ASK ZELDA: Our relationships expert Zelda West-Meads answers your questions
If you have a problem, email email@example.com. Zelda reads all your letters but regrets that she cannot answer them all personally
My daughters won’t talk to each other
I am at my wits’ end. My two daughters, both in their early 30s, are at war with each other. I divorced when they were only five and six, and I did my best to bring them up, but even when they were little they fought a lot. They now both have good jobs and are married with children. I have tried my hardest to support them but so often I am piggy in the middle. I have begged them to talk to each other to no avail. I feel that their terrible relationship is all my fault. They say dreadful things to each other and both insist that they are right. They need professional help – how can I persuade them to get it?
This must be very upsetting for you but please stop blaming yourself. Your daughters may fight but both are successful at work and happily married. You clearly love them and have done your best. Sometimes siblings are just very different. Same-sex siblings in particular can be jealous of each other and will fight whatever you do. In your longer letter, you say you have written to them, explaining how much you love them and how painful it is to see them argue. This is exactly what I would have advised. If you keep gently talking to them, I hope they will gradually start to soften towards each other. Family counselling – or individual counselling at first – could definitely help. Can you enlist the aid of their husbands? Perhaps between the three of you, you could persuade them both to go to Relate (relate.org.uk) or find a family therapist through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (bacp.co.uk).
All he does is work and we never see him
My husband works long hours to support me and our two children, aged eight and ten. But I work part time to contribute to the household budget too and combine this with looking after the children. I love my husband, but not as much as I used to. It feels as though I’m a single parent as he does so little with them and I feel emotionally neglected. My resentment is making me angry. He says he loves me, but if this situation continues the marriage will suffer more. He is a kind, caring, intelligent man and I don’t want us to break up or to inflict divorce on our children.
If you and your husband love each other, it is a good basis to try to resolve your problems. What you don’t say is whether you have tried talking to him about how lonely you are and whether you have felt able to express your anger or if it is just seething away inside you. You need to talk to him about it. Anger never achieves anything, so calmly explain how much you appreciate him working so hard to support you all, but that you feel neglected and you are starting to resent it. You should tell him that you need to feel close emotionally as well as sexually for the marriage to thrive. I expect that he is probably exhausted with all the long hours he works, so perhaps you need to agree that he has some downtime at weekends, but that you also have time doing fun things as a family. I recommend joint counselling with Marriage Care (marriagecare.org.uk).
I want to leave my husband of 40 years
I have been with my husband for more than four decades. It was OK at the beginning but we’ve had our ups and downs and now just tolerate each other. I dream of leaving but I can’t afford it. We have two grown-up children who still live at home and our house is paid for. Many years ago my husband had an affair which resulted in a son, but he came back to me. He doesn’t talk about his son and has never explained it to our children. Now I don’t know what to do. I would like to find a partner who makes me happy.
It sounds as though your love for your husband has completely died. It must have been very difficult for you all these years to know that he has a son with another woman. You will need to get some legal advice. Contact Citizens Advice (citizensadvice.org.uk) for help finding an affordable solicitor. You don’t say how old you both are or whether either of you is still working, but you may be entitled to maintenance or a share of his pension and half of the house. This might enable you to buy somewhere smaller. It would be an upheaval for your children as they are still living at home, but I hope they would help out and want you to be happier. Do you think they could afford to leave home? Or, if there was room for them to live with you in a new house or flat, would they contribute to their living costs? If they chose to move out, or stay with their father, would you consider taking in a lodger or working part time to help you afford to live separately? I am sorry that you have been unhappy for all these years and I hope that you manage to find a way to leave him.
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