Monday, 27 February 2012

He Used To Be Confident And Now He's Clingy

Dear Babs

I am 46 and my partner is 12 years older. We are both self employed and successful. We met a little over 2 years ago at a dinner and he moved in with me after a few months. We both have grown up children who we both get on with. So on the face of it everything should be perfect. Of course it isn't and that's why I writing to you. When I met my partner I thought he was a positive and confident man but now he feels clingy. He wants to know everything that happens in my life and if I appear not to want to share he sulks for days. I have to say I find this pretty infuriating. The other thing is he doesn't like me going out without him. He says he's ok with it but it doesn't feel like it. He accuses me of preferring my friends company to his and sometimes that's true. I feel stifled. I thought I was getting a partnership of equals and he seems to want a mother who he can have sex with. I hope I don't sound too brutal but I'm at my wits end. We tried therapy briefly but that didn't feel useful. We haven't had sex for a couple of months but that wouldn't matter so much if we were friendlier. I think he has problems and if he would only face up to that I think we could be ok. What would your advice be? 

Dear Belinda

It sounds as if you are angry and disappointed and your partner is fearful and insecure. You say he wants a mother and to be honest you are sounding quite parental. You don't say how long you have been experiencing problems but I imagine that in the beginning it felt ok for both of you. With that in mind I am assuming there's either been a catalyst that's brought about this change or that there's been a gradual deterioration.

You say you should be happy and yet you're not. This sounds as if it's because you both have a different idea of coupledom. It sounds as if you want freedom in a relationship and he wants a more traditional relationship. I am also wondering if the age difference plays a part? It feels as if you want someone to be there when you get home. Whereas it feels as if he's wants more intimate companionship. 

For most couples when they get into difficulty there has been a gradual eroding. This is usually as a result of them failing to talk through problems as they occur or a reluctance to compromise. You say therapy didn't feel useful. Is that because you failed to form a therapeutic alliance with the counsellor or was it due to your polarised positions and you both not wanting to change? If it's your shared intransigence, I am not surprised sex has become a casualty. If a man doesn't feel secure in his relationship he's likely to have problems with his erections. If a woman doesn't feel friendly towards her partner she's unlikely to want to have sex and it doesn't sound as if you're friends.

If you don't want therapy then my suggestion would be a frank talk about where you go from here. If the pair of you refuse negotiation what do you have left? If you go down the self help route you still need the desire to change. At the moment it sounds as if your desire is for him to change. If that is the case in my opinion in the longterm that will not work. You both need to feel you are gaining. The only way that can happen is for both to give. 

Thursday, 23 February 2012

My Husband Left Me And Now Wants To Reconcile

Hi Babs

 I have been happily married for 35 years or so I thought. Then just after Christmas I found out that my husband has been having an affair for the last 10 years with a work colleague. He says he's found the deceit difficult to deal with but he's been very good at it because I hadn't a clue. He told me his lover's husband had found out about the affair and after a discussion she left the family home and moved into a hotel. He then felt he should tell me and move out as well and go to her. I was devastated but I knew I didn't want him to go. I love him and he's always been a good husband and excellent father to our 4 children. He insisted it was the right thing to do and he left. I really didn't know how to react. The children all came round to show their support but at the end of the day what could they do. It felt as if at the age of 55 my life was over. Then last week he phoned to say he'd like to talk to me. I thought he wanted to talk about divorce but instead he said he'd realised he'd made a mistake and he wanted to come home. I didn't know what to say so I told him I'd think about it. I know I still love him but I don't know now whether it would be the right thing to do. I haven't discussed it with our children but I think they would want me to take him back. I feel really mixed up. Can you help me?

Hi Veronica

I felt really sad reading your email and I can understand your confusion. Of course I accept that you didn't know about your husband's infidelity.  But I am intrigued at the idea that there haven't been or, you haven't seen some indicators. I am, however, impressed that you've told him you need time to think. Because in my opinion now is the time for you to take stock and work out what you want from life and, if anything, from this relationship. I know you say you love him but is that enough?

I think perhaps first you need to understand what went wrong. Then ask yourself can I make any changes required?  Can I forgive and let the pain heal? Affairs are one of the most difficult experiences any couple has to deal with not least because it represents a break in trust. If you agree to a reconciliation will you be able to regain that trust? There is always a reason for an affair. But an affair that's lasted for 10 years? It cannot be written off as simply having sex with another person. It's a relationship. A relationship he has maintained within your relationship and then as an alternative. By the way you didn't say,  but I wondered,  what has happened with the other woman? Is he with her at the moment?

In my experience it is quite commonplace for a partner to want to return shortly after a separation simply because they begin to miss the normality of their lives. You may have the same impulse? It is not necessarily a sign of love or remorse though of course it could be. In your case after 35 years there's a lot for both of you to miss.

If I was your counsellor I would be asking you numerous questions to help clarify your thoughts and feelings but in this context I am unable to do that. Therefore, my advice would be, if you do decide you want to try reconciliation why not suggest couple counselling to your husband. That way you can both explore your options in a safe environment with someone who will be able to support you both. If you want to think about it first why not look on my book page there are some very good self help books there. I wish you well.

Monday, 20 February 2012

My Obsession With Cheating

Dear Babs

I need help. I am 29 years old and work in retail. I met my current girlfriend who is the same age as me just over a year ago. I met her on holiday. Her partner had died the previous year from testicular cancer. She was clearly not interested in me in a sexual sense but I persevered and eventually won her over. All seemed fine until I began to get obsessed with her cheating on me. I know it's probably me because this is the third time I have been in a relationship and this has happened. I seem to be attracted to girls who are in trouble in some way. I think this goes back to my childhood. My father was a violent alcoholic who made my mother's life and mine a living nightmare. I used to try to protect her but I finished up being the punchball too. My mother eventually left him when I was 12 years old but the separation and divorce was very messy and didn't really end until my father found someone else to latch onto and persecute. I'm sorry if I sound bitter I guess I am. Anyway here I am I don't want to lose my girlfriend but I cannot get these thoughts out of my head.

Dear Dan

I agree with you. I think you need help, but not from me. I think the best thing for you would be to seek face to face therapy either through your GP or privately. It seems to me you have introduced some very complex issues which cannot be addressed in a few lines. I think the good news is that you have already gained some good insight into what could be at the bottom of your jealous feelings.

Unfortunately you have given me limited information about your girlfriend apart from that she says it's all in your mind. But the strain must be unbearable for you both and I'm assuming that if she began a relationship with you a year after she was bereaved that she may have a few issues of her own to deal with too?

If you do decide to take my advice and seek professional help. Hypnotherapy could be an option. It can be an effective tool in improving self esteem and letting go of childhood pain. The difference is that you are working with the unconscious processes rather than the conscious. The efficacy, however, is dependent, like all other therapies, on the client's commitment. It is not a magic switch as some imagine. But whatever you decide I would urge taking action because this damaging cycle of yours needs bringing to an end. I don't know whether this relationship will survive but it could mean that in future you will make and maintain good relationships.

One final word make sure your therapist is registered with a bona fide organisation for counselling, psychotherapy or hypnotherapy (see my links page) and shop around until you find someone you can work with and trust. Even in therapy one size does not fit all.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

My Partner Is A Serial Cheater

Dear Babs

I am a 28 year old Accountant and I have been with my partner for 4 years. I guess you could call him a serial cheater. He is in a job where he's in contact with the general public and is constantly meeting attractive women and he acts on his impulses. He seems unable to consider the consequences of his actions which always come to light one way or another. Three months ago I decided he was never going to change and we split. But rather than that being a final decision we seem to be going around in circles. He keeps texting or ringing and we have met up several times. He wants to try again. I think mainly because he can't stand the idea of me calling it a day. I keep wondering if I've been too hasty. I have had two relationships before, both of them lasting a couple of years and both were ended by the partner. Do you think we could work it out? 

Dear Mandy 

If I answer your question 'could you work it out'. I guess the answer is yes it's possible. Is it likely? Well you would both need to do a lot of good communicating and devise a plan for improving the relationship. It seems on the face of it you don't know when or how to say no and stick to it. I know you had a dominant father and that your pattern is to go along with things but this really is a case of 'do what you've always done get what you've always got'. It does feel as if you need to start taking control and taking care of yourself.

You didn't give details of your partners past but he sounds as if he enjoys the thrill of the chase but isn't able to stay attached once he's achieved his goal. In fact it sounds as if he keeps repeating that pattern with you. He chases succeeds and then the relationships ceases to have value and he chases again. This is of course a way of feeling good and validating himself which when you think about it is quite sad.

So what you seem to have is two people who don't feel they have value unless someone is with them and the more unsatisfactory it is the more it reinforces their own low value of themselves. I think the best thing would be for you both to work out singly or together what your individual fears are. It's your choice of course but there would be those who would say don't waste your energy, tell this man no, and start working out what you really want for you.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

I Feel As If I've Lost Myself

I find myself in a slump again. I have no real reason to feel down. I am getting physically fitter. I am not poor. I have a supportive spouse who is also my best friend. This feels good in one way because one's partner should be one's best friend. But I also feel as if I should have someone else I could share the inner me with. Sadly that isn't the case. It's not that I don't have people who would listen it's that I have lost trust in others. Perhaps that's because I have more experience in listening than sharing or it could be my exacting standards for friendship. I have debated the subject with my OH but we didn't reach a conclusion so I have no exciting insight to share.  I don't really miss work. I think instead I miss the idea of work. The idea that I am a productive member of society. That I matter. That I count.

I know the rational. That I need to work out new routines, new interests. That in time I'll get used to it and feel happy. But I have to say folks that day hasn't yet arrived. I feel without my work I have nothing to say that would be of interest to anyone else. This is illogical because the work I did was confidential and therefore I was only able to discuss it freely in peer group supervision or with my supervisor. Nevertheless I felt as if I had something of value to impart. 

Twitter and Facebook which hitherto had seemed entertaining and interesting has started to pall. Perhaps that's part of my Gemini personality. I do tend to have crushes on things and then my interest wanes. Don't get me wrong I still feel there's a lot to be said for both it's just that I need something more in the way of stimulation. 

I know numerous people who are retired and who love it. Many on twitter have shared with me their new found confidence, interests, happiness. Their ability to just be. But all of these things seem to elude me at the moment. Don't get me wrong I don't feel as if I've lost confidence. What I do feel is that I've lost interest in life and the ability to sustain feelings of happiness. My work was my life and without it I feel as I have no life.

Yesterday I cleared some of my text and work books off my shelves. I've donated them to an ex colleague but instead of feeling freed in some way the sense of loss increased. I have been someone who has always enjoyed challenge and change but this particular challenge feels like a dead end. I used to be fun to be with and now I just feel dull.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Help Me To Help You

As Sundays go it's been fairly uneventful. The usual rituals including visits which I enjoy and a walk. 

It was while I was on the walk that I started thinking about this post. I am not a writer per se which means my head isn't full of ideas which I feel I must write down and share. I guess you could call me fairly articulate and capable of coherent thought but I'm not a budding author. But if my writing talent isn't prodigious I do have a talent for resolving relationship difficulties and it is that talent I have taken most pleasure in over recent years. Furthermore, it was because of that pleasure and a desire to help that I devised 'your problem page' and I've been lucky because you've joined me in the enterprise.

I always get a fillip when I received one of the email forms. Not because I want you to experience problems but because it gives me an opportunity to help or at least try to help. One problem I have experienced though, in helping you, is that there is a tendency to give scant information. This means I'm unable to perhaps be as helpful as I could. I understand you may not want chapter and verse publishing but if you could tell me more and then tell me what you don't want disclosing that would be good. Another possibility is that you could trust me to edit judiciously. I promise I won't divulge any information that could identify or embarrass you.

Finally thank you for allowing me into your lives whether by sharing your problem or sharing your thoughts on other people's problems. This is a fantastic experience in cooperation let's continue.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

If You Loved Me You'd Have Sex

Dear Babs

I am 46 year old Office Manager and I am in the process of divorcing my husband. I won't bore you with the details. He's a good man but we simply grew apart. We both agreed the relationship had run its course and he has since moved in with someone he works with.

I met my current partner on a dating website. We are incredibly compatible sexually but he seems to want intercourse more frequently than I do. He takes the viewpoint that if I loved him I'd want to please him and I think if he loved me he wouldn't want me to do something I don't want do. He is also more tactile than I am. I like being sexually intimate but other than that like my own space.

He is in the process of extricating himself from his previous relationship (his words not mine) but he still seems very involved with his wife and his family. He and his wife have had an on/off relationship for years. He has left several times but has always gone back. He says he only wants to be with me but he often seems to prioritise their wants before mine. He says that's because he can talk to me and I'll compromise.  I don't get it. He seems to be saying if I love him I'll just accept his point of view. I do love him but I'm beginning to feel like the sacrificial lamb.

I don't want to end this relationship but I'm not sure we can make it work. What do you think? 

Dear Petra

I think you could both do with some help to make sense of your feelings. In fact perhaps that could be something you could do with each other. I can heartily recommend Relate for couple counselling see details  on my links page. My own belief is that good relationships work on compromise. You appear to be saying your partner does not compromise he expects those who love him to accommodate him. If I'm honest that feels like quite a simplistic even childlike point of view.

It also sounds as if holds his partners over a barrel. If his wife doesn't please him he walks out and implicit it seems is the idea that if you don't please him he can go back to his wife? 

As to sex. It is not unusual for men to see sex as an expression of affection or love and it may be if you were to discuss this just being more demonstrative or loving could be the answer. He may feel more loved and you wouldn't feel pressurised. But if I have interpreted what you've said correctly it sounds as if this has been an area where you have been previously unwilling to compromise? 

Based on what you've told me I would have said there are issues for both of you around power and control and knowing why in itself can help. Therefore, again I would recommend you seek professional help but remember for you both to be in a win/win situation you would both need to be able to give and take. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

Punished By Their Silence - An Unpleasant Side To Twitter

Dear Babs

Many months ago, I guessed that I inadvertantly offended a person on Twitter because I discovered that she changed her handle and unFollowed and Blocked me. I asked a mutual Twittermate what happened, she disappeared for a while and came back to say that I had said something offensive about the woman's IBS and that she too was Blocking and unFollowing me in a show of support for her friend. Since that time, 4 other people in the clique Blocked and unFollowed me. I had a couple e-mail addresses and a second Twitter account, so I tried to apologize. This is hard when you don't know what you said wrong; general apologies sound a bit insincere. I've also sent e-mail Christmas cards, etc. But, to this day, I remain Blocked and unFollowed by all. Do you think there is anything I can do to get back in the good graces of these folks? Friends of theirs are happy to Tweet with me, but the core group remains closed.

Dear Walter

My knee jerk response to your email was to ask what makes you want to pursue a relationship with tweeps who treat you so badly? 

As I understand it you believe you have said something unwittingly offensive to someone but you don't really know what? She hasn't challenged you but has instead withdrawn from you? Then some of your mutual contacts have withdrawn from you in support of her? You have tried to apologise and make amends but you remain outside? 

I feel  under the circumstances, you have done what you could don't you? Yet here you are wanting 'to get back in the good graces of these folks'. If you has come to me for counselling I would have asked you what makes this so powerful for you?  But because I am unable to ask that question. I am left reading between the lines. My hunch Walter, is you are responding to some childhood experience and not to this adult problem. In my opinion these people are bullying you with their silence and you are feeling punished. I understand how painful that can be. But I assure you these are not tweeps to pursue a relationship with. Adults discuss, compromise, solve problems. These tweeps are in 'child' and I think you are allowing your 'child' to respond.

I have heard of this happening to other tweeps and like you they have felt upset, done much soul searching and thought why me? However, after a period of metaphorically licking their wounds, they have been able to accept it has perhaps been for the best. I hope you become one of their number. There are lots of good people on twitter who will befriend you why not connect with them?  

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Day That The Snow Came Down

It's 6.30am on a very snowy Sunday morning. I am sitting with Billy who has squeezed himself tightly down the side of me. Angus, my son's Westie, is asleep on the sofa. My OH quite sensibly is still in bed.  I am not in bed because I was disturbed by the light from the snow and the sound of Westies licking. This may sound rather bizarre but Westies do have a habit of licking their feet rather noisily! Normally Billy our pooch would have brought himself downstairs during the night and settled on one of the available seats but for some reason both dogs seemed to have decided to stay in our immediate vicinity. So instead of snoozing until a respectable 8.30 or 9 am here I am.

I am not as they say a morning person and usually my spouse prepares breakfast which allows me to gather my wits gradually. Of course I spent years masquerading as a morning person getting up early, getting children off to school and then going to work. I didn't enjoy the morning routine but it worked. Now I don't work I have a system that suits me. 

Sundays as I have told you before are what we call a contracted rest day or more properly a day of choice. To be fair we usually choose the same things reading papers, walking the dog, of course today it's two dogs, and copious amounts of coffee. We love it! It's very companionable and because we have the agreement there's no  discord. We know what we're doing. It's what we do on a Sunday. There will, however, be one difference today. We will be without our usual visitors. This is entirely because of the weather. However, because of the forecast we arranged to see our daughter yesterday instead and we'll catch up with my brother later in the week.

Isn't it amazing though how snow disrupts our lives in this country? Every year at the first fall chaos seems to ensue. Theoretically our councils don't make the outlay because it's expensive but it finishes up costing the country enormous amounts in lost work hours etc. When I first started working for myself I didn't charge clients if they couldn't get because of the snow. I would absorb the lost fees not wanting to appear avaricious or disadvantage the client but eventually I realised if it snowed I wasn't earning and so I changed my viewpoint and my contract and the client and I went 50/50. There would be therapists who would not agree with me but my viewpoint was I needed to earn a living. Of course I wanted to help people but I was offering a professional service for which I was paid. 

What point am I making? That for every action or non action there is a consequence and whether it's a positive or an equitable one is often down to us as individuals?

Saturday, 4 February 2012

What Have You Done This Week?

The questions I seem to be asked most these days are what have you done this week or what have you done today? Maybe my memory is faulty but I don't remember being asked these questions when I was working. Was it perhaps because people knew what I was doing? But whatever the reason I find the questions mildly irritating,  perhaps not least,  because I feel as if I have to come up with something interesting. 

I don't know about you but I don't feel the minutiae of my life is all that riveting? I mean as lives go I have plenty of opportunity to engage in the things I enjoy. This week I've been to the cinema a couple of times. I've been to the theatre. I've read various things, listened to music, watched television, done a little writing and attended a book club meeting but is anyone really interested? 

I know that most people don't want to spend their time discussing big issues but really that's what I want to talk about. I want to engage with stimulating ideas. If I am to fess up, I have never felt that I conquered the art of chit chat nor have I wanted to. So if that's you're cup of char you probably won't want to include me. Perhaps after this nugget of information it will come as no surprise to hear that the thing I enjoyed most this week was the book club. This month's choice was The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins which I guess you could describe as a 19th century page turner. 

Most of us enjoyed the read but thought it too wordy for modern tastes and a little predictable but it generated great conversations about middle-class women of the period. How they were so easily controlled and consigned to asylums for 'hysteria' or any behaviour considered aberrational or against the societal norm. This could and did, include not conforming to a spouse's wishes. How women without money were not considered marriageable. This led onto a discussion about the pros and cons of modern marriage versus cohabitation and how the marriageable age has fluctuated through the ages. 

This started me thinking about what other people would think. I married in 1962 at the age of eighteen and I married because it was still the respectable option. I also think I married on the cusp of change. Before that most people married for life. I am not tabling this as a positive just that divorce wasn't a choice for numerous reasons. In the working classes mainly because of economic reasons and societal opprobrium. It simply didn't form part of the thinking and it didn't form part of my thinking. My Mother's generation lived by 'you've made your bed you must lie on it'. I didn't quite feel that but I did expect to work through any difficulties we had. I made two bottom line assertions when I married. Two things I made clear were unacceptable. One was violence and the other was infidelity. I was always clear about that. I had seen enough violence to last a lifetime and I knew myself well enough to know I would never have been able to let infidelity drop. 

Would I marry again if I was in the same position today? I honestly don't know. I have talked about it with my OH. We both agree it was right for us at the time and we have no regrets. But if you do not have a religious faith I'm not sure what marriage provides over cohabitation. I guess there are still some advantages under the law but in my opinion the law should be changed to eradicate any unfair advantage. So I would like to ask you if all things were equal what would your choice be?