Ask Fiona: I'm not happy in my marriage – should I leave my husband?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman navigating a marriage that seems to have run its course; a lonely man in his 70s and a granddaugter who is rowing with her gran
I HAVE been married for 14 years but for the past five years it's been a marriage in name only. Although my husband and I still share a house and look after our two children, we have almost separate lives.
We sleep in separate rooms and I can't remember the last time we had a kind word to say to each other. I think things started to go wrong after the birth of our second child, but I don't think this was the cause. We just seemed to drift apart.
Now it feels that we are just going through the motions, providing a home for our children but nothing else.
I have tried to talk to him about a separation, but he just shrugs it off, saying that if I am unhappy, I can leave if I want.
I have thought about this and I AM unhappy, but then I worry about how this will affect our children.
They're already showing signs of being distressed.
My son, who is 9, still wets the bed and my daughter, who is 7, is always getting into fights at school.
Also, I can't possibly afford my own place and look after our children on my small part-time salary. I don't know what to do for the best, but I know I need to do something because this can't go on.
FIONA SAYS: I agree and you are right to be concerned about your children in the event of a separation.
When parents separate, their children will often find a way to blame themselves for what has happened.
It can be a traumatic and confusing time for them.
However, probably no more so than growing up over a long period of time with two parents who are clearly unhappy and seemingly trapped in a loveless marriage.
Neither scenario is ideal and to give yourselves the maximum chance of avoiding such outcomes, you should both consider talking to a relationship counsellor, preferably together.
Your relationship has deteriorated significantly and a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk) will enable you to start talking to each other again.
A counsellor can help you explore whether there is scope for you to save your marriage and if there is, they can guide you through this process.
They can also help you through a separation, if it comes to it. Of course, this all assumes that you can get your husband to seek help.
If he won't, you may need to point out a few home truths.
The most important of which is that his children's behaviour already indicates they are being badly affected by their home environment and surely, he wants to do all he can to stop this. You could also explain that in the event of a separation, he will be forced to provide for his children and probably, it is he that will have to leave the family home, not you and the children.
Hopefully this will make him realise that nothing good will come of letting things continue as they are. However, if he is still dismissive, perhaps this marriage has indeed run its course. In which case, I suggest you go straight to Relate yourself and begin the process of separation.
I'M LONELY – HOW DO I FIND LOVE IN MY 70S?
My mother died a few months ago and I realise I am lonely.
She was partially disabled, and I had looked after her for over 20 years.
I became her carer when I was widowed in my early 50s.
Ever since then, I've rarely had much time for myself and, even when I did, my mother always found a way to stop me from getting out and meeting people.
She'd always been a controlling influence in my life and somehow, I let her go on doing this.
Now I know this was a mistake and I wish I had someone special to spend my remaining years with. I've considered dating agencies, but really wouldn't know how to cope with a date even if I got one! Is it possible to find love in my 70s?
FIONA SAYS: It's possible, but to do so you'll have to get out a lot more and meet new people. This may seem daunting, but it really is the only way.
You could do this through a dating agency and the good news is, a growing number of these cater for older people.
I can't recommend any of these specifically, but I do recommend you only use members of the Association of British Introduction Agencies (abia.org.uk).
Your other option (and I suggest you do this anyway) is to throw yourself into lots of new activities with the initial aim of meeting new people and making friends.
What you do will probably be determined by what's available locally, but it might include volunteering, University of the Third Age activities or Friendship Groups through AgeUK (ageuk.org.uk).
Alternatively, you could join an activity club, something like a walking or painting group.
A wider circle of friends will help you to feel more positive about the future, and might lead you to that someone special.
MY SON CAN'T FIND WORK - WHAT CAN WE DO?
My son is 26 and has cerebral palsy. With a bit of support, he was able to complete three years at college and get through his exams. He's determined and willing to work hard.
He's applied for many jobs and even got some interviews, but so far has been unable to find work. He's tried the Job centre and the Citizens Advice Bureau, but nothing is working. I can see that it's getting him down and I worry that it might soon start to affect his health.
What else can we do?
FIONA SAYS: As a first step I suggest you contact SCOPE (scope.org.uk), a charity which provides information and support for people with disabilities.
Additionally, it has an employment service where your son can get practical advice about job hunting. I also suggest that he contact the Disability Network (disabilitynetwork.co.uk).
This organisation provides similar information and advice, but also has a searchable database of current job vacancies with employers that are committed to equality in their recruitment practices. I wish him well for the future.
HOW DO I SHOW MY GRAN I CAN MAKE MY OWN DECISIONS?
I am 16 and, for family reasons, live with my gran who is 76 and old-fashioned. We have had issues in the past, but two weeks ago we had a furious row about what I was wearing. I said some things that I am not proud of.
Basically, my gran wants me to stop wearing tops that show my midriff and too much cleavage. The problem is, I am large for my age and it's difficult not to.
I really don't want to keep arguing with her about this.
How do I convince her that I am old enough to decide what I should wear?
FIONA SAYS: I don't know what the reasons are that you're currently living with your grandmother but while you're in her house, you need to be at least aware of her feelings.
I suspect she's opposed to what you wear because she's worried about you.
She may be concerned that the way you dress will attract the wrong kind of attention – and she probably feels you're too young to deal with that. I also suspect she'd feel the same way if you were 26, 36 or 46 – not 16!
You're ashamed of how you spoke to her, so I suspect you care about her as much as she cares about you.
Tell her you're sorry and, for as long as you're living with her, be prepared to modify the way you dress a little.
Being on trend doesn't mean you have to show off your cleavage and your tum - look at other ways to dress in a way you like that she'll find easier to cope with.
There will be plenty of time for you to write your own fashion rules when you've moved out.
:: 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.