ASK ZELDA: Our relationships expert Zelda West-Meads answers your questions
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After years of abuse I can’t trust anyone
When I was 16 I started seeing a man seven years older than me. We dated for two years. He was emotionally abusive and, although he never hit me, he would pull me off the sofa and throw me to the floor. At the same time, my drug-using, alcoholic mother and my father were in the process of divorcing. Prior to this my father had tried to take his own life. He left a suicide note for my elder sister and myself and £4,000 each – which my mother later asked us to loan her to pay the household bills. My sister had already left home so I became piggy in the middle between my warring parents while still at school. When my father eventually left, there was nobody to support or care for me and I became the recipient of my mother’s vile behaviour. She then struck up a friendship with my ex-boyfriend and, while I was getting ready to move out with my new boyfriend, she was planning to move my ex into my bedroom. I have not seen my mother for four years now. My sister smokes cannabis and is narcissistic. She is deceitful and makes no effort to see me. Should I cut her out of my life as she continually hurts me? I fear I am becoming stony-hearted because of my past and my sister’s behaviour. My partner would like to get engaged but I am worried that my lack of trust will mess things up.
You have had an unhappy and abusive childhood with very little love, care or understanding. I am so sorry. Unfortunately, people sometimes continue in unhealthy relationships because that is all they know. It is often only when they realise this that they end the relationship, and it says a lot for your courage and strength of character that you managed to break away from your abusive partner. You have not told me anything about your current boyfriend but I hope he is different from your past experience and that you can talk to him about all this and turn to him if things are difficult. I strongly recommend you have counselling because of all that you have gone through and also to help you learn to trust your partner and decide what to do about your sister. Her behaviour is damaging to you and she sounds unlikely to change, so it is probably best to distance yourself from her. However, it is also painful to cut people out of our lives, so find a counsellor through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (bacp.co.uk), who will help you talk all this through.
He wants to be friends with his mistress
My husband, who is in his mid 50s, had an affair with a single woman 20 years his junior, which he took no pains to hide. The hurt was enormous. Our marriage has had its ups and downs but after talking a great deal we decided to try again. I assumed this woman would disappear but he insists he wants to maintain a friendship with her and that this is all it is. Am I unreasonable to want her gone so we can concentrate on our relationship? What sort of woman hangs on like this when she has almost broken up a marriage? I have reached the end of my tether, but I still love him and want a life with him.
I don’t think many wives would accept that their husband’s mistress could still remain friends with him. If they were meeting up, how would you know they were not still having sex? Even if they weren’t at first, they would probably end up back in bed eventually. I suspect that his ex-mistress is trying to hang on because she still hopes that he will leave you for her – especially as she is not married herself. It would also make it difficult to rebuild the marriage, as you would always be aware that she is part of his life. If you are to trust him again, he needs to cut off all contact with her.
She’d love another baby but he says no
My daughter and her husband have two children – a boy of four and a girl of nearly three. However, my daughter is desperate for another baby and, as she is nearing 40, she knows her chances of conceiving are diminishing. Her husband has given a flat no to a third child and refuses to discuss it further. He is the breadwinner and she has put her career on hold to have children. Money isn’t an issue. It seems to be a lose-lose situation: if they have a third child, her husband will resent it; if they don’t, she might never forgive him. How do couples reach an agreement on this?
This is a difficult situation as there is no possible compromise. It is hard for your daughter that her husband won’t talk to her about it and I think she needs to tackle him on this. There could be several reasons why he doesn’t want another child. Maybe he feels that, much as he loves his children, they take up a lot of his wife’s time and that he would like more time as a couple. Perhaps their sex life has declined and he feels that if they have a third child it will dwindle even more. You say that money isn’t an issue but perhaps it is. While he may be a high earner, he may nevertheless feel the pressure of being the sole breadwinner and perhaps he is looking to the future and thinking that he will never be able to retire if he has to support them all. Your daughter needs to explain to him that she is worried she will always resent him if he won’t at least talk to her about it and that it could erode their marriage. If they can’t resolve this issue between them, they could have counselling together at Relate (relate.org.uk). Remember also that some couples who are desperate for children are not able to have them at all.
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