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My self-esteem issues hold me back
Q Since my wonderful wife died suddenly six-years ago, I have been taking care of my sons. It’s really taking its toll. My eldest son is 24 and has autism. He also has other learning disabilities. We have frequent arguments. My youngest son is 21 years old and, while he is easy-going, does little to help around our house. I did meet someone else, and even almost got married – but she ended the relationship because her family told her that she would be ‘stuck with a handicapped child’ if anything happened to me. It rather showed her true colours and I was actually quite relieved – it was a ‘comfortable’ relationship but I didn’t love her. Given my baggage, should I bother looking for another partner? I was overwhelmed by the sight of all the faces on an internet site. It was almost like a cattle auction. Plus, I have concerns about my looks. When I was younger, I wasn’t Brad Pitt but I wasn’t Quasimodo either. After I got married, I gained a few more pounds. While I’ve got rid of them now, all I see in the mirror is a fat-faced fool. I even enquired about cosmetic surgery, but the surgeon told me I should get counselling instead as I wasn’t bad looking at all. I have no confidence in myself though and don’t even know if I’m up for online dating. I’m very old-school and hate everything about computers and the internet.
I’ve no confidence and don’t even know if I’m up for online dating
A I am glad that the cosmetic surgeon you consulted was clearly a responsible one and didn’t want to just take your money. He is right: you do need counselling and not surgery, as you may have some traits of body dysmorphia – a mental health condition where you imagine flaws or defects in your appearance that no one else sees. You also sound quite depressed – not surprisingly, given all that you’ve been through. This can be addressed through counselling and possibly antidepressants. You’ll feel more confident. You will find that while most people are able to see flaws in their appearance, others may see a different way. They see us animated: how we laugh; how interesting and funny we can be; how kind, thoughtful and intelligent we are. There must have been plenty about you that attracted your wife, and I’m sure you still have those qualities. The problem is you can’t see them at the moment. I think you are better off out of your last relationship but this doesn’t mean you have to give up on finding someone new. It can be a huge challenge caring for an autistic adult child so I hope that you are in contact with charities such as ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk or the National Autistic Society (autism.org.uk), and it would also help to join support groups. I am sorry to hear about your loss. I hope you have better times ahead.
Should I tell him that he should leave her for me?
Q I’ve become close to one of the friends of my late partner. He’s a lot older than me. Unfortunately, he’s in a relationship (albeit a reluctant and celibate one) with an overbearing woman. I don’t want to be with him, as I don’t like them going on holidays together and I rarely get to see him on weekends or bank holidays. Do I need to issue an ultimatum, or should I look elsewhere?
A I am really sorry to hear about the death of your partner. But it doesn’t sound as if this new relationship is making you happy – and I think you may have fallen into it because of grief and needing a shoulder to cry on. I wonder if this relationship is worth the little attention you get while he spends quality time with someone else. Are you familiar with the Whitney Houston song ‘Saving All My Love For You’? It captures the pain and loneliness of being the ‘other’ woman – ‘a few stolen moments is all that we share’. Although he says he is reluctant to be in a relationship with this woman, there may be a reason he stays. For example, he doesn’t want to cause rifts with his children. I’m also sceptical about his claim that it is a celibate relationship and, I’m sorry to say, it may be something he has told you in order to keep you interested. Unfortunately, married men do sometimes do this. Ultimatums rarely work because people don’t respond well to being pressured. If you believe you have a future together you should ask him if he feels the same way and if so what is holding you back. Tell him to be completely honest as you don’t need to be hurt by him too.