Life

Ask Fiona: I feel awful my new husband left me during lockdown

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman whose marriage broke down during lockdown, and another worried about revealing her scars

You need to accept this situation and move on with your life
By Fiona Caine, PA

I'D ONLY known my husband for six months before we got married last October, and when we were in lockdown together, things fell apart. As a result, after nine months of marriage, he left me. He wasn't having an affair – he simply decided he wasn't ready to settle down after all – and I'm devastated.

He left me left alone and isolated, as I can't go back to my family as my mum's recovering from cancer treatment. I'm really struggling to come to terms with being dumped like this, and although my family and friends are saying I should just forget about him and get on with my life, I can't.

Nothing is normal right now and although my mum and dad keep suggesting I go around to see them, how can I put my mum at risk? I'm working from home and the only people I see are on Zoom. Even if I could get out and about, it's the last thing I feel like doing right now.

Will life ever get back to some kind of normal, and will I ever get over this?

MF

FIONA SAYS: Unfortunately, a great many relationships have suffered during this time – you are certainly not alone in being left by a partner, sadly. Being cooped up together day after day has made people think differently about their lives, and some, like your husband, have taken the decision that it's not what they want.

At the moment, you're feeling rejected and hurt, but although it may not seem like it now, you will get over this – just like we will eventually get through this virus.

Your husband was, perhaps, a little too immature to face the commitment of being with the same person for the rest of his life. At least he faced this before you had children together, which would have made things even harder for you.

If you made any mistake at all, perhaps it was in choosing a man who lacked maturity – maybe six months isn't really enough time to really get to know someone. Starting out again is hard – and starting out again now, when you can't really meet people face-to-face as usual, is especially difficult. That doesn't mean it's impossible though.

There are numerous social activities taking place using Zoom and other video-conferencing platforms – from virtual dinner parties to virtual dates. There are also other kinds of social activities and chat rooms you could go to that you might find supportive.

I would suggest you start by contacting Relate (relate.org.uk), where you can get some counselling and support to help you come to terms with your feelings. Their counsellors will also help you look at your relationship in perhaps different ways, so you can learn from this experience and move forward.

It may take time – especially as we all have to learn new ways of interacting and meeting others – but I am sure you will come through this. I would also encourage you to suggest to your colleagues that you meet on Zoom that you'd like the odd social chat session, not just work-related ones. Opening up to other people – including friends – might bring opportunities you hadn't expected.

As for the isolation from your family, I wish there was some comfort I could offer you there. However, if you were to isolate yourself completely for two weeks, could you not move in with your parents after that? You wouldn't have had the opportunity to contract the virus from anyone that way, so you wouldn't be risking your mother's health.

WILL MY BOYFRIEND GO OFF ME WHEN HE SEES MY SCARS?

MY boyfriend is a really lovely man and we've now been together for about a year. Obviously, seeing each other over the past few months has been difficult, but our relationship has grown and I've fallen in love with him.

He has suggested – without pressuring me – that he'd like to take our relationship to the next level. He wants to sleep with me, and to be honest, I want to sleep with him too. The thing is, I've not told him about an accident I had when I was young. I pulled a pan of boiling water over myself and I have dreadful burn scars across my shoulder, chest and stomach.

The virus has made it easier to deflect him so far – but I am not sure he will be patient for much longer. I am certain that once he sees these scars, he'll go right off me and I'll lose him. My nan says I should just tell him and that it shouldn't put him off me, if he really cares. Is she right? Should I just tell him?

SA

FIONA SAYS: I'm definitely with your nan on this one. I know you are worried about losing your boyfriend, but sooner or later, if he stays, he is going to see your scars. The longer you delay telling him, the more anxiety you are creating for yourself – and he could end up worrying too. He might be so relieved when he realises the fact you've been deflecting him is nothing to do with him that he won't even care about your scars.

Explain how you got the burns and that you've avoided telling him so far because you were concerned he might leave you. You need to be ready for the possibility that he may be a little shocked at first, but please don't take this to mean that he is necessarily rejecting you. He may simply need some time to get used to what he's seeing.

You may well have heard of Katie Piper, who has significant scars from an acid attack. She has overcome this, found a loving partner and gone on to have children.

She has also started the Katie Piper Foundation (katiepiperfoundation.org.uk), which is committed to helping people with scars to build, among other things, their sense of wellbeing. I suspect you would benefit from talking to people who can understand your concerns – especially people who have been through what you're going though now.

Accepting a person for who they are, not for what they look like, is a sign of maturity, compassion and empathy.

These are things to be valued in any relationship. Hopefully, your boyfriend will have these qualities, and when you tell him, he will see you, not your scars.

If he cannot do that though, then perhaps he is too immature for a serious relationship anyway, in which case, you would probably be better off without him. However, if he genuinely cares for you – and is worthy of you – then I'm sure this won't happen.

CAN WE HELP OUR SON GET BETTER AT SPORTS?

MY husband has always been a natural at sport, which was why he was delighted when our son was born. Unfortunately though, our boy takes after me.

It's clear since he started school that he's never going to be an athlete like his father, and he hates all the organised sporting activities and team games – just like I did. His teachers say he lacks coordination and I was wondering if you know of anything I can do, or services I can use that might help my son to improve?

RM

FIONA SAYS: Just because your son lacks coordination and hates team sports doesn't make him a failure at sporting activities. He probably hasn't yet found what he enjoys. It may well be that he could excel at a non-competitive sporting activity – or one where he competes against himself, rather than other people.

My own son loathed team sports at school but discovered kayaking in his early teens and has gone on to become an instructor – it's just a case of finding the thing he enjoys.

Hand-eye coordination can be improved with regular practice and friendly encouragement, and if your husband is willing to do this without pressuring your son, he may well improve. Otherwise, introduce him to as many activities as he's comfortable with – acrobatics to zorbing.

I am frankly appalled that you son's school should be so ready to dismiss his potential. Perhaps he's never going to play for school teams or excel at individual events, but this doesn't mean he can't get some enjoyment and sense of achievement out of simply taking part.

SHOULD I ENCOURAGE MY SISTER TO GIVE HER CHEATING HUSBAND ANOTHER CHANCE?

MY sister recently came home to find her husband in bed with another woman. Naturally, she was very upset; she left immediately and now she and their children are staying with me. She is determined to get a divorce and has already spoken to a solicitor, but I'm concerned that she is rushing things a bit.

She won't take his calls and so he's tried calling me, but she won't speak to him. He's told me he regrets what he did and that he has never done anything like this before.

He sounds genuinely sorry and has also promised that he will never do it again.

My concern is that while I can understand it from her point of view, I also know that, when my husband had his affair, 15 years ago, we almost divorced too. It took hard work, but we were able to put it behind us and are now really happy together. Should I try and stop her, do you think?

WC

FIONA SAYS: I think you need to careful about linking her experience to your own. Finding your husband in your bed with someone isn't the same, emotionally, as finding out he's had an affair. Your sister needs all the support she can get now, and if you start to argue her husband's case, you might risk driving her away.

She needs you on her side. And for ‘impartial' support, she needs someone outside her circle. I do agree with you that any decision to separate needs to be taken calmly and thoughtfully, especially when children are involved. If you want to help, encourage your sister to talk to a Relate counsellor (relate.org.uk), where she will be able to speak to someone who is genuinely impartial.

It's vital that, whether she stays or leaves, she reaches her own decision – the one that feels right for her – not one that is based on your experiences.

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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