I sent a dirty email

Dear Suzie,

I never usually do this kind of thing but you seem to give sound advice.

Im in a stupid and idiotic perdicament and I dont know what to do or say to make things right or even if I can.

In early December My girlfriend was about 8 months pregnant and we was in problems. We wasnt communicating properly and there was a rift. I like an idiot emailed this girl from work and it was a dirty email wrong I know and she replied with a dirty reply with pictures of herself. I realised that I was being a stupid and it was a mistake for me to even go down that road so I cooled it off.

I printed off the email in December with the pictures as I wanted to tell my girlfriend what I had done but never found the right time to tell her with the pregnancy and my baby boy being born on the 23/12!! I am happy and I love her to bits but now she doesnt trust me as she found the email and pictures in my coat pocket and she was so angry last night she attacked me and scratched all my arms. I know I deserve it because I have been such and idiot.

What do I do if there is anything??

I feel like an idiot for not having the strength to tell her.

Please help.

It sounds as if you are on the right road to doing something about this. You can see why you did it – you were scared at the commitment having a baby represented and weren’t communicating. You pulled back before you did anything more than sending and receiving an email. You know it was a stupid thing to do. You understand how hurt and angry she is, and how much she has a right to feeling that way. All of those give you a chance.

You need to do several things. You need to let her know how sorry you are. You need to discuss with her why you did it, and be clear about why that isn’t going to happen again. And you need to give her the chance to tell you – and to pin back your ears and listen to – what she is feeling.

But she needs to hear your side of it too. That isn’t for you t make excuses, mind; it’s for both of you to face up to and learn to deal with your anxieties about the enormous commitment of having a child. It’s a scary prospect. I don’t condone what you did but I do understand it. And the more both of you do, the better both of you will be able to talk and share and t let it happen again.

You could have another go at talking with her. You might find it helps to write down, as you have with me, exactly what you feel and would like to say and either give it to her beforehand or show it to her when you sit down together. Or you could make an appointment with a counsellor and tell her you really want to get this sorted and feel this would be one way of showing your commitment. A counsellor could help both of you listen to each other without an argument, and come to an understanding. Good luck!

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How do i get him to like me?

Dear Suzie, will he ever like me? i really really like this boy, and he says that he aint interested because im too young. im 14 and hes 16. whenever i see him he tends to gently push me or something like that, my friends tell me thats his way of flirting. how can i tell? is there a possability he likes me or am i getting my hopes up? how do i get him to like me? please please help!!

You can’t make someone like you or want to have a relationship with you. You could bully or blackmail them into doing so, or make yourself such a doormat or victim that they feel they’d be passing up a great chance if they don’t take advantage and abuse you. One reason I think this is a really nice, sensible boy is the fact that at 16 he doesn’t want to go that route by having a 14 year old as a girlfriend.

He’s right. You are too young. 16 year olds are interested in sex. They’re at the age when they want and need to explore their own sexuality and sexual relationships. It’s fine if and when they do this amongst themselves, with young people their own age. In that situation, the balance of power and the appreciation of risk is about equal. And they are more likely to be sensible and protect themselves from sexual infections and pregnancy.

You, on the other hand, are two years younger at an age when two years means an awful lot. For a start, sex with you would be illegal. You may well do things you don’t really want to do or are not really ready to do simply to keep him or impress him. Either way, it’s a recipe for disaster.

It doesn’t matter if he does fancy you or whether he’s actually trying to let you down nicely. Wait until you’re 16 before going out with 16 year olds.

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He hasn’t rung – should i call him?

I met a guy at work and we chatted and got along really well. He had to quit so on his last day I gave him my phone number. He was really happy but didn\’t get a chance to say anything because I was so nervous I quickly walked away (whoops!) Anyway he\’s a really really shy guy and he\’s never had a girlfriend as his friend tells me, so I\’m not surprised by the fact he hasn\’t called me and it has been a couple of weeks now. His friend told me that the guy likes me but he doesn\’t believe I like him… what should I do? I don\’t have the guy\’s number, should I look him up in the phone book and give him a call? I\’m not too close with the friend otherwise I\’d pass a message along through him. How can I show my interest without looking creepy? What should I do?

You don’t have to be close to someone to contact them and say “Hey – give me your friend’s phone number, please.” Nothing creepy about that, especially since it was this friend who has said he likes you and presumably knows how shy he is.

It’s such a touch job being a guy – always expected to be the one to put yourself on the line and risk rejection by asking the other person out. Come on – this is the bloody 21st century not the 18th. Do we really still believe a woman will lose her reputation and be called ‘forward’ if she asks a man out? Get his number. Call him. Suggest coffee or a drink. Go. Enjoy. See what happens!

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I don’t believe him

Dear Suzie, I am a 37 year old woman and I have been married since I was 19. We have 4 children and as far as I am concerned we were happy. Recently I got a new job (my first since my youngest child was born 5 years ago). I work nights 1 week in 4 and days the rest of the time. I recently came home from a night shift to find an answer phone message on our home phone from a woman who was calling my husband to thank him for last night. The message was graphic describing what she would do to him the next time \”the frump\” was at work. I confronted it and he denied it but theres no way I believe him. I want to leave him but cant afford a place on my own as the mortgage on our house is in my name and comes out of my wages. I also don\’t want to seperate him from our kids as they love him dearly. I cannot stay with a man who treats me like this and just need to kno some places I could go. I have no family alive and none of my friends have the space to take on me and the kids. Please help me.

But why should you go? If you really feel you can’t share your life and space with him anymore it’s he who should leave, and you can ask a solicitor to help you set this in train and enforce it. The house is in your name, any judge asked to settle such a case would say the home is for the kids and the parent who will care for the kids…and that means you.

Most solicitors will offer a short initial discussion for free or a nominal sum. Contact Resolution – first for family law for one who will help you do it with dignity and a minimum of argument. And separation between adults does not have to mean children lose a parent – you can co-parent from different homes; it just takes a bit of work and effort.

Children never want parents to part, but they do want any conflict to end. Unless you and he can settle this, your family is not going to be a place you would want to raise them, in an atmosphere of anger, pain and distress. That would be far more harmful to them than seeing their family separate.

See a solicitor but also make and appointment with a counsellor – either through your doctor or at Relate – and have a proper, open and honest discussion. Give him a chance to explain and insist in return he hear your feelings of hurt and humiliation. There is just a chance you can mend this. After all – that answer machine message sounds deliberately provocative. Could be a minor flirtation that went wrong with someone who decide to be ‘a woman scorned’. You’re lucky she didn’t come round a boil the bunny! If not – remove him from your home and your life, but not from your children’s life.

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My son’s on report for fighting

My son seems to be having a bad time at school recently. He’s been on report for fighting and they are threatening him with exclusion. His father has cancelled the last three visits at the last moment and I’m sure it has everything to do with that. I think the school need to know what is happening in his life and how much it hurts and makes him angry but he totally refuses to let me go and speak with his teacher. He says it will just mean he’s picked out and it’s none of their business. What should I do?

You son has the right to be listened to and consulted, and to have some control over the choices in his life. That, after all is what some of this is about – his anger and pain at having no control over contact with his father. But equally, he needs to know that his feelings of shame and anxiety about anyone at the school knowing abut his circumstances are entirely unfounded.

If they knew, they may well offer some help in the form of anger management or counselling – and he deserves and needs both. I’m sure they’d also make some allowances and be supportive. You’re the adult; he may say he doesn’t want you to go but he can’t stop you. Discuss this with him, laying out the options and your perception of how helpful it would be. In the end, it’s your call and it sounds as if communicating with the school is far preferable to leaving them in the dark.

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I’m not desperate enough to use a dating agency!

I’ve been out with so many guys. Some men just seem interested in sex, some are very nice and good fun but not ready to settle down and some are simply way off my wavelength. I seem to have run through all the available men at work or in my neighbourhood or in my circle. A friend suggested I try a dating agency but I’m not sure I’m that desperate yet. What can you suggest?

I don’t think you have to be desperate to try a dating or introduction agency or any other way to meet people. I’d say, go for it.

You do, however, need to be careful and very clear about what you want and how to get it. Agencies that simply ask you to fill in a form and computer match you might not get you what you want – you could again find yourself with people only out for sex or not at all your type. Some, quite frankly, are a honeypot for married men who want to have affairs. Those that offer a personal service are expensive, but it may be worth the expense if it means you find a soul mate.

Decide whether you want a date or a partner, because the agencies that offer matching for people wanting someone who is serious tend to be the ones on the upper expense level but also who ask more questions and try to give a level of security to members.

Only go to one that is a member of the Association of British Introduction Agencies. Look perhaps for one that fits you and your lifestyle – a dining or lunch club or one for special interests so you might meet a range of people in a less pressured situation. Or first try a singles holiday. Whatever you do, tell your friends what you are doing and keep the common sense rules;

Tell someone what you’re doing and have their number on speed dial in case you need to call for a lift home

Meet in public not at your home or theirs

Start casual – meet up for a coffee rather than commit yourself to spending a whole evening with someone who may not be someone you can get on with.

Do unto others as you would like to be done to. If you decide you don’t want to meet up again, say “Thanks for a really nice evening. I don’t think we’re suited for a long term relationship so I think we’ll end it here.” Don’t make excuses or say you’ll ring with no intention of doing so.

Be yourself – don’t pretend to be something you’re not. But be positive and don’t do yourself down.

… And then, go out and enjoy yourself!”

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They smoke and smack

I’m divorced and I want our child to go on seeing his father and grandparents but I’ve had arguments in the past with them because they all smoke like chimneys. Also, when my son does anything his grandparents don’t like they shout at him and smack him – and being a normally boisterous and curious little boy they seem to do it a lot. I’ve explained we don’t smack and I’d like them to not smoke when he’s with them but they say in their house they’ll do as they please. Is the anything I can do?

You could insist that meetings in future be at your local Child Contact Centre. All centres operate a no smoking or smacking policy. If either object, point out you are not obstructing contact and are happy for them to see your son as often as agreed…but in circumstances you have decided are safe for him. If they change their policy in the future so may you.

A Child Contact Centre is a place where children whose parents live apart can spend time with them, and other agreed family members. Child Contact Centres are run by The National Association of Child Contact Centres and all of them are accredited and the staff and volunteers are fully trained. The idea is that families are either referred by a social worker, solicitor, mediator, CAFCASS or Court order. Or, at some centres, you can refer yourself. You apply by filling out a form which names the people who will be seeing the child, and then make arrangements for a visit. Child Contact Centres can offer three levels of support for separated families;

Children can be taken to the centre, which is warm and friendly and will have toys and areas where children can play, and facilities for adults to have refreshment. The parent dropping off the children stays with them until the other parent arrives. They can handover seeing each other but if this is not acceptable neither need actually be face-to-face at any time. After hand-over, children can spend as long as agreed with the other parent and any relatives that have been named on the referral form. While there, parents agree to certain rules, for the safety of the child and to ensure the visit is fun and safe;

• No arguing in front of children, no abusive or aggressive behaviour.
• Only the people named to be there
• Children cannot simply be left – one parent has to hand over to the other, even if they don’t see each other face to face.
• No drink, drugs or smoking and no-one under the influence to be allowed into the centre
• The parent leaving a child must give a phone number where they can be reached.

Supervised Child Contact
When there are concerns about the risk to the child, or when parent and child have not seen each other for some time and may need help re-establishing a relationship, contact can be supervised. The child and adult are under observation at all times by a supervisor – a highly trained professional – with the support of another colleague. The visit will have a time limit, and reports will be kept to help the supervisor keep the child safe and support parents in managing the visit in the best interests of the child.

Most Child Contact Centre will function as drop off point, where parents can go and play with their children while waiting for the other parent to collect a child for a planned visit, either for the day or longer. This is useful if for some reason one or other of the parents doesn’t want the other parent to visit their home. As with supported or supervised visits, parents do not have to see each other face-to-face.

Get in touch and find your nearest centre and set it up. Then you will know your child is getting the best of both worlds – seeing his other family but staying safe. And they may find it helps them see you’re right in what you ask and they may change their harmful behaviour.

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The other mums are so unfriendly

I used to meet a friend every Saturday for coffee when we’d done our supermarket shopping and we’d go in with our kids and sit and chat. She moved last year and i only see her every other month. There are some other mums at the café I go to but they’re not very friendly. They smile and say hello but they never ask me to join them. How can I make friends?

Don’t wait to be asked. Your ‘body language’ says as much as your words when you meet people. I suspect yours is saying ‘I’m fine as I am, thank you very much’ If they’ve seen you with other people they may assume you’re on your own by choice. And if you sit hunched up, turned or just looking away people leave you alone. They don’t ask you to join in because they think you’re the one being unfriendly or don’t need them. They don’t know you’re shy or scared and miss your friend.

Next time, take a deep breath and go over. Look someone in the eyes and just make some remark about your child or theirs – a compliment, a question, a comment. It may lead to a chat. Or it may just break the ice so next time you can smile and say hello, and take it from there. It’s scary and takes effort to make friends, I know. But it’s worth risking being turned away because the chances are you’ll be welcomed in.

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My ex is so selfish

My ex is the most selfish, immature man possible. I finally gave up on him and divorced him and I did hope he might grow up and treat his children right but he shows no signs of doing it. He’s late on visits, often cancels or changes the arrangements. My new husband is a total contrast – loving, caring, totally reliable. So why on earth does my son refuse to accept him? He idolises his father and it is like having an enemy soldier in the camp – he spends the whole time battling with my husband, who’s just bewildered by it all. He tries so hard and my son just throws it in his face.

The contrast may be what baffles your son so much. Children love their parents, come what may. But they can also be angry with them.

The problem for your son is that expressing the anger he might have for his father is very risky. The man has shown graphically what he does when things get uncomfortable – he leaves and avoids coming back. So your son’s negative feelings have to go somewhere and it sounds as if some of it doubles back on himself – he sounds both depressed and lacking in self worth – and the rest is dumped on his stepfather.

The best strategy is twofold. One would be to tell your ex that his behaviour, while understandable in that he’s avoiding pain and loss himself, is severely harming his son. If he needs help he should get it but since he’s the adult he should pull his socks up, stop only thinking of himself and think of the effect he is having on his boy.

The other strategy is to focus on your son’s behaviour as a way of expressing needs. He needs love, attention, affirmation. Give it to him, from both of you. Acknowledge, openly, how painful it must seem to him that his father lives away from him, how much he must miss him and how disappointed he must be when his father doesn’t see him as much as he’d like. Be positive and don’t criticise his father – your son is his representative and it may be that it’s criticism he has overheard that makes him take such a stand on his father’s behalf.

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They won’t do chores!

This may be trivial but it’s causing so much unhappiness in my house. My children take me for granted but i don’t know what to do about it. I can’t get them to do chores. I just don’t have the time. I know it would lead to endless fights just getting them to do what I ask and if they did do them, they’d do them so badly I’d just have follow round picking up the mess and doing them all over again. It all sounds very nice, but it isn’t realistic. I just wish i could make them do the, though!

Certainly, if you go into sharing the household tasks with a pessimistic, powerless attitude it’s likely to backfire. If you assume they’ll do it badly, if you follow on behind doing the things you’ve asked them to do, children have no incentive to fulfil their responsibilities. So let’s see how you can turn this around.

For a start, stop thinking of it as something you’re getting or asking them to do. What is happening is that all of you are going to have a discussion about what it takes to keep a home running and they are going to recognise you have enough on your plate and can’t do it all. They are going to see if they live here and expect their clothes to be cleaned, food to be put on the table, and for the health and safety offices not to charge in and condemn the house, some sharing out of chores needs to be done. It’s not an argument or a request – it’s a recognition of realities.

When you simply put it that this will be done – full stop, no argument…kids usually fall in. Especially if they understand how much you need their help and how much it will mean they can be relied on.

Secondly, start trusting them. Yes, it may take some time to work out and begin but the work is all in the setting up. After that, you gain so much time since you’re not doing it all.

Thirdly, you have to accept that some task swill not be done to your exacting standards – and so what? Get your priorities right; does it matter that the dusting is done so the house gleams all day and every day, or that you can sit down and share a coffee with your kids and chat because you don’t have to do it all?

But suggest all of you think about natural consequences. The natural consequence of your doing all the chores is that you are tired, resentful and not available to talk or play with them. The natural consequence of their doing a task badly is that you’re upset and that they don’t have a clean cup or a clean shirt for school. Once they begin to see that not doing what is required actually effects them, and you, then they will pull their weight. All it needs is for you keep faith in yourself and then, and hold the line.

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