Life

Ask Fiona: I love my home but I'm lonely

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas

Your feeling lonely is normal after a bereavement
By Fiona Caine, PA

I AM a 75-year-old widow and have been living alone in a large house – my family home – since my husband died.

I dearly love this house and would hate to leave, but I am just so lonely.

I have thought about trying to find someone to share the house with me – for companionship rather than money – but am not sure how I go about this. I don't have any suitable family members or friends who could move in – they are all settled in their own homes.

I am a little wary of advertising, as you never know who is going to respond.

LO

FIONA SAYS: I can quite understand your reluctance to advertise and so, although you say you don't have any suitable family or friends, I would suggest you still ask them. While they seem settled to you, there might be one who would be interested in changing the way they live for all manner of reasons.

They might – for example – be wanting to sell their home to support children or grandchildren. They might also be lonely. Or they might just know someone who is in the same position as yourself and looking for companionship.

As an alternative, you could consider having a younger person around; contact the housing office of your local college or university to see if there is any need for accommodation.

It's obviously slightly riskier than sharing your home with someone you know, but you have the added protection of their being a system in place that you can contact about any issues that arise. If you do resort to advertising, make sure you have someone with you when you interview prospective tenants, and take several references as well as a financial deposit.

Finally, I would really encourage you to do something about the loneliness you are feeling. Find more friends, become more involved in your community, and take part in more activities. There are numerous options you could explore, and you might just find – if you become busy enough – that far from feeling lonely, you start to relish your independence.

IS MY HUSBAND ENTITLED TO SELL OUR HOUSE WHEN WE DIVORCE?

WHEN we first went into lockdown last year, my husband told me it was all over between us, and he left me to live with another woman. He said he'd been seeing her for some time and that he couldn't face the thought of not seeing her for months – so he would rather live with her, than continue to exist with me.

I couldn't believe it at first; I was in a state of shock for weeks. But over the last year and several months, I have come to terms with it. Although it's not what I would have wanted, we have recently verbally agreed to get a divorce. I suppose I realised this would mean we would divide things up financially, but none the less, it came as a great shock when I got a letter from his solicitor.

The letter advises me that he wants to sell our house in order to buy a new house with his woman. I didn't have a solicitor so contacted one suggested by a friend, who wrote back. The thing is though, I felt the letter he wrote seemed more on my husband's side than mine. It seems so unfair.

Surely, I should be allowed to stay in my own home until our children have grown up and left? Why doesn't my solicitor stand up for my rights?

LF

FIONA SAYS: I don't know whether your solicitor is standing up for your rights or not, but if you're not happy with what he is doing, look for another solicitor. Please don't be overawed by his ‘professional status'. You are employing this person and as such, they should be acting on your instructions, not the other way around.

Having said that, there are certain legal protocols in place that he will be adhering to – remember he will be writing to your husband's solicitor, not to your husband. The words he has used will be those of one professional to another; they are not the words you would use to your husband, for example.

If you haven't already done so, I would suggest you contact Citizen's Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk) and ask for an appointment. Show them the letter and see what they say. If they agree that this solicitor is not acting in your best interests, then it's probably best to ditch him and get another one.

Don't be over-awed by his professional status; if you got poor service at your local supermarket you'd complain, so why put up with unsatisfactory work from your solicitor?

Ask around among your friends and family to see if anyone can recommend a good family law solicitor; especially if you know someone who has recently divorced. They don't have to be local, as long as you have access to a computer.

You ask whether you should be allowed to stay in your family home until your children have grown up, but I'm afraid I can't answer this. What might be morally right may depend on all manner of things, including whose name the house is in, for a start. This is something that should be discussed with the solicitor or with Citizen's Advice. Take any information you have relating to the purchase of the property along to your appointment, as this will help the solicitor to help you.

You will have to consider the arrangements you make with your husband too – keeping the house might mean less in the way of financial support, for example. I imagine it would be something around which negotiations can take place. Your husband could have quite an aggressive solicitor and this might simply be the first ‘shot' in those negotiations.

MY HUSBAND BEATS ME AND I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO

I NEED advice please, as my husband has been beating me. We've been married for 10 years and he drinks constantly. Whenever he gets drunk, he can stay in bed for two days getting sober and, as a result, he will often demand sex. When I refuse, he becomes aggressive and I get frightened that he might abandon me and my kids, so I give in.

In July 2017, he hit me so badly that neighbours had to call the police, who arrested him for being drunk and took me to the hospital while a friend of ours took care of the kids. Then in 2018, on my birthday, he pushed me down the stairs and I injured my back.

Another time whilst he was abusing me, a passer-by saw what was happening and found me crying on the floor.

My husband walked out, and the witness wanted to alert the police but I begged him not to. He went behind my back and called them anyway, and the following morning the police came to my house to interview me, but I lied and said I'd fallen. My husband had been detained overnight for drink-driving but when he came home, he never apologised. He lost his licence and for 18 months I had to become his driver.

For a while after that, things were good – but recently he has started all over again and I am so scared. He knows very well he has a problem, but if we bring people in to solve any problem, he will say all sorts of terrible things about me. To everyone else, he is a quiet person, so no one will ever believe me since I am the talkative one in our relationship; I like people, but he prefers we stay home just us.

It is affecting my children too – my daughter in particular – but even though he has beaten me in front of them, she cries and begs me not to leave him. I am an accountant and the main financial support for the family, so I could manage financially, but I feel I need him to be a father for our children and don't know what to do for the best.

YC

FIONA SAYS: Staying with this man, who cares so little about you and your feelings and is prepared to damage his children, mentally, for the rest of their lives, is not for the best. It's not good for you or for them and, despite your daughter's apparent wishes, you really do need to leave him.

You are clearly not safe where you are, and the fact that the abuse has restarted indicates it is likely to escalate to the levels you faced previously. If things escalate, if he throws you down the stairs again, how will your children manage without you – because that's what it might lead to.

You say he knows he has a problem but, when faced with the possibility of intervention that might help, he lies and blames you. How is that facing his problem? You have the resources, the income, and the capability to manage without him, so you really do need to leave. Please take the next step and leave this man.

Of course this does not feel easy, but consider this: your daughter may be learning to see that this kind of behaviour is acceptable. That means, if, in the future, she too finds herself in an abusive relationship, she will see it as normal. Do you want that for her? I don't know if you have boys too, but if you do, they run the risk of turning into abusers themselves – again because they have been brought up to believe it's normal behaviour to abuse a partner.

I would like to hope you could see the need to leave this man because he's bad for you, but if you can't, please consider what it's doing to your children and break this potential cycle of abuse. Please contact the free National Domestic Abuse Hotline (nationaldahelpline.org.uk) on 0808 2000 247 for help in taking the next steps.

LONELY AND FED UP

I KNOW a lot of people complain about the loneliness brought about by the pandemic but, in my case, it's always been here, although lately it's more acute than ever. I'm disabled and live alone – which I don't mind too much when I can see people, but now, sitting there with a mask on, it has become a burden.

I used to call my sister for a chat but all she goes on about is her job. I have friends who suggested I make video calls to them, but I don't have the equipment to do that and, being disabled, I can't afford to buy suitable stuff – so I'm just stuck and fed up.

EB

FIONA SAYS: I'm sorry to read this – not being able to chat to people is difficult, and I agree with you that masks make it hard anyway, even now things are easing a little. I would really encourage you to contact the Wavelength charity (wavelength.org.uk) as they are the UK's oldest loneliness charity. Their purpose is to provide technological solutions – usually radios, TVs, and tablets – for isolated people living in poverty, which in practice tends to mean elderly, disabled or chronically ill people.

They work through a network of local partners to provide the service they offer, so they can ensure they supply the most appropriate solutions. Their research has shown that technology can help to maintain and increase the number of meaningful connections people have in their lives and act as a window to the world. I hope they are able to help you, so you can make the most of the overtures of friendship you've been offered.

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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