Ask Fiona: Why can't I stop feeling paranoid and jealous in relationships?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective to an insecure girlfriend, and a woman who is struggling to accept her gay friend
FOR as long as I can remember, I have been insecure in relationships. One boyfriend I had at college got so fed up with me constantly accusing him of sleeping with other girls that he slept with one just to punish me.
I suppose this should have been a warning but, in truth, I have just got worse. I got married three years ago to a wonderfully patient man and I really thought that I could put these feelings behind me.
However, before too long, I started to question him whenever he went out. I also wanted him to call me regularly during the day. He always reassured me that nothing was wrong but I couldn't let it go.
Last month he came home early from a football match and found me trawling through his work laptop. I was looking for proof that he was planning to leave me, and he finally snapped. We had a nasty row, which finished when he packed a couple of suitcases and left.
I miss him terribly and want him back. Do you think he could ever forgive me?
FIONA SAYS: He might, but if he did, I think it very likely that he would require you to make a commitment to change your behaviour. The key issue for you is whether you could stick to such an agreement.
There's no point in attempting a reconciliation if, after a few weeks, you go back to your old behaviour. Given this, I suspect he will simply leave again and this time, probably for good.
This jealous behaviour seems to be ingrained in you, so you need to get to the root of it if you're going to change. Most cases of jealousy stem from insecurity; it's a belief that you're not worthy of being loved, so a partner is sure to prefer someone else to you.
The worst thing is that, not only does it hurt you, but it hurts those who care for you. Jealousy can be dangerous and can make you physically sick; the intense feelings can have the same kind of effect on your body that chronic anxiety does.
This can include a raised heart rate, sweating, exhaustion and can eventually lead to depression. It can have a similarly negative effect on your partner too – no matter how devoted they may be, they can be left feeling feel hurt, exhausted, anxious and angry that they're not trusted.
I'm sure that, when he left, your husband was at the end of his tether with your mistrust. So, before you do anything else, please consider getting some counselling (your GP can refer you to a local service).
A counsellor can help you to understand what you're doing and, hopefully why. They can help you to recover from this painful and difficult path you've been treading for so long.
There are several online resources you can look at too, including the NHS website (nhs.uk) and the Relate site (relate.org.uk). Once you've started this process, I think you'll be in a much stronger position to approach your husband and ask for another chance.
Whether he gives you a second chance though, will probably depend on how willing you are to make an effort to change. I'm sure, if you try, you'll be a much happier and contented person.
WAS MY GAY FRIEND ATTRACTED TO ME?
A good friend of mine recently left her husband. What's floored me, though, is that she immediately moved in with another woman and told everyone that she's gay.
I had no idea that she was gay, even though I often spent long hours chatting with her. What's also bothering me is that she may have been attracted to me. She's called me a few times trying to arrange a get-together and left a few text messages, but I have so far managed to come up with excuses to put her off.
However, I can't do this for too much longer before she realises that something is wrong. Although I have valued her friendship over the years, I don't think I could cope with being alone with her again.
What should I do?
FIONA SAYS: Why are you so worried about seeing her again? Did she ever give you any indication that her interest in you was driven by anything other than friendship?
You've also said that you have known her for many years and valued her as a friend – so what really has changed? And why would she start to act any differently now, given that she already has a new relationship with someone else?
Your friend has just been through a major life event and probably wants nothing more than an opportunity to chat about things with a trusted friend. Genuine friendships are hard to find, and I think you are in danger of overreacting here, if you walk away from this one.
WHY ARE MY HUSBAND'S COMPANY PUTTING HIM LAST?
Since joining his company four years ago, my husband has been unable to take a two-week holiday during the school holidays. His colleagues always grab the prime slots in July and August, even though many of them do not have children, leaving us to grab occasional weeks around this.
It's been the same again this year, but we agreed that next year we would have proper holiday during the summer with the children. However, last week, my husband confessed that the holiday weeks have already been allocated for next summer and once again, we have missed out.
I'm so angry with him and his company; it's just not fair. We need the money that this job brings, but I can't help feeling that they are treating my husband badly.
FIONA SAYS: Please don't judge your husband too harshly. Like you, he is also probably concerned about money and his job, so accepts whatever holiday arrangements are handed to him.
However, if he wants this to change, he must find a way to register his interest in a summer slot. Encourage him to speak with his immediate manager and, if that doesn't work, whoever is responsible for Human Resources issues.
Alternatively, he could speak to his union rep – if that is appropriate. He should not feel that he's making a fuss or that his job is under threat, after all, he has been with the company for four years.
It may or may not be possible to get a two-week summer slot for next year, but after that, he should certainly get a fairer share of the available slots.
WHY DO I CARE WHAT MY MOTHER-IN-LAW THINKS?
My mother-in-law's house is spotless and ultra tidy. She's a great cook and seems to run her life and home in a really organised way.
On the other hand, our home is always untidy and I can see her wondering what on earth her son has married whenever she visits. The last time she was here, I served up an oven-ready meal which she picked at for 20 minutes and then ignored.
I always feel so inadequate when she's around. I love her son very much and we are happy together, so why do I care what she thinks?
FIONA SAYS: Good question, why do you? Your husband loves you as you are and seems to be happy. What's more, he seems to like the relaxed way that you both run your home.
If he wanted a 'spotless' home, he could have chosen to remain living with his parents. But he's not, he's with you – so please stop worrying about this.
If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.