Dear Steph – My friend had a secret abortion.

Dear Steph

My husband and I have been friends with another couple for over ten years, the female being a friend of mine from uni, which is where we both met our now husbands. We’ve been an inseparable foursome ever since and holiday together most years. My female pal told me recently she’d found out she was pregnant just after getting a promotion at work, she then went on to say she’d had an abortion while her husband was working away. I’m not against abortion, and am very much pro choice, but I find this so difficult being friends with them both! She also asked me not to tell my husband. I’ve tried to persuade her to talk to her husband but she won’t, and says he wouldn’t understand her reasons. I’m not sure I do either (understand her reasons) They are both thirty this year and have openly expressed their want for children in the past, but my friend says she just wasn’t ready this time. I feel really torn and have been avoiding her husband ever since. My own husband is even getting suspicious about why I don’t want to spend time with them. Keeping this to myself is eating me up, I don’t know what to do.

Gemma 29 Aldershot

Dear Gemma,

I don’t think you’re going to like what I have to say. In fact, I’m not sure many readers will. However, I’m going to give you my honest opinion, anyway. Before I do there are a few things to consider first. I understand you feel a sense of loyalty to both parties in the relationship and not just your female friend, in these circumstances though, I’m going to advise to refrain from making this about you. Your friend made a decision and for whatever reason, she believes that was the right decision for her. Do I think she should have told her husband? Maybe… but is it any of my business? No. Do I also believe women have the absolute and unconditional right to body autonomy? Yes. Therefore I would be a hypocrite if suggested that it was imperative she tell her husband about the pregnancy. Secondly, it’s done now and it’s highly likely that your friend is already feeling a mixed bag of emotion which possibly but not necessarily, includes guilt. Third and finally, it is absolutely none of your husband’s business. Telling your husband will only make him feel awkward and guilty for not telling his friend. I’m sorry if this sound’s harsh but I feel given what’s going on in the world in terms of abortion right now, we must support women and their decisions over what happens to their bodies. I do understand that this is a difficult situation to be in, and sometimes being a loyal and trustworthy friend will leave us feeling conflicted. Ask yourself whom would benefit from you telling anybody of your friend’s secret? It’s fine for you to express your discomfort to your friend about the situation you’re in, but I’d suggest for the time being that you don’t. Instead, give your friend a safe space to discuss her reasons with you, if and when she feels comfortable. She told you because she trusted you, I think you should honour that trust. It’s unlikely your friend is going to tell her husband you knew, but if she does, tell the truth – you wanted to tell him but realised (I hope you’ve realised) it simply wasn’t your place.

I made a mistake once of telling a friend of mine’s partner whom I was also friends with, that she was cheating on him. He didn’t believe me and neither of them have spoken to me since. They are still together and went on to get married , despite my meddling. Your friend hasn’t cheated on her husband. Yes she is keeping a secret and maybe it’s wrong of her, but that’s really not for anyone else to decide. She could have very good reason not to have told her husband and there might be things happening in their marriage you know nothing about.

Whatever you decide I wish both you and your friend, love and healing.

Steph x

Dear Steph – I’m afraid my partner will cheat on me.

Dear Steph,

I’m in a new relationship with a great guy. I’ve been dating him for seven months, we met through work and have been inseparable since. The relationship is moving fast and we’ve already talked about moving in together. But I’m so insecure, every-time he goes out with his friends I’m convinced he’s cheating on me. We’re both 28 and my last relationship was two years ago. My ex who I thought was the love of my life cheated, and it killed me. I know my new partner is already getting fed up of some of my comments about his social life, but I can’t stop myself from saying them or feeling jealous when he’s out…. I even feel insecure when he’s at work or the gym. I know how this’ll sound and I am embarrassed, but I feel so paranoid when we’re not together. I don’t text him all the time when he’s out, but the next day I’m so stressed about what he might have been up to, that I avoid talking to him altogether sometimes. He’s never given me any reason to doubt his loyalty to me but he is a lad’s lad. He’s getting annoyed with me over my ‘jealously’ what can I do?

Emma – Swindon Uk

Dear Emma,

I’m sorry you’re feeling like this. I’ve been there; and don’t doubt that almost every woman I know has at some point in time been where you are also. You probably already guessed what my advice is going to be, and that is to start unpacking the insecurities that have embedded because of the infidelity with your ex. Whether that be with a therapist, or with yourself. Jealousy and fear are like mould in a relationship, it starts off as the odd spec but if you don’t treat it, it grows at a rapid pace. Before you know it, your whole house is covered in rot. You obviously, though not unsurprisingly, have some trust issues. But your new man isn’t your ex, and it’s unfair and unrealistic to expect him to be penalised for someone else’s mistake. I myself have trust issues, mainly from a fear of abandonment, and I’ve been in relationships that have torn me inside out wondering ‘what if.’ When I met my now husband, I was forever waiting for him to let me down. And on occasion he has, and it’s likely will again, because he’s human. I had to learn to trust him regardless. What I’m trying to say is, your partner might fuck up by staying out late with the lads or forgetting to text you back, but that doesn’t mean he’s being unfaithful. I suggest being honest about how you’re feeling with your partner. You may find that rather than making him want to run a mile, it’ll help him understand and for you both to learn to compromise. You might worry that being honest with him will push him away, but your snide comments and avoiding him when your pissed off, is likely to do so much faster than an honest conversation will. It’s normal to fear history repeating itself, but moving in together is a huge step that requires a lot of trust. You don’t want to be the girl that goes through his phone and smells his shirts after nights out. That’s no fun for either of you. Talk to him now, explain that you have trust issues but you understand they aren’t his issues, and you want to work on them. Chances are he will be able to both reassure you and help you work through them. From experience I can promise you that any work you do on yourself to overcome this cycle of insecurity will pay dividends. Break the cycle now. I’ve included some links to organisations that may be able to offer you some support. In Swindon you can also self refer to talking therapies who provide free cognitive behavioural therapy, which focuses on changing the thought process and can be particularly useful if you have a specific anxietywhich in your case seems to be around trust, and probably also self esteem that was shattered by your exes betrayal.

Relate

IAPT self referral (talking therapies)

I also found this book which may be of some use to you. Insecure In Love By Leslie Becker-Phelps and it’s available to buy on Amazon.

Wishing you all the best, Emma. Acknowledging that you have these issues is the first step to overcoming them and being happy.

Steph x

Dear Steph – I’m unhappily married and feel trapped.

I am in my 40’s and have been married for a long time and have 2 kids with a man that I don’t think I’ve ever really been in love with. I was treated badly in previous relationships and my self esteem and mental health had hit rock bottom when I met my husband. He was the first person in a long time who openly adored me and didn’t hide me away like a dirty little secret. I didn’t particularly reciprocate his feelings but it felt nice to have someone who I knew would be loyal to me. It was comfortable and easy…but never passionate or electric. We ended up getting married and having kids and my husband has become more and more lazy over the years and I am at my wits end with him. I have to pay for everything and he never wants to do anything with us as a family. If he does come out with us, he just moans and makes the experience un-enjoyable. His temper is awful and he often shouts at the kids and calls them stupid or idiots. He is very rough with them too which is upsetting. I cook, I clean, I take care of the kids and I pay for absolutely everything whilst he sits on his ass doing nothing. He also gaslights me and makes me feel like I’m a bad Mum.
It’s safe to say, I’m not in love with him and I feel extremely trapped. It’s not as easy as just leaving as we have debt and the kids love him to death despite his temper.
We haven’t had sex for over 6 years and if he touches me I get the ick really bad!
Despite all of this, I feel dreadful and guilty for even thinking of leaving.
I don’t feel in a very good place at the moment if I’m honest, which just makes me really alone and sad and even more suffocated within my marriage.

Please help Steph! – Anon Somerset Uk

Dear Anon,

Your situation sounds really hard. I can relate to a lot of what you mentioned about past relationships and feelings of low self esteem. In my experience, it is all too easy when feeling this way, to get entangled in relationships that offer us even snippets of what we have previously been missing. It seems a shame to me that it went as far with this man as getting married and having kids, but you can’t turn back time. And you’re definitely not alone. I know people in ‘real life’ who too, have married for convenience or particularly comfort, especially as we get older and crave the quieter life. The issues are many for you, but the main one I’ve noted is this marriage is no longer making you feel comfortable, nor is it convenient. You mentioned that you pay for everything and I wonder in reality if you might actually SAVE money from not being with your husband. However, I do understand that it’s not as simple as that, when houses, children and debt are involved. I wonder have you ever had this conversation with your husband directly? Does he know you don’t hold any feelings for him anymore? It doesn’t sound as though he’s doing much to change that in any case. Maybe he too is feeling unhappy or unwanted and that’s fuelling his laziness and shitty behaviour. The trouble is though, if you’re not interested in igniting the fire (reigniting seems inappropriate in this case) Then what would your ideal solution be? In relation to the children, it’s really awful to hear that your husband treats them quite badly. You didn’t say how old they were but I’m assuming school age. What’s most concerning is the fact you said he’s rough with them. Without more information I can’t be sure what you mean, but I’m going to assume that you mean physically. This I’m sure, is a major concern for you. The thing on my mind right now when I read this is, firstly, the impact this will have on them long term. By you staying in a marriage with a man who treats your children badly, despite how amazing a mother you might be, there is a small possibility that as the kids grow up and see for themselves what their dad is like (and they likely will, unless he makes any major changes, despite adoring him presently) that they may one day think by remaining in this relationship, that you were complicit in his treatment of them. Forgive me if I have this all wrong but it sounds like you could be struggling to admit how bad your husband’s behaviour is. I say this, because you have already told me all of the reasons why you SHOULD leave. Your husband is lazy, and somewhat abusive to you and your children, he criticises your parenting and makes you feel like a shit mum. I understand you feel trapped, but I can promise you, if you see this through with no intention of pursuing a loving relationship with him, you’ll will only grow arms and legs for the reasons you can’t leave. There is never a right time. Financially there may be organisations that can help. You say you feel guilty, and obviously, I’m only getting one picture here… but it sounds to me like your husband gives you many reasons to leave and NOT feel guilty. I think in this case, aside from his initial enamour of you, he’s not given you much reason TO love him. Do you feel guilt because he took you under his wing at a time you felt vulnerable? If so – that time has passed and it sounds like you’ve definitely paid your ‘debt’ to him. I would first and foremost tell your husband how you feel, who knows he might make the decision for you! That way guilt can be evaded. I wish you every luck in finding the courage to do what is best for you and your children.

I’ve listed below a charity I found that can help you manage debt upon separation. StepChange.org along with this page on Citizens Advice both have some advice for people whom are in similar situations to yourself, I hope they are useful.

Love and luck, Steph xx

Send your questions or confessions to divamumsteph@hotmail.com and include ‘Dear Steph’ in the subject line. Can be 100% anonymous if requested. Otherwise first name and region will be shared.  

Dear Steph – My Mother hangs out with my violent ex.

Hi, 

Let’s get stuck in…before my husband I was in a relationship with a very violent cretin, who beat me up regularly. One time he ended up in jail for it, due to how bad it was…15yrs on and he still terrifies me…I have frozen on the rare occasions I have seen him..(he’s in jail more than out of it, he’s a burglar to feed his habit)

My Mum lives in part of the city where Travellers live…in a trailer…she has been having said ex round, long story short I’m feeing really betrayed.. AGAIN and let down by Mum AGAIN!

I’m now way too scared to pop round there in case he’s there and I certainly won’t be taking my children to see her!!!

I’m always getting  hurt one way or another by my mum  this letter is literally the tip pf the iceberg 

What do I do about it? X

Rebecca – UK

Dear Rebecca,

I am so sorry to hear that you suffered so much abuse from your ex. I know the long term psychological impact a volatile relationship can have and it sounds as though the abuse you suffered was well beyond the level I myself am familiar with. What’s as upsetting to hear, is that it doesn’t sound as though you’ve had much support from your mum in processing what you’ve endured. You’re not clear in your email on the nature of the relationship your mother has with your ex, but what is clear from is the impact her being in contact with him is having on you. To answer your question ‘what do I do about it?’ I think you need to ask yourself firstly what you want to do about it. If the goal is for your mum to step up and tell your ex to back the fuck off, consider her doing this and whether that would actually lessen the betrayal you feel, and if not, how you would rectify that in the long term. I believe that when it comes to our parents we have ideals that often don’t meet reality. You report you feel let down by your mum again, so this is not the first time she’s betrayed you. Is the reason you are unable to cut her off because of some inherent loyalty that she clearly isn’t capable of reciprocating? In your situation I would want to be having this conversation with my mum, imploring her to understand the impact her repeated betrayals have had on me. As is often the case in these circumstances though, we don’t get the response we anticipate. I understand you may love and want a relationship with your mum and if that’s the case you need to be calling her out on her behaviour. The issue here of course, is that she may not hear you, or offer you the apology and love you crave. Should this be the case my advice would be some trauma counselling, and possibly some radical acceptance work to help you accept an apology you may never receive. It’s a really heartbreaking situation to be in, we frequently base our lives around familial connections and accepting that in your case your mum isn’t able to participate in a reciprocal relationship must be soul crushing, it also might be necessary in order to move on with your life. As for your ex, there is no valid reason to see or speak to him again, I would continue to stay out of his way.

I’m including here some instagram pages you might find relatable and also the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website as this is the best place to start if you one day consider looking for an accredited therapist.

https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/

I wish you the best of luck.

Steph x

Send your questions or confessions to divamumsteph@hotmail.com and include ‘Dear Steph’ in the subject line. Can be 100% anonymous if requested. Otherwise first name and region will be shared.  

Dear Steph – My daughter was assaulted.

Can you advise how to communicate with my 15 year old daughter after sexual assault as we’re trying everything and failing, suicide attempts, self harm….She’s missing so much school she’s withdrawn but still wants to go out all the time with friends. We’ve got counselling through the police and school. Trying to just be there for her and show love and understanding but it’s affecting the whole family her younger sibling is self harming as she sees her doing it and thinks that’s how you handle things. I should have protected her but I’ve let her down.

Dad – East Anglia Uk

Dear Dad,

First and foremost I’d like to express my sincere apologies for what you and your family are going through right now. I can only imagine how traumatic this must be for each and every one of you. I’m really pleased to read your daughter has been referred for counselling, as someone specialist in this field will be paramount to her healing. With regards to her still wanting to go out with friends, I imagine it might come from a place of craving normality. Her friends will likely be carrying on as normal to some degree, where as you as her parents are understandably concerned and unable to ignore the enormity of what she’s been through. Many victims of sexual assault will feel misplaced shame in relation to the attack, and this can have an impact on familial relationships. I am not a mother of teens but I have been a female teenager who suffered with her mental health, during a time when sexually inappropriate behaviour was common place. My advice is purely based on me empathising with your daughter and not from experience or professionalism. I personally wouldn’t advise forcing her to talk, it may be simply that she isn’t ready yet, or hasn’t fully processed what happened to her. I do recommend that when she is ready, having frank and honest conversations about the assault. Acknowledging that it happened and was extremely traumatic for her, may be an important part of her healing. It sounds as though she is unsurprisingly experiencing extreme emotions around the incident. There is a particular type of therapy I have found really useful for emotional regulation. It’s called Dialectal Behavioural Therapy and is focused on coping with uncomfortable emotions and better managing the effects of them. It really helped me with intrusive thoughts and extreme anxiety and panic attacks. It could be worth asking your GP to refer your daughter or looking to see if there is anywhere that offers sessions in your area. I would also suggest that if you are ever concerned about your daughter taking her own life or attempting to, calling 999 or taking her to A&E. Many GP’s are proving, in my opinion, quite useless recently, so if you’re ever concerned for her mental health and aren’t getting support from them, hospital is the next place to try. I understand that might not be what any of you want, but my experience of being in hospital for my mental health actually turned out to be a really positive one. I believe it saved my life. Your daughter may need trauma counselling alongside DBT so still accept the offers from the police and school. Additionally I want to address what you’ve mentioned about feeling as though you’ve let her down and didn’t protect her. I have heard this being a really common thought process for loved ones of victims, but I need to stress that you are not responsible. You are clearly a loving and concerned father and everything you are feeling right now is valid. But you cannot take the blame for someone else’s actions. You didn’t cause this, you didn’t allow it to happen, and you are not in any way shape or form to blame. I think every parent on the planet wants to protect their children at all times but unfortunately it’s not possible for us to do so. Please if you take nothing else from this response, know this is NOT your fault. I hope that the police are providing you ALL with support, but if not please ask your doctor for help or talk to someone you trust. Lastly in relation to your younger child, I would recommend trying to access counselling for them too and having a chat with their school to see if they can offer some support. I’ve listed below support services that may be able to help you further. You may already be aware of some of them.

Young Victims provide support for both victims and families.

Young Minds could be well placed to support your younger child to process what’s going on in the family.

Give us a shout offer free and completely confidential text support to anyone struggling to cope. This may be useful for yourself and your daughter.

Rape Crisis England and Wales these guys have some useful resources for supporting a loved one.

Finally, I’d like to wish you and your family healing and hope. Please know you are not alone, you are not to blame and you are doing everything you possibly can to help your daughter. Being strong for our children isn’t easy and in these circumstances I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for you. I hope that with the right support your daughter and your family will be able to heal.

Take good care of yourself.

Steph x

Send your questions or confessions to divamumsteph@hotmail.com and include ‘Dear Steph’ in the subject line. Can be 100% anonymous if requested. Otherwise first name and region will be shared.  

Dear Steph – My Partner Slept With My Friend Before We Were Together.

I’ve been with my partner 4 years. We’re happy, we’ve got a child together and for the most part, things are great. I found out recently whilst on a night out, that not long before we got together he had slept with one of my friends. She’s a close friend. Neither of them have ever told me, or given the slightest inkling of a history together. I only found out because another friend of ours thought I knew and brought it up. When I asked my partner about it he admitted it straight away, no hesitation or awkwardness.

He acted as though it was no big deal because it only happened once before we were together.

The issue isn’t that they did it, it’s that neither of them thought it important enough to tell me about. My friend now has a partner too and they are expecting a child together so it’s not as though I’m worried about them hooking back up, it’s the fact they just never told me.

I haven’t yet confronted my friend, I don’t know whether I even should. What would you do? I feel really betrayed, but we weren’t together so do I even have a right to feel this way?

Sam. X

Sent from Samantha’s IPhone

Dear Sam,

Thanks for confiding in me. I’m sorry you had to find out this way from someone who wasn’t your partner or your friend in question. I have to be honest and agree with you that rightly or wrongly, I too would feel a bit betrayed. Some people may argue that it’s absolutely none of your business who your partner slept with before you were together and I’d be inclined to agree with them also, BUT I think given that it was with your friend, the decent thing would have been to tell you when she realised you and he were getting involved. Having said this, it doesn’t change anything. They slept together before you and your partner had gotten together, they aren’t still sleeping together. Your friend has a baby on the way and you have as you mentioned, a ‘great’ relationship. Do you want to rock the boat? Because the reality is, though you might feel as though you’re owed an explanation it’s likely there isn’t much of one to be given. It sounds to me as though they omitted to tell you because they didn’t want to upset you. I’m with you on the fact that your friend probably should of told you. Nobody wants to think of their bff having seen their partner’s genitals, or but again – it changes nothing. Your partner didn’t owe you any loyalty at the time as you weren’t together and I’m assuming from your description didn’t know each other well. Your friend probably didn’t want to hold you back or hinder your relationship once you had started dating. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to handle this. Though I do think it’s you who needs to think about what you’ll gain from having it out with your friend, and if finding out why they didn’t tell you would put your mind at ease and keep your relationships in tact, then go for it. But if it’s only going to leave you with more questions – how many times – did your friend like him – did her like her – etc etc then I would leave it in the past. Your partner told you the truth when you asked, you’re happy, your friend is happy with someone else. Sometimes we have to let shit go. Especially shit we can’t change. I hope you manage to make peace with it one way or another.

Much love,

Steph. 💞

Send your questions or confessions to divamumsteph@hotmail.com and include ‘Dear Steph’ in the subject line. Can be 100% anonymous if requested. Otherwise first name and region will be shared.