Life

Ask Fiona: I'm attracted to my friend - am I gay?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman upset that her widowed dad has moved on so fast

I suggest you keep an open mind, continue to see people of all sexual orientations and see how things develop
MK

I'M 16 and when I split with my girlfriend before Christmas, I turned to one of my mates for help. He really seemed to understand how I felt, but the thing is I think I'm now attracted to him. I think about him all the time and can't wait to be with him; I've even had fantasies about sleeping with him.

I don't understand why this is happening because I've always been attracted to girls before. Am I gay? And if so, how am I going to cope with my parents?

Fiona Says

At this stage, I don't think you need to start putting a label on yourself (unless you feel that you want to – but there's no need to rush). You may be gay, you may be straight, you may be bisexual or any of the other numerous orientations that people can be.

I would suggest not making any fast moves with your friend though. He's been a good friend when you've needed one, and it would be a shame to lose that when your feelings are so in conflict. If you think he's open to it and feel comfortable doing so, then perhaps you could talk about your feelings with him?

I suggest you keep an open mind, continue to see people of all sexual orientations and see how things develop. Try not to feel pressured into acting a certain way or fitting in with other people's expectations of you – and that includes your parents. When you know who you are, really know who you are, then you will find telling your parents and other people will be very much easier – if, indeed, you need to tell them anything at all.

JE

How can dad move on so soon after losing mum?

MY MUM died in August last year and my dad was devastated, as they were so close. She was only 67 and was sitting next to him in a chair when she had a heart attack and died. It was a shock to us all, but what has been even more shocking is the way my dad has behaved since.

He said at the funeral that mum was the love of his life, so we are finding it really hard to understand the fact that he started dating a lady in November – just nine weeks later. It's not even like she's an old friend or something – he met her online.

She seems like a nice person, although she's older than him, but my brother, sister and I feel so angry with my dad. How can he get over losing our mum quite so quickly?

FIONA SAYS

You're finding this all very painful and confusing – you are still mourning the death of your mother, while it must seem to you that your father no longer cares. I'm sure that's not the case though – I'm sure his grief is still very raw, and he possibly feels he just can't face it on his own.

It sounds like you're torn between feeling loyalty to you mother and respect for her memory, as well as concern that your father will stop remembering her as the person you've both lost.

While you wouldn't want your father to face loneliness in his old age, his new lady must feel like an intrusion to your family unit. She doesn't need to be though, and while this is hard for you, you can choose how you cope with the situation. Either you go on feeling angry and struggling to cope, or you try to find ways to help yourselves accept it.

Try and remember that the three of you siblings, and your father, are all grieving very differently. Your grief is for the loss of a mother, while his is for the loss of a spouse. This new person is not, nor ever could be a replacement for your mother. I'm sure your father isn't comparing the two of them, and nor should you be. Your mother will always be your mother no matter what, no matter who else comes into your lives, or your father's life.

It may sound odd to say this, but it is, in some way, a testament to how close your father was to your mother that he feels the need to build a new relationship so quickly. There simply are no hard and fast rules for deciding when the time is right (or wrong) for a widowed person to begin dating or falling in love with someone new. Some people will take many years before they feel ready again – for others, like your father, the need for renewed closeness happens almost immediately.

It is up to the individual to decide what is right for them and I'm afraid it's not your place, or mine, to decide that for him. I suspect this woman knows full well that she is helping your father recover from his grief, and that you may be finding things difficult. It might help if you try to get to know her better and find out more about her. It's possible that she, too, has faced loss and that she and your father are helping each other.

If you can establish friendly relations with her, you might start to feel more comfortable with her being around. If you try talking to her about the loss of your mother and the grief you feel, it may be that she can show you she's no threat at all. I am sure that will help you feel less anxious and hopefully you'll be able to accept her for the person she is – a close friend and helpmate to your father, not a replacement for your mother.

It might help you to come to terms with your grief and loss by talking to a bereavement counsellor too, and I would suggest you contact Cruse Bereavement Care (cruse.org.uk) for help. They can also help you talk through your feelings about your father and perhaps help you to understand his behaviour better.

AO

SAVING FOR A HOUSE IS KILLING OUR RELATIONSHIP

MY FIANCE and I decided we'd marry as soon as we could afford to buy a home of our own. We had a great relationship but, over the past year, it has deteriorated badly. My fiance works such long hours to save his money and now, when we get together, he's so tired he just wants to fall asleep in front of the TV.

If I try to encourage him to go out, he just gets grumpy about spending money and because he's so tired, our love life is suffering too. I just want to go back to when we were happy together – even if that means we can't afford a house.

Fiona Says

Then I think you need to tell him. Your fiance seems to have lost sight of why he is working so hard. It's not just a roof over your heads, it's being with each other and sharing a life together. There's no point in having a house if the two of you have drifted apart, and he needs to realise that.

His motives for working these long hours, though, are admirable, so try to explain to him how you feel gently. I suspect you both need to compromise a bit – he needs to cut back on these long hours and you, perhaps, need to find ways of helping to achieve your shared ambition. Assuming it is still your shared ambition, that is.

Not many young couples these days start a life together in a home they own – for most, it's rental to begin with and ownership comes later. Perhaps you'd be more comfortable with doing things that way.

SF

TERRIFIED OF GETTING HURT AGAIN

I FELL apart when I split up with my boyfriend two years ago, and I took drugs for a while, as well as sleeping around. I'm clean now but I seem to have gone the other way, where relationships are concerned.

I've lost all my confidence and have put up barriers to my family and friends. If anyone tries to get close to me, I push them away because I don't want to go through that sort of hurt again – I'm terrified it would tip me over the edge. I feel like I'm in a prison and can't see a way out – I'm so lonely and depressed all the time.

Fiona Says

Do you realise just how far you've come? You've stopped doing drugs and you've stopped sleeping around – which indicates your self-respect has increased. What's more, you've realised you have a problem, you know what caused it, and by writing to me, you're taking steps to do something about it. That's huge.

You don't indicate you've had any help or counselling – and maybe that would be a good next stop for you now.

Either Relate (relate.org.uk) or your GP should be able to help you through this with counselling and support.

You've done so well to get this far and one more step would be to make contact with friends and family again.

If, perhaps, you could reach out to one friend or one family member, I'm sure you'd find your barriers would begin to come down. After that, beginning to learn to trust other people again and form relationships will become easier.

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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