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

What does family mean to me?

It’s no secret that I was abandoned by the man who fathered me, whilst I was still a tiny mass of cells in the womb. When my mum gave birth at 28 weeks with me weighing just 2lb 10oz, she did it alone.

My father has at least 3 other children, two he had with a wife, and another one of me, born out of wedlock and cast aside as a mistake.

I never really respected (I say respected as opposed to understood, because I still don’t understand) the magnitude of what it must be like to be a single mother, until I became a mother myself. I became a mother with a solid partner, I’m becoming a mother of two with a husband. I have no idea what it’s like to parent solo, and hopefully I’ll never have to find out but I have nothing but admiration for my mum and the many other mothers that have no choice but to face the challenges parenting brings on their own as well as the ones who choose to.

We can be a bit of a dysfunctional family to be honest. In a conventional way. For whatever reason I’ve drifted from extended family over the years. I don’t have close relationships with my aunt and uncle, and very few of my cousins. My sister and I couldn’t be more different. There’s ten years between us and she had a different upbringing to that of my own, but we are close and I love her to bits. My mum and I are best friends but we do clash occasionally, when we do it’s a head on collision. That said I don’t know what I would do without her. We communicate with each other very well and have a mutual respect, as well as a deep and unconditional bond.

My husband is quite a quiet man, unless he’s had a drink (which isn’t often) when he becomes a bit of a clown. He doesn’t stress about lack of closeness to family or friends, where as I keep mine really close and feel absence like it’s abandonment. He is reserved with his feelings, but doesn’t worry about what other people think of us ever, where as I worry about everything. Not necessarily perception, but I worry about accuracy, I want people to know the real me, the truth, and I get frustrated when opinions are formed based on inaccuracies. Where as Shaun, my husband, doesn’t care – and it’s a quality in him that I envy.

It’s true that despite not having a large close knit family, I love family life. I love being a mum, I love being a wife, I love having my mum a constant in my life and can’t go a whole day without having texted her.

When I did meet my biological father, it didn’t bring me anything, not closure, not peace, nothing. I believe family are the people you can count on, the people that support you, know you and actively make an effort to be in your life and I don’t believe they have to share your DNA – he did none of those things, my dad, and therefore has no place in my life. I don’t hate him, because I don’t really know him, I just know he’s not the man he was supposed to be for me and I’m ok with that now.

My daughter is the backbone of our family, she brings everyone together and shares all of her personality with everyone she meets. She unites us when we’d sometimes struggle to find reasons to come together. She looks like her Daddy but she has my openness and lack of filter. She has my fire and sensitivity and her Daddy’s kindness, humour and carefree attitude. She is the perfect mix of both of us and I love her with such ferocity it scares me.

She has grandparents and stepgrandparents and she has never asked who my daddy is, (in fact it took me ages to convince her that her nanny is my mummy) but that day may one day arrive, when it does this is what I will tell her:

I will tell her and her brother (who’s not yet born) that families are a beautiful mass of complexity that never look the same, some people have two mummies or two daddy’s and some have only one of either. Some, like hers, have one of each. Some have siblings and some have none. Families are sometimes of different ethnicities and not all mummy’s grew their babies in their tummies.

I want her to know that family doesn’t have to mean inseparable, but it can if you want it to. Family doesn’t have to mean best friends, but it’s great when they are the best friends you’ve chosen.

It’s an ancient idea (IMO) that you must bond with someone who’s a blood relative, but it’s lovely to do so if you’re able. I don’t want her to feel forced to bond with someone just because she’s related to them, but I will encourage the bond if it’s what she wants. Family can be friends you’ve chosen, it can be in-laws, god’ and step parents, and it can look different for everyone.

Family to me simply means, the people you love. The people you want to show up for. The people you can rely on, but also the people you choose to support. Family means a mixed blend of give and take and respect and kindness. Family means traditions and memories. Friends and pets. I don’t like cutting people off, ever, not family or friends, but the older I get, the more I notice lack of effort. I don’t mean forgetting to wish someone a happy birthday, I mean not attempting to connect, and when I feel it, the less likely I am to put effort in in return. I’ve always been a person that organises people, I arrange gatherings, I’ve always hosted and I always encourage communication, because I’m a good communicator – but the older I get I realise you can’t force people to be in your life, so if they’re not, it’s likely because they don’t really want to be and as much as it stings sometimes, we have to let it go. Ciara has 8 godparents, approximately four of them interact with her. I have family that have never met her, and maybe never will. It’s not my job to force myself or my kids on people. If they want to be involved they will. If you want contact with someone you’ll request it, irrespective of being asked. Life is busy and time passes quickly even when it feels slow. To me it’s not about grand gestures, it’s just about showing an interest. Family are the people you laugh with, trust, spend time with because you want to, and they are the people that check in to see if you’re ok. They’re also the people you remember to check in on, because you want to know they’re ok. They are the people who fill our hearts with fun and love and are the shoulders we cry on. They are not always or only the people that created us or the people that are related to us.

My family, plus one in utero

To my friends (and family) who don’t have fibromyalgia.

Hey,

Thanks for being you, for listening, watching, reading and learning about my condition whilst riding this wave with me. I know it’s been years now. I know it ‘gets old’ boring even, to hear me talk about it ALL. THE. TIME. Part of me is sorry, though I’m not sure I’ll ever stop, because the thing is…. I’ll always have this condition now.

A few people have dropped off along the way, stopped asking, stopped listening, stopped sympathising, I’m learning to be ok with that. I have to be. Yes it hurts my feelings, even when I don’t tell you it does, and when I do.

It hurts my feelings when you ignore the honesty of my illness related posts, and only engage in the cute pictures of my kid. It hurts my feelings when you ask me how I am and I’m honest about how I’ve been feeling and you don’t reply. But, I do think about how hard it is to be around me sometimes, how difficult it can be to know what to say. With that in mind, I’m grateful if you’re still here, even when it might seem like I’m not grateful for anything.

You see, this illness makes me irritable, I get angry with my body, often. On some days, better days I might seem totally ‘normal’ I might even resemble ‘the old me’ but please know, that I am never not thinking about how this illness impacts my life. I am never not considering how activities like having fun with you today, might affect me tomorrow or days later, for days, sometimes weeks after the event.

I still want to do all of the fun things you suggest and sometimes I’m able to, but there will be days when I need to cancel last minute. There will be times when we are out together that you might roll your eyes because I can’t walk back up the hill we just descended, or I can’t come and dance with you when our song comes on. I’m rolling my eyes at me too. I’m annoyed at my body too. What I can promise you, I’m not doing though, is faking it. There is never a time that I want sympathy more than I want to have fun. Believe me when I tell you that, because it’s important you understand, this illness is real. It’s also interchangeable, it’s sporadic. It could be down to the last minute that I am living it up and having the best time then crashing in bed for days afterwards. This is partly why I’ve pulled back from making plans. Pulled back from committing to things. This is why I’ve not reached out to ask if you want to do anything for ages, because I fear that if I do, and then I become suddenly unable, that you will think I’m flakey. You might start to resent me, and drop off the radar with the rest of the people that couldn’t fix me.

I am not broken, not entirely, I’m just bent, learning to live again (almost a quote from a P!nk song there) Please know that I still want to be included in your plans and I still want to include you in mine. I just can’t assure you I’ll always be able to fulfil them. Just know, when I make them, it’s always with the best intentions. I’m trying, all the time, new ways to manage this condition. I’m always trying, to be better, to do better, to make better choices that will benefit me and ultimately our relationship in the long run, even when you might not think I am.

I wish I could go back in time and do more things with you before I got sick, but sadly time travelling isn’t a side effect of chronic illness. Though it’s hard for you to see me like this, though I’m hard to be around sometimes, I am a better, more compassionate and caring friend because of my illness. Of that, I am certain.

If in the past I’ve rolled my eyes at your struggles, I’m truly sorry. If I seem lacking or caught up in my own life, I’m sorry for that too, because I do care. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have all the solutions – but I still care. More compassionately and with more integrity than I’ve ever cared before.

If you’re still here – thank you and if you’re not, I understand. Letting go is something I’ve had to get used to, and it’s something I’m trying to do without resentment. We all have to look after ourselves and sometimes that includes making changes and protecting ourselves from negativity, including negative people, and whilst I do feel like I am a good and loyal friend, I’m fully aware I’m not always a positive one. Like life itself – It’s a work in progress. And I’m forever trying to be better than I was yesterday.

Love, me X

Married a year, plenty of tiers

Married a year, plenty of tears and even more tiers.

It’s whole year since I wrote about getting married. One whole year since I woke up in a suite bigger than my house, in my favourite city next to the man I now call my husband.

So how’s it going? Marriage. What does it really mean? In all honestly I’m not sure I even know. It’s not what I expected, but I’m not sure what I did expect. Ok I know I’m going round the houses here, but I honestly feel a bit flat.

I love having the same name as my family, I love my husband and I loved our wedding but as far as actual marriage goes it’s been pretty unremarkable.

There was of course the initial wedding hangover, those really do suck. Wedding blues are real. All that planning, and all that pressure for one or in our case two, days.

There’s also the reality that people let you down with weddings. I came away from our wedding party after all the preparation wondering why people behaved the way they did, or why they didn’t bother showing up at all on what was essentially the biggest day of our lives. Of course some people have genuine reasons and I’m a renowned plan canceller myself, so I don’t hold grudges, but it’s definitely one of those things that whittles out the people who aren’t on you’re team, and in hindsight that’s ok. It just took a while to get to grips with.

Then you have the politics of merging families and friendships. You might have gotten away with avoiding most of the people you don’t like up till that point, but a wedding brings everyone together. It’s one of the reasons we got married on our own, so it could just be about us without having to worry about offending someone, people seem to get really offended about weddings that aren’t their own!

There has been no honeymoon period (or honeymoon) because Covid literally started for us as soon as we got back from Ireland. Shaun thinks he had it upon our return, he was in bed for two weeks with a fever and he couldn’t breathe, at the time he was diagnosed with a chest infection, he’s asthmatic so that’s not unusual in winter, but it didn’t respond to antibiotics and he lost his sense of taste for months after. Then after our wedding party in the uk we literally went into lockdown weeks later.

On the plus side, I know we were unbelievably lucky to get married in 2020 at all! With so many having their big days cancelled, and for that I am so grateful. We really did have the best wedding day ever and on a reasonably acceptable budget too.

There was a time, not too long ago where I didn’t foresee a wedding in my future. Yet at the age of thirty one I married my best friend and our dreams and plans of honeymoons and married life went kaput with the rest of the world, and whilst our celebration feels all too soon forgotten, we have memories to last a lifetime.

According to statistics printed in Bride magazine the first year is the hardest and I’m only a year in, but I’m inclined to agree. Apparently this is down to the stresses of modern living, the come down from the wedding and combining finances. But Shaun & I have lived together for six years so I’m not sure all of those are applicable to us. Maybe it is just the effects of covid, or maybe it’s that relationships are hard, and after the whirlwind of weddings and babies comes the real work! Like the realisation you have to put up with snoring for the rest of your lives, or that picking up dog shit in the garden is a way to earn brownie points.

In recent instagram polls I asked the following questions.

1. Is the first year the hardest? 24% voted yes whilst the other 76% voted no.

2. Marriage feels no different from before? 81% voted that this statement is true, marriage feels no different to before.

3. Wedding comedowns are the worst. 85% voted for yes, and 15% voted no, not sure of its relevance but most of the people that voted no, were male.

4. Has lockdown negatively impacted your marriage? Surprisingly for a long while the vote was overwhelmingly, no. But eventually finished on 42% voting yes, lockdown has in some way negatively impacted their marriage.

When I asked that final question, I had an influx of messages about how people were finding their spouse’s overwhelmingly irritating, but they by no means were filing for divorce. I think this is what resonated with me. This last year Shaun and I have probably argued more, spent less quality time together and just generally pissed each other off more than ever before. However we’ve also been there for each other and so despite feeling like I want to kick him in the dick, I’m still very much grateful that I have him to lean on. I definitely don’t regret getting married.

Usually we’d spend our anniversary weekend, which is also my husband’s birthday, in Ireland. But with Lockdown that’s not possible. Instead I’ve been frantically Pinteresting date nights at home and first anniversary present ideas. When all I really feel like doing is hiding under the covers covering up that 2020 Xmas and New Year bulge. I’m also pregnant now so there won’t even be any champagne or Guinness!

Despite all of this, I know with a full heart we are lucky to have each other and the fact we’ve survived this year at all is a blessing, the fact we survived it together was dedication.