Ask Fiona: Why doesn't my fiance make it clear what he wants?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her advice to an ex-girlfriend who doesn't know where she stands, and a woman concerned that her friend is becoming a recluse
My fiance called off our wedding a few months back and said that we should spend some time apart. It came as a shock to me, because we have been together for ages and I thought we were very much in love.
He moved out, but said that he wanted us to stay friendly – he even suggested that we should continue to meet up regularly. Since then, I have been seeing him once or twice a week when we usually go out for a drink or get a takeaway. We nearly always end up making love but, after an hour or so, he leaves.
Despite the fact that we continue to get together, something is different between us, because we don't talk like we used to. When we do, it's hard work and we avoid anything serious.
I've tried gently to steer things around to our future, but he just clams up or changes the subject, so I simply don't know where we stand. It's driving me nuts. I'm so unhappy and I know I should just ask him directly, but I'm also frightened that this will cause a confrontation and force him further away. Why is he doing this and what does he want from me?
FIONA SAYS: I know you're unhappy and confused, but I am really not the person you need to ask. You already know who you should direct these questions to, but you're avoiding it because I think you already suspect what the answer might be.
You need to speak to your ex-fiance soon, because he has little incentive to address your concerns and make any changes. He has access to company when he needs it and sex on demand, with none of the bothersome responsibilities of a proper relationship or marriage. So please, ask the hard questions starting with, "Do you love me?"
You also need to ask where you stand, why he called off the wedding, why he moved out and whether he sees a time when you get back to the kind of relationship that can lead to marriage. You may find that he doesn't know the answer to some of these questions. He may not even understand his own feelings or is confused about what to do next. This would certainly explain his need to carry on seeing you regularly but, at the same time, step away from anything serious.
However, he needs to understand that this situation is hurting you and that it cannot go on any longer. If your worst fears are realised and he either can't or won't give you a straight answer, then do please reconsider these regular meetings, which are doing nothing for your self-esteem.
While a complete separation is likely to be painful, can it be any worse than the uncertainty, loneliness and unhappiness that you've been living with for these past few months? You're going to be feeling sad and empty at first, so give yourself time to grieve, but then please try to get back out there – meeting new people and exploring the possibility of other relationships.
Your fiance may just need some time to process his feelings – he may decide you are the one for him, but waiting around at his convenience like this isn't helping him or you to make any decisions. If you feel you need help in coming to terms with what has happened, then do think about contacting a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk), who can help you to work through your feelings.
WHY DO I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH SO MANY HEALTH PROBLEMS?
Three years ago, I was diagnosed with endometriosis and eventually had to have a hysterectomy. Since then, my husband and I have been living through a health nightmare.
Just as I was getting over my surgery, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which then triggered a full-blown breakdown. It's taken him almost two years of counselling and anti-depressants to get back to the man I knew as my husband.
Now, just as we were starting to make plans for a foreign holiday, they've found a malignant lump in my breast that must be removed. Life just seems so unfair. Other people sail through life seemingly untouched by ill-health, so why can't we? Sometimes I feel it would be easier just to give up.
FIONA SAYS: Please don't give up; you've been through a rough few years and I understand why you might feel that you've had more than your fair share of troubles. However, help is available and as your immediate concern must be your up-coming surgery, I would urge you to contact Breast Cancer Care (breastcancercare.org.uk).
This charity has a range of support options where you can get answers to any questions you have, or share your worries with someone also affected by breast cancer. Hopefully, once your treatment is over, you'll be able to think about the future more positively, but if you feel overwhelmed again, please consider calling the Samaritans (116 123) at any time.
I FEEL GUILTY ABOUT MY WORK ATTITUDE
I've recently had a huge wake-up call about the fact that I'm really a horrible person at work. If anyone joins our large department, I find myself trying to undermine everything they do, especially if they're younger and better qualified than me.
I've just heard from a colleague that a young girl I forced out of the company last year is still unemployed and recently attempted suicide. I'm not proud of this. In fact, I feel guilty and sick to my stomach. I accept that I have behaved badly, but what can I do to make amends?
FIONA SAYS: You've had a brutal warning about your behaviour and the first thing you can do is make a commitment to change it. If you think you might struggle to do this, then counselling could help, and your GP would be a good place to start.
If your doctor can't refer you immediately, contact the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (bacp.co.uk) to find a counsellor in your area. Additionally, to prevent feeling threatened by other new people, I suggest you also work towards getting better qualified yourself.
None of this is going to help the young girl you bullied though, and whilst you can be thankful she survived the suicide attempt, I don't think that knowing this will make you feel any better. Short of finding a way to give her back her job, I suspect there is nothing you can now do to improve her life. As you were so unpleasant to her, she probably wouldn't welcome any contact with you now.
All you can do is own what you have done and commit to being a better person in future.
WHY IS MY FRIEND BEING A RECLUSE?
I'm worried about my friend who's a complete hermit. She works really long hours and spends all of her spare time at home, studying for a degree.
She lives by herself and doesn't even bother to answer the phone when I call her. I'm fed up of talking to her answering machine and sometimes she takes a week to call me back. Whenever I do manage to talk her into coming out, she does seem to enjoy herself – but it doesn't happen very often.
It's a real shame because we have so much in common and I know we could be better friends if she opened up to me.
FIONA SAYS: Most friendships rely on one person working harder than the other to keep things going. Many people take it in turns to take the lead, but if the balance is very uneven, it can feel like an uphill battle.
It may be that once your friend has completed her studies, things between you will become more even-handed. Meanwhile, if you're willing to keep things going, I'm sure your friend will really appreciate it – even though she may not appear to do so.
Studying and working long hours is very hard, and if there is someone willing to take you out of yourself and provide an occasional escape route, it really is appreciated. Make sure she knows that you value her friendship too and tell her that when she is less pressured with her studies, you hope you will see more of each other.
It may be though, that she is happy with her life this way and your friendship may always be on this level – so do consider widening your own social circle to fill the gap.
If you have a problem and you'd like Fiona's advice, email firstname.lastname@example.org