Ask Fiona: Is my cousin a lesbian?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: being ignored, asking for money and divorce

"Your cousin has stood by you, so maybe it's now time you stood by her" 

I HAVE a cousin who is about 15 years older than me.

She lives on her own and I often go and see her as we get on really well.

I feel I can talk to her about things that are bothering me and she always seems to know what's best.

In many ways, she's like an older, wiser sister, but my brother said he thinks she's a lesbian and I'm wondering if I should stop visiting her as perhaps she will try and make me one too.


FIONA SAYS: Assuming for the moment that what your brother said is true, what difference does it make whether she's attracted to men or to women?

It seems she's a caring person who has time for you and offers you support and advice.

You're lucky to have someone like her in your life, as many people have no one they can turn to.

Has she ever treated you with anything other than kindness and affection?

Has she ever said or done anything that makes you feel uncomfortable?

Has she ever betrayed the trust you have placed in her?

From what you have said in your email, it seems unlikely.

Forget your brother's daft attempt to label your cousin by her sexual orientation – it really is completely irrelevant to who she is as a person.

Your cousin has stood by you, so maybe it's now time you stood by her.

Rise above his spiteful remarks and show him that you're better than that.


Annoyed that my husband's parents keep ignoring me 

ALTHOUGH I'm happily married, my in-laws are really spoiling things.

They were downright rude to just about everybody at our wedding, and completely ignored me.

My husband didn't care as he said they'd always been like that and I shouldn't take it personally, but that's easier said than done.

His mother has recently joined the gym I go to and still completely ignores me, even though I've tried to be friendly.

Even if we're side by side on treadmills or bikes, she just cuts me off and seems quite content to act as though I don't exist.

It's really upsetting me and I don't understand it.


FIONA SAYS: There may be a reason your husband doesn't want to tell you, or it could be that your in-laws are unpleasant, rude people.

If your husband does know a reason, it may be he doesn't wish to tell you what it is in case it hurts you.

You could ask your husband if he has any idea why they're continuing to be so rude, but you might find out more if you confront your mother-in-law the next time you see her.

Ask her why she insists on ignoring you and what you have done to cause her to behave as she does. If she doesn't answer you, I think you should just let it go.

Whatever your in-laws' problem, it's not worth spoiling your happiness over it.

There are probably plenty of people at the gym you never talk to, so treat her like one of them.

If you find you can't do that, find another gym, even though that may not be convenient.

Personally, I'd just brazen it out and hope that when it becomes clear you are not prepared to be influenced by her behaviour, she moves on.

Sometimes you can't change a situation - no matter how hard you try.


I think I want a divorce

I MARRIED when I was 18 and my husband was 19.

Three years later, I'm so unhappy and am thinking I need to divorce him.

He's never home and spends all his free time with his mates, either at the pub or playing rugby.

I can't remember the last time we went out together and he seems to be incapable of talking sensibly about our future.

It's like he's still trying to be a teenager, and if I try to talk about having a family or buying a house, he just laughs and cuts me off, saying it's too soon to worry about such things.

My life seems to consist of going to work and coming home to cleaning, cooking and twice weekly sex when he's not out with his mates.

I need more than this, but how do I get him to see that?


FIONA SAYS: I cannot help wonder why you and your husband married at all – he's clearly not ready to settle down.

Are you, perhaps, making it too easy for him to ignore your needs?

He's enjoying life, isn't worrying about much and, were he single, I'd suggest that would be perfectly reasonable at his age.

He's right in that there is plenty of time to think about children and buying a house, but he isn't being fair to you as, by marrying you, he's led you to expect more.

I would be very cautious about sharing either property or children with him whilst he's like this.

He's acting very selfishly, enjoying his social life, having food put on the table for him and all the chores done, plus sex on demand.

He's probably grown used to this level of freedom and may resent any move to make him change.

If you want to issue him with an ultimatum, it may rebound on you, and he may decide he's not ready for this relationship.

You have as much right to enjoy yourself as he does though, so perhaps you should be cutting back on the domestic arrangements and going out and having fun yourself.


Can we ask for money as a wedding gift?

I'M GETTING married in May and, like me, my husband-to-be is widowed.

We're both in our mid-fifties with housefuls of stuff, so really don't need any wedding presents.

We've both got rid of masses of stuff, but are still struggling to fit it all into one house.

Clearly, we don't need any more household items, but would people think it rude if we asked for money instead of gifts?

My fiance thinks that's a great idea, but I think people will be uncomfortable in case they can't afford much.

What do you think?


FIONA SAYS: I think you're right – many people do not like to reveal how much their gift cost, and giving money or gift tokens is essentially the same as this.

There are other options you could consider though – your house may be full, but what about your garden?

Plants or garden equipment might be just the kind of thing people would like to give.

Or what about subscriptions to magazines, to clubs, to organisations like the National Trust or vouchers for meals out?

Finally, why not invite people to donate to your chosen charity rather than give a gift?

Your friends will know that as an older couple with your own homes, you don't need much, but I'm sure they'd be grateful for any suggestions, so go ahead and enjoy your day.

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