Ask Fiona: How do I meet someone new to form a relationship?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week, dating, weight issues and sibling arguments
MY wife and I have been separated amicably for five years and my divorce has just come through.
She's getting remarried and is encouraging me to do the same.
I want to do something positive about this, but I'm not sure whether to join clubs and societies or join a dating agency.
I'm 50, a non-smoker and have no dependents as my children are both grown up.
What do you think is the best way to go about meeting a new lady?
FIONA SAYS: I'm sure there are quite a few ladies reading this who will think you sound like quite a catch, but I'm afraid, ladies, I cannot pass on any letters!
It sounds like you're out of practice, so I'd encourage you to try and avoid thinking about marriage at the moment, in spite of your ex-wife's encouragement.
If you look for friends first, taking the next step into a relationship will be that much easier.
Clubs for divorced and separated people are good for making new friends of both sexes, as are sport and drama groups where you're doing things together.
If you do decide to join a dating agency, make sure it is a reputable one.
The Association of British Introduction Agencies (www.abia.org.uk) would be a good place to find one that has committed to certain standards.
You'll also find a useful guide on their home page.
MY HUSBAND IS CRUEL BECAUSE OF MY WEIGHT
SINCE I got married nine years ago, I've put on loads of weight – mainly from comfort eating.
I've got three children of my own and have brought up my husband's two daughters as well.
He's not very kind to me and nor are his children.
We stopped being intimare after our last child was born and I'm sure it's because he doesn't fancy me because of my weight.
The problem is, the more he's unkind, the more I eat and the more unattractive I get.
I have tried dieting, but nothing works for long and the weight comes back on.
I feel life is just so unfair; and I try my best, but this situation is making me so unhappy.
FIONA SAYS: Your husband and his family are ignoring your needs and undermining your self-esteem.
No wonder you can't stick to a diet.
Losing weight might help your self-image, but plenty of larger women don't struggle with self-esteem, so I think you should start by tackling that, rather than a diet.
Do see your doctor and ask for a referral to a psychotherapist to help you with this.
Once you have the confidence to stand up for yourself a little more, you may find it easier to lose weight (or you may no longer want to!).
As you feel better about yourself, it may be that your husband takes more notice of you.
If, however, he continues to be unkind, you may no longer be interested anyway and find the strength to make a better life for yourself without him.
I WANT HIM TO PROPOSE
I'M widowed, in my late 70s and friendly with a widower a couple of years younger than me.
I enjoy his company a great deal and we see one another regularly.
The issue is that shortly after we met – just two weeks after meeting in fact – he asked me to marry him.
I thought he was teasing me and laughed it off, but he's never mentioned it since and that was eighteen months ago.
I now realise I have become very fond of him and keep hoping he will ask again but, of course, he hasn't.
How do I get him to propose again – or are we too old?
FIONA SAYS: You're never too old!
He certainly doesn't think so because, if he did, he wouldn't still be seeing you.
Perhaps he felt rather hurt by your reaction to his previous proposal, in which case, I doubt he'll ask again.
It's a bit of a stalemate and could go on like this indefinitely so, if you want to change things between you, perhaps now it is your turn to take a risk?
It doesn't have to be a big production – simply tell him you've been thinking a lot about his proposal and that, if he still wants to, you'd like to accept his offer.
If he rejects you this time, you can still continue as you are, as long as you're capable of coping with the rejection that he had to cope with previously.
MY BROTHER AND I FIGHT ALL THE TIME
I'm so fed up with my brother.
We row all the time and he'll never apologise.
Because I'm the oldest, I always end up getting the blame and it's not fair.
I'm hoping to go to university next year and I can't wait to leave because of him.
He borrows my stuff – without asking - and then I get the blame for leaving it lying around!
I'm never going to apologise to him again.
FIONA SAYS: Being the eldest, you're almost always considered to be the wisest and most responsible.
That may not be fair, but it's true in almost every family.
Your brother needs to learn to respect your property, but on its own, this won't necessarily improve your relationship.
I suspect the two of you aren't talking right now and the fact that you say you won't apologise makes me wonder if, perhaps, this time the fault is yours.
Even though you don't want to, apologising is probably the best way to start.
Show your brother what it means to accept responsibility and have the strength of character to apologise when it is called for.
Being stubborn won't get you anywhere, so clear things now, then speak to your parents.
Ask if you could have a lock on your bedroom door – or at least some kind of lockable storage in your room.
I expect they're fed up with the two of you rowing as well, so will be happy to provide something that will keep the peace.
I suggest you don't try asking when you're angry as they probably won't listen to you.