Life

Ask Fiona: I'm worried that I've never had a boyfriend

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week, incontinence, dreading Christmas and never having had a relationship

Incontinence can be caused by lack of confidence in older people

I'VE NEVER had a boyfriend, which doesn't really bother me, but my brother keeps saying I'm a lesbian.

I don't think I am, I'm not attracted to girls, but I'm not that bothered by boys either.

I'm just not that interested in having a serious relationship, although I would like a boyfriend at some point.

I get teased a lot at school about it and now even my parents are beginning to ask questions.

Most of the guys I've met just want to jump in to bed and don't seem interested in getting to know me first.

I don't feel ready for a sexual relationship right now, but it does worry me – am I normal?

I'm 17.

EA

FIONA SAYS: I'd say you're perfectly normal and probably a lot more mature than many of the people around you.

Not wanting a relationship right now doesn't define who you are, sexually.

Your brother is just being ignorant and as for your friends at school, I suggest you just ignore them and laugh it off.

I'm sorry to hear your parents are putting you under pressure though.

I suggest you talk to them and explain that as you're already being pressurised by your schoolmates and your brother, you'd rather they left you alone about this issue.

As for young men who seem to be only interested in sex, stick to your guns and don't feel pressurised into anything until you're ready.

Not all men feel like the ones you've come into contact with – some, like you, are interested in relationships too.

For any further help, you might like to contact Youth Access (www.youthaccess.org.uk) which provides advice and counselling services for young people.

INCONTINENCE IS A WORRY FOR MUM

My mum is in her eighties and, although she's still very nimble, she's making herself completely housebound because she's afraid of having an "accident".

I can just about get her to come around to visit us – we live about half an hour away – but she won't visit my brother who lives over an hour away.

I know incontinence is really quite common, but she won't talk about it.

I'm sure there must be something I could get for her that she could wear, but I don't know where to look.

SL

FIONA SAYS: As your mum is able to move around the house without having an accident, I suspect her incontinence is as much a problem of confidence as a physical condition.

Visit any decent-sized chemist and you will find all manner of incontinence products on display.

There is everything from full-scale pants to slim, discreet pads to stick into underwear.

She should really be discussing the problem with her GP though, as this could be symptomatic of a health issue.

Both men and women can suffer from 'stress incontinence' and this isn't necessarily something that comes on with age, so she really shouldn't feel embarrassed.

In order to encourage your mother, plan trips and find out where the toilets are in advance, so you can save her any embarrassment and enable her to enjoy her outing.

I'M DREADING CHRISTMAS

I know it's only February, but last Christmas was so awful I'm already dreading the next one.

We have to go to my husband's parents who've been unhappily married for the last 30 years and they spend all their time rowing and bickering.

My husband seems immune to it, but it really gets me down and makes me miserable.

I don't have any family, so I suggested that perhaps we could spend next Christmas in our own home, but he won't hear of it and says Christmas is a time for families.

What can I do to avoid another miserable Christmas?

AH

FIONA SAYS: Goodness, you are planning ahead, aren't you! But actually, I think you're right to start thinking about this now.

I believe you need to make your husband see how unhappy his parents' behaviour is making you.

Whilst you regard their marriage as miserable, your in-laws are probably perfectly happy in their own way.

To them it's a way of life and they are probably quite unaware of how it affects other people.

Although family is important, I don't think anyone should be made deliberately unhappy at Christmas.

If that means spending Christmas alone, I'd rather do that than spend it with people who make me miserable.

You don't say how long you've been married or how many Christmases have been spent this way, but it's a habit that needs to be broken.

Get your husband to understand that you're not going to do this every year and that, sometimes, you want to spend Christmas with him in your own home.

Alternatively, he should talk to his parents and get them to understand their behaviour isn't acceptable.

Please, don't feel guilty about standing up for yourself over this.

MY GIRLFREND SECRETLY GOT PREGNANT

I had been going out with my girlfriend on and off for the past year.

It had always been a very casual relationship and I thought it was coming to an end.

I was shocked and very angry to find out that she's deliberately got pregnant.

She says I will either have to marry her or pay maintenance for the baby.

I certainly don't want to marry her as I can't possibly trust her anymore.

As for supporting the baby, I hardly earn enough to support myself. Can she force me to do so?

TY

FIONA SAYS: Your girlfriend has behaved in a very underhand and contemptible way.

Ideally children should be brought into the world by parents who love, respect and consider each other's needs, but clearly this hasn't happened here.

Harsh though it may sound, but I'm afraid that you will probably be required to pay maintenance for this child once it is born, even though you were deceived.

Of course, if you think there is any chance of you not being the father, see a solicitor and arrange to contest any maintenance claim.

If it is proved you are the father, try and remember the child is not the mother and didn't ask to be conceived in this way.

He or she may want or need your love and support, even if you don't feel able to give it to the mother.

To find out more about the Child Maintenance Service and get an idea of how much you may have to pay, look up Child Maintenance at gov.uk.

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