Caroline West-Meads: ‘I’m desperate to leave my marriage’

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Q. I’m totally fed up with all aspects of my life. I have been married for 24 years and it has become stale and flat. I’m now 53 and my wife and I are like bickering siblings: there is no affection or intimacy and she is constantly irritable and argumentative. She can be very patronising and makes a lot of snide remarks – I’m seriously thinking of walking away. This would be a big step, but I don’t want to be in this situation in 20 years’ time having not done anything about it and be full of regret. She does not seem to be interested in our relationship any more.

I’m a key worker in a good job, but I get put upon a lot as I’m seen as an able person. This leads to friction and conflict with other colleagues and managers who are not so productive. At the moment I feel mentally and physically drained. I would like this year to be one of complete change for me and to take that leap, but I am afraid of the unknown.

A. I am so sorry to hear this. If you don’t have children, I wonder what is keeping you in the relationship – you sound so unhappy. In fact, I’m surprised you haven’t left already. However, because you haven’t gone, I am guessing that you do have children and that you are worried about the disruption to their lives. That doesn’t mean that you must stay at all costs. It may well be that you need to end the marriage.

Sometimes when a couple are not getting on, it is evident that they have stopped communicating properly. And while this can be mended, when love and respect for each other has died, it is often kinder to everyone if they part. Of course, it is difficult for children when their parents get divorced, but having a mother and father who are constantly arguing can do as much damage.

But please think carefully before you make a decision. Only you will know whether there is anything to salvage in this marriage. I strongly recommend counselling to help you reach this decision – try relate.org.uk or bacp.co.uk. Counselling is not just there to save marriages: it can also help you to part more amicably and lessen the impact on children.

Fear of the unknown is hard, but clearly something has to change because – as you say – the idea of still being in this same miserable situation in 20 years might be just as bad. I suspect that once your marriage problems are resolved one way or another, your work situation may fall into place more. The unhappiness at home may be having an impact on how you feel about your job. The whole situation is pulling you down, and you are so weary of the conflict at home that you avoid it at work. However, as you are obviously able at work, you will also be valued – so you can afford to stand up for yourself and be more assertive about not having to take on duties that should be done by others.

‘Why does he have to drive like a lunatic?’

Q. I am 43 and divorced with two children aged ten and eight. Three months ago, I met a new man who seemed so exciting after my dull marriage. He’s handsome, very funny, gives me lots of attention and he’s fantastic in bed. He is ten years older than me and has grown-up children.

However, I recently discovered a big problem – he drives like a lunatic. Recently we went away together for a long weekend and the way he flew down narrow country lanes terrified me. When I asked him to slow down, he did eventually, but he just laughed and said that he is always in control of the car. There seems to have been a slightly tense air since and I’m not sure what to do.

A. This sounds like a man having a bit of a midlife crisis. I expect his car is more sports than saloon, too. My first action if I were you would be to refuse to get into any vehicle that he was driving unless he agreed to change how he behaved behind the wheel. You need to explain to him that, while you are having a lot of fun and are really enjoying this new relationship, you are not prepared to put your life unnecessarily at risk in this way. For the sake of his own children, he should be following suit.

To be honest I think his behaviour is immature – and while driving fast might be something you’d expect from a 25-year-old (although, again, not acceptable), you have to question why he still feels the need for speed. If he is not prepared to take your fears into account and to consider your safety when you are with him, then unfortunately it doesn’t say a lot for his character.

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