Ask Fiona: My boyfriend and I hardly ever see each other
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman unsure where her relationship's going, another whose husband is against lending her sister money, and am abusive husband
I HAVE lived with my boyfriend for three years, but I don't know where our relationship is going. We both have busy jobs that require us to do lots of long days and business trips away.
Last week for example, I was only at home for one night and it just happened to be the night that he had to work late. We ended up having a takeaway, quick sex and a few hours of sleep before he was away for a four-day conference the next day.
This has been going on for ages and I hate the fact that we just don't seem to have any time for each other and, even when we do, we hardly ever talk. Can our relationship last if we continue to work such long hours apart?
My other problem is, I think a guy at work is interested in me. I spend a lot of time with and he's great to be with. We've only had lunch together so far, but I can't stop thinking about him. I am confused and don't know what to do for the best.
FIONA SAYS: You probably can't stop thinking about this other guy because, as things stand, you seem to spend more time with him than with your boyfriend. Whether this is because you no longer love your boyfriend or because circumstances force you to see so little of him, only you can decide.
I am also concerned by that fact that, even when you do have time together, you don't talk much. Given this, I suppose the key question is, do you still love your boyfriend? If you can answer this with a positive yes, then I think you need to talk with him soon to explain that you are unhappy.
If your relationship isn't already coming apart at the seams, it is close, and you need to find ways to re-connect with each other before it's too late.
Many working couples struggle to find a balance between the needs of work and a relationship. One way to combat this is to set some routines that work for you both. For example, on days when you both start your working day at home, try to eat breakfast together.
Similarly, on days when you're both not working, make sure that you relax and forget about work. If this means locking away phones, laptops and tablets, so be it. And, if one of you is travelling, try to set aside time each day for a 15 or 30-minute phone or FaceTime chat.
The routines you establish are up to you, but they do need to be applied consistently. Hopefully, things should improve.
However, if they don't or you're still unhappy, or it proves impossible to make these changes, perhaps you should consider calling time on this relationship.
This might be a painful process but what's worse – a short, sharp break, or the lingering pain of an unhappy and slowly-unravelling relationship? If you feel you need to talk about this further, please contact a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk).
MY HUSBAND DOESN'T WANT ME TO LEND MY SISTER MONEY
My sister has always helped me when she can, so when she asked if I could lend her some money recently, I agreed.
When my husband found out, though, he got angry. He said I should have cleared it with him first, especially as our family finances are far from secure now. I admit we've got a bit of debt, like most people, and there is some talk at my company that there may be staff layoffs, but these may never happen.
I'm due to visit my sister next week to hand over the cash but my husband is still saying it's a bad idea and that I should tell my sister we can't afford it. Now I'm really confused because, whatever I do, one of them is going to be upset.
Surely it can't be wrong to help family whenever we can?
FIONA SAYS: I agree, but if you're planning to use joint family funds for this loan, I think your husband has a point. After all, how would you feel if he used money in this way without first talking it through with you?
That said, if you're planning to use your own money, your husband will have to accept that you have the right to use it as you see fit. However, if you are in debt and your job prospects are a bit shaky, should you be making a loan anyway?
Would it not make more sense to use this money to pay down some of your own debt, or save for a rainy day while you're able to do so? You need to talk this through more with your husband and reach some sort of agreement.
If you don't, this issue is likely to fester and cause resentment, even if you are using your own funds. And if the decision is not to make the loan, I'm afraid your sister will have to look elsewhere.
MY HUSBAND IS ALWAYS ANGRY AND SETTING DEMANDS
I met my husband just four months before we got married. We even lived together briefly, and I thought I had got to know him quite well. However, as soon as we married, he changed.
Now everything has be done his way and he insists that everything in the house is in the right place. It must also be clean and tidy and if it's not, he flies into a rage. If he doesn't like the food I prepare or I've made a mistake in its preparation, he spits it out and shouts at me.
I can never watch anything on the TV unless he is out, and he never wants me to go out of the house unless it's with him.
I hate it when he's here and long for the times when he is at work. Please help, I think I have made a terrible mistake.
FIONA SAYS: This isn't a relationship; it's emotional abuse and you need to leave. I don't usually advise people to walk away from a marriage without first attempting to rescue it, but I'll make an exception here.
This man may not be abusing you physically, but his behaviour is cruel and threatening and you should not have to put up with it for a minute longer. In fact, this kind of abuse is now recognised legally – it doesn't just have to be physical.
Obsessive traits like this are usually deeply ingrained and I see little prospect of him changing any time soon. So please, when next he leaves for the office, pack your things and return home to your family.
If that's not an option, or you are worried what might happen if you do or unsure what to do, please remember you are not alone and there are organisations out there that can help. Charities such as Women's Aid (womensaid.org.uk) have a free 24-hour helpline (0808 2000 247), and you can always talk to the police if you need to.
SHOULD I BE WORRIED THAT MY KIDS' FATHER WANTS TO WORK AWAY?
I have been with my boyfriend for four years and am pregnant with our second child. I live in a flat with our daughter, but my boyfriend lives with his parents.
He recently took a short contract job that took him away (something to do with rail engineering) and said that he was going to be gone for about six weeks. We didn't talk about this, but I could see that he was keen to go.
However, when I spoke with his father recently, he said that he was planning to stay with the new job for at least three months and possibly longer. Now I don't know what to think because my boyfriend has said nothing about this.
Should I be worried?
FIONA SAYS: Possibly, but I would be wary of reading too much into this until you've had a chance to chat with him about it. That said, I think there is plenty about this relationship that you SHOULD be worried about though.
For example, why is he still living at home with his parents when his growing young family is living elsewhere? Also, how can he so easily accept a job that takes him so far away from his family and not discuss it properly with you first?
Additionally, if it turns out that he is keeping the job, what does he plan to do about this family and, most importantly, supporting his children?
I think the time has come for him to adopt a more grown-up approach to this relationship because, to me, he seems less than committed. If he were a committed partner and father, he would be living with you and your children but instead, he's living and behaving like a single man.
If he can't or won't accept that there is a problem, then perhaps you need to decide whether you want this relationship to continue. And if it is to end, you need to ensure that he provides adequate maintenance for his children. You may already have some sort of agreement in place for this, but this may fall apart if you separate. Given this, it would be sensible to contact the Child Maintenance Service (cmoptions.org/index.asp) as soon as possible. I'd also suggest you follow the link from their website to the one on Sorting Out Separation (sortingoutseparation.org.uk).
:: 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.