Ask Fiona: How do I tell my boyfriend I don't love him any more?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas...
I'VE been with my boyfriend for 12 years now, and living together for 10. We have a mortgage, some pets but no children, and our relationship has been steadily declining for several years. We sleep in separate rooms and have not had sex for over eight years. In fact, there's no intimacy at all.
What's more, we are barely even housemates. We have very little in common and do not share the same values. He wants children but I do not, and I have always made this clear.
We don't argue – we barely even speak to each other, unless it's about something mundane. I cannot rely on him to help with housework, finances or looking after our pets. I hate it when he is off work and we are in the house together, and much prefer spending time on my own.
I am desperately unhappy, and I can't believe that he is happy with things the way they are either. The problem is, neither of us have the guts to say or do anything about it. It's made all the complicated by our mortgage, which I know it won't be easy to leave.
I often daydream about moving out and having my own home, but the thought of going through it all terrifies me. Equally, the thought of being like this for the rest of my life also terrifies me. He isn't a bad person; we are just not right for each other anymore.
I have never had to end a relationship before; something always happened to force it. How do I tell someone I just don't love them anymore? I also have no idea who to turn to for practical support regarding our finances, and finding somewhere else for me to live.
FIONA SAYS: This relationship is over – you both know it, so why one of you hasn't done anything about ending it is beyond me. Unless, of course, there is something keeping you together – is there still, somewhere, deep down, an element of still feeling something for one another? If there really isn't, then it's time to have the conversation – the one where you say: ‘Enough is enough'.
I think you need to have that conversation first, because it will then decide what you have to do next. You say neither of you has the guts to say or do anything about it, but you really need to find those guts from somewhere because you cannot go on like this.
If it becomes apparent that a separation is going to be acrimonious, then I would suggest you consult a solicitor to help sort out the financial arrangements. If you can sort things out amicably between you, then you'll probably simply have to advise your mortgage company.
I don't know what financial arrangement you came to when you bought the property. If it is just a 50/50 split then perhaps you could sell the property, pay off the mortgage, and (hopefully) share any increase in the money you've made.
If one of you wants to keep the property and buy the other person out then again, I'd suggest you seek legal advice, and several valuations to reach an agreement on the price to be paid. You say a mortgage won't be easy to leave, but it's considerably easier than living in misery!
It may possibly be that having this conversation triggers feelings that have been buried, and you decide you are prepared to give your relationship another try. If that's the case, then I would strongly advise you to seek counselling because something triggered this decline in your relationship, and you wouldn't want that to happen again. Either way, I hope you and your partner can both soon by feeling a lot better than you are now.
SHOULD I CONFRONT MY ‘NASTY' MOTHER?
MY mother has never been particularly close to my children, but after the birth of my third child four years ago, something changed. She's become hyper-critical of everything they do and is often quite aggressive towards them. She doesn't single out any one child; she's just generally unpleasant towards them all.
Recently though, things seem much worse. She's nastier than usual and often screeches at them if they make too much noise, do something silly, or leave too many of their toys around the house. She has even hit them a few times.
My husband isn't spared her venom either. She blames him for everything that's wrong in our lives and doesn't hesitate to tell him so. Yes, money is tight and we don't have a lot of material things, but what we do have is a loving, happy marriage. Surely that should be something to celebrate not criticise.
Should I confront her about this behaviour? If I do, I know there's every possibility that she'll stop visiting, and that's not something I really want. I am an only child and there's nobody else in her life, so I suspect she will be hurt very badly. I genuinely do care for her, but on the other hand, I do not know how much longer my family and I can cope with this.
FIONA SAYS: I admire your sense of duty and perseverance for putting up with her behaviour this long. Your mother sounds like a very angry and bitter lady, and I can only guess at her reasons for feeling this way.
Perhaps she's jealous of the fact that you have been able to have a large family – whereas she had only one child? Perhaps she resents growing old and is taking it out of those younger than her? Whatever the reasons, her behaviour is unacceptable.
Like it or not, you are going to have to speak to her – if for no other reason than the safety of your children. She has no moral or legal right to hit your children – that needs to stop right away. Even if it hurts her to hear this, the point must be clearly made right away. Tell her she must not hit them and at the same time, let her see how much her behaviour has hurt you and your husband.
You may have relied on her to help with the children but, for now, please don't leave her alone with them. She has to learn to control her behaviour and, if she can't, then you and your husband will need to consider stopping her visits until – hopefully – she proves that she can.
You don't say how old your mother is, but I wonder if it would be worth suggesting she visits her GP for an assessment. Her behaviour may be triggered by depression, but I'm sorry to have to point out that aggressive behaviour like this can sometimes be a sign of dementia too.
It may be a horrible thing to have to contemplate, but the safety of your children must be your priority here so please encourage her to see a GP and perhaps talk to her doctor yourself.
MY PARENTS BEAT ME
MY mum and dad beat me with canes every time I do something wrong, even if it's as trivial as pouring milk down the drain. We are all devout Christians and go to church.
My mother is very scary. Once I tried to report her to the school, but she works as a teacher there and managed to stop me. I don't know what to do. Please help me.
FIONA SAYS: I'm so sorry to read that your parents are abusive towards you. This is something that should be reported, and if you don't feel you can do this at school, then please find a responsible adult that you can tell.
Get in touch with social services, the police, someone else at your school (a pastoral manager, if there is one), a family friend, or anyone you feel you can trust.
I would also encourage you to contact Childline (childline.org.uk) on 0800 1111. They're there to give confidential advice and support and if you ask them, they will notify the right people for you.
Please don't be scared – you're doing the right thing, I promise you. And remember that none of this is your fault.
For committed Christians, your parents are displaying most un-Christian-like behaviour – certainly not the loving kindness that should be your right.
MY NEW PARTNER'S DAUGHTER DOESN'T LIKE ME
FOR the past five months, I have been seeing a new man. He's everything my ex-husband wasn't: kind, funny and generous with his time. In truth, I have completely fallen for him and I know he feels the same way about me.
We have talked about me moving into his house and I would like this very much, especially if the pandemic rumbles on much longer. However, I am worried about how his daughter will react as it's clear she doesn't like me.
We've arranged lots of occasions when I can get to know her better, but she either cancels at the last minute or gives me the silent treatment. I have really tried to be nice and engage with her, but she seems hell bent on spoiling everything.
I want to this work so badly but, if I can't win her around, I fear I might lose him. What can I do?
FIONA SAYS: I think you might be trying a little too hard already. If the parents have only recently separated, she will see you as a threat. She's possibly still hoping that her parents will get back together, and she certainly won't want to even consider the possibility of someone else ‘taking her mother's place' with their father.
If her parents have been separated for some time, she will still need to work through her own feelings and not feel pressured into accepting you. For this reason, I think you should call a halt to the social gatherings designed to bring you together, but instead concentrate on giving him emotional support.
He should mention you regularly as being a part of his life when he talks to her, and whilst you can be in the house when she visits, don't feel like you have to entertain her.
By just being there and being a part of his life, his daughter will begin to realise you're not going anywhere. It really falls to him to reassure his daughter about you at this stage, and if she sees her dad is happy with you, she will, hopefully, come around in the end.
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