Life

Ask Fiona: Did I make a mistake marrying this man?

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman worried she rushed into marriage, and another carrying an adoption secret

Being locked in together has put extreme pressure on some relationships
By Fiona Caine, PA

I WAS widowed 10 years ago and after my husband's death, I was very lonely. My two children both live some distance away and I don’t see them, or the grandchildren, as often as I would like. Two years ago, I met and then married my second husband. He was a widower and is now 81 while I’m 74. I think we were both lonely and companionship was important to us, but I am not sure if I haven’t made a terrible mistake.

I’d only known him for nine months when we moved in together and we got married three months later, so I’d really only been married for about four months when lockdown started. I suppose we have been getting on one another’s nerves because we have both had to be shielding, and so have hardly seen anyone else.

He has taken to finding fault with me over the most trivial things. I’ve bitten my tongue most of the time as I don’t like arguments, but I am not sure I can go on like this much longer. There is little or no togetherness, and he has said many times that he would not have married me had he known I couldn’t dance as well as him.

He shows me very little affection, except when he wants some himself, and although he likes everything in the house ‘just so’, I’m never sure what I can and cannot do.

It was a mistake, I think, for me to have moved into the home he shared with his wife, and although the plan was for us to get a place together, this hasn’t been possible because of the pandemic. Sometimes he’s lovely, kind and generous, but he can also be verbally abusive, a perfectionist and a bully.

At my age, it seems so stupid to suggest I have married the wrong man, and I don’t know if I should leave him or not.

JC

FIONA SAYS: Just because you married when you are older, doesn’t mean you can’t make a mistake. Being locked in together has brought some people closer than ever, but for others, it has put extreme pressure on their relationship. The two of you only had a relatively short time to get to know one another before you married – and you clearly didn’t know that much about one another.

If you had, he would have known about your lack of dancing skills – and you would have known how important this is to him. Having said that, it seems a trivial thing to condemn a relationship for, especially as it can be taught and learned. There was obviously a spark between you at some point – and I’d like to hope that could still be fanned into some sort of blaze, if the two of you are willing to try.

What the two of you have gone through together is extreme – you haven’t been able to have a normal relationship for the past eight or so months. The pressure cooker of confinement has taken its toll and any minor irritation has become magnified. It might help if you could find ways to break out of this – even though you can’t necessarily get out and about much.

Breaking up your routine might help though, so pack a picnic and drive somewhere for a walk. Even if you can only sit in the car when you get there, I think you’d benefit from a change of scenery. In the evening, turn the TV off and play a game of some kind – better still, he wants you to dance, so roll up the carpet and have him teach you. It’s never too late to learn and, if it’s so important to him, it could be worth it to try.

There is no need for you to become a mouse and stay silent when he criticises you. Try and turn it into a discussion, rather than an argument though. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. However, you also mention that he can be verbally abusive and a bully. This is not acceptable, and if this is a pattern in how you communicate and the dynamics between you, that does need to be addressed. If you can’t work things out together, perhaps consider outside help via relationship counselling (relate.org.uk). There is no age limit on trying to have a happy and healthy relationship.

If that doesn’t work either then perhaps it will be time to call a halt to your marriage – but I’d like to think you have a way to go before you need to do that.

SHOULD I TELL MY FAMILY I GAVE A CHILD UP FOR ADOPTION 30 YEARS AGO?

ALMOST 30 years ago, I found myself pregnant and on my own, after my then boyfriend dumped me as soon as he found out. At the time I was only 18 and just about to start college. I left it so long that abortion wasn’t an option – I kept hoping it wasn’t happening – which, I know, was foolish. I decided to give my baby girl up for adoption, as it seemed like the best thing to do for her at the time.

I have never stopped wondering, though, if I did the right thing. I have thought about her often and always hoped and prayed that she has had a better life than I could have given her. I never stop wondering how she is and how she is getting on, and I keep hoping she will try to contact me.

Although that’s what I want, I’m still terrified, as I’ve not told my husband or my two children by him (25 and 22).

How they would react to knowing they have a step-daughter/elder sister of 29, I can’t imagine, but my 25-year-old and his fiancée are now expecting a baby of their own and it’s brought it all back to me.

Should I tell them – just in case my daughter should reappear?

EM

FIONA SAYS: I am sure it has been very hard for you to carry this secret for so long, but I feel you would be wise to talk to your family, if only to prepare them should your daughter decide she wants to see you.

I would suggest you tell your husband first, rather than tell them all at the same time. I suspect he will be shocked and surprised that you’ve kept this secret from him for so long, but once he’s overcome that reaction, I would hope he could show you support and understanding. He may need time and space to adjust to the idea, but unless you led him to believe he was marrying a virgin, I’m sure he knows you had relationships before him.

Your children will naturally also be surprised, perhaps shocked – as much as anything else because it might change their view of you. Instead of just being ‘mum’, you will be someone with a past – possibly something they’ve not thought about before. They may well be quite excited by the idea of an older sister they didn’t know they had.

When you are ready – and if you haven’t done so already – do please add your details to the Adoption Contact Register at the General Register Office. It’s the place to either find a birth relative or an adopted person. It is also the place to register the fact that you don’t want to be contacted, if that’s what you decide.

This isn’t a tracing service though. If you are in England, the organisation ‘First 4 Adoption’ would be a good place to start to find out more, and I would urge you to look at their website (first4adoption.org.uk) for more information.

You need to be prepared for the possibility, however, that your adopted daughter never contacts you. If she doesn’t, it could be because she doesn’t feel the need to. She may be perfectly happy with the family that adopted her, so please don’t view this as negative. However, many people who are adopted do at some point become curious about their birth parents, so it may still happen in the future.

MY PARTNER WON’T TELL ME WHERE HE KEEPS GOING

WHEN I first met my fiancé, he was a quiet man who didn’t like going out, even with me. We have shared a flat together for the past two years, but in the last few months, even though we’ve been in lockdown, he has started going out on his own two or three times a week.

He hasn’t said where he goes, only that he hasn’t taken me because it’s ‘unsuitable’ – whatever that means. He has assured me he is not seeing someone else, but it still feels wrong to me and I’m worried. I also frightened that I’m losing him, and I worry about what is going on. I don’t want to make a big fuss and frighten him off, but I don’t feel I should just accept this.

SA

FIONA SAYS: Many couples have separate interests they pursue independently, but being mysterious like this seems extraordinary behaviour. At a time when we’re all supposed to be cautious about where we’re going and what we’re doing, to behave like this is naturally going to worry you.

Your fiancé is misguided and selfish if he thinks his half-hearted attempts at reassurance are enough to explain his mysterious behaviour. How can you trust him if he won’t share information with you? I think it’s time for a ‘big fuss’ about this, because without trust, I’m not sure there’s a long-term future for you anyway.

Explain how worried you are, not just about what he is doing but also because you don’t know if he is putting you at risk. Make sure he knows he can’t continue like this and that he will end up driving you away if he doesn’t explain himself properly.

WHY WON’T HE TAKE THE HINT?

I STARTED seeing a new guy a few weeks back, but I’m already regretting it. He either can’t or won’t take the hint when I’ve suggested we’re not right for one another. He keeps buying me stuff, including jewellery and has even suggested we move in together.

This has just made me feel even guiltier, but I don’t know what I’ve got to do to end this without hurting his feelings.

FP

FIONA SAYS: I am afraid there is no easy way out of this. He clearly wants you to like him, and no matter how tactful you try to be, he is likely to feel hurt and rejected. That’s no reason to prolong the agony though, and the longer you delay telling him, very clearly, the worse you will both feel – he because the relationship has gone on longer, and you because of guilt.

Please be honest for both your sakes and explain gently that you are not right for each other and that you don’t want to continue to see him. I suggest you offer to return the presents – especially the jewellery. I suspect you’ll find that, although hurt, he probably won’t be so very surprised. The present buying is his attempt to buy your affection and prolong what he already knows is a failing relationship.

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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