Life

Ask Fiona: I've had enough of my critical husband

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her advice to a woman whose husband has been treating her badly for a long time and to a grandmother who is looking for adult company

Your husband's behaviour is intolerable and you need to make a stand on it

I'M SICK to death of the way my husband treats me. He makes out all the time that I am incapable, inefficient and hopeless. He is forever putting me down at home and in front of other people. I've put up with his carping and criticism for the past 18 years for the sake of our children, but I've had enough.

They're now old enough to recognise this isn't right, and my daughter (who is 16) has asked me a number of times why I put up with it. If I complain, my husband tells me I'm being overly sensitive, and other people find what he says funny. Well, I don't. I've tried to ignore him, but if I say nothing, he makes comments like, ‘I'm glad you see I'm right' – as if I'm accepting his criticism!

I long ago stopped loving him, but I've stayed for the children's sake. But now I've had enough, and I swear I'll swing for him soon if he doesn't cut it out!

HA

FIONA SAYS: Tempting though it may be to retaliate with violence, please don't. All you would succeed in doing is giving him even more ammunition to criticise you with. That absolutely doesn't mean I don't think you should stand up to him though.

He's made your life a misery for the past 18 years and he's developed a whole array of techniques to wind you up and humiliate you.

You must decide, when you say you've had enough, whether you've had enough of your marriage, or whether you've had enough of his behaviour but are prepared to work at improving things? If it's the first, then I suggest you contact a lawyer and set to work to arrange a divorce.

If that's not what you want though, then you need to take a very firm stand. The next time he starts to criticise you, state – loudly and firmly – ‘Enough'. Be prepared to get angry and stand your ground. Tell him what you've told me – that you've put up with his behaviour for 18 years and will not take it any longer.

If he starts to criticise your cooking while you're doing it, walk away and say, ‘You do it then'. If he criticises what you've made for a meal, pick up his plate and throw it in the bin. You can stop doing the things – for him – that he criticises you for and tell him you'll restart when he apologises.

If he criticises you in front of other people, it will probably embarrass him if, rather than ignoring it, you say something like: ‘(His name) thinks it's funny to criticise me like that – I don't'. You may well find other people feel awkward, but that will be because they recognise it as being wrong, even though they may have laughed in the past.

It might be an idea to be prepared to walk out on him – but for that you'd have to have somewhere to go. Think about that and make plans – even if you only go for a few hours or overnight.

What you're going through is a form of abuse – it may not be physical, but it is abuse none the less and it would be worth your while looking at the website for Refuge (refuge.org.uk). The charity deals with domestic violence which it describes as ‘…any violence or abuse that is used by someone to control or obtain power over their partner'. It goes on to say this can include physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, emotional and financial abuse – and I'd say his behaviour sounds like it involves at least three of those.

Have a look at the website and consider contacting them to get the support that you may well need. You can call their helpline on 0808 2000 247 at any time. What you are going through isn't right and it's setting a really bad example to your children, who might grow up to think their father's behaviour is acceptable. It isn't, and it's time it stopped.

I MISS ADULT COMPANY

I AM 54, and because my daughter couldn't manage, I have custody of my two young grandchildren. Sadly, she's an alcoholic and has been arrested for drink-driving twice now. Her health is very poor – she has liver failure and is in a really bad way.

There was a possibility her children would be taken into care, and I couldn't bear the thought of that. Much as I've tried, I can't help her, but I have been happy to take on my two grandchildren. They are both toddlers and extremely hard work, however, I love them very much and am happy that I am able to care for them.

My problem is that I am really missing the company of adults. The children are a full-time job and most of my friends that used to pop in regularly now no longer do so.

I suppose I don't blame them – like me, they're in their 50s or 60s and probably find it difficult now to cope with young children.

I have tried a couple of local mother and toddler groups but, while I was always made welcome, I did feel out of place and a bit awkward, as many of the mums were very much younger than me. Do you know of any similar groups that are run for grandparents and toddlers?

PK

FIONA SAYS: It's a shame that many of your friends have distanced themselves at a time when you need more support, and I'm not sure I could be as forgiving of this were I in your shoes. Have you asked them whether they know any others in a similar position to you, as this might be a good place to start to make a social circle with others in a similar position?

While not all of them may look after their grandchildren full-time as you do, there are many grandparents providing help and support to their working children. If they are looking after toddlers whilst the parents are working, they too might welcome some company and support.

There are some grandparent and toddler groups around, and your local social services team might be able to put you into contact with them – if not, try the local library, who often keep details of local group. If none exist, however, you might like to think of forming your own.

Family Lives (familylives.org.uk) have a huge amount of help and advice and support for grandparents looking after their grandchildren. Not all of it is relevant to your circumstances but it's well worth a look and it includes a section on how to set up a grandparent and toddler group. That's not something to be taken on without a lot of consideration, but you could find it extremely valuable, so if you search their website under ‘grandparents', you'll find it. You'll find a lot of other useful information as well.

There used to be an organisation called ‘Grandparents Plus' but the organisation has changed its name to Kinship (kinship.org.uk). They now help and advise all the grandparents and siblings, the aunts, uncles, and family friends who step up to raise children when their parents can't. I'm sure you'd find a lot of help and advice from them too.

You are absolutely doing the right thing in looking to develop other social contact, not only for yourself but for the toddlers in your care.

Finally, do consider going back to the mother and toddler groups you went to before – you say you were made welcome. It's possible that some of those their might have parents who look after grandchildren on a part-time basis and who might be interested in meeting up with you.

I NEED TO LIVE CLOSER TO MY FAMILY

I LIVE in a social housing development, where I'm very happy but unfortunately I've developed a medical condition that means I could really do with more help and support from my family. When I approached the local authority to find out about housing in my family's area, they said they couldn't automatically accept me and I will have to go on a waiting list.

This could take forever, I'm sure, and I wonder if there was another way of speeding things up. Do you have any idea how I can move closer to my family?

KB

FIONA SAYS: If you have a recognised medical condition that means you need the help and support of your family in order to cope, then that should give you additional priority in terms of any waiting list.

Do talk to the local authority you want to move to and make sure they fully appreciate your circumstances.

As you are already in social housing, you may well be eligible to register under the Homefinder scheme (homefinderuk.org). Not every housing association and local authority is registered with the service though, so go to the Homefinder website to check.

Homefinder is a national housing mobility scheme that helps people who want or need to move for whatever reason or whatever the circumstances. You will get the help of a case management service that guide will you through the moving process and provide advice and support at every step of the way.

Hopefully, where you are and where you want to go to will be part of the scheme, so that you'll soon be where you need to be for the support you need.

AM I MENOPAUSAL?

I'VE JUST hit my 40s and everything seems to be going downhill. I'm constantly tired and weepy; I've put on loads of weight; I've lost all interest in sex and my regular periods have become a complete mystery.

My husband is patient and kind, but I know he is getting fed up. My friend says I am probably menopausal and ought to go on HRT – but surely I can't be already. If I am and if I went on HRT, would things improve?

FF

FIONA SAYS: The symptoms you are describing could indeed be down to menopause – and although you are still young, I am afraid you are not too young to start displaying symptoms. Some people go through menopause, or perimenopause, earlier than others.

However, the best person to tell you for sure is your GP. They may also want to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms, so do make an appointment. And if it is linked to menopause, this is the best place to start.

HRT may be an option for you. It may be there are other things you could try first though – or alongside anything else. It can occasionally take a bit of trial and error to find exactly the right prescription to suit you.

I'd therefore encourage you to consider other way of boosting your mood as well. Regular exercise will lift your mood, assist with maintaining a healthy weight, and give you more energy. Furthermore, if this is an early menopause, weight bearing exercise is important in the prevention of osteoporosis (brittle bones) – something that menopausal women need to be aware of.

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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