News & views


Here we publish some of your letters and our replies. Personal details are always edited. Our first selection is answered by Jill Curtis.

Jill is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working in private practice in London. She is a frequent broadcaster on family matters and has written several books. We highly recommend 'Find Your Way Through Divorce,' 'Where's Daddy?' and 'How to get married again.' These are written, not only by a professional but also by a grandmother with personal family experience of divorce. (For details, please see our Books section. Jill also has her own self-help, family problem website dedicated to parents and grandparents. If you are in the South London area and would like to receive counselling, please email us.

Dear Jill
Scared to Death

I have been thinking about getting a divorce from my wife of almost 30 years. I feel content and trapped. It's not that my wife is not a loving caring person. I have been unfaithful quite a few times, some she knows about and most she doesn't know about. I believe that in our earlier years of marriage she has had an affair, which she denies. I love her dearly, it's just I don't want to be married anymore. I am currently in a relationship with another woman who I care for deeply. My kids are grown and I have 2 grandchildren. I am alone most of the time even when she is here with me. The only time we are together is when we go out somewhere. I have been by myself for so long that it doesn't matter if she is here or not.

I am ready to leave and have a relationship with the woman that I am having an affair with. She is divorced. I am scared to death. I don't want to hurt anyone but I'm tired of living a lie. I don't want to just sit here alone for the rest of my life. We have an active sex life, even though I would like more, she works and is tired most of the time. She has forgiven time and time again for having affairs. The reason I am thinking about leaving is not about the woman that I am having an affair with but it's for me. I have been having these thoughts for many years. Scared to Death

I can well imagine you are scared to death. There are some questions you might ask yourself. You say you have been unfaithful over the years but it seems always happy enough to stay with your wife. How do you understand that? Did you ever try to work at your marriage? Or was it just a safe haven to come home to? What do you make of your wife forgiving you for straying time and time again? You say you are alone at home, yet say you have an active sex life, go out together, and I would guess have an extended family life also. Don't bank on your children 'understanding' your motives if you leave their mother.

Also, you say you don't want to hurt anyone, but you must realise that your actions will cause tremendous pain to your wife, your children and your grandchildren. Have you thought of that? The fact is that you will have to weigh up the gains and the many losses.

It may, or may not, be too late to mend your marriage of 30 years.
Be cautious.

Dear Jill
It has been 12 months since my husband left me because 'he wanted more space'. He took my two stepchildren aged 15 and 12 with him, and left me with our two kids aged 4 and 7. Since then he's come back once for a couple of weeks but left saying it's not what he wants. What gets me is he went to his mother's and is still with her. My stepchildren haven't been to see me, and that's after bringing them up for many years.

In that time I've gotten a job and have had to pay the mortgage myself. He said he wanted half of the equity on the house but I told him that was making a profit out of me, if it wasn't for me we would never have bought this house. I'm getting a divorce and now he's turned around and said he'll sign the house over to me in a clean break settlement.

I just feel so lonely and that no-one understands my pain. At the beginning of the year my doctor prescribed antidepressants but I didn't take them, but now I am going to as I'd rather be a zombie than face this pain any longer. I stopped talking to my husband a couple of months ago because it was so painful seeing him but him not wanting to be with me.

I feel so used. It seems like he used me to be a mother to his kids then left me to bring up mine alone. It took a letter from the solicitor to get him to agree to keep the kids overnight. I wish I could forgive him but I can't. I really want to get on with my life, but I seem to be fixated on him. I wish dreadful things will happen to him so he can experience some of the pain I'm feeling. Then when something bad does happen to him (his job may be ending after 19 years) I worry about him and that's annoying because he doesn't seem to worry/care about me.

When will this end? I'm up and down like a rollercoaster and so negative. My 11 year old niece died recently and there has been another death in the family this year. It seems like life is all endings, not beginnings these days.


Dear Dorothy
A break-up of a relationship like the one you have experienced is a devastating thing to happen. From what you say, I can understand that you feel that there are so many endings - loss of a partner, your stepdaughters, your dreams for the future, and recent family bereavements. The last fifteen months must have been dreadful for you and, of course, while you were trying to keep afloat, you have had to parent your two children who must be upset by what has happened. I wonder if part of what still distresses you is why the break-up has happened at all. Your husband has not really given you any reasons, and so it is hard to understand why he had to go, and probably leaves you searching for what went wrong. This hinders any healing process, and makes it very hard to move on. This contributes to the rollercoaster feelings you mention.

Is there any way you could find a professional trained in family relationships to talk through your feelings, and to give you some support? Many G.Ps have a counsellor attached to their practice. Perhaps you could explore this?

Dear Jill
I am turning to you for some advice as I have spent the last 6 years of my 15 year marriage feeling like I do not love my husband as a wife should. I had an affair 6 years ago that made me realise that what I have with my husband is not enough. The affair did not last but the feelings stayed. We do not talk to each other about anything but trivia, we share very few similarities, we do not laugh together, go out - I probably would not choose for him to be a friend if he was not my husband.

As I write this, it sounds so obvious I should leave but how do I know? What if I leave and life is no better by myself? We have two children who love their dad to bits (he is a great dad), in my head I have it all planned - we sell the home and but 2 separate homes close by and share the kids. I still would want to do family stuff together but desperately need to find someone I can love and feel loved by. My husband is in a stressed state (which must be partially caused by our unhappy situation), I am on anti depressants - when Im not I am dreadful to live with and show my true feelings to my husband.

I met my husband through a dating agency and have never felt like he truly loved me, I have also had a pretty sad childhood (abuse, bullying at school). Part of me thinks that this may have impacted on the way I react to my husband and it doesn't matter who I am married to as I will be the same.

It is all such a mess, my friends are probably sick of hearing about it as I have felt like this for so long. The kids need an environment that is relaxed and fun - neither which they get at home.

Please offer me some advice. As I am writing this I feel so sad and deflated.

Dear Rebecca
I can hear how miserable you are but there are several things to think over. As you are discovering, leaving a partner of 15 years is not an easy thing to do. Over the years couples do become entwined, and to untangle a relationship because you say you are no longer in love, is a complicated matter. If it was not difficult - then you would have already left.

Of course, the situation is made even more complicated by the fact that you do acknowledge he is a good dad - and the plan 'in your head' sounds good on paper, but I think you know that once feelings come into the picture it would be more complex than that!

I am truly sorry you are feeling so sad, but I do urge you to find a professional trained in these matters to talk to. Friends can only help so far. I think you need to look at why you are so restless. If you do not truly understand how you have got into this situation, and even what you have brought into this marriage, then the danger is that you will repeat something in your next relationship. Also, from what you say there is a lot to talk about your past, and if that is not untangled and understood, it can cast a long shadow on your present life.

Note from Editor: Do have a look at our sections for Parents and Children. There are many sources of professional help in our Emotions section.

Jill's family website is full of interesting articles and wise words.

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