Life

Ask Fiona: My husband's inconsiderate ex-wife is making me angry

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman who's cross with her husband's awkward ex-wife, and another whose son is being harassed at work

There is no easy way to get over a marriage breakdown
Fiona Caine

"MY husband has a 9-year-old child from his first marriage. He hasn't seen his son for over two years because he's been living overseas, but he's now back in the UK and my husband is keen to see him. I'm happy for him but I think his ex-wife is messing us around a lot. She makes arrangements with us then frequently changes these at the last minute. I've also found out that she never has anything good to say about us, nor the things that we arrange for her son. Last week, we had planned to take his son to a film premiere in London.

However, when we turned up to collect him, she told us that he couldn't go because her parents were visiting and they wanted to spend time with their grandson.

"Why she couldn't have told us this before we even set off, I don't know! However, what upset me more was that my husband simply accepted this. As we drove off, I really lost it, got angry and told him he was being spineless. He took this badly and we've not spoken about it again. He's also been very distant with me and I am worried that I have really messed up. I do love him very much and the last thing I want to do is wreck out marriage. Please help."

AT

FIONA SAYS: "You've been very honest with me about your feelings, so why haven't you said these things to your husband? You wouldn't believe how many letters and email I get from people whose relationship is in trouble, yet they can't or won't talk to their partner.

I know you're fed up with his ex-wife's behaviour, but try to see this situation from your husband's perspective. He hasn't seen his son for two years and, whether this is his fault or not, he is probably feeling very guilty about this.

Given this, it's no wonder that he is desperate to be with his son as often as possible. So much so that he is prepared to overlook his wife's unpredictable and inconsiderate behaviour.

It's also possible that he avoids confrontation with his wife because he doesn't want to further upset his son, who may still be struggling to come to terms with his parents' divorce. So while you should try to not judge your husband too harshly, you shouldn't let this situation fester any longer.

As you've been distant with each other for a few days, he is probably all too aware that this is having a knock-on effect with your marriage, so you need to talk - and soon. Say to him the things that you've written to me, and show that you're willing to support him at this difficult time. If you show him you care about him, and get him to see that you only snapped at him because you're so angry with his ex-wife, then I am sure you can find a way to not let this spoil your relationship. And if you really can't get this conversation started, or you can't resolve the issues, please consider talking to a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk).

"As for resolving the issues with his ex-wife about access in the longer term, it sounds as if the two of them should seek help in resolving things too. National Family Mediation (nfm.org.uk) should be able to help and there's a lot of useful information on their website. Hopefully his ex will agree to this before the situation between the two of them becomes even more difficult."

HOW DO I DEAL WITH NASTY ANONYMOUS PHONE CALLS?

"Since moving into my new flat, I have been getting nasty phone calls almost every night on my landline. I don't know who the man is and some of the things he says have left me feeling very frightened and vulnerable. My parents suggested using 1471 to identify the number, but this hasn't worked because the number is always withheld. What else can I do? I hate being alone in the flat and have stopped answering the landline in case it is him. I now only use my mobile, but this is so much more expensive."

PD

FIONA SAYS: "Please don't put up with this pest any longer. According to Ofcom, malicious, abusive or threatening calls, whether from people you know or from strangers, are a criminal offence. Their advice is to call your phone service provider immediately and ask to speak to the malicious or nuisance calls team. Initially, they'll ask for details of the calls and assess the level of threat. Based on this, they may advise you to contact the police. Be a detailed as you can, as this will help them to trace this man all the sooner and stop him from frightening anyone else. Your service provider with then probably offer you a service that can block or reject unknown or unwanted calls. You can also buy equipment that attaches to your phone, which screens all incoming calls and gives you complete control to accept, reject or permanently block calls from any number, especially those where the caller withholds their number. There really is no need to put up with this."

MY TEENAGE SON IS BEING SEXUALLY HARASSED BY HIS MANAGER

"My son is 19 and a couple of months ago started his first job. It's what he has always wanted to do, yet he has been miserable and withdrawn almost from day one. I've asked him repeatedly if there is a problem and he's simply said it's fine. However, last night he finally admitted that's he's having a problem with his manager. This woman has been making sexual advances to him and threatened to say that he has been molesting her if he says anything. He's in a complete state and I have no idea how to advise or help him."

LR

FIONA SAYS: "Your son is new to work and to this company so this must be doubly difficult for him. He is probably embarrassed, reluctant to make a fuss and fearful of losing his job. However, it's important that he deals with this, or this woman will continue to abuse him and perhaps others in the workplace.

"I am fairly sure that his company's management would question why a new, young, inexperienced member of staff would risk his job by molesting his boss, so I'm sure they'll take him seriously. The formal way to do this would be to make a complaint of sexual harassment.

"I suggest that he starts by writing down everything that has happened and then keep a record of any further events. When he's ready to move on, he should read his terms of employment or any other information the company may have on sexual harassment and identify who he should make a complaint to. Some companies will simply state that all grievances should first be aired with an immediate boss or supervisor.

"In this case, I suspect that's not possible. Instead, your son could consider approaching the company's human resources department, any named 'fair treatment' contact, or a union representative. If none of these are available, or cannot resolve the situation, I suggest he contacts ACAS (acas.org.uk), which can provide free and impartial information and advice. ACAS is the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and is set up to help in situations like this."

CAN'T GET OVER MY MARRIAGE BREAKDOWN

"I've been married for four years and, after being separated for almost a year, my husband has filed for divorce. We have small children and it's devastating. I'm trying to get my life back together through therapy, reading self-help books and spending time with family and friends, but I'm not healing and can't get past this.

"I've asked my husband several times to give us another chance, but he doesn't want to as he says he's burnt out. I blame myself for the end of our marriage, and I don't know what else to do as I still love him and want to work it out. I try to stay positive but it's not working. How do I move on with my life without going crazy?"

JC

FIONA SAYS: "There is no easy, quick way to move on from heartbreak – it takes time. You are doing all the right things by getting yourself therapy, reading and spending time with family and friends. Just don't expect to feel better immediately or even quickly.

"You may still love him, but it sounds as if he no longer loves you and that nothing you do or say is going to make him return. I am curious as to what grounds he's used to file for divorce, as unless he's accusing you or adultery or 'unreasonable behaviour', you don't appear to meet the necessary criteria.

"That aside, it would appear he regards the marriage as over, and now the two of you have to work out some form of amicable relationship for the sake of your children. They are going to want to see their father and, presumably, he is going to want to see them – which means the two of you will continue to see one another. Your first big step has to be acceptance of the fact that he doesn't want to come back to you. That won't be easy but after you've done that, things will start to fall into place, and you will feel more able to make plans for a future without him. As for blaming yourself for the end of your marriage, please don't. Rarely is a break-up anyone's fault (except where one partner has been abusing the other), as there are always two sides to the story."

:: 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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