My ex-best friend makes my life a misery

My ex-best friend is making my life a misery. I suffer paranoia because of him, and also stress. We fell out in April this year, and after that, he’ s been speaking about me behind my back, calling me names etc. And yet- sometimes he’ s my friend & we’ ll hang about with each other. It’ s hard for me to stop speaking with him- he’ s in all my classes in school! If he wasn’ t in my classes, I think I’ d be able to cope better.. We all have bebos, and on our bebo friends we put the best ones first- I used to be 3rd, then next day I was 19th! I’ m confused, and I worry about going to school incase he will talk about me again. It’ s hard aswell- in most classes I sit next to him because he’ s after me on the class register… And, if we’ re in groups, he’ ll sit with someone else and speak about me right in front of me, and I sit there feeling small & upset. I’ ve nearly been in fights with him, but they’ ve never went on.. Sometimes I don’ t know wether he’ s joking or not.. What can I do? I don’ t want to let my Guidence Teacher know incase she tells him my name, or even if she doesn’ t he’ ll probably guess. I’ ve considered getting my class moved, but I have some close friends in the current class I am in. My friends are also his friends.. It’ s a really bad position & I hate being in it. I don’ t know what to do, and I hate being in his class

Do you know what is the real job of being a teenager? Oh yes – you do have a job. And it’s not really to go to school and learn lots or pass exams. The real job of being a teenager is to learn how to be an adult. You’re an apprentice grown up, in fact. Which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy and inhabit what you are at present – but you do need to see is a way and a time to acquire skills. One of the many skills you’re busy picking up is how to get on with people.

Relationships are tricky things. To manage them, you have to understand yourself – what drives you, what you need, how you feel and express yourself. And to manage them well, you have to widen that to understanding other people – what drives them, what they need, how they feel and express themselves.

Adults who have come through their teenage years being treated with respect and acceptance by their parents and the adults around them tend to be kind, caring, sympathetic and generous. They take care not to be hurtful and to be consistent, upfront and honest.

But to get there, sometimes young people go through phases when they fool about with other people’s feelings. They play emotional games, they are contradictory, they can be cruel. Instead of being able to say “If that was done to me it would hurt and I wouldn’t like it so I’m not going to do it to anyone else” they may seek the power trip of seeing just how much they could make another person jump or squirm.

Sometimes people do this because they have been so emotionally battered by someone else that they think it would make them feel better if they could get the upper hand and dish it out instead of having got take it. mostly, they do it because they simply don’t realise how much it hurts.

But what can you do? I would suggest three tactics.

Firstly, is to realise it’s not personal. I bet he does it to lots of people, too – what about the other people on that bebo list; numbers 2 to 18, and 19 and under? You get hurt because you take it to heart. Look around; if you could shrug it of maybe you’d realise he’s not picking you out but just being the same to you as he is to many people. Friendships do fluctuate – one day you’re in somebody’s good books, the next you’re in others. Don’t take it so seriously and you won’t get hurt.

Secondly, why not pick a moment when you and he are on speaking terms and alone, and gently say “You know, when you talk about me in front of other people it really hurts my feelings. I’d like you to talk to me not about me”. He really may not realise how much it hurts, and be sorry if he did.

Thirdly, if you have a Guidance Teacher for heaven’s sake use her. It isn’t her job to leap in and haul him out of class and humiliate both of you! That wouldn’t work anyway so why would she do it? He job is to sit down with you and listen to what is worrying you and to talk through with you what you would like done about it. Just talking it out can help. But you and she may also be able to identify ways that she could gently change the situation. Give her a chance!

And fourthly – do talk with your parents about this. Not for them to go into the school to do anything, unless the situation begins to get out of hand and moves towards bullying. What they should do is support and bolster your self confidence and self esteem so you can deal with this yourself.

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My mum is so needy

Dear Suzie, The relationship between me & my husband and my parents is like walking on eggshells. The reasons for this are my mother is a very needy person, she has to speak to me every day to’ make sure that we’re well and everything’s ok and to’ catch up’ on any news. She will ring at the same time every day – the minute she gets in from work and talk on an on about what we’re doing, where we’re going and how so and so is. If I’m not available, she keeps ringing and ringing all evening. She won’t make one call and leave a message, it’s like a demand that I pick up the phone when she wants. It makes me think something is wrong when I see all the missed calls to my mobile and landline.

She also has to’ arrange’ visits every week like appointments and we all sit there without much to say because we’ve spoken to her all week. I have a much more easy going relationship with my Dad who suffers with MS and is a much more chilled out person. He sees that we need space as a married couple and without neglecting us, he is happy to chat a couple of times a week, and I call in a couple of times a week to see them. They know should there be an emergency, we only live a few miles away and they can call day or night. He trys to talk to my mother about her pestering us but she ignores him and makes calls upstairs so that he cannot hear her. She make the same calls to my brother and his Fiancee too and they get stressed over it.

My husband is now becoming resentful as we run our own busy company and when we get home we are on edge waiting for the phone to ring and get no peace even to enjoy our evening meal. My husband is someone who cannot hide his feelings and is quiet and appears ignorant when they visit. My mum would do anything for us but with this issue she thinks it’s right for a family to be really close and insists she is doing no wrong. She turns it around and makes out everyone is against her if I try to talk about it. How can I keep everyone happy. I’m really happy that I’m 8 weeks pregnant right now but depressed about what the future holds. I havn’t told my parents yet in case my Mum steps up her tirade of’ checking if we’re ok calls. How can I keep everyone happy?

You can’t and it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to make someone change their behaviour. You’re not going to be able to force her to address her neediness or how unreasonable is her behaviour. You are, however, going to be able to turn is situation around but it’s by your doing some work.

The first thing to do is get your own head around this, and set your own tactics. You, your husband and your brother and fiancée need to recognise that you have every right to life of your own, and that you are going to work together to get it. Get your brother and his fiancée in and have a talk with them so all of you can get on the same side and apply exactly the same tactics. At present she gets her own way because all of you collude; you give in. And i suspect that something your brother and you have been doing all your life, so it’s going to take some discussion and thought to realise you don’t have to go on doing it. Stop letting her set the pace, and change will come. But it’s your changes that are key.

The way for all of you to do it is to be firm but loving, and not to tell her what she is doing but how it makes you feel. If you say you don’t like her being in touch so much, she will argue it isn’t really so much and all families do it…and you’re stuck in a futile argument. But if you tell her you love her but the situation at present is really upsetting you, you may get somewhere. Tell her you recognise she may need so much contact but however much you love her, you have your own families – yourselves and your partners – to think of first. Tell her – and don’t save her feelings – that however much you love her, her calls and visits make you stressed and unhappy, angry and resentful. And then set out the new rules.

Tell her you’ll talk to her a couple of times a week, and call in a couple of times too. And that will be that. Put a bright spin on it – point out this way, you’ll be glad to see them and have lots to talk about. Tell her that from now on you don’t want her to ring otherwise or call round unless it’s an emergency. And point out that if she keeps on calling when it’s not welcome, she puts emergency calls at risk because from now on you’ll be screening calls.

Now – the hard part! When she next calls out of turn, pick up the phone, ask if it’s an emergency and when she can’t say yes, simply say “Fine Mum – I’ll be in touch.” And put down the phone. If she rings again, ignore it. Ignored calls are only stressful when you feel you have to answer in case there is a problem. When you know there is not, you can turn your back. If she really does go on calling, pick up the phone, firmly say “I’m not speaking now Mum – bye.” and put it down.

And keep it up. It will take some days if not weeks for her to realise you really mean it. She’ll go on pushing, like a fractious child whining for treats. The mistake so many parents make in that situation is to think the few minutes peace you get if you give in is worth it. It isn’t because the child knows they’ve got you trained – every time they want sweets they just need to squall. Same thing; your mother knows from past experience all she has to do is keep up the pressure and you’ll give her what she wants. SO STOP DOING IT.

Very important!!! Do NOT make excuses or give reasons other than that you aren’t going to talk. If you say you’re busy or whatever, she’ll think she can go on ringing until you are free. The point you’re getting across is that you love her but are not at her back and call…and that’s that.

Think of it as practise for when you are a mother. Sometimes, we have to draw boundaries and keep to them, however hard it feels and however much the child (or parent!) objects. And that sometimes, we can’t keep everyone happy. In the long run, your Mum will be better off if she learns now to modify her behaviour. Because if she doesn’t I can see a time in the future when your husband says “It’s her or me” or when you simply blow up and tell her you’re fed up of it. A bit of patience and focus now could save a lot of heart ache in the future.

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My Dad cheats

Dear Suzie, i have recently found out that my dad cheated on my mum when i was little. they dont know that i know. they seemed happy together until recently then i found out that my dad has cheated again but this time with my sisier in law! he also admitted fancying my neighbour. also my other sister in law has cheated on my brother! i really really love my dad to bits and dont really get on well with mum. i just dont no weather to tell her about him cheating because i am scared of them spliting up and i dont want to upset my dad cos he has never donea thing rong to me and i care bout him loads. i am also scared my mum will flip and wont believe me. i need help as ia m worrying about it and making myself ill.

You say your Dad has never done anything wrong to you. Depends what you mean by wrong, I suppose. I mean, look at yourself and your family. You’re worrying enough to make yourself ill. Both brothers have chosen to marry someone who cheats on them, one with her own father in law. Your father is prepared to cheat on his own son. And you don’t get on well with your own mother. That sounds to me like a pretty unhappy family, and when families are unhappy it’s the parents who are ultimately responsible.

Your father is cheating and it makes you miserable – you’re carrying secrets that no young person should have to keep. Your relationship with your mother has been compromised. That may be because she’s miserable with the man she should love and be loved by and she’s angry to see you blindly worshipping him. And what about your brothers? I suspect what influenced them to go into their marriages are their experiences with your parents, particularly their father – not very happy ones, by the sound of it.

So what can you do? It’s not your responsibility to repair your parents relationship or to look after them – they should be doing the repair and the caring. No, I don’t think you should tell your Mum about his cheating. I think you should tell him.

In your position I would tell him what a lousy example he’s giving, how miserable it’s making you, how sad it probably made your brothers and how awful it clearly makes your mother feel, and how destructive the whole thing is to the family and each individual in it; him included. I’d say it’s not for me to know the whys and wherefores of why he does it but that as his daughter I ‘d like to think it was about time he grew up and acted like a parent and an adult in getting his act together.

You love him because he’s your Dad, and I can understand that. But I think you need to recognise how truly appalling is his behaviour, so you don’t find yourself excusing what he does or following his example. You can love a person while recognising what they do is simply not acceptable.

I think you and your Mum could do with some support, to bring you together and to help you make sense of all this. Do you have a relative – and aunt or a grandmother – you can talk with? A teacher you trust? Does you school have a counsellor or member of staff there for pupils who have issues – most do, nowadays. Please – talk to someone about your feelings and get some help for yourself.

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I hate my brother

Dear Suzie, I hate my brother so much that i constantly get the urge to beat him up to the extent where he needs to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Im a 21 year old girl, and my brother is 28. He’ s living with me and my mum illegally. If the council found out, my mum would get in trouble, and would likely get a huge fine for not declaring him as a tenant. He doesn’t pay her any rent. Instead he just goes down the pub everyday and drinks 20 pints!! He comes home, with some friends, gets abusive towards me, then snorts cocaine. He leaves empty beer cans and crisp packets lying around on the floor. And late at night when i go to bed, he’ ll stay up watching tv, and all i can hear is him laughing really loud. When i was little, he used to beat me up. My mum would leave him looking after me, and to make me go to bed, he’ d drag me into my room, and smash my head against the metal headboard on my bed. I’ve tried talking to my mum. She doesn’t believe me when i told her about how he used to hit me. And when i complain about his current behaviour, she does nothing. She thinks he’ s an angel. If you have seen Harry Enfield’ s character, Wayne Slob, well, that is exactly like him!! Please help before i end up really losing my temper with him!

If you want this situation to change, they first thing you have to do is imagine and picture what you’d like to be different.

Would you like your Mum to come to her senses, to realise what a bad lot her son is and how much he hurt you in the past and does now and throw him out?

Would you like your Mum to gain the strength and resolve to lay down boundaries for her son, as she clearly never has in the past, and say if he shares your home he must get a job, pay rent, stop drinking and be nice to you?

Would you like your brother to suddenly see the light and realise that he’s wasting his life and poisoning his family, and to mend his ways?

Would you like the past to be changed so that your brother, your elder by 7 years, was a loving, loyal sibling who played nicely with you then and is supportive now?

Maybe you wish your Dad had been and was now around – a father who could give his son a good example, show him how to behave decently and lay down ground rules for kind behaviour.

Well – the first and second are possibilities, the third unlikely and fourth and fifth are complete fantasy, aren’t they? And the point about the first, second and third is that you can’t make them happen, and neither can I. The only people who can do those things are your Mum and brother. You could tell them how sad you are that your family is such a hard place to be and ask them whether they’d like to be different. It would be up to them if they wanted to act in other ways.

What you can do is make your own changes. You’re 21. Why are you still living at home in such horrible conditions? No job so you can’t get a place of your own? So go down to the JobCentre and ask about a job. No qualifications? So ask about training. Let this be your incentive to get out and away and to better yourself. You deserve better, so go find it. They do say the best revenge is living well.

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My lover walked out on me

Dear Suzie,

I am a 42-year old male, currently reaching (hopefully successfully!) the end of chemotherapy for lymphoma. I was with my partner for 6 years. We are about the same age and had a lot in common. About 1 year ago he walked out – not in an aggressive way, but to go home to Spain to try to pursue a career. I was initially too much in shock to point out that it was a bit more complicated than just leaving like that…. we had a mortgage together, in his name, and I had moved to a small town (at his choice) and when my mother died, moved my father (86 and wonderful) to live very near us (I bought a flat for him with a mortgage). Shortly after he left I realised I couldn’t cope financially, so I applied for the only well-paid job I could find. Alas, this was in France…. I got the job and started basically commuting once a month back to England to see my Dad. I started to get really angry with my ex-partner as I couldn’t get any real dialogue going but he kept in touch with me – while refusing to accept that I was still supporting him financially. At the end of the year, we finally got the financial things sorted – but at a huge cost to me. And I started trying to be friendly, nothing else – to keep the door open I guess. Then I got sick. He made a lot of noise about being supportive, coming to England a few times to see me. Now, I would like his help and support in dismantling our life here. Selling our furniture, deciding what to do with the house, getting rid of the car, cancelling his bank accounts etc etc or to be discussing a future together if that is what he wants….. nothing in the middle.

He offered to come for two weeks but this has already been compromised by a decision by him to go to Pamplona (his home town) to see the running of the bulls; I feel a bit hurt by this – and to be honest, angry. If he had cancer, and had done as much for me as I have for him – running with the bulls would be the last thing on my mind. Perhaps I am being unreasonable? I don ‘t think I was always easy to live with – but on the other hand I did have the lion ‘s share of the responsibility in our relationship. And now, if he wants to be “supportive ” I would like him to put me first.

I am torn about whether to try to discuss this with him, politely say I don ‘t need him to come to England (I probably can manage all the things alone after all) or ignore this aspect of his personality and just enjoy his visit – but not see it as anything else.

Many thanks

No, you’re not being unreasonable. If the two of you had a relationship – even a friendship – the very last thing he would do is go off fannying about with bulls. This man is a coward and a cheat. I’m sorry to say it that baldly, but I do think it’s true. The only honest thing he did was end your relationship by walking out. But he hasn’t had the courage of his convictions to end it cleanly and properly, with respect for you and dignity for himself.

Why be polite? He’s the one who has let you down. It’s possible that the reason he has behaved so appallingly is from fear and love. Some people cannot deal with illness – especially cancer and especially in someone they care for. Such people run away rather than have to face up to their anxieties. But that’s his problem, not yours. If he can’t grow up and act like a decent human being I see no reason why you should continue to excuse him, carry him and put up with him and his cavalier behaviour. What would be enjoyable about his visit? He’s using and abusing you and having to bite your lip would make it truly awful. Tell him to go run with the bulls, and tie up the loose ends and finish off this no-hoper of a non-relationship yourself. If you have friends who can support you, ask them to be there for you – he certainly won’t be. Then, you look around for a better, kinder, more caring partner – there are plenty out there, trust me.

I’m so glad your illness has been succesfully treated, BTW. I wish you good health – and a better love life in the future!

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My in-laws only involve my eldest

Dear Suzie, I have a dilemma which involves my in-laws and don’t know what to do next. I have 2 sons, ages 5 1/2 and 2. I understand that siblings need time and space alone as well as together, however, my in-laws seem to organise trips/visits which only involve my eldest son. Last time, the little one was really upset as they were leaving with his brother. They’ve now bought all the equipment for a camping trip and have told my eldest that he’s going without his brother on the 1st trip, telling me that it’s because the youngest is still in a cot. (He’s just now moved into a bed) My husband,(who’s an only child) seems to think I’m over-sensitive and that it’s not a problem. I feel they’re making excuses and that they’re almost trying to relive the times they had with my husband as a child. My parents organise visits which involve both boys, as they enjoy spending time with them equally. Please help me resolve this. Many thanks.

I can see how upsetting you find this. And why your husband may not! As you say, as an only child he probably identifies with your eldest child – who, after all, was ‘an only’ for 3½ years. I wonder if your experiences as a child make you sensitive to sibling rivalry – something that’s simply off his radar.

Before you look at what your in-laws are doing, it may be useful for you and your husband to sit down and have an in-depth chat about what this situation is throwing up for both of you and why, and come to some sort of agreement on how you want to proceed. Once you both understand where each of you are coming from you can agree to disagree on some aspects while standing side by side on others.

You’re seeing the situation from your younger child’s point of view, and for a small child being left out of a sibling’s good fortune is a total, crushing tragedy. But it isn’t, really. It’s a hard lesson for young ones to learn – and one they should learn sometime – that sometimes they can’t have what another sibling has, whether that’s in treats and trips or actual presents. Just because a child is upset is not always a reason to change things; it may be a good opportunity for you to talk over with them what is and is not age appropriate, what is and is not their turn.

Let’s then consider it from your in-laws point of view. They may be being entirely truthful about their reasons for concentrating on the eldest for now. After all, there is a gap between what a 2 year old and a 5½ can manage. Your in laws might be being insensitive in rushing into trying out camping with their grandson as soon as the eldest can manage it rather than waiting a few short years until both could do it – but I can see that a camping trip may be fine for a 5 year old and not for a 2 year old. And perhaps they do want to get on and share fun that fits an older child while your parents are content to go at the pace of the youngest; your older son may not be as keen on that as you and your parents are!

But you may have hit the nail on the head about their reasons for concentring on your eldest. There are often also great disparities between what different adults can manage. Your in-laws have had experience of being with a single child – and only children are often far more adult than their years. They had him as a small one for 2 or 3 years – you have more than 5 years experience now of dealing with little ones. It could be that they actually feel overwhelmed and inadequate at looking after a very young child, unlike your own parents who may have more competence and confidence.

I think you could sit down and talk with your in-laws. But do it in the spirit of sharing impressions rather than as an attack or a complaint. If they can reflect and discuss what it is about seeing one of your sons and not both ‘fits’ with them, perhaps they can manage to change. Say your younger son would like to have some time with them too but say you can understand if, at present, they don’t feel confident with both children. Ask if there is anything you can do to help. It really isn’t uncommon for grandparents to suddenly come into their own when kids get to whatever age they feel most comfortable dealing with.

In the end, you can’t make people do what they don’t want to do. If his parents can’t cope and your husband can’t help them see they should, your only recourse is to make sure your younger son has something that makes up for the loss. It’s their loss, in the end.

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My mother won’t accept I’m gay

Dear Suzie, I am 16 and i have recently come out to my mum that i am gay, and have a boyfriend, which hasn’t gone down well at all. The 1st person i told was my best mate, and she was cool with it, so i told more and more people resulting in my whole school year knowing, and no one has bullied me, broke me down or anything. i havent lost friends, in fact, i have been reunited with some friends that i havent spoken to in years. to them i am not their gay friend, i am just the same person to them. which is great! I came out because of my boyfriend – he didnt force me into it, it was my choice, but i did it because i love him and know he would support me no matter what. But then i told my mum and she has really broken me down saying that it will ruin the family and i should try the “normal” life before living on such a hard route. she keeps saying “what has she done wrong?” and “why do you have to waste your life?” and currently i dont know what to do. The other day really hit me hard. she threatened to leave, but the only reason she is staying is for my younger brother (of 14) but she doesnt want me “infecting” him with my “evil” ways. she says i need help to get my head straight. it broke my heart. and to top that off she said that i had a choice – lead the life i am living and live hard and have the posibility of losing my family OR dump my boyfriend, become straight – therefore who i am not, try it out with a girl, she also says i am never allowed to see him as a mate either so basically lose someone i love so much AND my best friend. and i cant do that. Now my boyfriend, he is 19, which in some people’s eyes is wrong, but i dont know what to think. my mum says that because he is that age, all he wants from me is sex, sex, sex, but i barely see him as he goes to uni some miles away and we have been going out since valentines day. we havent had sex yet and we have only talked about it a few times but not a main subject. he is the kindest, sweetest, most conciderate, caring person i know and my mum wants me to lose that. i went through a time where i wanted to run away, but he told me i cant because of my education which is so important and i need to do well. he wanted me to do that, giving up to be with me. i dont think that is the mind of a sexoholic, do you? I’m scared i am going to have a breakdown as i cant do anything right. please help me. i don’t know what to do.

I’m so pleased for you that your lovely friends know what’s what; that gender orientation is no more important than the colour of your eyes or the shape of your nose. You’re the same person whether you happen to be attracted to your sex, the opposite sex, blonds, brunettes, or redheads.

And I’m really, really sad your Mum – the very person you should expect to give you unconditional love – has allowed bigotry and prejudice to have poisoned her attitude. You’ve done exactly the right thing – been honest and upfront with her, and behaved , as has your friend, in a thoroughly ethical manner. Such a pity she has not.

But she has. And what you need to recognise is that that’s her problem, not yours. I know she is your Mum, and you’d like and expect to respect and trust what she says. You’d like to think she’s grown up enough to say “Hey – I don’t know about being gay and it frightens me. But you’re my son so since I love you whatever, I’ll just have to put my reservations aside.” But she isn’t and she can’t, so you’re going to have to be grown up for both of you.

I have to say that the very people who are most anti-gay tend to be those who have struggled with their own sexuality – and that’s a fact that has been shown in research. Perhaps your mother herself had longings for a friend when she was young, and since she has swallowed hook, line and sinker the myth that homosexuality is evil she reacts with such guilt, fear and anger to it.

So let me just settle a few things. You’re gay because you are. You’re gay for the same reason that one person is has blues eyes and another has brown. It’s not a choice or a lifestyle but a fact of life. She didn’t make you gay by doing anything just as you don’t become gay by deciding to. And you can’t ‘become straight’ – do you think you can change the colour of your eyes by wishing it? No, of course not. Well – it’s equally not on the cards for you to alter your sexuality.

And being gay is only a hard route when people are homophobic; if she doesn’t want you to have a hard time she should start by being kind, accepting and loving and setting other people a good example. As you’ve found, more and more people, especially people your age, are totally cool about it now. It’s just not an issue. Most people know homosexuality is ‘natural’ in that it appears in other species at the same rate as it does in human beings. You can’t turn your brother gay from proximity any more than you can be turned straight by living with him. But…it is worth noting that your are slightly more likely to be gay if you have a gay sibling.

Don’t dump your boyfriend, please. He sounds delightful – the ideal person to be anyone’s first love. Kind, considerate, caring – what’s not to love? You’re 16; over the age of consent for sex, whether straight or gay. You have the law on your side.

If your Mum really would throw you out to stop what sounds like a thoroughly supportive and encouraging relationship then I strongly suggest you speak with an adult you can trust to explore other arrangements until you can go it alone in further education. Could you live with another relative or maybe one of the families of your lovely friends, until either your Mum comes round or you can get a grant to go to college? If you can’t think of a relative or friend’s parent, speak with a teacher and make it clear this is about homophobic bullying by your mother. Your school wouldn’t want you to drop out and may be able to help and advise you to another solution.

I would like to think that when she has to face up to the misery she is causing her son she may be able to change her behaviour. I think she’s confused and worried, which is an explanation of what she’s said and done but not an excuse. She’s the one who needs help, and it is out there if she’d ask for it. If she would get in touch with other parents in the same situation, coming to terms with their kids coming out, maybe she could change – ask her to contact Families And Friends Of Lesbians and Gays. And Gays Lesbian and Gay Foundation can offer information and advice and a sympathetic, listening ear to you. I do so wish you the best of luck!

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My 13 year old is ruining it!

I have one daughter who is 13 years old. Her father left us both when she was 6 months old and we were on our own together for some time until my fiancé came along two years ago. She’s a wonderful girl – I love her so much – and it was wonderful to see how well the two of have them have got on. Everything was wonderful until two months ago when we told her we were expecting a baby of our own. Since then, she refuses to talk to us, she shouts and slams doors. We’ve tried to tell her it won’t make any difference in her life or between us – we’ll still be the same. And that she’ll love the baby when it arrives. But any mention of the baby and she bursts into tears. I’ve got to the point where I could slap her, she’s being so unlike my lovely daughter and such a pain. She’s ruining what should be one of the happiest times of our lives. What can we do?

I can understand how worrying and upsetting this situation must feel. As you say, this ‘should’ be such a happy time for you. It must feel as if your daughter is being so unreasonable and so unfair to be acting this way.

There are two tricks to finding a solution when people begin to act apparently unreasonably. One is to put yourself in their shoes. The other is to see it as a situation you need to solve without putting labels or judgements on what people are doing. You and your partner are so happy that you’re irritated with your daughter being like this – you could ‘slap her’. You’re – understandably – seeing this as a situation in which she is being unreasonable or unfair or selfish. Labeling her like that doesn’t help. So let’s see what you could do to deal with her feelings about what is going on.

Firstly; step into her shoes – see it from her point of view. The fact is that emotions are something you have absolutely no control over. You can control what you do about them but you can’t control having them. And as far as your daughter is concerned, something really painful and awful has happened. For 13 years, she’s been the centre of her Mum’s life. She’s been the princess – the only princess. She seems to have made one very big and grown up step in being able to let your fiancé into her life as well as yours – she needs to be commended for that. But how do you think it must have felt to be told that the two of you are now having your own baby?

Let me tell you what I’d expect ANY child, no matter what age, to feel. Unwanted; second-best; hurt.

And let me add what ANY child who has grown up as an only-child – a child who has naturally developed a specially close relationship with their mother – would feel. Abandoned ; rejected; cheated.

Of course she’s upset. She’s scared, she feels she’s no longer important, she feels someone has crept in and swiped her Mum and even her stepdad away from her. She’s furious! There are absolutely no upsides to this situation, as far as she can see.
Now – you’ve been doing what feels right and natural to make amends. You’ve been telling her she’ll love the baby, her life will stay the same, you’ll carry on as usually with her. but of course she rejects this, because it’s not true. And she knows it.

Realistically, she won’t love the baby when it comes. She’s far too angry and hurt to do anything of the sort. This baby is taking her place – what’s to love? So she goes off in a huff because she feels to even suggest this means you simply aren’t listening to her or understanding her.

And of course her life won’t stay the same. How can it? From sharing a house with her Mum and the man she has accepted as her Dad, who both pay attention to her, she’s going to have to share with an extra person who will take up ALL the available attention from everyone – her Mum, her stepdad and anyone who visits – for some time.

And of course you won’t carry on with her as usual. How can you? You’re going to be caring for a helpless babe which will demand all your concentration and love. Why should your daughter believe you when she knows it’s not true?

So – what’s going to work? Don’t despair, because you can certainly make big changes and win her round. But you’re all going to have to be clever and skilled about it.

First up, acknowledge what she’s feeling. Say “I can see you’re angry about the baby. You feel it means you’ll miss out. You’re scared it means we won’t love you anymore or have any time for you anymore.”

You and your fiancé will have to help her face up to her anger, her pain and her feelings of loss. You have to accept she has them and that she has a right to them, for them to become manageable. Denying or ignoring what she feels WON’T make those feelings go away. Accepting and acknowledging negative feelings doesn’t make them stronger. On the contrary, talking them over and recognising they are there allows people to handle them and move on.

Above all, recognise that she isn’t ‘ruining’ anything. In a way, you may as well say you’re the one who is causing the upset – you’re the one who is pregnant! I’m not saying you’ve done the wrong thing – of course you haven’t. But you all need to recognise the genuine and understandable confusion, loss and pain your daughter is feeling and that there’s nothing wrong in her feeling this way. What you want to do is help her manage what she does about such feelings.

You do that by making real efforts – all of you – to give her what she needs; love, attention and respect. And to ask her what she might find the best way to work around the situation. She needs and deserves some special time with all of you, even when the baby has arrived – time with you, on her own, time with her stepdad and time with the two of you as a family of three, maybe while granny or a friend looks after baby. When she can trust the fact that she is still loved and hasn’t been consigned to the scrap heap as ‘no longer needed now we’ve got a better one’ then she will grow to accept and appreciate and maybe even love her new sibling.

Quite a bit of work for you to cope with, I know! I do know it feels daunting and hard…but you can do it.

It will take some time and effort and if you or your partner would like someone chat to, I highly recommend Parentlineplus. Their helpline on 0808 800 2222 is open 24/7, staffed by people who understand and sympathise, and so are their message boards and email support.

Best of luck!

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He wants to holiday with the lads

Dear Suzie, I have been dating my boyfriend for just over ten months and things are going well. The only problem is that he is the only one with a girlfriend while all of his mates are single. I ‘m 26 he ‘s 24. When I am around his friends constantly talk about strip bars they have been to girls they have pulled etc etc. I feel a bit uncomfortable wiht this. I trust my boyfriend but feel a bit less trusting when he is out with these particular friends. I haven ‘t ever really been out with a ‘lad ‘ before. I am his first serious girlfriend and he says he is happy with me and done all these lads things in the past. I can ‘t help feeling a bit uncomfortable though. I can ‘t really imagine him say ‘no thanks lads not the strip bar again ‘. I understand guys go to those places but these guys go quite a lot and I am not really happy about it. He ‘s justed booked a holiday to Ibiza with these guys and I felt sick when I heard. I have heard thier going away stories before and I doubt this trip will be any different. I have asked my boyfriend in the past if he wanted to be single to go ahead and he says he doesn ‘t so how do I get it into my head that it will be OK. I hate repeating myself to him but I really don; t feel that great about him going. I want him to go to Ibiza for the fun it is (as I have been before) but it; s just the influence of these friends that scare me! Help!

I’m a great believer in couples having their own time and their own friends. It’s important for both of you to be able to go out with mates, and to have those mates. Having such a social network gives you valuable backup and support, and means both of you retain your individuality.

BUT – and there’s a big but! – while you should never drop friends when a relationship gets serious, neither should those friendships take precedence. The whole point of having a partner is that they come first. They whole point of being grown up enough to have a relationship is that you move on from making a group of friends, and the things you did together, your main focus, to being one half of a partnership.

I’m not surprised you’re worried and upset about this holiday in Ibiza. For a start, by opting to go with them he invests money and time in them rather than you. Maybe he has enough of both to holiday with you too, and maybe you’d also like a break this year with your friends, but if neither is true, he’s making a statement; that he hasn’t the gumption to stand up to friends who are still insisting he act like a free agent, or that he’s decided that they come first. Either spells trouble for your relationship.

My other concern is that a lads singles holiday in Ibiza is hardly going to be risk-free to the two of you. Yes, perhaps he’s totally capable of going along simply for the drinks and the sun and sand. But I can see his friends, if he’s the only one with a girlfriend back home, making it almost a challenge to get him fixed up.

There are two issues here; what couples can and should do separately; and how you feel about it. He may have a point if he says he doesn’t want to lose his friends and does want to spend some time with them. But you have a point if you say, NOT that you don’t trust him or that you think he will be led astray, but that YOU are upset and worried, and hurt at being put second.

If his primary focus is on this relationship, he’d want you to be happy. He would listen and the two of you would come to an agreement. It might be for him to spend time with his mates, but with a promise you can trust that he will remain faithful and committed. It would certainly involve the two of you arranging a holiday together equal to or better than the one he has with them. But if this is to be his main holiday and he can’t see how that quite rightly hurts you, then I think you have a problem.

He says he doesn’t want to be single. Being a couple means that the two of you, and what is good for the two of you, comes first. Talk that over with him and be honest about your anxieties.

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Could I have saved my Mum?

Dear Suzie,
hi i was blamed for my mums death at that time i was 11 she died of a heart attack could i of saved her.

I’m really sorry to hear you lost your Mum at such an early age. And I’m really horrified that anyone should have made you feel responsible for her death.

Experienced doctors with full medical equipment can’t always prevent a heart attack from killing someone. So how on earth could anyone even think that an 11 year old child has a hope of doing so? No, of course you couldn’t have saved her.

When someone dies most people as well as feeling sad, feel angry and guilty and confused. It’s perfectly normal to wonder “What if…?” and to have fantasies of how it might have been different. It’s also perfectly normal to look for reasons why something happened, and to want to point the finger of blame. But because such feelings are normal does’nt mean it’s fair to act on them.

I suspect the person who said this to you had their own worries about how they had behaved or what had happened. They feel angry and guilty and are trying to dump those feelings on you. But it’s totally unfair – no, you couldn’t have saved her, I’m sad to say. People die of heart attacks because they are ill – not because you had an argument or were naughty.

I think you, and whoever said this to you, need some help and support. I suggest you go to RD4U, which is a website specially for young people who have lost someone they love. And if the person who blamed you is an adult, suggest they get in touch with CRUSE, which is the adult bereavement site.

I’m sure you feel devastated at your mother’s loss. But you have no reason to feel it was your fault or that you could have done anything about it.

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