Life

Ask Fiona: I'm so lonely since we moved for my husband's job

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman who is homesick and lonely, and another whose friend's partner is mentally domineering

Your husband has been selfish and you need to tell him how you feel

Eight months ago, my husband and I moved here from France, where we'd lived for 20 years. My children were brought up there and we loved it. I certainly didn't want to leave, especially as the children stayed behind, but my husband's job changed and it was important to him that we came back.

I've never really settled – I miss France enormously – but although I thought I'd adjust eventually, I haven't, and now we're stuck indoors with no end in sight. My family and my friends are miles away and everything is so different. Every time I talk with them online, I end up depressed and crying.

My husband is still working – from home, of course – and he can't understand why I get so upset. He seems to have made lots of new friends from work, but I've been left to my own devices and now I've got no hope of meeting people.

It may seem extreme but I have even thought about leaving him and going home to France. Is that so selfish?

AP

FIONA SAYS: It's no more selfish than your husband's failure to understand just how isolated, lonely and upset you feel.

He knew you were never totally behind this move, so it wouldn't hurt him to be a bit more understanding. Nor would it hurt for him to do more to help you find new friends – although, of course, your chances of meeting them face to face at the moment is impossible.

Realistically, while we're all in lockdown, you can't leave him and go home to France, however tempting that might seem. You and he really need to sit down and chat, and he needs to understand exactly how you feel. If you think you need help with this then Relate (relate.org.uk) can help you and even offer counselling if that becomes necessary.

There is also no reason why your husband couldn't be introducing you to the new friends he has made. Perhaps he could suggest that his team has an online social gathering once a week with partners, so you can all get to know one another. If they use video conferencing, then at least you'd get to see a few friendly faces.

I would also strongly encourage you to join online groups of things that interest you – possibly neighbourhood ones, where you could perhaps get to know people who live locally. Many of these could be using video conferencing as well – book groups, even dance groups are meeting up this way at the moment and you could find many more ideas, if you look.

Your children are, presumably, adults as they've stayed behind in France, so that indicates you grew up in the UK.

Have you contacted any of your old school friends? Reaching out to people you once knew might help you to feel more connected – and it might help some of them too, especially if they are feeling isolated right now.

Social networking might help you find them and again; organising a video conference with them could be helpful.

For me, there has actually been some extension of my social circle since lockdown, as I now 'meet' my old school friends once a fortnight (one is in New Zealand and one is in Italy). Before this, we were fortunate to see one another once a year. I've also got to see and have a socially-distanced chat with neighbours I've not met before, every Thursday evening as we 'Clap for Carers'.

I do appreciate that starting from scratch in a new area is difficult but feeling isolated is the new normal right now.

Everyone is trying to find different ways to combat it, so any approaches you make are more likely to be welcomed than rebuffed. Once things have opened up again, perhaps you could join a gym, a theatre/reading group, find a job or volunteer in some way. It's by far the easiest way of extending your network of people, some of whom might potentially become friends.

I REALLY WANT TO APOLOGISE TO MY EX

I treated my ex-boyfriend very badly when we split up four years ago. At the time, I said some unpleasant things to him – all unfounded – and I wish I could take them back.

I've just found out that he's become engaged and from his social media pages, it looks like they are very much in love. I don't want to drag up the past for him, but I would give anything to be able to apologise.

I can't stop thinking about him; I have even been having dreams about him. It's not like I'm attracted to him – I'm very much in love and due to be getting married myself in September.

KJ

FIONA SAYS: I think you need to be careful not to read too much into this. Your dreams and thoughts are most likely simply a result of having your attention drawn to your ex-boyfriend again. It's also possible that you're feeling a bit guilty about the way you treated him.

If you feel you must, then a quick message congratulating him and briefly apologising for the things you said would probably do no harm. However, your ex has clearly put the past behind him and moved on – and you need to do the same.

I'm more concerned about the fact that you seem to be stalking him on social media. Why are you still trying to see what he's up to, if it's all over between you? Unless it's impossible because of mutual friends, stop following him.

It would be unwise to message your former boyfriend at this stage

SO SCARED ABOUT MY PARENTS DYING

I am 38, single and because of the coronavirus, I've moved back home with my parents who are both in their 70s. I'm able to work from home but much of my time is spent looking after them.

Seeing them up close daily, I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that they may not be with me for much longer, especially if one or both of them gets this virus. I find that this prospect scares the hell out of me. I know I will just go to pieces when one of them dies and have no idea how I will then face the problems of day to day living.

How do people go on after losing a loved one or parent?

I know this probably sounds daft, but it really is making me feel very depressed and afraid.

SR

FIONA SAYS: There's nothing daft about fearing the effects of death and bereavement. It hurts, and some people take a very long time to come to terms with it.

We've all been forced to become more aware of illness, dying and death over the past months and you are not alone in struggling with this. Realistically, you know that at some point there is every chance you will outlive your parents – that is the natural order of things – however much you care for them and try to protect them.

Being constantly preoccupied with thoughts like these though isn't healthy and perhaps indicates that the rest of your life may be lacking something. You were able to give up the life you were living in order to move in with your parents during this crisis, but that makes me wonder what kind of life it was.

If you had more outside interests and a wider social circle, perhaps you would find yourself less preoccupied with death? At least you would have friends and perhaps loved ones to support you and help you cope when the time comes, as inevitably it must, that your parents do die.

Being faced with bereavement is always hard. But one thing I do know - it's a great shame to waste the gift of life worrying about how it will end.

FRIEND'S BOYFRIEND SAYS HE'LL HARM HIMSELF IF SHE LEAVES

My friend has been going out with her boyfriend for nearly two years and I thought they were perfect for each other. Recently, though, she's been asking me for advice because it seems her boyfriend is very insecure and has threatened to kill himself if she leaves him.

I don't think she's even considered this, but she is very worried by the way he is behaving. I want to help but, to be honest, I feel completely out of my depth here. What should I say to her?

SP

FIONA SAYS: Do talk to your friend and support her – this so called 'perfect' relationship is not all it seems, and she may well be deeply unhappy within it. Using their 'weakness and vulnerability' as control techniques can indicate somebody is emotionally dominating their partner.

Your friend's boyfriend may need some help for his mental health - but nobody should be manipulated into staying in a relationship.

When you have loved someone, you are always going to be a little bit interested in their welfare, even after a long period when you've stopped loving them. Your friend would hate to feel responsible for her boyfriend's death so even if she wanted to leave him, she might be staying around longer than is healthy for her. The threat of suicide is just that – a threat – and as such it's yet another way of trying to make someone behave in a way that suits you rather than them.

It is difficult to offer meaningful advice without knowing what her needs are. If she does feel she wants to leave, then cutting him off completely might force his hand - it's unlikely but it could happen. A better way might be to say she's no longer sure how she feels and wants some time apart. That way, he will have time to adjust to the situation – initially hoping she will come back but eventually adjusting to being without her. I would also suggest she contacts the Samaritans (samaritans.org) to talk through her own feelings and how to cope with her boyfriend's behaviour.

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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