Ask Fiona: My friend acts like the world revolves around him
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her advice on a selfish friend, a boyfriend who steals from his girlfriend, and a mother who found pornography in her teenage son's bedroom
MY FRIENDSHIP with one of my best friends has been on the decline for some months now. We're both gay and have been friends for about 12 years. He's had a few self-absorbed issues and a lot of our conversations seem to revolve around his problems.
At the beginning of this year, I decided to keep my distance from him. He had made some very irrational and rushed decisions – starting relationships with people who live abroad, and moving them in with them straight away. I feel I had become the 'best friend listener', but any criticism I made was met with negative comments.
Earlier this year, I asked for his help with somewhere to stay, as I left the military to begin a new career in the police. We agreed that I could move into his house, but a lot of this changed when he brought a random partner to the UK for a second time.
We haven't spoken in nearly five months and I'm sure he is aware that our friendship has gone silent. On top of this, I'm now dating someone that he met once before, a few years ago. He doesn't know yet, but I assume he will once he sees us on social media, and I'm worried how he'll react.
It seems he's only interested in someone that listens to him and I feel that his outlook, as we've got older, is that the world revolves around him.
FIONA SAYS: I find your email a little confusing, which perhaps reflects your uncertainty about your friend. That being said, there's enough here for me to see why you might have doubts about this friendship.
Very few friendships are completely equal; usually one party values the relationship more and takes the lead in maintaining it. However, there's nothing in what you have said that even suggests either one of you is doing anything to keep this friendship alive.
You haven't even spoken for five months, which is a long time – especially if you're still living in the same property. And even when you were talking, he largely ignored your advice, was self-centred and obsessed about his own problems. It's not a great basis for a friendship and something I think you already suspected when you took the decision last year to keep your distance.
Given all of this, I think that many people would have already walked away from this situation. However, good friends are hard to come by, especially those that offer you somewhere to live when you have a problem.
Also, the fact that you have written to me, suggests that you may still want this friendship to work. If this is the case, why don't you arrange to have a chat with him? Explain how you feel the friendship has been declining and ask if he wants to work at repairing it.
Be honest and tell him what it was that drove you away in the first place. If he accepts this and offers to change, great. If he can't or won't make any effort to repair your friendship and continues with his self-centred ways, then perhaps the time has come to move on.
People change, and part of this process sometimes means that friendships drift apart. I'm sure you must have heard the old quote, "We have three types of friends in life; friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a lifetime."
Although you've known your friend a long time, it's possible that the "season" of his friendship is now over. True friendship isn't about who you've known the longest, its about who is there for you when you need them.
If this friendship is now past its sell-by date, then just try to accept that this happens. It's not really anyone's fault, so please don't fret or feel guilty about this but instead, look to meet lots of new people and develop meaningful friendships elsewhere.
SHOULD I FORGIVE MY STEALING BOYFRIEND?
My boyfriend has always said that he loves me, but when I recently discovered that he had been stealing money from my handbag, I had to split up with him.
He denied it when I first confronted him a little while ago, but when I later caught him red-handed, he simply walked out. I was too shocked to say anything to him and he hasn't made contact since. That was over five weeks ago.
I know what he did was wrong, but I can't stop thinking about him and I know that I still love him. Should I give him a second chance?
FIONA SAYS: I'm sorry, I really can't make that decision for you. For me, loving someone includes respecting them and, at the very least, I would expect an apology and an acknowledgement from him that what he has done is wrong.
However, he has done neither of these things, which makes it hard to even think about forgiveness. Ultimately, though, only you can decide whether to offer him a second chance.
If you do, ensure that he faces up to what he did and commits to never doing it again. If he can't or won't do this, perhaps it's time to look elsewhere for love and for someone you can trust.
WHY CAN'T I GET PREGNANT A SECOND TIME?
I got pregnant very easily with our first son, who is now two, so it's really frustrating me that we've been trying for the last 18 months to have a second child, but have not managed to conceive.
We really wanted our children to be close in age to one another, and we've tried everything to give ourselves the best possible chance. We eat sensibly, drink very little, exercise a lot and make love regularly during my fertile time of the month – but nothing has come of it.
I'm now really worried something's wrong as we are both in our 30s and running out of time. Should we see a doctor?
FIONA SAYS: The demands of looking after a first child, sleepless nights, worries about work and, of course, anxiety about getting pregnant often make conception more difficult second time around. However, as you've been trying to get pregnant for 18 months now, I think it is perfectly reasonable to have a chat with your GP.
Stress is a known cause of secondary infertility, so your doctor may suggest that you try to relax and simply give it more time. However, he may take your ages into account and refer you for some initial tests, or suggest that you see a fertility specialist.
I'm sure there is every chance you will conceive again – but maybe not quite as soon as you'd like.
MY SON HAS PORNOGRAPHIC MAGAZINES IN HIS ROOM
When I was cleaning our 14-year-old son's room, I found a stash of pornographic magazines. This really upset me, as I thought we'd brought him up to have more respect for women.
It also worries me because these images are far from respectful to women and I don't know whether to confront him, or if that will only make things worse.
FIONA SAYS: While I can completely understand and agree with your abhorrence of such magazines, I'm afraid that – condemn or condone – it is what a lot of young lads will do. It's possible that these magazines have been circulating among your son and a group of his friends and that he hasn't necessarily bought and paid for them.
It could be that one of the wilder, older boys bought them and is encouraging the younger ones to look at them. Peer pressure can be difficult to resist, and your son may have left them for you to find because he's uncomfortable with them, but doesn't know how to deal with the situation.
Of course, he could have bought them for himself and the fact that he's been looking at them indicates that he is more than ready for a chat about sex and its responsibilities. However good your relationship maybe with your son, boys seem to find it difficult to talk to their mothers about sex.
You refer to "our" son – is there a father that he might find it easier to have a conversation with? If not, then do try to get him to open up about this – perhaps by letting him know that you've found his magazines and seeing how he reacts?
If you need more advice on how to handle this, the counsellors at Family Lives (familylives.org.uk) are the people to discuss it with.
If you have a problem and you'd like Fiona's advice, email email@example.com