Life

Ask Fiona: The passion has gone from our marriage

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week, advice on troubled marriages, difficult step-mothers, and dealing with an unexpected change in your appearance

He rarely shows me any affection and most of our time is passed in stony silence

THE early days of my marriage were incredibly volatile. We both have tempers and would hurl abuse and even objects at one another before making up passionately after a short time. Over the last two or three years though, things have become increasingly strained. He rarely shows me any affection and most of our time is passed in stony silence.

The thing is, though, whenever we go out, he turns on the charm and everyone tells me how lucky I am to have such a handsome, loving husband. If only they knew that once we're home, we just slip back into our silent ways. I hate it and wish we could go back to the way things were – I was even happier when we were hurling insults and plates than I am now.

PL

FIONA SAYS: Ask your husband why

Have you tried talking to your husband about the state of your marriage? You give no indication that there is any kind of communication between the two of you at the moment and he may be just as unhappy and confused as you are.

He might even agree that all you need to get your marriage back on track is a few choice insults and the odd dinner plate! I suspect, however, that something more will be needed, in which case contact Relate (relate.org.uk) for counselling help.

If he isn't interested in a return to the old ways, then try then find out what he does want. If he feels that your marriage is over and doesn't want to try to save it, then you will have to think where you go from here. See a counsellor on your own who can help you decide on your next steps.

My medication has ruined my looks

SINCE I've been using inhalers for my asthma I've developed a terrible problem with facial hair. It's not just a little – it's everywhere, on my chin, cheeks and even just above my lips.

It is so awful and I feel thoroughly depressed, even though I'm in my late 60s and perhaps I shouldn't care – which seems to be what my doctor thinks. Is there some way I could have it removed though? Even if I have to pay for it, I have to do something, as this is spoiling my life.

LH

FIONA SAYS: Your doctor must help you

I can quite understand why this is getting you down and I'm surprised your doctor isn't being more sympathetic. Whether the inhalers are behind the problem or whether it's more a case of your hormones, I am sure there's something that can be done.

I think you should speak to your doctor before trying any form of treatment because, until you know the cause, the wrong treatment might just make things worse. If your asthma treatment is responsible, it may be that a change of medication would clear up the problem without further treatment.

If you don't find your doctor sympathetic though, and are worried about talking to them, ask to see a different doctor as you shouldn't have to put up with this without help.

My step-mother has ruined everything

IT'S been six months since my dad remarried and almost right away, his new wife persuaded him to move. She's taken over everything and, to be frank, I think she is a bully.

Whenever I go and visit my father, she tries to control me too, but I've made it clear that she's not going to influence me. She gets very angry and aggressive with my dad's dog who now cowers away from people and she's run up debts my dad can't afford.

A month ago, she said she was going to visit her sister – but she hasn't come back. I'm hoping she's left for good, but my dad is distraught – how can I help?

SJ

FIONA SAYS: This is your father's decision

If your step-mother hasn't been in touch for over a month, it could well be that she's left and that your father's marriage is over. For you, that might be a good thing, but your father has invested a lot of emotional energy in this relationship and he's going to feel badly hurt and let down – and even embarrassed.

At this stage, you don't know for certain what's going on, but however much you dislike this woman, I'd be cautious about either helping to end or rebuild their relationship. Your father has to decide for himself what he wants and any influence from you, one way or the other, could be resented.

Your father will still need all the support and love you can give him right now though. Try to be a good listener without necessarily suggesting a course of action – other than trying to find out where she is and what she wants to do. Ultimately, this is their decision and problem, not yours, however strongly you feel about it.

I can't forgive his affair

MY HUSBAND and I have been married for 19 years and I thought we were happy but I found out, just over a year ago, that he'd been having an affair. I was devastated and he ended the relationship, but after that, I found out he'd been planning to leave me to be with her.

My husband now says he loves me and that he always did; he says the affair was a big mistake and that I'll never know how much he regrets it. I'd like to believe him, but will the pain and anger ever go away?

I try to keep all these feelings to myself, but I think he knows how much he's hurt me. Other women seem to get over this sort of thing, so why can't I?

PD

FIONA SAYS: Try to move on together

When someone has betrayed your trust, it takes a long time to rebuild it – and sometimes it can never happen. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because it can mean you don't ever take one another for granted again, and you'll work harder at what you've got. In other words, you may not go back to what you had before, but that doesn't mean you can't have a great future together.

You need to be honest with your husband about just how hurt you've been, because I suspect he doesn't know the real depth of your pain. Perhaps this pattern of assuming you knew how each other felt and taking one another for granted was part of the reason for the affair?

Talk to each other – if you can't do this easily then get counselling help. While you are worrying he may repeat the affair, he may be worrying your anger will turn against him and you'll either throw him out or leave.

You both need to relearn how to trust one another, even if that trust takes a different form from the one you had before. It won't be easy, but you can move forwards, together –good luck.

:: If you have a problem you can email me, Fiona Caine, at help@askfiona.net.

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