Ask Fiona: I love my husband but am so attracted to a man at work
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman being tempted to have an affair and another whose retired husband seems depressed
"I AM happily married and have been for 22 years. I love my husband and certainly don't want to leave him – he's a good man and he and our children don't deserve that – so why am I even thinking about having an affair?
"A man started working at my company three months ago and I am really attracted to him; so much so that when he talks to me, which is often, I find it hard to concentrate on anything.
"He must know how I feel because he invited me out for a drink at lunchtime last week. I went along thinking it was a general office get-together but, when I got there, I realise that we were alone. At that point, I should have made an excuse and gone back to the office, but I didn't. I stayed, and we had a bit too much to drink.
"He was good company and we laughed a lot and, after lunch as we got up to leave, he kissed me on the cheek and asked if I'd like to go out for dinner with him soon.
"Here, again, I should have said no and told him that I am already married, but I didn't. Now I am in a complete state – what do I do? I really do still love my husband and we have a great marriage, so why am I behaving like this?"
FIONA SAYS: Could it be that your marriage needs a reboot? I suspect you are finding all this attention rather exciting and new. And what's not to like about having fun with someone who is charming and whose sole focus for a while seems to be you?
"The only problem is, you're married and already love another man. But, when was the last time you felt this excited about your marriage or your husband? Is it possible that, after 22 years together, the demands of family life and work has meant things have become a little dull or routine-bound? Might you also have started to take each other for granted?
"If you think this is the case and you genuinely want to stay happily married, you are going to have to put some distance between you and this new man. You're also going to need to work hard at putting some of the spark back into the relationship with your husband.
"To avoid becoming stale, all relationships need care, attention and an occasional reboot, so consider putting a little romance and excitement back into yours.
"You could start by dating your husband again – re-explore things you probably did more of when you first got together, and I don't just mean sex, though this is important.
"Make time to go out to dinner, see a play, go dancing or spend a romantic weekend away – and if you can make some dates a spontaneous surprise for each other, so much the better. Then look for ways to simply talk to each other more – turning off the TV occasionally will help.
"I know it can be very companionable to sit and watch a good programme with a loved-one but, unless you are careful, this can become a dull routine in which very little gets said.
"Finally, try to give each other compliments more often and, if you love each other, say so occasionally.
"Some of this might seem a little obvious but you'd be surprised how often people neglect this simple relationship maintenance. In time, this new man's charms should seem a lot less appealing.
"If you find yourself still struggling to keep him at arms-length though, I suggest you share you concerns with a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk). You may need a bit more help to rekindle things with your husband and make you realise what you stand to lose - which is where counselling can help."
My retired husband has become so low
"MY HUSBAND has been retired for just over a year and I am really worried about him. When he first stopped working, he had such big plans; he was going to write a book, completely re-landscape the garden and study for a degree.
"In fairness, he started all these projects but over time has gradually dropped each one and for the past four months, he has really let things slide.
"He no longer walks every day, something he has done for as long as I have known him. I have also discovered that he is not washing regularly and often wears the same clothes for days on end.
"He sleeps until mid-morning nearly every day yet is always tired and, if I say anything, he gets angry. I want to help him but just don't know what to do."
FIONA SAYS: "People often retire with great expectations and there's nothing wrong with this, but if the reality of retirement doesn't live up to these expectations, people can easily become disillusioned. This might explain your husband's behaviour, but I wonder if he might also be depressed.
"Not washing regularly, sleeping lots and not caring about his appearance would certainly support this, so I think you should encourage him to see his doctor.
"In the meantime, try not to criticise or judge what he's doing, as this will probably only make him more defensive. Instead, try to offer love, support and patience.
"If his doctor does diagnose depression, then treatments are available that will gradually bring him around. Either way, encourage your husband to look for new challenges.
"If he can find a job, start a new hobby or sport, volunteer with a charity or perhaps even start a business, I am sure he will soon lift himself out of this rut he is in."
My son has been stealing from school – because of me!
"My eight-year-old son has just been banned from school for a week. The headteacher said that he had been caught stealing things from a girl's bag and that this was not the first instance.
"When she told me this, I was too stunned to talk about it and simply stormed home with my son. When I got home, I lost my temper, accused him of being a thief and demanded to know why he'd done it.
"I was floored again when he said that he didn't think it was wrong, because I did it all the time by bringing home stationery and stuff from the office where I work. I tried to explain that this was not the same, but he couldn't understand the difference – and the more I tried to explain, the more I realised that he was right.
"Now I am worried that I've turned my son into a thief, and don't know what I can do to put things right."
FIONA SAYS: "Children are adept at exposing the double standards of adults and I'm afraid your son has caught you literally red-handed in this one.
"I pass no judgment here, but you can't expect a child to behave one way and then do the opposite yourself. And if you want him to change his behaviour, you will have to accept that stealing is stealing and set him a better example.
"I suggest you come clean and admit that he's made you realise that what you were doing was wrong, so now you're going to stop doing it. This should help him to better understand the impact of what he's done and will hopefully stop it happening again.
"It probably won't be easy for you to admit to you son that you're in the wrong, but it's also no bad thing for him to learn that adults can be fallible too.
"Finally, your son is likely to be quite distressed by this suspension and may also have a difficult time of it when he returns to school. So please, try to get past the likely embarrassment, and find a way to work with his teacher and headteacher to help him through this."
I've met a great man – so why am I having doubts?
"It took me a long time to get over the split with my last boyfriend because I was so upset. I loved him and really wanted to settle down and have a family, but he just wasn't ready.
"I have now met someone else who, in so many ways, is just what I want. He's 24 too, kind, generous, reliable and he loves me. He's also keen that we should get a place together and has even hinted at marriage a couple of times.
"He's exactly right for me – so why do I still have doubts?"
FIONA SAYS: "Probably because at no point in your long email (which is considerably longer than the one printed here), do you say that you love him.
"Some part of you probably realises that this is no basis for a long-term, loving relationship. You seem keen to want to settle down but, if you don't love this man, it's important that you don't let this override common sense.
"So please, think carefully before making a decision that you might regret. At 24 you still have plenty of time to find Mr Right, if that is what you want."
:: 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.