Life

Ask Fiona: The pandemic has made me realise I never liked my job

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers advice on pandemic-inspired life changes and a woman who has lost her confidence after kicking out her cheating husband

You have learned the value of family life while furloughed
Fiona Caine

WHEN this pandemic started what seems like a year ago now, I was furloughed by my employer who I’d worked for since I left school. Four months down the line in late July, he decided to close his business and I was made redundant. At age 39, with a young family to support, I felt angry, rejected and washed out.

At first, despite the glorious weather, I just sat around too stunned to do anything. Gradually, as time’s gone on, I’ve started to do more – gardening, walking, jobs around the house, and I’ve even started learning Spanish. The lockdown has meant I’ve also spent far more time with my family, something that simply didn’t happen when I was working.

All this has made me realise that, far from being important, I hated my job and am glad to be out of it. I’ve not bothered to look for anything else while the world’s in this mess, but I have to face the fact that my redundancy money will run out in another few months. I suppose that means I am going to have to find another job, and all this will seem like a dream.

It seems awful to say I’ve enjoyed this pandemic, but I really have, and I wish there was some way in which I could continue this life. Will I really have to go back to another tedious, unrewarding job?

OE

FIONA SAYS: Losing your job is hard, but so many people have done as a result of the pandemic, and I fear many more will. Times ahead aren’t going to be easy – but it’s an opportunity to reassess your life and rethink your priorities.

Have you and your family sat down and thought about what is really important to you all? Maybe they’ve enjoyed seeing more of you, as well as seeing a less pressured side to you too. You don’t say what your previous job was, but I get the impression it was reasonably well paid. Could you adjust your lifestyle to manage on less?

Or, could you retrain in some way – something people are being encourage to do with new training opportunities. You say you’ve enjoyed gardening, walking, doing jobs around the house and learning Spanish. Why not start there? Could you offer your services as a gardener; a dog walker; a handyperson? Going forwards, almost all of us are going to need to think outside the boxes we’ve been used to in some way or other.

Even if you go back to doing something similar to what you were doing before, new ways of working might mean you are able to work from home, perhaps at least some of the time. There are job opportunities going, even now, so you could always just have a look and see if there isn’t anything going that would fulfil you.

Obviously, if you’re going to make dramatic changes, you will need to involve your family in the discussion. You don’t say if your partner works or not – perhaps they haven’t been but would like to, so maybe another opportunity to look at might be them becoming the main breadwinner.

The most important thing is to talk to the people you love if you are going to make changes that affect them. Even if all these ideas are too much, consider the impact on them if you do go back to a ‘tedious, unrewarding job’. You won’t be the parent and partner they have grown used to over the past months – and that’s someone they might miss.

I’VE LOST ALL MY CONFIDENCE SINCE LEAVING MY CHEATING HUSBAND

MY husband had been having affairs for most of our married life and when I kicked him out two years ago, it seemed most of my family and friends admired me for being brave. Having been on my own ever since though, most of these so-called friends have drifted away and I have become very lonely, especially over the past year.

I still have all the wonderful plans and dreams I had when I was younger, but now that I have the freedom to realise some of them, I’m simply too scared. I used to be so outgoing and confident, yet now I feel like a total coward.

HW

FIONA SAYS: When surrounded by admiring and loving friends, it’s very easy to be confident and outgoing. When these people are no longer around, it’s not surprising you feel vulnerable.

Don’t be too harsh on them though – many of us have become very inward looking over the past months. It’s been hard to keep in touch with others when you can no longer see them, and everybody has had a lot of personal stress on their plates. This will, eventually, end and I’m sure your friends will come back, but it will take some effort on your part too.

Start things off by getting in touch with some of those that drifted away – I’m sure most of them, if not all of them, will be delighted to hear from you. You’ve come through a messy separation and whilst your confidence has been dented, your dreams are intact. To hang onto something positive like this takes strength and suggests to me that you have what it takes to gradually recapture the old you.

While you may not be able to do the things you want to do right now, there is no harm in starting to make plans.

Perhaps those plans could involve some of the friends you’ve lost touch with too. I’m sure that, once you can start to move forward with your ideas, your confidence will return – it’s just the lack of social contact and opportunities that are holding you back.

I’VE GONE OFF SEX – SHOULD I LET MY HUSBAND HAVE AN AFFAIR?

I’M 58 and since I’ve been through menopause, my interest in sexual activity has simply plummeted. It’s not that I don’t love my husband – I really do – but the thought of sex just seem like a chore rather than a pleasure. It’s now something I do for his sake, but I really don’t find it particularly pleasurable.

My husband is two years younger than me and to compensate for my lack of interest, he’s taken to looking at internet porn sites. I can’t say I like the idea of this, but it seems only fair if it keeps him happy. He’s suggested that perhaps he should have an affair, but that’s something I’m really not sure about – it seems like a step too far for me.

He says he loves me and wouldn’t want the affair to mean anything, but that it would just help to keep us together. Is this the right way forward for us, do you think?

LM

FIONA SAYS: I think there are some serious emotional and relationship issues at work here. You say that you love and care for each other, yet your husband’s behaviour sounds like it may be at odds with this. Frankly, the idea of your husband having an affair just to satisfy his frustration horrifies me.

The idea of using a third person – who has feelings of her own too – as a substitute to a relationship with you sounds like something out of a dystopian novel. How very cruel of him – not just to you but to this unknown woman too.

I suspect it’s his growing interest in porn that has fuelled this idea – perhaps it’s distancing him from real relationships with living, breathing, loving women. These are not the actions of a caring and loving man who should be doing a lot more to support and help his wife. You both need to understand that what he is doing is part of the problem and NOT the solution.

Many women experience a loss of libido after menopause, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done. I’d really encourage you to talk to your doctor before giving up altogether on the physical side of your relationship. When suitable, hormone treatments can be very helpful, as well as things like treatments for vaginal dryness. You may decide these things aren’t what you want, but it’s certainly worth have a good chat with your doctor and being fully informed of your options and what’s going on.

Your feelings are only part of the problems here though, and I’d really encourage you to talk, with your husband, to a counsellor. If he can be encouraged to work with you to put some zip and romance back into your relationship, it might help to bring back the loving, caring husband you seem to have lost.

To do this, you will probably need the services of a counsellor or a qualified sex therapist and the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (cosrt.org.uk) can help. Please don’t just accept the continued porn and the idea of a substitute as your husband seems to be suggesting – you need your husband back!

WHY DO I KEEP GETTING ANGRY WITH PEOPLE?

I HAVE always been known as someone who could get the job done, and I admit I can be confrontational. In the past, this has served me well and my career reflects this, but over the past couple of years I feel I’ve been getting worse.

I become angry far too easily when things don’t go quite as I want them to, and if I spend too long in the company of any one person an argument becomes almost inevitable. At some stage, something they say or do will annoy me and I’ll explode.

My wife and friends are clearly getting a fed up with this, and at work I have been given a formal warning for apparently bullying a junior colleague. What’s wrong with me?

JS

FIONA SAYS: I wonder if maintaining your ‘get the job done’ reputation over the years has taken its toll; it could be that you are very stressed and your anger is a manifestation of this.

You seem to have lost the ability to recognise those situations that need this approach, and those that don’t.

As you’ve found, family and friends don’t respond well to being treated in this way, and while work colleagues may admire your abilities, they won’t enjoy working with you.

To suggest you take an assertiveness training course may sound odd to you, but you need to learn that assertiveness is not aggression. You need to learn how to keep a proper balance and understand the difference between the two states. A course that covers anger management as well would be useful. I’d encourage you to go on the Reed website (reed.co.uk), which has literally hundreds of courses you can access. Some are free, some are paid for, and I’d encourage you to investigate this as soon as possible.

Another suggestion would be to consider talking to a counsellor, who could help you to work through what triggers these outbursts, and develop healthier ways of managing your emotions.

A formal warning is serious, so you need to show you are taking steps to tackle the problem, because the next time you explode it could cost you your job.

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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