Life

Ask Fiona: My husband has become very jealous and controlling

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman whose husband's possessive behaviour is making her feel trapped and a young woman being pressurised into finding a husband

Verbal aggression and bullying is abuse – just as much as physical violence is

Tell those that are pressuring you that you'd rather stay as you are until the right person comes along

DL

I'VE been married to my husband for 14 years and although it was fine for a while, over the last four or five years, he's become very jealous and possessive.

I suppose he always was a bit that way, but I didn't really mind too much – I thought it showed how much he loved me. Now though, he makes me feel completely trapped and very claustrophobic.

He never lets me go out on my own – I do, but only when he's at work. I hate the sneaking around and the way he cross-questions me when he gets back. I hate the lying and the deceit. On the odd occasions he finds out about where I've been, he flies into a rage and can be angry for several days.

You'd think this would be my problem, but the thing is, although I love my husband, I have developed feelings for my neighbour. I only get to talk to him when my husband isn't around, but it's enough to mean I'm really attracted to him. He is understanding and very supportive, as he has heard how angry my husband can get.

I couldn't leave my husband, even though this other man has suggested I should, because I do love him – so why can't I get this other man out of my head?

FIONA SAYS

When someone is bullying you and making you feel – in your words – 'trapped and claustrophobic', why would you want to get someone who is 'understanding' and 'supportive' out of your head?

Your husband is making life very hard for you and your neighbour appears to offer a far more attractive option.

You've not indicated, in your email, that your husband's rages are verbal or physical, but whichever they are, it sounds to me like abuse. Verbal aggression and bullying is abuse, just as much as physical violence is, so it's hardly surprising you feel trapped.

I do wonder, though, why your husband has become so much more jealous. Jealously is usually a sign of insecurity and inadequacy – so what has made him feel that way? If he is aware of your attraction to your neighbour, then he reason to be insecure and jealous.

Alternatively, did something happen at his workplace? Or did he face rejection from someone?

If he carries on in this way then you will eventually turn against him - however much you say you love him now.

Is there any way you can get him to talk about his feelings and encourage him to seek help for them? If you can get to the bottom of his insecurity, then there might be hope for your marriage.

You are clearly at the point of running for the nearest exit – and that's your attractive neighbour – but be honest with yourself. Do you think that relationship really has a future, or is it a case of your neighbour being the only escape option you can think of?

Possessive men do not easily change, and you may find he never does – especially if he refuses to get help. You will then have to decide if you're prepared to put up with his abuse – which will, eventually, undermine your confidence and self-belief.

I suggest you make contact with Relate (relate.org.uk) and get counselling and support, because I think it could help you make decisions about the future that you need to address. If your husband wants to know where you're going, tell him; encourage him to come with you. It may be enough to shake him out of any complacency he has and perhaps seeing a counsellor will make him realise that enough is enough.

BB

HOW CAN I GET MY BOYFRIEND TO BE MORE AMBITIOUS?

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years now and although I love him, I find him incredibly frustrating. I suppose I am rather a driven person, keen to get on with my career, but although he's a brilliant writer and musician, he doesn't do anything about it.

He works in a warehouse, which must be deadly boring, but when I suggest a job more suited to his skills, he does nothing about it. All he wants to do is drift along and seeing him waste his talents like this is depressing. How do I get him to see sense?

Fiona Says

While I can understand your frustration, I can also see how your boyfriend can be content in his rather boring job. People who are creative are often comfortable in jobs like this because it frees their minds to think about other things.

If he's content with his life, you need to be very careful about pushing him to make changes. If you push him into doing something that he fails at, or which makes him unhappy, then he's going to resent your efforts and blame you.

Those who are successful in creative endeavours are not necessarily the most talented, often it's a case of having a greater will to succeed - that and a thicker skin! Encourage your boyfriend in his writing and music, by all means, but ultimately, he has to make up his own mind as to what he wants to do.

Finally, you need to give some thought to how much of a stumbling block this is likely to be for the future of this relationship. If you are feeling this frustrated now – how will you feel in 10 years if your boyfriend is still working in the warehouse?

AC

SHOULD I TRY HARDER TO FIND A RELATIONSHIP?

I'M IN my 30s and single, which seems to bother my family and friends. I like my life but I'm getting increasing pressure from them to find someone to marry.

Being single doesn't bother me – I have a number of close relationships when I've wanted them, but I also have financial independence and the freedom to do things as and when I please.

I'm starting to worry about why none of those relationships ever amounted to anything and I'm worried I'm putting out the wrong vibe. The thing is, I'd quite like to find someone but only if the right man came along - otherwise I know I'd be happier being single.

Fiona Says

An awful lot of people still seem to think that, in order to be happy, you have to be half of a relationship. That pressure from family and friends is probably making you doubt yourself, when it sounds as if your lifestyle suits you quite well.

There are plenty of married women around who would be thrilled to have your freedom and financial independence.

As to putting out the wrong vibe in previous relationships, I suspect it was nothing of the sort – either you weren't ready, or it was the wrong man.

So just tell those that are pressuring you that you'd rather stay as you are until the right person comes along. Credit yourself with knowing your own mind, and don't be bullied into marrying someone just because of the expectations of those around you.

KO

WHY IS MY EX STILL WINDING ME UP?

My ex-boyfriend's parents are close friends of my parents, and so the families often get together. When they visit, he often comes with them, and when he does, he's forever flirting with whoever else is around and making remarks about me.

He knows this winds me up and he's doing it deliberately to upset me. We broke up over something really trivial and although I tried to get back together with him, he didn't want to know.

The annoying thing is, I still love him, so even though I don't want him to visit, I still do and I'm so confused.

Fiona Says

Coming to your home or to events he knows you'll be at and teasing you like this is his way of showing he still has power over you. To be honest, that makes him sound like rather an unpleasant young man – so do think about why you feel you still want to be with him.

Showing he has control over you like this probably feeds his ego, so try not to let him see he has any effect on you.

If you can, the next time he starts to be unpleasant, go straight over and ask him why he finds it so difficult to be civil towards an old friend.

I don't know how you and your family socialise, but if you can avoid these joint family social gatherings and go out with your other friends, I'm sure you'll soon get over this immature clod. Once he realises his silly and immature behaviour can no longer hurt you, it will probably stop.

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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