Life

Ask Fiona: My husband was so caring when I was sick but he says he no longer loves me

This week, trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers advice on a husband that's fallen out of love, and reporting suspected child abuse

Your husband's behaviour is not acceptable – you need to have a serious talk with him or seek help from outside
Fiona Caine

FOR the past year, whilst I've been really ill, my husband has had to look after me. He never once complained, despite having to hold down his job too.

Now I'm better, I was looking forward to being able to pamper him for a change. So it was a real shock when he announced last week that he no longer loves me.

He never once indicated that he felt like this and it is even more bizarre since he has looked after me so selflessly for the past 12 months. He won't tell me why he feels this way and says he's not prepared to consider counselling – but how can he do this to me after 22 years of marriage? He has no plans to move out and we're still sharing the same bed. He's pretending to other people that everything is fine between us, but I can't go on pretending like this. What does he want from me?

LA

FIONA SAYS: This can't be easy for you, especially since he's not willing to give any explanation and won't agree to counselling. I suspect it's your illness that has prompted his behaviour. Perhaps, in spite of the way he behaved at the time, he did resent the time he spent caring for you. Or perhaps it forced him to question his feelings for you. It might have presented an image he'd never confronted before, and made him realise that you're both getting older – and he doesn't like it.

Whatever the reason though, this situation, as it stands is simply unacceptable. If he once had any feelings for you (and 22 years of marriage suggests quite strongly that he did) he needs to understand that he owes you some sort of explanation.

You could, perhaps, start making him face the reality of what he's said by asking him to move into a spare room – or tell him you're moving into one yourself.

This assumes you have the space to do so, but I do think it might make him face the reality of what he's said if you were to move out of the same bed as him.

Whether you can get through to him though, is another matter and, if he still refuses to talk about it, you need to decide just how hard you want to push things.

It could be that, if you push him too hard, he might leave – so perhaps the best approach would be to give him a little bit more time to sort himself out. I suggest you set a time limit on how long you're prepared to give him and assess the situation again after that. Meanwhile, there is no reason why you can't consider counselling by yourself. It might help you to understand what's happening, and help you feel stronger about what you want from this marriage in the future. If your relationship with your husband can be amicable even without intimacy, you might be quite happy like that.

You do need to consider whether that's enough for you and also how you'd feel if he decides it's not enough for him and starts looking elsewhere. Meanwhile, perhaps giving him some of that pampering as a thank you for his past care might help too – but not at the expense of your own self-esteem.

 

SHOULD I CONFRONT THE WOMAN WHO ABUSED MY HUSBAND?

Every week, I read about cases of child sexual abuse taking place somewhere in the country but, in almost every case, the abuser is male. When he was 13, my husband was abused by his neighbour – a woman in her (then) 30s. She still lives nearby and often we see her about the place. Knowing what she did to my husband, it really bothers me that she's often with a young lad of about 13 or 14, and I'm worried that she may be doing to him what she did to my husband. I don't know if I should confront her and tell her I know what she did, or if I should just go to the police and tell them my suspicions.

D

FIONA SAYS: I think you need to be cautious about accusing this woman – especially to her face. It's possible that the lad you've seen her with is a relation of some kind, possibly even a son. Making unfounded accusations could hurt a lot of people, including your husband, so unless you are absolutely sure the boy is at risk, I think you need to act cautiously. Doing nothing isn't acceptable as the boy may indeed be being abused. The NSPCC Child Protection Helpline exists for exactly this kind of situation, where someone is concerned but unsure. You can call them (0808 800 5000) anonymously if you wish (although it would help them to be able to contact you again) or you can report your concerns online, also anonymously.

The website (nspcc.org.uk) explains more – just click on 'Preventing abuse' then 'Worried about a child', to find out all the details.

Female child abusers can most certainly cause just as much damage and distress as male ones, even though, statistically, there seem to be fewer of them.

 

MY DEAD HUSBAND'S FAMILY NEVER ACCEPTED ME

MY husband died four months ago, and after a close relationship that lasted almost 50 years, I'm struggling to cope without him. His mother and sister never wanted him to marry me, and so I was never accepted by them. They did and said some pretty awful things all through our marriage, and although they never showed me any kindness, I still kept in touch. When I contacted his sister to tell her about the death and funeral arrangements, I was met with a mouthful of abuse and no expression of grief at all. In his will, my husband left his sister a photo of their father, but do I have to give it to her? I can't understand how anyone can live with their conscience when they have been so unkind.

HG

FIONA SAYS: As your husband's family have behaved so poorly, I can understand why you might not want to contact your sister-in-law again. By rejecting you and your relationship with him, they have effectively isolated themselves from him for the past 50 years. Like you, I am at a loss to understand why people can act in this way.

Your husband loved you and stayed with you for over 50 years in face of some obvious attempts by his family to separate you. That, I think, is what you must hang on to, because he must have loved you very much to ignore all their attempts to drive you apart.

Had your husband left his sister money or something substantial, if you or his executors failed to pass it on to her there could be serious legal implications. All he's left her is a family photo though, and the chances are she doesn't even know about it.

If you fail to pass it on I doubt anything much would happen, but I suspect it will nag at your conscience. Why not drop her a note and tell her the picture is hers if she'd like to arrange to collect it? If she wants it badly enough then the onus is on her to make the arrangements.

 

HAVE I LEFT IT TOO LATE TO LEAVE MY ABUSIVE MARRIAGE AND FIND HAPPINESS?

I'VE BEEN in an unhappy, abusive marriage for 33 years. We have four great children, but my husband has been unfaithful regularly.

He's very coy about it, which makes it hard to identify, and his latest is with a near neighbour. I've had enough and want out, but have I left it too late?

IW

FIONA SAYS:Certainly not – it's never too late to walk away from an abusive relationship. You need to make plans, especially if you're going to take the children with you. As you've been in this relationship for 33 years though, I'm guessing the children are old enough to look after themselves? I suggest you contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline (0808 2000 247). I'd also encourage you to read The Survivor's Handbook which is on the Women's Aid website (womensaid.org.uk), as it will provide you with all the practical information you need to leave. Please don't wait any longer than is absolutely necessary.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net 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.

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