Life

Ask Fiona: My husband's confession means I can't trust him anymore

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her advice to a woman who feels betrayed her husband, and a 20-year-old whose parents open their mail

Your husband meeting up with an ex-girlfriend is wrong and has no doubt hurt you but you can recover and learn to trust him again
Fiona Caine

MY husband has been very down for much of the past year and I originally put it down to his job. It's always been hard, but he became particularly stressed around Christmas last year, when he failed to get a promotion.

Thankfully, things improved in the New Year when he moved to another company which had better pay and was closer to home. However, his good mood only lasted a few weeks, and he soon became just as miserable and ill-tempered as before.

Eventually, I couldn't ignore it anymore and I insisted that he talk to me and perhaps get some help. At this point, he broke down and confessed that he had met up with an ex-girlfriend and had been seeing her occasionally. He also admitted that he has been thinking a lot about what might have been, had they got married eight years ago.

When he saw how hurt I was, he immediately said that nothing had happened between them, but she'd really needed someone to talk to, as her husband had died recently. Seeing that I was still upset, he then promised he would stop seeing her and confirmed that he loved me.

At the time, I accepted this, but over the past couple of months, I've started to worry that he's still seeing her and intends to leave me. I've even thought about having him followed when he goes out, just to be certain. Why can't I trust him?

WH

FIONA SAYS: You've been badly hurt, so it's not surprising that trust is hard to come by. He has betrayed you and it will take some time and lot of reassurance to rebuild your relationship.

It won't be easy, as you are finding, but the two of you can recover from this. Before that can happen, I think you need to explain to your husband that you are still badly affected by what he did. He seems to have understood that seeing this woman was wrong, but perhaps he's misjudged the extent to which he hurt you.

It doesn't matter whether the meetings were innocent or not. He saw his ex-girlfriend without your knowledge and must, at some point, have lied about what he was doing – that's why you feel betrayed. I think it's likely that he doesn't fully realise you are still feeling full of doubt about him, and fear for the future.

Discuss your worries with him again and ask that he works particularly hard to give you additional reassurance that all is well, whenever you need it. Then try not to let your doubts overwhelm you.

Instead, dwell on the positives. He has made it clear that nothing happened between them, other than talk, and has promised to not to see her again. Most importantly, he has stayed with you and told you that he still loves you.

I know you're frightened, but I think that hiring a private investigator to follow him whenever he leaves the house would send the wrong message, and is no basis for lasting relationship. It's better, I think, to take what he has said at face value and give it time. And if this proves too difficult on your own, consider chatting with a Relate counsellor, ideally with your husband (relate.org.uk).

Readers in Scotland can contact Relationships Scotland (relationships-scotland.org.uk) as an alternative to Relate.

WHY DO MY PARENTS OPEN MY MAIL?

I'm 20 and I still live at home. As my job doesn't leave me a lot free cash, there is little chance I'll be able to afford a place of my own any time soon. I've accepted this, but what I'm finding hard to accept is that my parents open my mail.

It nearly always arrives after I leave for work, so I can't get to it before they do. It's not that there's anything particularly private, but surely I should be entitled to privacy?

LR

FIONA SAYS: I absolutely agree you should be entitled to your privacy and your parents should respect this, but have you previously discussed this with them? If not, I suggest you request, calmly but firmly, that they stop opening your mail.

If they are reasonable people, this should be all it takes for them to realise that what they have been doing is unacceptable. If they persist though, I suggest you point out that it is a criminal offence to open mail that is addressed to someone else without reasonable excuse - they could be fined or get up to six months in prison, or both.

Telling them this should be a deterrent, but if they persist, you'll have to decide how far to take it. Involving the police could make your home life difficult, so perhaps the easier thing would be to have all your post sent to a mail box for you to collect.

WHY WON'T MY PARENTS ACCEPT THAT I'M SINGLE?

Ever since I left home at 23, my parents have taken every opportunity to ask when I'm going to settle down and have a family. I'm now 32 and still the unsubtle hints keep being dropped.

Three months ago, they did it in front of my colleagues at a company charity bash, which was really embarrassing and left me feeling angry. Since then, I've avoided spending time with them, but I'm now running out of excuses and I think they are beginning to feel a bit hurt.

Why can't they just accept that I'm not in a relationship? Even if I were, I'd never want to have children anyway!

LS

FIONA SAYS: From their relentless pursuit of the subject, I suspect you haven't spoken to your parents about your frustrations. You can't avoid them indefinitely, so perhaps the time has come for you to explain how you feel – because if you don't, you risk saying something in anger that you may later regret.

Be honest, explain that you're happy as you are and that, for the moment, you have no intention of having children. Then ask that they please stop bringing up the subject.

Do it as gently as you can and be prepared for them to be a little hurt. Family and children are clearly important to them and you will be, in effect, rejecting the choices they've made. It is also possible that they may have been looking forward to grandchildren, so they could be very disappointed too.

MY DAUGHTER-IN-LAW IS ANXIOUS AND PARANOID

We are a family in crisis and desperately need help and advice. My husband and I are 79 and 76, respectively. Our son is married and we have two beautiful granddaughters, but our daughter-in-law is suffering with mental health issues and appears to be getting worse.

She won't do anything about it, because we are all terrified that the authorities will put the children in a care home. That, to us, is the most horrific scenario.

My daughter-in-law seriously thinks that she is being watched by police in helicopters, and will not have the curtains open, as she believes the neighbours are spying on her.

She has given up a particular class at the gym as the teacher is an ex-policeman, and she believes that he's watching her too. She desperately wants to move to a new house, but I know that nothing will change, as she will take all of the baggage with her.

My husband and I are desperately trying to hold it all together, but it's taking its toll on us. Our son is at his wits end and not far off a mental breakdown himself. One of our granddaughters is also becoming very withdrawn, having trouble at school, and not sleeping well. Please tell us what options there may be?

ME

FIONA SAYS: I'm so sorry to hear about all the difficulties you are facing, but do please encourage your daughter-in-law to get help as soon as possible. It is perfectly possible to be a good parent while managing a mental health problem, and to care for and support children in a positive way.

No doctor would automatically inform social services unless the children were at risk. There would be no question of them going into care as long as their parents are capable of looking after them and, despite her difficulties, your daughter-in-law seems to be doing so.

Mind, the mental health charity (mind.org.uk) has a section on parenting with a mental health problem that is well worth reading. I'd suggest that you, your son or your daughter-in-law herself contact them, because I'm sure they could give you far more reassurance than I can here.

The most important thing though, is that she gets the help she so clearly needs. Given the right support and possibly medication, her anxiety and paranoia symptoms may lessen.

If you have a problem and you'd like Fiona's advice, email help@askfiona.net

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