourself up for another mean refusal. And the sadistic little bit of your husband, born of his own low self-esteem, rises to the occasion, and he withholds the praise, simply because you want it.

The same applies to his comments on other women. He's playing games, exploiting your vulnerability, trying to make you feel jealous - and all so that he can feel better about himself. Please understand. This is not a consciously planned strategy. He's not thinking "now I'll make her feel bad by saying how nice this other woman is". He's instinctively using the power you give him. And he's not doing it out of pure badness. He's using that power because he needs to.

You can see for yourself what has to be done. First of all you have to stop asking. You then have to work on your own self-esteem so that you reach a point where you would like his praise, but don't actually need it. Because of course your husband will still sense your need, even if you no longer articulate it. So you have to learn to stand on your own two feet, emotionally I mean. That's one side of the equation.

How much praise do you dish out? Your husband clearly needs reassurance himself. He needs you to think he is wonderful. And at the moment, my guess is that you don't feed that side of him. You're too upset. Could you find it in your heart to rise above your own distress and try and make him feel good? Could you show your appreciation of all those things he clearly does for you? I mean, could you be generous enough to do what he doesn't do, namely reassure him, with words, smiles and cuddles? Could you, in short, break the subtle game the two of you play, by opting out and doing things differently?

Emotional Spring Cleaning


I'm confused about what to do next - with my life I mean. I'm 45, single and childless. I moved back to Ireland three years ago after a long period living abroad. I like being back, but I'm having difficulties making a good life for myself here.

I work part-time, which makes it hard to manage financially. I'm looking for a better job, but all efforts have been to no avail so far. And like everyone else, I'm scared of the upcoming budget. I had a relationship, but let it go as I found the guy to be irritable and sarcastic. I let go of a close friend recently as I couldn't cope with her being in a bad relationship. I got so frustrated at her inability to see how damaging her situation was for her. I also ended all contact with my mother recently. This was after years of being bullied by her and used as a scapegoat. I spent years in therapy in England dealing with the effects of her abuse. My siblings took my mother's side, so I now have no contact with them either. I know I'm scared because I feel so alone without my family. I do have a few good friends, but sometimes I wonder what will happen to me.

I'm thinking of returning to the UK, but I'm scared I'll miss Ireland again. But maybe I'd have a better chance of creating the life I want there. I don't want to give up on having the life I want - money, a good lifestyle, a loving partner, kind and interesting friends. Yet, for the first time ever, I feel I'll never have those things. I'm tired of trying so hard - I've tried speed-dating and all sorts of things to find someone. I'm attractive, but live in a small town where every attractive man seems to be married. And I'd love to have a child, but think it's too late. I wouldn't want to do it on my own anyway.

I guess I'm asking for some hope or direction.

Wow. You've certainly been doing a lot of emotional spring-cleaning. Small wonder you're feeling so daunted.

I do hope you know what a brave lady you are. I also hope that you don't push yourself too hard. I understand that you spent years in therapy and gained a lot of insights. It's still a seriously big deal to end all contact with your mother. No, I'm not saying it's the wrong thing to do. Toxic mothers should be put to one side. I'm just saying that you need to appreciate what a toll such a step takes. That's particularly true when it means losing contact with all your family. So let me say something to you.

I think it's terribly important in life to avoid a scorched earth policy. Yes, we sometimes have to make a categorical stand. A boyfriend who beats you up is a no-no and has to be ditched. Family relationships are more complex. Put another way, you often have more room to manoeuvre than you think. To take your concrete example. Sometimes we can make our stand without severing all contact. You can reject your mother's mistreatment of you and still send her birthday cards, or phone once a week to see if she's OK. No, not always, but maybe more often than we think. Part of that process is feeling strong enough to reject something like scape-goating, or constant put-downs, to fight your corner in other words, without retreating forever. I mean you could learn not to be hurt, and just tell your mother to put a sock in it. Please understand. Sometimes a tactical withdrawal is the only option. More often, however, standing our ground and fighting back works. It might not alter your mother's behaviour, but it would alter your sense of helplessness. And your family wouldn't abandon you just because you put your mother firmly in her place. They have abandoned you because you forced them to take sides, because you were so categorical in your break with your mother, because you see it as forever. Do you understand? You should certainly not stand there and take punishment. But maybe you don't need to put yourself so outside the pale in terms of your family. Think about it.

Part of the reason I'm saying all this is because of your description of breaking with your friend. You could still love her, you know, even though you have to hold back a little because she's not heeding you. When our friends persist with their mistakes, we stick around, because love is stronger than some emotional cock-up a friend might make. Your irritability stems from the notion that our friends should listen to us. But a lot of the time they don't. That's human nature. Friendship accommodates that.

Please understand. I'm not trying to rob you of your courage. I am trying to help you find some room to manoeuvre. You've done the categorical thing. Now try the diplomatic approach. Dignity lies in being firm, which is different to taking up absolutist positions. Meanwhile, make no plans to leave, at least not right away. You've unfinished emotional business here. Above all, be gentle with yourself, and kind.

I Am Being Punished For Past Mistakes


I'm in my early 50's and have been married for over 35 years. My husband and I separated for three years when our children were in their teens. I was the one to leave the family home. I caused a lot of hurt and I have acknowledged this, but I'm exhausted still carrying the blame for everything.

I have tried very hard to atone for my past, but it doesn't seem to make any difference. My eldest daughter hardly speaks to me, and she freely admits having told all her friends and in-laws about her difficult relationship with me and they are very supportive of her. My husband still spoils the children as he thinks he needs to make up for the fact that they were abandoned by me all those years ago.

What hurts me is that everyone seems to know my 'sins', but nobody has any idea of my husband's past infidelities, possessiveness, violence and controlling behaviour. He has 'mellowed' and says he is happy for us to be together now, having overcome our past problems. However, he never supports me when our eldest daughter dismisses me or criticizes me. He just says I'm being "too sensitive". My daughter even refers to our home as "Dad's house" and brings her children to see their granddad, never granddad and nana.

I feel very alone, hurt and angry. Whenever I try to talk to anyone, I end up feeling as if people think I'm imagining things. I used to be unafraid to speak out, even when I was afraid of my husband, but now I find myself becoming quieter and quieter and increasingly isolated. I would like to know if there is a way to let my husband know how I feel. How can I get him to be a little more supportive, for example by asking our daughter not to treat me the way she does. I understand that he is afraid of losing contact with our grandchildren, or of being unpopular. But I do not know how much longer I can continue to bear being regarded as the 'bad parent', or how long I can take being blamed.

I realise that all our actions have consequences, and I have to live with the responsibility of my past. But how do I do that with more confidence, and without feeling so alone?

I imagine the relationship between your husband and your eldest daughter is written in stone at this stage. No, I'm not saying that's fair. I am saying that a wise woman would accept it. As the eldest, she undoubtedly took your place when you left, had to step up to the plate and look after her younger brothers and sisters while daddy went to work. Why this was necessary doesn't really matter at one level. Whether he drove you away or not doesn't really matter either. A situation was created, she and her dad forged a working relationship, and they are still close. This is not simply a blame game - may not even be a blame game at all. It's the reality of their lives.

Yes, I understand that you have a difficult relationship, and no, you're not imagining it. But it may not be because your daughter blames you for leaving as such. I'd say her difficulties lay in how to integrate you back into the new family structure - a bit like wife number one suddenly turning up again, and no, of course I don't mean that sexually. They were a team, keeping the show on the road. And neither of them knew how to step back from that. Or subconsciously, they both decided not to. Maybe it's just the way they nurture their bond.

Sometimes we wear the sackcloth and ashes ourselves. Are you doing that? Many mothers have very difficult relationships with their daughters. And many mothers have to step aside in the face of the closeness those daughters have with their fathers. Is it possible that you see this as a punishment, when in fact it's simply just that, a close relationship? Yes, you are excluded. But is that really in order to punish you? Or is that interpretation just the guilt messing with your head? And even if the exclusion is intended as punishment, you have a choice whether to accept such punishment or not. You can't insist your daughter love you. None of us can do that with our children. You can, quietly but firmly, insist on respect. If she's nasty to you, you can simply tell her that wasn't called for, and leave the room.

The person who really has to leave the blame behind is you yourself. You and your husband are now sound. And while the world - or more specifically your daughter - may not know how much your husband contributed to your departure, he certainly does. You are back in your marriage very much on equal terms. Stop seeing everything in terms of blame. You were not a bad mother. Why paint yourself as one? Why look for reassurance from your daughter? Yes, she's being a bit of a bee, but so what? She's married, has kids, is close to her family. She's a success story - which means you did an awful lot that was right. Believe me, that's all any of us can do.

Take off the sackcloth, wash away the ashes, and smile.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My Partner Dodges Responsibility

I'm 36 years old and an unmarried mother of three. I've put up with a less than satisfying relationship for sixteen years. I am a people-pleaser and seem happy to the outside world. I try to pretend life is good with my partner. We live as a family, but, to be honest, he has always lived as a single man and I have allowed him to do so for fear of losing him. I now can't believe that I've let so many years pass without making any changes. I'm the sort of person who lives in the hope of making my 'family' happy and normal. Will I ever grow up?

I live with someone who doesn't value or respect me. He comes from a broken home, didn't see his father for years, and loves and hates his mother in equal measure. Very early on I saw that all of this had a profound effect on his emotional development, but thought that love would conquer all. Yes, how naïve of me. He seems to love me in his own way, but can be cruel when he doesn't get what he wants. He's told me lots of times that he's only here because of the children, but when we've made up again, he says he never meant it. I feel very sad that when he's in good humour I'm happy and when he is in a moody phase I'm walking on eggshells. His mood decides how I feel! It's so needy of me! I can't believe I haven't changed this repetitive cycle. He moves from being a lovely, kind partner who has no problem giving me money and supporting me, to a horribly moody partner who blames me for everything, making nasty cruel comments and basically telling me to get out.

We have wonderful children who now witness a man bullying a woman who allows it to happen. How my children view me is so important to me. How they will develop and enjoy their lives is paramount to me. Yet when I think of making changes, panic attacks happen and fear makes me weak again. I am so afraid of having my children come from a broken home. Yet realistically I understand that us behaving the way we do will damage them just as much. So who am I trying to kid?

I have lost a lot of friendships and relationships over the years due to my partner being rude to me in front of them. I've tried to calmly talk to him over the years, but he just makes me feel stupid. It sounds such a childish thing to say, but I never win. I never get my point across. I always start crying and retreat. He knows exactly what to say to silence me. I've already been to counselling, and I know I need to change things. Why am I so weak?

Stop knocking yourself. There's always a time when we know things have to change, but we haven't yet got the courage to go there. It's running on the spot, emotionally, a sort of holding operation until we gather ourselves together. Be proud you've reached this point, which undoubtedly involved a lot of painful soul searching.

It's a Sisyphus exercise trying to win with words. Forget it. Doing is what's required. Emotional bullying - like all bullying - is practiced solely by the weak. And threats are just that, threats. They do not imply any particular action, are chosen solely on the basis of beating you down. Certainly your partner knows what to say. But only because he understands your vulnerability. It's all just hot air really, designed to win an argument, or reassert his power, unkind of course, but then all bullies are unkind because they are basically just so scared themselves.

Keep it simple. I'm not sure what you mean about living as a single man, but I presume he sees his financial contribution as an optional extra, or something to bargain with when he wants his way. Tell him, gently, reasonably, but with great clarity, that you need a fixed sum on which you can rely. When he threatens to withhold, ignore it. If he actually withholds, tell him the kids need financial security - and then leave him to step up the plate. Do you understand? And then, if he actually defaults, leave a very obvious gap in the household like his dinner, or better still, some much-loved extra treat which will leave the kids complaining, loud and clear. No threats. No heroic big stand. No end scenarios. No tears. Just leave him to face the consequences of his behaviour. Stop fixing it.

That's just an example - and maybe way too big a step for you right now. Which is fine. Baby steps are best anyway. The hard truth is that appeasement - which is what you do - simply perpetuates the bullying. And so the situation you hate - and which is equally bad for your partner by the way - continues. So stop fixing, however tentative those first steps are.

My Husband Is On A Constant Downer


I'm feeling a bit desperate at the moment. My husband, I think, is depressed. Two years ago he was made redundant from his job, which he'd had for over twenty years. It involved being away from home on a regular basis, and he really loved it. Almost immediately he got another job, where he's based at home, so the problem is not unemployment. He hates it, and moans about it non-stop. I dread ringing him because I just get doom and gloom. Even going on holidays has lost all its joy because he moans almost from day one about having to go back.

He does have an option of a different job, but that would involve him being away from home for long periods and would basically mean me being on my own - something I put up with for over 20 years and don't really want to face again. During those years, I have had reason to suspect my husband of playing away. A couple of years ago I found texts on his phone to another woman. We got over that, but I'm still broken-hearted thinking about it.

We have two teenage daughters who are good and thoughtful and never cost us any worry. When things get really bad, my husband won't talk to me, or to them. They, in turn, refuse to humour him, and tell me not to. But I'm always pussy-footing around him, just to keep the peace. I know I shouldn't. My husband is bullying me emotionally. But I just don't know what to do.

I'm 50 years old and from the outside we look like we have it all. I sometimes feel like ending it all. I've never found it easy to make friends and I feel I'll have nobody if he leaves me. How can I learn to handle my marriage?

You don't need to learn how to handle your marriage - well it's certainly not your first task anyway. You need to learn how to handle yourself.

I salute your honesty. Now look at what you've told me. You live in daily terror that your husband will leave you. That's not about him, although undoubtedly he's playing on your vulnerability. It's about you. Your self-esteem is at rock-bottom. Your emotional independence is non-existent. You truly believe your very survival depends on your husband's presence. Worse, you don't feel you can make it even with him around. You're so fearful you feel you should perhaps end it all before disaster strikes. Isn't that truly shocking and seriously sad? What an impossibly hard time you've had all your life. And wouldn't you wonder what messages were signalled to you as a young girl growing up, which left you so lost.

Let me tell you the good news. This isn't about your husband. The focus on him is misplaced. This is about the belief system which you developed about yourself since childhood. This is about the thoughts that constantly circle in your brain, ideas of worthlessness, the sense of uselessness, the notion that there is nothing you can do to make yourself safe. You've clearly always felt like that. So when the opportunity arose, and he had to change jobs, you latched onto the opportunity of binding your husband close. This has clearly backfired. His constant whingeing over the past two years has simply left you feeling even more vulnerable.

Just for the record, your husband isn't depressed. He's pissed off. Instead of standing on his own two bullying feet, he's played the passive game, and failed to go for the job with travel. Maybe deep down he wasn't sure it would work out. Maybe he's scared of it, and just using your opposition as an excuse. Who knows. What we do know is that he's stayed, and is punishing you for that decision, making it sound like all his unhappiness is down to you. Let him off. Tell him to take the job he wants, and do so with a big smile. The current situation is intolerable - for you, I mean. Yes, I know you're worried about him playing away. But he could do that down the nearest cul-de-sac. And then tell you it was all your fault because you deprived him of the job of his dreams!

Then go to a counsellor and deal with your sense of helplessness. Word of mouth is always best in finding someone. If you wish, use the excuse of menopause and your need to get some support. That's sort of universal isn't it. The point is, you need help in facing the fact that your insecurity has nothing to do with your husband and everything to do with the picture you have of yourself. And no, that's not a statement of blame. You are the way you are because it was the best you could do with the emotional material your upbringing gave you. Now you're older and wiser and - although it doesn't feel like that right now - more courageous. The big step is always admitting there's a problem. You've done that. Now tackle it, privately, without telling anyone. It will be your private time, for you. Believe me, the very fact that you do that will subtly, but fundamentally, change the dynamic between you and your husband. Not to mention the shock he'll get when he's told he should take that job.

I Think She's The One For Me


I met a girl through my sister at the end of 2005. Six months later I met her again and really fell for her. She's a couple of years older than I am and at that time had just come out of a long-term relationship. I tried asking her out, but made a mess of it. I met her at the wrong time and was a bit full on. Later I tried to make amends by saying sorry for my brashness in a nice letter, but never got a reply.

I fell in love with this woman. Yet two years later I met her again, but we barely said hello to each other. It was at a party. In spite of all that, I still think about her every day. I know I need to move on but can't get her out of my head. I feel I blew my chance with her and regret that terribly. She's going out with someone else now, and may well announce her engagement this Christmas. I don't even know if she was ever interested in me. It could be all in my head. Yet I felt I clicked with her in a way that's never happened me before, or since.

To be honest, I'd love to get another chance with her. Everybody gets a second chance. I feel I sold myself seriously short first time around. The odds, of course, are against me. Yet I think she's the one for me and I think it's worth another go. But I don't even know if she likes me. I have this gut feeling that she's going to break up with the guy she's now with and that that will be my chance. I don't want to make a fool of myself. This is doing my head in for the past five years. I wish life was simple and straight-forward.

The problem is not about making a fool of yourself. If something is worth it, then of course we take the chance of looking foolish. The problem is whether you're prepared to face reality, if it's put to you plainly. You haven't done so this far. You see I think you're right. I think this is all in your head. Deep down you know that. You just don't want to accept it.

You are a lonely man. Instead of tackling that loneliness you are day-dreaming. I'm not knocking the notion of day-dreaming as such - it is a gentle way of putting ourselves onto a higher plain when the going is tough. In your case, however, you're over-doing it. Dreams by definition transcend reality. But they can only be a break. Reality remains. With you, that reality has become wobbly. So let me spell it out. You don't actually know this woman at all. She doesn't know you. She's getting on with her life. You didn't make a mess of things some years ago. Whatever passed between you was so uneventful that it effectively didn't happen. It's just that you've created a whole story around a tiny incident.

In the process, by the way, you're putting yourself down. You're saying you got it wrong. You didn't. What you're getting wrong is to fantasise about some passing ship in the night, rather than tackling your shyness and isolation by looking around and seeing the people who could alleviate your loneliness. They are there. Get to know them, men and women. Get busy tackling life. And keep the day-dreams for the odd occasion.

Jealous Of His Past

I've been married for 25 years to a man I love. We are a very close couple. When we first started dating my husband owned up to a one-night stand with an older woman when he was 17. She was a widow and in her forties. He said he was young and inexperienced and it lasted only five minutes. He was staying in her house at the time, and said he went back to his room as soon as it was over. During a conversation recently, however, it came to light that he had spent the night with her and had done a lot of sexual exploring.

I feel betrayed and hurt that he hid from me the full extent of what went on. I feel he should have told me the truth right at the beginning as I would then have had the option to either deal with it or walk away. You may think this is petty, but I feel this has cast a shadow over our 25 years together. I'm now wondering if he's been thinking about her whenever we had sex. My husband says it all happened before we met, that it has no bearing on our marriage and that I'm looking to be a martyr in all of this. He just doesn't get it, how hurt I feel. Now I wonder what else went on. I'm tortured with thoughts of him with this woman, and the mark she has left on him. My husband says I'm over-reacting. Am I?

You're not hurt actually. You're jealous. And if you handle that jealousy correctly, it can put a sparkle into your marriage rather than burdening your relationship. You've also reason to be grateful. Think about it. If your husband had just spent 5 minutes with this woman he would have learned nothing. During the night, he moved from adolescent fumbling to a lover's light touch. Your marriage, I imagine, benefited from that. Two inexperienced people might have fumbled forever. And no, before the moral outrage begins, I'm not suggesting young men should seduce, or be seduced by, older women. I'm simply saying that since it happened, you could be quietly grateful for the good bits.

Jealousy can spur us on, or pull us asunder. Instead of feeling one-down, why not channel your energy into enjoying a whole new phase in your sex life with your husband? You do have that choice you know. How we see things is ultimately a choice. Yes, I understand that you feel vulnerable. But you can change that. You can rejoice in the fact that you care enough to be jealous, rejoice in the fact that you have a live, vibrant and communicative marriage, and take up the challenge to be sexier than any 40-something year old widow of bygone days.

Ask for nice nightwear as a Christmas present.

I'm Not In Love With My Lover


I am currently in a relationship with a man whom I care about, but would not say I am madly in love with. He is, however, very much in love with me.

Relationships were difficult for me in the past and I spent much of my dating life avoiding intimacy. I have addressed this issue, and only now feel that I know how to be in a relationship. I do regret some of the great guys I let go in the past. I am not very hung up on marriage, but I would like to have kids. The problem is that I'm not too far off 40 and feel time is running out.

Do I settle and make a go of it with this man? Or do I try and find someone whom I truly love? I know this may sound cold, but I need to be realistic about my future dreams and women can't ignore the ticking of that biological clock.

Be careful about looking back. Remember, those great guys were seen through the prism of problems with intimacy. You knew them when you couldn't get emotionally close. So there's at least a question mark over your assessment of how great they really were. No, of course I'm not knocking you, just asking you to be wise.

To answer your question directly - it all depends on what part of being madly in love is missing with this guy. What do you mean when you say 'truly in love'? Are you talking about him ringing all your bells? What makes a marriage work is not the heady moments of wildly fancying someone. Love endures when it is accompanied by real respect, the capacity for kindness, and proper gratitude for having found a good man who cares deeply for us.

Let me put it differently. Romantic love helps us over the hurdle of irritation. It's an altered state of consciousness which buries the negative bits and highlights the positive bits - much like the way all mothers think their own babies are beautiful. Yes, it is real. And yes it's wonderful. But it's not the only route to marital happiness.

In a cooler, more conscious, but equally valid way, we can live in love and harmony with someone whom we see clearly, rather than through rose-tinted glasses.

The question is therefore simple. Can you be good and kind and loving and gentle with this man? Can you quietly grieve the absence of whatever constitutes being madly in love, without punishing him for your disappointment? Can you avoid comparisons with the great guys who got away? More accurately, can you see that this is the man you're with precisely because you put in the hard work of dealing with past issues - that he is the companion of the new you, now that you're capable of being in a relationship? Don't you see? This man could be truly the great guy who got away, while you mourned the past. Couldn't he? Or have I got it all wrong?

My Son May Be Gay


My son has been showing signs of being gay for some years now. He is 17 and it is becoming progressively more worrying for us as he is accessing gay porn on my laptop. My husband and I are at pains to know what to do. We really want to do the 'right thing' by him, and of course our duty as parents. We have confronted him on a number of occasions, sometimes in anger, and other times to try and gently get him to speak to us. He denies he's gay, but we still find the evidence to the contrary. If only he would open up to us. I know that others outside the family are aware of the situation, and he was badly bullied in earlier years at school. But he seemed to cope with it. He is quite confident, very popular and happy with himself. My husband, I know, is hoping deep down that our son will come out of it, but I am less inclined to believe this. We love him very much.

He appears careless at times, leaving a trail of evidence behind him, and sometimes I feel he wants to control the situation by letting us know he's gay but wanting us to accept him without discussion. We do not want this to be the way things go. We feel that if this is his path, there will be rules also, and porn sites etc. will not be acceptable to us as a family. Should we insist on some truth from him, or wait until he comes to us? I feel he will carry on, solely on his terms, unless we do something.

You do understand, don't you, that all of you are pussy-footing around? And in the process, you and your husband are undermining your authority as parents. You see, at a very important level the question of your son being gay is in one sense irrelevant. This is about who calls the shots. So it could be alcohol, or drugs, or staying out late, or money, or maintaining manners. The problem is the same. Parenting is not democratic. It is, at its very best, a benign dictatorship. Quite rightly, you don't want porn, gay or straight, on your laptop. So why is it there? Talking about being in your face! Your son isn't just challenging your unhappiness about homosexuality - not to mention your husband's secret wish that it isn't so. He's challenging your authority.

So yes, you are right. He will carry on, solely on his terms, unless you do something. Probably without consciously planning it, he's playing on your uncertainty. Just think how different it would be if you said you didn't care whether he was gay or not, you would not tolerate porn on your laptop - so it gets locked up, temporarily since you're not running a prison but a home, he gets some form of punishment for breaking a house rule, and you all get on with your lives.
It's simple to stop game-playing. You stop participating. That means being prepared to face reality. Just tell your son that you're tired of dodging the emotional trip-wires, that you won't tolerate the breaking of house rules, and that you love him. Don't look for the 'big discussion'. Ask him, instead, to talk to you straight when he feels he can. And prepare yourselves internally for whatever may come.

Abused By My Brother


I am a girl in my early twenties and don't know what to do. From the age of eight, until I was about ten, I was sexually abused by an older brother. This went on in our house and in many of the out-buildings on the farm. I suppose that since we were living in the same house, it wasn't hard for him to get me on my own. He did not have sex with me. He just did things to me and made me do things to him that make me feel sick evening thinking about.

I am not sure why it stopped, but it was probably a mixture of me finally having the courage to confront him and threatening to tell on him - or more likely the fact that one of our sisters caught him trying to kiss me, so he was afraid he would be caught doing something worse. There was no 'sorry' for what he had done - not that an apology would even begin to make up for what he did. Since then there has not been a word uttered about it between us. I suppose he must think that I have forgotten about it as he seems to have done himself. During my teenage years I tried my best to push it to the back of my mind and got on with living the life of a shy teenager. Since I did not have anyone I could tell my secret to in strict confidence, I said nothing.

My brother is now in his late twenties and has a girlfriend which he says is the one. If she is, and he marries her and has children, what is to stop him from doing the same thing later down the line? If he does, and I have said nothing, am I to blame? What if he already did the same to our younger sisters and it could have been prevented if I had said something? Was it just that he was a teenage boy, trying, for want of a better phrase, to figure out the workings of his body? Was it just because I was such a shy child that he picked me because he supposed I wouldn't say anything? I do not think I can say anything now, especially to my parents, as it would break their hearts, something I'm not prepared to do. Sometimes I just feel so ashamed about what happened, and why he chose me.

I am now going out with a really nice boy for nearly six months. He cannot understand why I am so reluctant to let me near me. It is just that the thought of someone getting close makes me feel nervous and scared, and brings back all the memories. I have never had a boyfriend for this long before, so I suppose the issue never arose. I do not know if I should tell him the truth, or just keep avoiding the topic. I do not think going out with someone for a few months is long enough to tell them your deepest secrets, especially ones you have tried to hard to forget. I have told him it's not him, but something in the past, so he probably just thinks it was bad experiences with other boys.

If I did say something, then I certainly cannot tell him that it was my brother because how can I be sure that he would not say anything to him. Then what I have been hiding for over ten years would literally explode in my face and my family would never be the same again. But I don't think it is something I can forget either. For the past two years I think about it regularly and sometimes cry myself to sleep not knowing what I am supposed to do. At some stage though, I will have to face up to it, and it would be nice to have some insight into what I should do.

You are a very wise girl not to talk to your boyfriend about what happened to you. And this has nothing to do with shame, because of course you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. You were an innocent child who was abused. You played no part in it other than suffering the abuse.

To begin with, you badly need to deal with this yourself first. Telling your boyfriend now would simply burden him with your pain, and then you would have his distress to deal with as well as your own. And as you quite correctly say, he might do something you don't want, so you'd be forced to tell only half a tale, and he might guess anyway. Put simply, you'd lose control of the situation - which would not help you at all. You need time and emotional space, so the story you've told your boyfriend is fine, for now anyway. Whether you ever tell him, or not, is up to you.

What you must do, however, is break the silence. You need to talk, and to someone who can handle the information without getting emotionally involved themselves. So again you are right, it can't be family - not until you've found peace anyway. You need to talk to a professional counsellor.

Even the most horrific horrors lose their power to hurt once light has been let in. Shared with the right person, they can be seen in perspective. So find someone, immediately. You've been alone with your distress for far too long.

The reason counselling helps is because we learn to see things differently. And the very first thing you need to truly accept is that the abuse was not your fault. If your brother chose you because you were quiet, or shy, then that only highlights what a bully he was. Sadly, abuse victims almost invariably feel they were somehow responsible. It's part of the damage that abuse does. You were a great little girl. Just as you are now a great young woman. None of it was even remotely your fault.

It's equally important to understand that you are not responsible for your brother's behaviour. And you never were. The fact that you didn't tell anyone is not your fault either. Clearly, as a small child you didn't feel free to do so. And no, I'm not blaming your parents. This is not a blame game. I'm simply saying that you were faced with a culture of silence and were too young to challenge it. You couldn't tell. Your brother knew that. Otherwise he would never have abused you. And when things changed because a sister caught him kissing you and there was now a witness, someone alert and watchful, he stopped.

Nor are you responsible for anything your brother did, or might do in the future. So no guilt please, either about possible abuse of younger sisters, or potential abuse of his children further down the line. That's his responsibility. Your responsibility to is heal yourself, by getting the help you so richly deserve. Certainly, at some future date, you might decide to open a discussion with him, or within the family, or whatever. But that cannot be even contemplated until you are free of the past, and able to be close and relaxed with someone you love.

I Want To Know Who My Father Is


I'm 19 and in my first year in college. I was raised single-handedly by my mother whom I love very much. My father never wanted anything to do with me, although I do see him sometimes. He has another wife and family.
Recently, while clearing out some stuff at home, I found a legal document dated around the time I was born. It was between my mum and dad and something to do with sorting out a paternity payment. However, the name of the man on the document, who is supposed to be my father, is not the same man whom I have always believed to be my father. I brought this discovery up with my mum but she just brushed it off angrily.

This has really been bugging me as I want to find out who my real father is. But I find the topic so uncomfortable to talk about with my mum, and I really don't want to upset her. I do want to know the truth, even if it means going for paternity tests, or whatever.

You are a very good son, with a kind and loving heart. You and your mother are lucky to have each other. And I'm sure she's very proud of you too. All that said, we sometimes have to push things, even at the cost of upsetting someone else. The issue of who your father really is will not go away. So yes, you have to face it. So does your mother.

You need to bring it up with her. Tell her you love her, ask her not to get angry, and then say your piece. And yes, say it even if she does get angry. I think you understand that her anger is just a defensive move. She can't actually be angry with you. You had no hand, act or part in how you were conceived. Nor is it in any way, shape or form your fault that you found the document. Your mother kept it. It was her responsibility to hide it better if she didn't want it discovered. Don't be intimidated by her distress. Persist, with kindness - at least in terms of saying your piece.

I am very slow to put the argument that you have a 'right' to know. It's hugely difficult to decide between someone's desire to keep a secret and someone else's right to know the truth. I mean, your mother might have kept this secret, and let it die with her. I presume you have a birth certificate, and I presume the man you know as your dad is named on that. Or maybe there's no father named, but you always accepted that your dad is your dad. The point is, your mother could have kept this other man entirely out of the picture. And who's to say that would have been a wrong thing to do? Oh I know I'm out of step with modern society in saying this, but I firmly believe there is no absolute right to know.

The situation you face is different. This is not about the 'right' to know. You have been presented with a puzzle. That puzzle will not disappear. A wise mother would accept that, and talk to you. It would be wonderful if you could find some way of explaining that to her. As an intelligent woman she must understand that a series of events has now been set in motion. To take appropriate control, she needs to talk to you. Because while I'm not an expert on legal issues, I imagine you have options. Maybe the document was registered somewhere. You have a name and a date. You get the picture.

In all of this I am most certainly not trying to be harsh. And yes, of course, you could decide to drop it. It will never go away, like I said, but you could decide to live with the uncertainty. I just feel that would be a sacrifice too far. And that sacrifice might ultimately come between you and your mother, spoil the intimacy the two of you share. If we're asked to bear too heavy a burden, we turn away. That's why it's important in any relationship to stand up for what we truly need. Think about it.
Irish based professional therapist and journalist. Website By : Deise Design