“I left my horrid husband after 28 years, but now he’s seeing my ex-best friend and I’m mad with rage.” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective. No Glib Life Tips (I promise).

“After a difficult 28-year marriage (which produced four fantastic children), I asked my husband for a separation.
He’d been moody and withdrawn for many years — very rude to and about people, especially if they were close to me.
He had a strong dislike for my mother and encouraged our children to share his disdain.
For the last ten years, I tip-toed around his moods and began to dread being with him.

Added to this, we had always had a very sad emotional and physical connection. He always kept love-making (in fact any physical contact) to the minimum, for deep-seated psychological reasons.
Although this caused me enormous sadness, he refused to seek any help, so we lived with it.
When I told him I needed to separate, his response was angry, with no acknowledgement of his part in the breakdown.

He told me I was a victim; told me I was critical and dissatisfied.  He got a new job a long way away, saying he felt the separation would give us space to think, but I saw the geographical distance as final.
After about seven months, I met an old friend and began a relationship which has been very happy and mutually supportive.
A couple of months ago my husband announced that he’d started a relationship with a very close friend of mine.
This was a woman whose own marriage had recently broken down, someone I had supported and trusted. She had adopted a five-year-old child from Russia and I was sponsor for the adoption, and the child’s godmother.
The feelings of betrayal I’ve had since hearing about them have been overwhelming. 
I cannot get this woman’s treachery out of my head. I feel loathing.
My husband tells me that once again that I have re-cast myself as a victim, and that I had ended the marriage and started a new relationship so have no right to express these feelings.

But the raw hatred and constant chewing over in my mind continue unabated.
People tell me I should be glad for this woman’s betrayal as it has given us a chance to move on.  But I can’t.
What are these feelings? Abandonment? Am I wallowing in being a victim? Are they tribal (I hate the thought of her being anywhere near my children)? Or pure jealousy, in which case should I be trying to mend my marriage?
Incidentally, she’s repeating a behaviour pattern. She was the ‘other woman’ in the break-up of a marriage ten years ago, married her lover and they adopted the child. Then he left her for yet another woman — and in this raw state, she started a relationship with my husband.
I might also add that I had very recently told her that I was thinking deeply about going back to him. So it was with this intimate knowledge that she started their affair.
I am out of my depth.”

This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail.

My thoughts: 

You begin your letter, clear and direct, by describing a man nobody in their right mind would want to live with. He’s moody and attacking, hitting you where it hurts (people closest to you) and making you frightened to be around him. ‘Difficult’, ‘moody,’ ‘withdrawn,’ ‘rude’, ‘dislike’, ‘disdain’, ‘tip-toe’, ‘dread.’ You put up with this for nearly thirty years along with the ‘sad emotional and physical connection’ by which you mean lack of connection. He ‘refused’ to make any effort to improve the situation and was angry when you said you wanted to split up. As readers we are not supposed to have any doubt in our mind as to how things are.

Then, things get a bit murkier. You say, in the same tone of absolute certainty, that he didn’t acknowledge his part in the breakdown at all. This may well be (probably is) true, but what’s interesting is that you don’t acknowledge that you have any part in the breakdown. You present him as vile, yourself as reasonable and that’s that. Cut and dried.

He continues to attack you over the separation, but you brush this off and move on into a happy and supportive relationship. So far so good – no doubts in your mind as to your exemplary behaviour and none in ours.

However, he, apparently, was not supposed to move on. Here you get into a bit of a mess. We thought things were clear – your tone and choice of words assured us that facts are facts. Now your friend is not your friend but your enemy. Your husband is not the discarded abuser but a deceitful philanderer.

You mention that your friend is newly single and that she has an adopted child from Russia in whose adoption you were involved. I wonder what this information means. Outwardly, you are telling the reader how close a friend to this woman you are. However, the information contains an attack – you are making her very identifiable to any reader who knows her. Your visceral hatred is acknowledged. The sub-text is, I think, that you were the needed friend, the helper but, it turns out, you are not needed. The same is perhaps true of your husband – you wanted him to continue to need you but he didn’t. If you so need to be needed then I’d suggest you are defending against a terrible sense of neediness that frightens you. Perhaps you have never had your basic needs met (certainly not your sexual ones for thirty years) and defend against that by making others need you.

Half way through your letter you’re still clinging to your sense of certainty but the grip is less secure. You try to back up facts that aren’t facts. You describe their relationship as ‘an affair’ and say, very coldly that ‘incidentally’ she has done this before. You say she broke up a marriage and was ‘the other woman’, your speech marks particularly aggressive. Your tone ignores the fact that she didn’t break up your marriage but had just been left, like your husband.

But we get almost to the last line before you reveal yourself. You say you were thinking ‘deeply’ about getting back together with your husband. To the reader this is staggering news. From the first two paragraphs we understood that you found this man abusive and despicable and that you have no intimate life together. Indeed, you suggest that you fear him.

Are we to dismiss that? Which part of your letter is untrue? The contempt for your husband or your desire to get back together with him? Were you really as close to your friend as you say? Now it seems you always disapproved of her. Are you really happy and fulfilled in your new relationship?

So much of what you write, in such a forthright tone, makes no sense when looked at more closely. You stayed 28 years with someone who sounds cruel. You seem crystal clear about your reasons for leaving, but then you say you might want to go back. You say you’ve found someone wonderful, but still you want to go back to your cruel ex. You say you were close friends with someone but she betrayed you.

Your description of your state of mind as out of your depth seems very accurate and poignant. You are extremely confused and I think this letter is about self doubt. It seems to me that your need to sound completely certain masks a terrible doubt. You wonder (since you bother to quote him) if your husband’s accusations against you are accurate. You perhaps wonder if you were really as unhappy as you say (since you are considering reconciliation). You wonder if these ‘deep-seated psychological reasons’ you sound so knowledgable about are real or if he finds you unattractive. You wonder if you can recognise a true friendship when you see one. You wonder if you perhaps always hated this so-called friend, tried to control her, and that she was on some level aware of your unconscious hatred (or, rather, I wonder this). You wonder if husband and friend are together specifically in order to hurt you. You wonder if that thought is paranoid or justified. You wonder if you are mad or sane.

You ask; ‘What are these feelings?’ and it’s a very real question. You don’t know what to call how you feel because you doubt everything and try to mask your fundamental sense of doubt with a flimsy veneer of absolute certainty. Things have to be black or white – he must be vile or supportive, she must be a friend or an enemy. There is no grey area allowed because the doubt terrifies you. You want clear answers and when things are murky you try to tidy them up with a quick fix explanation/condemnation.

Freud wrote; ‘A man who doubts his own love may, or rather, must doubt every lesser thing.’ It seems that you doubt your husband and friend’s love for you and yours for them. Maybe he loved you? Maybe you love him? You don’t know. For all your bluster, it feels as though you just aren’t sure what this love feeling is or might be. Did you experience it as a child or were you told that cruelty or neglect was called love? You have strict codes of behaviour for everyone else – husbands should be like this, friends like this. But people don’t seem to obey. You are baffled.

Yes, you’re jealous. He wouldn’t have sex with you. Is he having sex with her? Was she ever your friend, or was she always this glamorous, international home breaker? Are you clear-headed and right about everything or do you doubt your perceptions? The not knowing, which really you have always lived with, is overwhelming.

The question of why you doubt your perception of reality and are confused about the names of emotions is more complicated and will relate to your early life, I imagine. You are out of your depth as you rightly say, but you are managing that by unleashing a hatred and anger that frighten you (and are perhaps misdirected) instead of looking in the mirror.

[Some wild guesses: Perhaps you stayed with someone unable to touch you because he seemed safe? Perhaps you were okay with not being touched for reasons of your own. Do you secretly desire your ex-friend whose child’s adoption you were involved in? In any case, if your husband didn’t desire you then you weren’t in danger of losing control of yourself or of him. You were safe. Something about being with an apparently impotent man seems to have suited you for a very long time, despite his cruelty. All we know about your friend is that she is a mother but that she couldn’t reproduce naturally – she needed your help (in a sense). This also makes her somehow inferior to you and under your control – or attractive? Then it turns out that sex is being had and you are not in control of it. You thought you were the needed one, but now you are not. This sense of things being out of your control is unbearable, but why is unclear. I would guess at a frightening childhood in which emotions were not named or were misnamed, a lot of confusion masked with certainties that turned out to be false or hollow.]

Thoughtful Advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“My husband is having a text affair. Now what?” Proper Advice for Real Change – no glib life tips.

I’m 42, married with two boys (10 and 12) and to the outside world I have a great life. But my marriage has not been easy – my husband has huge insecurities and is threatened by my doing anything that doesn’t involve him.

So I’ve shelved plans to go back to study, to travel with my job, to go on weekends away with girlfriends (even hen nights) – all to try to ‘save’ our relationship. He’s always been very moralistic, with a black and white view of things, and is very judgmental of others who he perceives as not living up to these standards. Me in particular.

He makes a fuss if I want to see a girlfriend who’s divorced, saying we’ll be on a manhunt.
I’ve been accused of sleeping with almost every man I have ever worked with, his sisters’ partners and even some of his friends. Honestly, his accusations are completely without foundation. I always knew he had double standards, as he socialises with friends who he knows have cheated on their partners.

But last week, I discovered he’s been continually texting a girl he met about four years ago. He tried to deny it, but eventually admitted it after I looked at his phone bills online – but is still insisting he hasn’t had an affair and doesn’t consider he’s cheated because nothing physical ever happened.

I’m devastated and can’t help but torture myself with thoughts of what might have been in the messages – flirty talk? Sexy talk? He certainly sent her picture messages of himself at a time when I know he would have been in the bath. How can that not be an affair? He can’t offer me any explanation, only that it was exciting because he knew it was wrong, that he felt like a kid with a new toy, and that he was bored (although he insists he’s never been bored with me). Many times he’s stayed at his sister’s after a night out and texted this girl before me the following morning. Many times he’s texted her at 7am on a Sunday when he has obviously got out of bed on some pretext, sent the message, then got back into bed and no doubt had sex with me.

Once, he sent her 81 texts in one day! I’m so confused. He says he’s sorry, he loves me (and the boys) more than anything and will do what it takes to make things work. Obviously I’m so scared what splitting up might do to my kids, but I can’t take this out of context. Yes it’s a betrayal and he’s been stupid, but I’m starting to think we might get past this if it wasn’t for all he has put me through over the years. The hypocrisy is worse than what he’s done. It’s like my whole life with him has been a lie. Please can you offer any advice? 

This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail

My Thoughts

What’s interesting about this letter is that it lays everything out so clearly, as though you already know all the answers to your questions.

You begin, not with his text affair, but with the fact that your husband has controlled and bullied you throughout your marriage. You say you have spent many years denying yourself a life outside the confines of your marriage in order to ‘save’ it. The fact that it needed saving makes it immediately clear that it was seriously under threat. Your husband perceived that threat as outsiders trying to steal his wife or as an insider, you, threatening his authority and making a bid for freedom.

You make it clear that he is paranoid and insecure and that this has massively restricted your life.
Next you tell the story of his affair. At first it seems as though you are asking your reader to judge – is he having an affair? That suggests that you are hoping it might be possible that he is not having an affair, that the texts are the extent of it and that you can….what? Continue as you are? Would you want to? Clearly not. But then you stack up enough evidence (having taken the very paranoid/desperate step of checking his phone bills) that the reader has only one choice of answer. The reader judges – yes, he is having an affair. The way you relate ‘the evidence’ to his story sets him up as a ludicrous liar. You already know this and I suspect you wanted to the evidence to prove it. It did.

You say you are scared of splitting up – it would be very odd if you weren’t. But then you make the very clear point that it is not so much the text affair that upsets you – it is him. It is his personality and the way he has dominated your life. Finally, you can see a chink in his/your armour. The state of the marriage is no longer all your fault (for flirting or being potentially promiscuous in his eyes). It seems you have waited all this time for him to show himself as imperfect and now you are able to look at the marriage with open eyes. The bully is standing right in front of you.

You say very little about your own history, but you presumably chose a controlling emotional abuser because that kind of treatment was familiar to you. You perhaps have some confusion in your mind between control and cruelty and love. It is possible that you had a controlling father who made you feel that if you would only behave perfectly he might love you and you’d be safe. Or perhaps you were very neglected and initially felt safe for the first time with someone who seemed to care who you were with and where you were all the time. Perhaps you yourself see promiscuity and infidelity as a truly terrible thing and almost agreed with him about your potential for these behaviours. Of course, I’m guessing and you don’t say.

You worry your marriage has been a lie. He hasn’t been lying. He’s been bullying and controlling you quite openly. You have been lying to yourself about his behaviour, imagining that he wants to keep his marriage safe rather than understanding that he wants to wield complete power over you to your great detriment. Presumably his affair is designed to make him feel even more powerful – he has secrets from you and he may well be (is) trying to control this other woman too.

Advice? You don’t need any. You seem to have needed to lay it out in public in order to get it clear. It’s clear.

Proper Advice for Lasting Change via email or Skype: anna@blundy.com

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“My dad calls my mum a waste of space and doesn’t like me since I’ve grown up [into a woman]. Is it my fault?” Proper Advice for Real Change

“I don’t know whether it is my fault that my father doesn’t seem to respect or like me. We were close when I was a child (I’m 23 now) and I drifted away from him during adolescence. I cannot put my finger on why, except perhaps I became more girly and less relatable to him. I am an only child and am very close to my mum. I am often a disappointment to him, but I cannot see my mistakes coming. I’m envious when my friends’ dads say they look lovely or when I see how tenderly the fathers of the children I babysit treat their wives and kids. Dad refers to my mum as bonkers, hopeless, waste of bloody space, mad bat, bloody useless, or just “ya mum” (“Where’s ya mum gone now?!”) or often just “woman”…”

This letter first appeared in the Observer

Though this letter must have been massively cut, and that’s a real shame, it is such a sad one. It’s tempting, as I’m sure your friends and probably the columnist you wrote to have already done, to say he probably loves you really and that you should talk to him about it or something ridiculous like that. The fascinating thing here is that you answer your own question. You make it pretty clear that your father is an angry misogynist who doesn’t like women. You have become a woman.

Obviously, he will have his own painful history around this and, if you did somehow attempt a direct conversation (often advised by advisors but rarely – ever? – productive as these kinds of confrontations put the blame with and beg resolutions from the other, when all we can ever really do is look at ourselves), he’d very probably deny any antipathy towards the opposite sex and tell you how proud of you he is.

It’s interesting that you say you want him to ‘respect’ and ‘like’ you. That leaves him free to say the empty thing, that he loves you, but you are aware that that isn’t enough, or isn’t what you want. You want a real relationship with him like the one you had before you became an adult woman. [It might be interesting to know about his relationship with his mother, but I don’t suppose it would help you at this point. It might eventually help him.]

You say you became ‘girly’ and this is an obviously denigrating word that suggests silliness, empty and vacuous preoccupations and all sorts of other things that we are generally invited to despise. It sounds as though he’s taught you that being feminine (female, actually) is a bad thing, so it’s no surprise that you blame yourself for being unlikeable now and that you are ashamed of the things in yourself that you consider to be ‘girly’ (perhaps simply enjoying being feminine).

You suggest obliquely that he might be jealous of your relationship with your mum and, given that he is so abusive towards her, he presumably does see your offering her any respect whatsoever as taking sides against him. Bullies (and you make it pretty clear that he is a bully) tend to perceive adversaries where there might be potential partners. There seem to be Oedipal issues here too, though I’m not sure if knowing this will be especially helpful. Instead of working through a process in which you fought your mother for your father and finally accepted them as a couple, you seem to have won your father from your mother in early childhood and then later rejected him for your mother. He senses this, but in fact he is probably responsible for it.

What is interesting about your letter is that you know the answers to your own questions on some level. You see other men who are not verbally abusive towards their wives. But the  heartbreaking thing is that you wonder if your father’s attitude to you is your fault. If you were married to him I would wonder what it is that makes you stay, why you chose him, about sadomasochism, guilt and, of course, your relationship with your father. But you didn’t choose him.

As it is, you are talking about the problem at source. It can be the hardest thing to accept – in fact, people go to incredible lengths to deny to themselves that a parent doesn’t like them. I once knew someone whose mother was very cruel to her but not to her sister. She took with her into adulthood the belief that her mother actually preferred her, but overcompensated by being extra nice to her sister and cruel to her so that her preference wouldn’t show. The years during which she confronted her mother’s real hatred of her were, of course, stupendously painful.

With your very sad and painful story, I would just be very, very careful about the men with whom you form romantic and sexual relationships. Make sure you don’t unconsciously go for an abusive misogynist like your father. They can be very, very hard to spot, especially when you have a hardwired, unconscious pull towards them – a desire to make this next one really respect you. etc. ad infinitum.

Also, I should think your mum might need some outside help with her self-esteem.

Proper Advice for Real Change via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“My husband told me to have sex with other men. Now I’m in love with one of them. And suicidal.” Thoughtful advice from a psychoanalytic viewpoint. No glib life tips.

“From the outside I look like the lady with everything. And I suppose I am, really. I have a wonderful husband of nearly 15 years, whom I love deeply and share an amazing life with. I met my husband when I was 16 and was married at 23.
We have three wonderful children, a beautiful house in a fabulous part of the country . . . from the outside everything is perfect. However, all is not as it seems.

Five years ago my husband encouraged me to start sleeping with other men. He said it would ‘spice’ things up. I wasn’t sure how to handle this. I was hurt that he could so blithely share me with others — but also curious.
I met a man at one of my husband’s parties a few weeks later. He was perfect — good looking, single and unlikely to fall for me as he’d just left a messy marriage and was known to be a ‘player’. I should have walked away.
At first this affair did spice things up. Everything was wonderful. I felt alive and attractive. Stupid in retrospect. The ‘Player’ and I have developed the deepest of friendships. Over the years we’ve grown to love each other deeply and intensely. 
My husband still encourages us to see one another, but has no idea of our depth of feeling towards one another.

Recently my ‘Player’ has been begging me to start a new life with him. I don’t know what to do. On the one hand I have my family and my life — which I treasure beyond compare.
On the other, I have this man who understands me completely, has never judged me or my life choices, and with whom I share a connection I thought existed only in novels and films.
I think of him every second. I know he could never offer me the lifestyle to which I am accustomed — but does that matter? I’m not so sure.
I can’t bear the thought of hurting either of them. I love them both but this situation can’t continue. I know that. I don’t know what to do. 
I’m on the verge of walking away from everything or ending it all. None of my friends know of my situation, so I can’t talk to anyone about it. I’m lonely and clueless.”

This letter first appeared in the Daily Mail.

My Thoughts:

It’s hard to know where to start. So many things are striking here. I suppose the first jarring thing is the style. There is something Mills and Boon about the tone and the vocabulary. ‘The lady with everything.’ You describe yourself as a ‘lady’, but the schlock-fiction style immediately suggests something hollow and empty. It almost sounds as though you mean you have all the latest gadgets. The hyperbole suggests hollowness too – ‘wonderful’, ‘deeply’, ‘amazing’, ‘wonderful’ (again), ‘beautiful’, ‘fabulous’, ‘perfect’. That’s all in two lines. Nothing is that good.

The fact that you have been with your husband since you were a teenager is another factor that makes it unlikely that things are simply marvellous, as you try to suggest. But the truth is shocking. You’ve written it in a way that shocks the reader so that the appalled reaction is projected into us (me, in this case) and you ‘blithely’, in fact, bat away your own horror with the little line that is almost an aside – ‘but also curious.’

It is what you don’t say here that’s interesting. You don’t say whether or not your husband is or was sleeping with other women – it would be ludicrously naive, of course, to imagine that someone who suggests his wife have sex with other men is not already enthusiastically having sex with other women. But you don’t mention this, but much of the hurt, confusion and desperation you’re experiencing may well be connected with this apparently unconscious (or seen but unseen) knowledge.

The words ‘share me’ are deeply disturbing. The suggestion is that you are a possession of his and not a person in your own right.

The blindness with which you seem to have obeyed your husband is bizarre. You seem used to being treated as a commodity – you don’t mention your childhood but I worry about the neglect (or worse) you may have experienced there. You immediately located a target for sex and imagined that he (like your husband?) would treat you purely as a fairly inhuman object because he is ‘known to be a player’. The ‘spice’ the affair injected was to make you feel wonderful – in order to feel good it seems you need to be sexually desired as you perhaps feel you have little else to offer. You apparently could not imagine that a man might love or value you and were subsequently shocked to find yourself in a real relationship, one which your husband continues to encourage. Again, there is an assumption that you invite the reader to make whilst you yourself turn a blind eye to it – your husband is also in another serious relationship outside of your marriage.

As soon as you mention your husband you go into Mills and Boon language again. You have your home life which you ‘treasure beyond compare.’ Though I think you believe this sounds true, it is clearly untrue. You have expended a lot of time and effort on risking this life and bringing it to the brink – then you seem surprised that it might be at risk.

A man you claim understands you entirely says he wants to spend his life with you. You are worried that he’s not as rich as your husband (if I understand correctly) and imagine your husband will be hurt. Will he? Isn’t he the one suggested you have this affair? Isn’t he seeing someone else? Is he really as blind to reality as you are?

Then, after all this hyperbole about the wonderful life you have, you throw in a line about being suicidal. You say you are thinking of ‘ending it all’ and that you are ‘lonely and clueless.’ It would almost be possible to miss these very serious expressions of your disturbed state of mind in all the sex and chaos of the rest of the letter. It seems to me that under the manic and florid style is someone terribly confused and vulnerable, someone who is being abused by a careless (at best) husband and who is unable to accept real affection from a person whom you portray as very honest and open whilst calling him ‘a player’ in order to defend yourself from him.

The picture you hope to paint of yourself, propaganda directed at yourself, as desired by two men and unable to choose between them is an omnipotent fantasy designed to protect you from reality. The reality is that you are helpless, have no sense of autonomy at all and are, in fact, being pushed out of the marriage you have valued since you were pretty much a child.

You seem very confused as to what is love and what is cruelty. I assume this confusion originated in you childhood home. Seemingly sold on by your husband, suspicious of the new partner, the only thing you trust is perhaps the material wealth offered by the former. You say you might leave everything behind or commit suicide as though those are the only two options. In fact, you are being offered a partnership with someone you value, but you are as blind to this as you are to what is happening at home.

This ability to see and not to see things simultaneously must have enabled you to survive your early life, but it is causing you chronic confusion as an adult. Underlying the chaotic material in your letter is a despair and sense of complete worthlessness, a terribly hollow feeling that is filled by acting out sexual drama but that is evident in the language you use, the hyperbole, the mistrust and, most significantly, the admission of suicidal depression that I strongly suspect predates your affair.
You don’t really need advice on what to do here, but you do very much need help with your (probably very longstanding) sense of worthlessness and confusion.

Real Advice for change via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“My girlfriend doesn’t want me.” Thoughtful advice – no glib life tips.

My girlfriend doesn’t want me. I met her in France and when I left we made plans for the future, but despite my efforts a life together doesn’t seem hopeful. I’ve Skyped her a few times recently and we ended saying: “I love you.” I sent her a letter about how I want her here for Christmas. She said she’d apply for jobs in the Boston area, and I’ve been helping her. Yet I believe she only said this (and other things) in the moment, to appease me and continue on with something else. She just keeps taking her distance, pulling back. I know her dad is her chief adviser, and she said that: “He is against me.” She’s 26 and I’m 23 – I’m aware of the age gap. I feel strongly for her and there are some things about her I wish were different. I feel there are more compatible women for me out there. Yet this woman, the French one, I am really having difficulty letting go of, and I wonder why we aren’t together, and why she doesn’t feel the same way about me. Despite the I love you’s at the end of our Skype calls, when she writes to me it’s cold, logical, friend-like but not loving. A while ago her friend said that it’s best that I just forget about her.


This first appeared in the Guardian


I’m not sure if the first line of what the Guardian printed is really the first line of your letter but, if it is, then it is an odd problem. What you seem to be saying is that you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you. Someone preoccupied with ‘something else’.


There is a great deal of confusion here and it’s not at all clear what you are asking of the advice columnist. You seem to be expecting the columnist to agree with your girlfriend’s friend (a convoluted way of second guessing her feelings) – ‘best just forget about her.’ Though it’s clear what the friend means, it’s quite odd wording – we can’t choose to forget important aspects of our lives.


You say her communications are cold and flat but this letter (despite a repetition of ‘I love you’ is very cold and flat). What your girlfriend says to you directly is loving and reassuring, but you suspect that the truth is different. You have decided for her that she’s not keen, though she says she is. You suspect her of keeping her real, negative, feelings secret from you ‘to appease you’. Why?


You also say she’s not ideal for you anyway. I’m not sure if this is a defence against being hurt or whether the reticence, in fact, comes from you.


You’re aware of the age gap, you’d prefer to be with someone else, you feel her dad disapproves and a friend has suggested it’s over. She, however, says she loves you. From this letter it sounds as though you don’t love her but for some reason you don’t dare to accept that and you’ve projected your own doubts and fears into her. There is no other evidence of her reticence. Only your private fears.


The fact that she is older and that her father disapproves shoves your whole issue into the Oedipal arena. You have strong feelings for mum though you know it’s not going to be a fruitful relationship in the long-term and know someone else would be better for you. She provides you with empty-seeming platitudes ‘to appease you’ while she gets on with ‘something else’. It’s easy to imagine a busy mum fobbing a needy child off with affectionate words that sound empty. Dad forbids the relationship in any case.


However, your fear that perhaps mum doesn’t really love you is important. Might that be true? Do you fear that your actual mum isn’t as loving as you’d like? Very obviously I can’t know this from your letter but I suspect that’s right. Mum says she loves you and you hope that she does but that Dad is a bit forbidding so you never got close to her. However, there is a nagging doubt that she doesn’t love you, dad or no dad.


The ‘my girlfriend doesn’t want me’ is such a devastating beginning and I wonder if you feel very rejected indeed by your mum? Are you even adopted? Okay, going a bit far now with the extrapolation. I also wonder what ‘French’ means to you. From your letter it seems important that she’s French. A happy family holiday when you DID feel loved? A French birth mother?? (I know, I know).


Anyway, it seems you don’t really want to continue the relationship with this woman. A defence against being dropped or a projection of your doubts into her, I can’t know (of course). But I think this is about your own doubts and fears about being loved in a very fundamental way and has little to do with this woman who you yourself feel is unsuitable. What you can’t let go of are your deep-seated issues about whether or not you are loved by, I think, your mother. That is probably the button that this relationship is pressing and is why you’re so confused. Your feelings of loss and being unloved have got mixed up in your relationship with a woman about whom you are only able to feel, at best, ambivalent. You probably unconsciously selected her as ideal for this psychic purpose.


Why are you guessing at her feelings and writing to a newspaper instead of talking to her about your fears? Because your fear of rejection is so extreme and because it comes from an infantile place that cannot articulate the terror.


Proper advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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‘My brother won’t forgive me for having sex with his daughter. What’s wrong with him/the world?’

I’m 59, amicably divorced from my wife, with whom I still live. We’re best friends and have no problems. 

Four years ago, I met a wonderful German woman on the internet and visited her every fortnight.

Her daughter was then 12 and we grew fond of each other despite her initial hostility to her divorced mother having a new man.

Last February, I left their laptop logged into my emails and the daughter discovered that for three years I’d been on dating sites and met a couple of women. 

I suppose I’d been wondering if there was anyone local to me, but half-heartedly because I truly adore Anya. 

Her daughter went crazy and told Anya, who went mad too. She’s forgiven me but her daughter hasn’t. So we meet secretly for 24 hours once a month.


It was a stupid mistake on my part and I have been utterly devoted and faithful since, but the daughter refuses to forgive me and Anya is frightened she will find out.

I miss her daughter terribly and wonder why children/young adults cannot forgive mistakes. They make them too! Living with this is really screwing me up.

Another problem is this: my older brother has three daughters. Thirty years ago, the older one Hattie (who was 18) came to spend Easter with me — still single then.

We had a few drinks, went to our separate beds, then I invited her in to mine. 

We were intimate but did not have intercourse. Next morning I was pleased that she seemed very happy and not embarrassed.

She went home and I rang every two weeks to chat with her. She was always fine. Then I did something really stupid — got drunk, wrote her a letter, posted it. 

I have never recalled what I said, but when I visited the family two weeks later, Hattie refused to talk to me. Apparently, she told her sisters and mother that I had tried to rape her, which, of course, was a lie because she wouldn’t have waited six months to tell! I know it was the letter that triggered her reaction.

Since then the family has refused to talk to me — although my brother was perfectly civil at our mother’s funeral in 2003. 

This separation from my family has caused me so much pain as I adored him and his girls. 

I try to live with the fact that these people won’t forgive me, but it is so hard and has caused me huge distress, excessive drinking etc.

I have my drinking under control now, but live with this permanent cloud of sadness. 

My mother taught me to be forgiving and compassionate towards those who make mistakes. 

I guess that’s old fashioned now. Do I just have to carry on grinning and bearing the pain? You reap what you sow, and so on.

The things you bat away are interesting. We are supposed to see the ‘no problems’ line and ignore the fact that you still live with your ex-wife. This is the first very odd thing in your letter that you ask the reader to treat as normal. ‘See? I behave normally and everyone else goes nuts!’ is your pitch.

So, in the first line we meet a woman who is asked to accept a strange situation and not make a fuss about it. Maybe, as you suggest, she really does accept it. But do you tell her about your other relationships? It seems immediately as though women are by default people from whom secrets are kept. Your emphasis on forgiveness and your resentment about not getting any is extreme. The word comes up a LOT. I wonder what this is about.

Anya and her daughter then emerge. Somehow Anya’s daughter gets as much attention in your letter as Anya herself – in fact you talk about yourself and ‘the daughter’ growing fond of each other and don’t describe the relationship with Anya. Both of them went ‘mad’ ‘crazy’ when the daughter (not Anya) found out you had been dating other women.

Perhaps you are very understanding as to why a young girl might be protective of her mother, you just don’t mention it. But, what I hear, is you feeling absolutely innocent and unfairly accused. One might imagine you unconsciously wanted to be discovered and, therefore, left your emails open to be read. But, in fact, it seems more as though you really thought you had nothing to hide. You seem not to acknowledge the feelings of this girl at all and yet somehow she is pivotal to your letter. She doesn’t get a name, but it turns out you ‘miss her daughter terribly’. This in itself seems to be overstepping an ordinary boundary, since you were only visiting fortnightly.

The idea that you are baffled (again) by the inability of the young in general to forgive mistakes is a bizarre defence against truly acknowledging the hurt and betrayed feelings of this specific girl.  

But you aren’t finished with young girls and their boundaries. And this one is branded a liar and hated.

Your insistence on your own lack of responsibility for all the pain you cause seems to be genuine. ‘I adored him and his girls’, you say of your brother and his DAUGHTERS, and yet you slept with one of them. You insert Hattie’s age in a possibly unconscious bid to prove you did nothing illegal. If she was 18 then it is true, you did nothing illegal. However, for a girl who has grown up knowing and being close to her uncle, to be seduced with alcohol at a young age must have been extremely disturbing. That you then persistently called her (Again fortnightly! Your relationships seem to occur at intervals) wrote her a drunken letter, instead of getting help for your apparent alcoholism and predatory sexual behaviour around young girls is also striking. That you claim she is lying about your trying rape her, the evidence in your mind being her only bringing it up after six months is, frankly, frightening.

You seem unable to understand that the rest of the world perceives your behaviour as unacceptable. You blame your family’s lack of understanding of your sexual behaviour for your depression and alcoholism instead of seeing that you have very serious problems to address. 

You say your mother brought you up to forgive people their mistakes. Are you suggesting that you trawled for other women on the internet and had sex with your very young niece by mistake? Do you honestly believe you’re just an old fashioned guy with high Christian standards?

On one level perhaps you do. On another level you wrote to a newspaper columnist asking for help and advice. This suggests that you do know how serious the problem is. And perhaps you also know that the problem is not the inability of others to forgive you.

I wonder if your inability to perceive the boundaries of sexual behaviour is something you were brought up with? I wonder if your feeling of being punished and isolated when you don’t really understand what you did wrong is familiar to you from childhood? Were you unconsciously punishing a favoured brother by sleeping with his daughter? Were you always in the wrong and he always in the right when you were little? Was there even some sexual abuse in your childhood home or, perhaps more likely, sexual behaviour that bordered on abuse but was presented as normal? Perhaps leaving your emails available for a child to read was an unconscious punishment for her initially rejecting you? Did you want her, on some level, to know that she wasn’t special, that she and her mum weren’t special to you? And now you are meeting her mum behind her back – another punishment.

Young girls are a problem area for you to say the least. Your mind is a frightening and boundaryless world. Is there a younger sister in your family, I wonder? The dynamic of the way you think is hard to grasp at. 

Another thing I wonder is where your wife fits in. You live with her but are not in a relationship with her. Does this make her a mother figure? Are you really punishing mum with all your secret betrayals?  

It’s honestly very difficult to think about what you’re up to because you present as so baffled yourself as to the behaviour of others at the same time as cataloguing some deeply disturbing behaviour of your own, apparently without shame.

I think there is a level on which you are ashamed and confused by your thoughts and feelings but you are hoping that the columnist you wrote to will say you are just an ordinary guy who’s made a couple of mistakes and that the world is mad and over-reacting.

I’m sure she didn’t.

ps. It’s amazing that your inability to remember what you wrote in the letter allows you to assume it was innocuous or that the abused girl’s reaction was inappropriate. Your denial is extreme.

pps. Another thing that gets batted away is your mother’s death. You mention it as an aside but it was perhaps a catastrophic event for you or, at least, your brother.

Proper Advice from a psychoanalytic perspective via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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“My boyfriend spends more money on his wife than he does on me. Upbeat advice, please.” No glib life tips here.

“I’m 55, single and have been involved with a married man for more than five years. The same old story. My life and relationships haven’t been too good. At 22, the love of my life cheated on me. At 25, I went into an unsuitable relationship and he died a few years later. I suffered badly.

At around 40 I decided to start trying all sorts of alternative medicines and practices. I came out better, but still vulnerable. At 50 I met a married man in a nightclub. Mac told me he was unhappily married.

He phoned the next day and I went with him and his friend to dinner. I was happy to leave it at that, but he phoned a week later saying he had left his wife. We started going out.

To cut a long story short, he goes back to his wife every three to four weeks to make sure she is OK. He takes her to London to visit their adult kids every six to eight weeks.

He disappears on these trips, turning his phone off, and then reappears to make sure I’m OK. He is pleasant but has a nasty side. He gets verbally abusive when I complain. He says it’s his duty to look after his family. Although neither of us is good-looking, he criticises me so much I feel ugly.

He pampers his wife with a top-of-the-range car every two to three years and an allowance higher than my salary. I’m treated like the wife of 30 years; she’s treated like a mistress.

I didn’t see him for seven months in 2008, then he contacted me just before Christmas. We met for dinner the following night, had sex and he went home. In January, he contacted me again with promises to leave his wife, set up a life with me, etc.

He’s since denied this, getting very nasty with me. We scream and shout a lot, so I don’t know why I hang on.

To shock myself and try to put an end to it, I said if he wants a mistress he can start paying me. He responded with £2,000 in cash. I’ve posted it back to his town flat.

He normally pushes me away after sex and gets away as quickly as possible. He refers to me as ‘the likes of you’ and points out all my problems.

He now says he’ll never divorce. I could have met other men in the past five years. I’m so angry, hurt and down – to have allowed an obvious cheat to continue to abuse me.

What I’d like to know is why we women cheat on other women? I have always longed for a loving relationship – done counselling, life coaching, hypnotherapy – but still feel I’ve been left out of the loop of love. I need some upbeat advice please.

 This letter first appeared in the Dail Mail. 

My Thoughts:

In some ways this is an odd letter. Of course, it’s not such an unusual story and you’re clear about what you want in reply. You say you want ‘upbeat advice’. You’ve tried everything else, so you just want someone to tell you how to find love. ‘Take up a hobby? Trust the universe to bring you the man you need? Stay positive? Ditch the love rat, have some self-respect – you deserve better!’ That kind of thing?

But if that’s what you really want, why write to a newspaper advice columnist? Why include the humiliating detail – the payment, the being pushed away after sex, the verbal abuse?

Then there is the martyrdom – ‘I could have met other men in the past five years.’ This begs the obvious question. And yet, you didn’t.

‘The same old story’ line suggests you are bored with yourself, that you don’t really expect anyone else to be interested either. You don’t feel worthy of proper attention.

Bizarrely, you complain that someone cheated on you over thirty years ago. Whilst the death of the next lover must have been very sad, you don’t say you were sad for or about him. You say you “suffered”.  Suffering is important to you. And, again, this was a very long time ago.

In this story there are now 15 missing years, to say nothing of the first 22. It seems you measure out your life in the betrayal of men and nothing else gets a mention. Work? Friends? Suddenly you are 50 years old and in a night-club. Of course, his line that he’s unhappily married is a cliché, but perhaps there was an attraction – the ‘unhappy’ part. He said he was trapped in an unhappy situation and that struck a chord with you. His announced unavailability was, obviously, another trigger – he was going to feed your masochism. And he did.

Now there is a lot of detail as to how he treats someone else better than he treats you (mainly in material terms – you can’t imagine real intimacy, so the relationship is translated into cash), how terrible he makes you feel. Though you are obviously looking for sympathy (the shocking detail), there is something very foot stampingly jealous going on – “She gets better stuff than me.”

I would guess, going out on a wild limb here, that you are reenacting something. Perhaps you felt left out of your parents’ marriage or perhaps you lived with your mum and a new boyfriend who ignored you and lavished her with gifts. Either way, you seemed to imagine that being ‘the mistress’ as you put it, would make you feel powerful. Finally you are dad’s special one and mum is denigrated. But, in fact, you have been left out again. Your audible exhaustion (if you can hear text) seems testament to the fact that you are used to being neglected in favour of someone else, that this is familiar to you. This could also be a reenactment of sibling rivalry, but actually it’s got a more Oedipal feel.

However, this could be your hatred of a favoured sister – you keep putting out more and more and more (mainly sexually) in an effort to get dad’s approval (gifts?), but you just get more humiliated.

There is a hideously cruel and telling line at the end of all this. “I’m treated like the wife of 30 years.” The cruelty, you will be surprised to hear, is yours. Somewhere in your mind is the idea that a wife is to be criticized, belittled and betrayed and a mistress is, in your mind, supposed to be adored and showered with gifts at the expense (expense being a key thing with you) of  “the wife of 30 years.”

The money aspect is so interesting. You sent him his £2000 back as if that wasn’t really what you wanted (which on an unconscious level it perhaps isn’t in the end), but most of the letter is a complaint about the amount Mac is spending on his wife. You do seem to feel he should be spending money on you, essentially paying you. You mention he pays her an amount equivalent to more than your salary. This angers you. Part of you believes you are for sale and feels humiliated at the price he puts on you. You list this man’s (clearly very grave) faults and then berate yourself for staying. But you did stay.

Like so many people writing letters like this your strategy so far has been hope. You hope he will completely change while you sit still. Of course, as ever, the only person you have some very slim chance of controlling is yourself. He has a relationship with his wife and children and he abuses you. You are angry with everyone, including yourself (but mostly others).

But then you ask a brilliant question – why do women cheat on other women?

The simple answer is, they don’t. He is cheating on you or on his wife, depending on which way you look at it. It is up to him to be faithful or not, not up to you. It’s too easy to see these situations as a woman seducing a man to cause harm to another woman. Or is it? Is that exactly what you intended to do? Hurt the mother by seducing the father? Hurt the sister by seducing the father? Your rage at the preferential treatment his wife gets is greater than your rage at his abusing you. You wanted to be a mistress in order to triumph over a mother figure but you find yourself the abused, lost, little girl over and over again.

It is this little girl who needs some attention now. It is interesting that you start your story at 22. I suspect the key to your self-destructive and masochistic behaviour lies in a period long before that. Whilst there isn’t, of course, a loop of love, you have felt unloved, undersold and, more importantly, unlovable, perhaps all your life. It’s these early feelings you will need to grapple with before you’re able to be close to someone who is not going to play the sado-masochistic game to which you’re addicted.

Thoughtful Advice for Real Change via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

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