Life

Ask Fiona: I can't stop thinking about my ex

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman feeling resentful of her mother-in-law and another who is confused after seeing her ex...

Having been through a divorce, having doubts about getting married again is completely natural
Fiona Caine

When my marriage split up three years ago, I immediately started going out with a man I had known as an acquaintance for several years. It was pretty steamy for a few months, but perhaps I was coming on a bit too strong.

Anyway he dumped me and it hurt like hell – almost as bad as my divorce. I got myself back together though and for the past six months, I've been seeing a new guy. We really care about each other; he's kind and caring and we are talking about getting married.

The thing is, last week I bumped into my ex-boyfriend, who surprised me by saying it would be good to get together again. I told him that was never going to happen, but since then, I can't stop thinking about him. What's wrong with me?

JS

This man made a big impression on you at a time when you were particularly vulnerable after your divorce. It's not so surprising that your passionate affair can still seem attractive, in spite of the way he hurt you.

You are inevitably going to make comparisons between him and your new man – perhaps these comparisons are causing you to have doubts?

Having been through a divorce, having doubts about getting married again is completely natural. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your new relationship though, it's just different.

Don't let feelings about a past affair cause you to act rashly. This man hurt you badly and the chances are he's simply hoping for more sex, not a proper relationship. There's nothing to stop him from doing so again.

 

I FEEL TRAPPED BY MY NEEDY MOTHER-IN-LAW

MY mother in law was quite ill last year and as she was left feeling very shaky, my husband and I moved her in with us.

Other than a couple of bouts when she's felt a bit faint, she's been fine, although she now has to take on-going blood pressure medication. She's only 62 and, other than her blood pressure problems, is generally quite healthy, but as she and I have always got along well, I was quite happy for her to stay.

Since she's move in though, she's changed – she's lost her confidence and refuses to go out on her own. I wouldn't mind that so much except she gets panicky and tearful if she's left alone in the house. If we're around, she seems fine and has transformed our garden with the hard work she's put into it but, if we want to go out, she takes to her bed saying she's "not feeling too good".

It's putting a great strain on the whole family, especially me as I am expected to look after her. When I agreed that she could stay I had no idea that she would become this dependent on me and, although I love her, I feel trapped and resentful. Is it wrong to feel like this?

SD

No, it's not wrong of you to feel trapped. You have every right to expect a life of your own, especially as nobody could have predicted that your mother-in-law would react this negatively to her condition.

It sounds as though her problems are perhaps now more emotional than physical. She's very young to be behaving like this and her behaviour is very selfish – although I'm sure she doesn't realise it.

From the behaviour you're describing, I suspect your mother-in-law might be suffering from depression. Spending too much time in bed, together with tears and panic attacks, indicate she's very frightened. She's probably scared of being on her own and having another attack.

If her only physical problem is blood pressure then normally this is controlled through a combination of medication, diet and exercise. There's no physical reason why she should become so dependent on you. But – and it's a big but – depression is a very real illness, and it may be she's been affected by it for some time.

I'm guessing she's lived on her own prior to this – you don't mention a father-in-law living with you as well. I don't know if she was alone through being widowed or divorced, but it's possible that her loneliness is at the root of the problem.

Can you talk to her? I suspect she's not been able to have a conversation with anyone about her emotional needs for a long time.

She's young enough to find another relationship if she wanted to, and it might be worthwhile encouraging her to think about getting out and about with a group of others. There are plenty of clubs and organisation she could join where she'd be made welcome and might make new friends. She could join a gym, a walking group or even find a job.

She seems to have a real interest in and talent for gardening – perhaps there's a hospice or other charitable organisation close by that could do with her help. Trying to encourage her to feel good about herself again and feel she's achieving things would be, I think, the root to building her self-confidence once more.

Once she feels more positive, I'm sure she'll be fine about you leaving her in the house on her own – she might even feel strong enough to move back to her own home eventually.

You may also find it helpful to look at the website for the Carers Trust (carers.org), where you can find details of your nearest local group. Chatting with others who are facing similar problems might help you to cope with this situation better.

 

I'VE LOST ALL INTEREST IN DATING WOMEN

I think I need advice. I've lost my interest in women completely and I've been single my whole life.

It doesn't really bother me; I'm not gay but I've just lost interest in finding love because of being heartbroken throughout my life and I think that might have something to do with it. Should I just not date and be single because it wouldn't make me happy, or should I just have women that are friends?

CB

You say you've lost interest in women and in the next sentence you say it doesn't bother you – but it clearly does.

You say you've been single your whole life, yet you say you've been heart-broken. For that to have happened, you must have been in some kind of relationship and had strong emotional feelings.

You ask if you should not date and remain single but, your very next words say this wouldn't make you happy. You ask if you should just have women as friends, which implies you are have plenty of women around you that you might potentially date.

There are so many contradictions and real confusion in your email, so it's hard to understand what you want to achieve.

I cannot help but wonder about one thing, and that's where you tell me you're not gay and link that to saying you've lost interest in anything sexual.

Is that, perhaps at the root of your problem? Is your lack of sexual interest in women because you're denying your feelings for men? Is there something about your background, your family perhaps, that would make it very difficult for you to be gay?

I'd certainly encourage you to have lots of friends who are women and lots of friends who are men – but also to be honest with yourself about what you do want.

By the sounds of it, that means you want to be in a relationship with someone who cares about you and who you care for. For that, I think you might need some counselling, so you understand your own feelings a lot better than you seem to at present.

Contact Relate (relate.org.uk) and speak to a counsellor who can help you sort out exactly what you're trying to find in life.

I DREAD OUR EXPENSIVE ANNUAL WORK OUTINGS

The company I work for organises a staff outing every year, and everyone's expected to go. They pay the cost of travel – usually by hiring a coach – but we're expected to pay for our own food and drink at the closest restaurant to the attraction that is chosen. I only work part-time because of family commitments and every year I dread this event, which always ends up costing me a lot more than I can afford. On top of that, it's not even as if I enjoy it because people just talk about work and get competitive. I find it really boring, but I don't want to get on the wrong side of the managers.

Is there any way out?

EJ

I suspect you're not the only one who feels this way. Company days out are generally regarded as important personnel tools; designed to encourage bonding or a sense of shared experience but I agree with you, they can be very boring. They are seen as important in some companies though, so you may have to grit your teeth and go along with it. That doesn't mean you should suffer financially though, so talk to your manager and explain.

There's no reason why you – and perhaps some other colleagues who are feeling a bit strapped for cash – shouldn't organise alternative eats. If the outing is to the seaside, suggest fish and chips – and perhaps a round of crazy golf after for the competitive ones. If it's to somewhere remote, suggest a picnic where everyone brings something to share.

You could even volunteer to organise the event, ensuring there's enough food for everyone and you don't end up with 600 sausage rolls and nothing else.

If the powers that be are determined to force an expensive restaurant meal on you all then you would be within your rights to refuse to join in. They may just offer to pay for you, which, I have to say, is what most companies do anyway.

:: 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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