Life

Ask Fiona: Why won't my parents see the good in my man?

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

Contact your parents and ask them to explain their issues to you about your boyfriend
By Fiona Caine, PA

I HAVE been living with my boyfriend for three years. He is a good man and has taken on the role of father to my eight-year-old son, as if he were his own. He supports us as I only work part-time, and I love him very much. However, nothing he does seems to get through to my parents, who think he isn't good enough for me.

Ever since I have known him, they have tried to split us up. My mother in particular keeps asking me if I am happy with him, and says I would be happier with someone more my own age. She thinks this will mean he will eventually leave me, but the age difference is only five years, which is nothing – I have plenty of friends who have partners with bigger age gaps than this.

Things came to a head last month when he kindly replaced their back door for them (he's a carpenter by trade). It took him most of the day to buy it and fix it, but when he'd finished, they neither thanked him, nor offered to pay for the door. He wasn't expecting them to pay for his time, but they should at the very least have paid for the parts. When he told me this, I was furious and had a blazing row with my mother on the phone.

Instead of offering to thank him, all I got was the same old stuff about him not being right for me and I completely lost it. I cut the call off and we haven't spoken since. I am still angry, but also worried and guilty that I have really messed things up. How do I resolve this and why can't they see what I see in him?

KF

FIONA SAYS: Your parents' behaviour is certainly odd, given that you have been together for three years and are clearly happy. And as for not thanking someone who takes the time and expense to do DIY for them, well, that's just downright rude by anyone's standards.

Unfortunately, there's no clue in your letter as to what might be causing their behaviour. It's tempting to put it down to them simply being worried about your welfare. However, if that were really the case, they would have backed off by now, knowing how upset this was making you.

Alternatively, is it possible they know something that you don't? You'll only really know this if you can get them to be more specific about why they think he is wrong for you. To do that, you'll have to make contact and mend a few bridges. Call them and say you regret losing your temper, then attempt to calmly find out what is the issue.

Start by making it clear that, as far as your concerned, he has already proven he is a caring, loving person, and that you mean to stay with him. Then explain that you hope they can accept that. If they won't engage or can't give you a valid reason for their feelings towards your boyfriend, you'll have to decide just how much contact you want with them going forwards. And it will be their loss – however this pans out, you have nothing to feel guilty about.

MY HUSBAND ISN'T PULLING HIS WEIGHT

IN MANY ways, my husband is great but, when it comes to housework, he's hopeless. It's not that he doesn't know what to do, he does occasionally vacuum a room or two and pitches in most evenings to cook. However, I clean the rest of the flat every week. And in the evening after dinner, it's always me that clears away and washes up – every time.

Laundry is another area where he thinks it just happens magically. The laundry fairy arranges for clothes to be cleaned and they appear miraculously ironed and hanging in a wardrobe.

This probably reads a little like a housewife whinge, but the fact is, I work full-time too, and often get home after him in the evenings. It's not trivial and it's becoming a real issue. I have tried dropping the occasional comment like, ‘How about you taking a turn tonight', but these are nearly always ignored.

I am resenting this more and more, and it's only a question of time before it really affects our marriage. I am also getting stressed and angry. What do I have to do to get through to him?

AH

FIONA SAYS: You're right, this is no trivial matter, and it must stop. It's not only unfair, but it's also likely to affect your marriage adversely if it's left to fester. Subtle comments about housework clearly haven't worked, so I suspect you will have to be more direct. You could simply stop doing all the housework. It might get messy and a bit smelly but, hopefully, he would eventually notice that something was wrong and take steps to find out why. If he's particularly unobservant (or chooses not to notice) you could add to this ‘strike' with an ultimatum. Say something along the lines of, ‘I am not doing any more housework until you start pulling your own weight'.

An alternative, somewhat less confrontational approach, would be to make a list of all the chores you do across a week and try to keep a corresponding tally of what he does. Don't let him see what you are doing, or he might up his contribution. Be scrupulously fair, you don't want him to discredit the process. Then, at the end of the week, show him what you've done and compare that with what he's done. At this point, you can then explain just how badly this has been affecting you and ask him to help more.

You don't have to share all tasks equally; you could barter chores. For example, one could cook and the other washes up afterwards. Alternatively, you could do the ironing while he does some cleaning and dusting. You get the idea, and I really hope he will too because, if resentment builds up in your relationship, as it is clearly doing, it will cause real harm to the way you feel about him.

AM I GAY?

I'M 19 and really confused about my sexuality. I've had a couple of boyfriends, but my relationships with them have never been brilliant. Last year, for the first time, I started going out with a female friend. Although this was exciting at first, I have become increasingly unsure about it.

She says she is in love with me but, as I have always thought of her as a friend, the sexual side of our relationship makes me uncomfortable. I tend to freeze up whenever she, or anyone else for that matter, wants to get close to me. So much so that I get no real satisfaction from sex.

Why can't I find a meaningful relationship with someone? And am I gay or not?

PD

FIONA SAYS: I'm not sure that last question is the real problem. Of far more significance is why you seem to freeze whenever you get close to someone, whatever their gender or sexual orientation. Until you can be relaxed about physical contact, you are never going to really know what feels right for you.

Have you always been this way, or is it a recent development? Has something happened in your past that might be creating this fear of physical contact? Whatever the reason, I think you could benefit from counselling, and your GP may be able to refer you to a free service in your area.

If talking to your GP is problematic, you could consider contacting Relate (relate.org.uk) for counselling by phone, webcam or WebChat. There are also many private services offering counselling for people who identify as LGBTQ+, see those listed with the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (bacp.co.uk). However, until you have a clearer idea of your own sexuality, I am not sure these are right for you just now.

Finally, whatever orientation you may have, please remember that it's possible to have a loving, caring but non-sexual relationship, so try not to spoil the friendship you have with your friend.

AM I RIGHT TO BE WARY?

I HAVE a relationship with a man who says he loves me very much. He wants us to live together, and he's bought an apartment that he's put in his name, even though I'm planning to help him with 40 per cent of the debt. Five months into our relationship, he told me he is still married, even though they've been apart for 10 years.

Apparently, he has stayed married because his wife is unwell, and they have a daughter together. He says he will leave everything to me, and I want to start my relationship with him, but knowing about his wife is making me have doubts. How can I commit and help him when he is not legally separated?

I also have a child and I'm afraid that I could be left with nothing. I am independent but it seems his ex-wife and daughter are financially dependent on him. He says I should trust him, but I'm 50-years-old and life has taught me to be wary.

MC

FIONA SAYS: I think you're right to be wary. The minute money becomes involved in a relationship, you need very clear guidelines as to who owns what. Putting 40 per cent of your money into a property would probably be fine if the title deeds were drawn up to show you own 40 per cent of its value. Leaving it in his name alone could cause problems if things went wrong between you.

A solicitor could help you draw up new title deeds, but he's not been honest with you, so how can you be sure he will be in the future, especially if things turn sour in your relationship?

I would caution you on giving up your independence to share your life with a man who is still married and has financial commitments to his wife. That's not to say you can't be in a relationship with him, just be wary with your money until he's finalised his divorce.

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