Tell Me About It: financial strain is killing us and our relationship
Kate Holmquist answers your life and relationship problems
Q Severe financial strain is killing us. I have one insecure job, my wife has been made redundant and is now at home with two kids we can barely feed and clothe. We’re in negative equity and are paying what we can, taking into account all the other bills, since our mortgage was based on two salaries. I’m working 60 hours a week in a slimmed- down company where from week to week I’m wondering where the axe will fall. I have never had panic attacks before, but I’ m getting palpitations and intense fears. My wife is angry at me for falling asleep on the sofa in front of the TV every night after a few glasses of wine, but I need it to sleep. I then wake up at 4am in a panic and can’t get back to sleep. I get ratty with the kids and my wife, although she’s in bad form, too. I’m not a moaner – I know many people are stressed – but I’m so tired and fearful.
A You and your family are experiencing a very difficult, stressful time laced with change and uncertainty. Yes, many others are going through this, but this makes your crisis no less frightening, because your crisis is yours alone.
“When we get hit with a series of progressive accumulative overwhelming events, the impact can creep up and make us experience a loss of control and seriously raise anxiety,” says Peter Ledden, a psychotherapist and managing director of Abate, a counselling service specialising in workplace stress.
Changing the way you think about your situation can be helpful. Stress can be caused by the habit of interpreting situations in a negative light – for example, expecting to lose your job when that hasn’t happened and may never happen. “This can then lead to increasing fears and self-doubt and create high anxiety and lower our moods and self-belief. We can ruminate and dwell on our problems and end up in a spiral of negative worry,” says Ledden.
Your anxiety, as you already know, is making you “ratty”, irritable and partial to a glass or a bottle, which might help you pass out, but won’t lead to a refreshing night’s sleep.
To manage your mental health positively, you need to face your problems head-on and seek out support and advice. Sit down with a financial adviser, talk to a friend or a counsellor, and try to see the positive. You are resilient, so recognise it by giving yourself a pat on the back for providing for your family and arranging interest-only payments, Ledden advises.
Talk to your wife to explore ways you can support each other and give each other “me-time”, because if you two are well mentally, your children will be fine. Nurture yourself, exercise and limit your drinking.
Q My partner has several children from a previous relationship, but having those babies in the natural way changed her body. Before we a started having intercourse, neither of us had any problem. But when we started going all the way, I couldn’t feel a thing. I am attracted to her, but our anatomies are just mismatched.
To my shame, I started faking it, a deceit made possible by our use of condoms. Now the lie has spiralled out of control. I fear she’ll suggest we stop using condoms and have a child of our own. I’d love to have a child with her, but I fear I’ll never be able to.
I admit that at least half the problem is down to me, but I’ve never had a problem like this before. How can I tell her I’ve lied about such a deeply personal thing for two years? Is there any way I can put it into words that won’t shock and disgust her?
A You clearly want to handle this sensitively and keep your relationship healthy. You’re assuming that your partner’s body has altered as a result of having several children. Yet most women’s bodies return to their pre-natal state after delivery with no long-lasting changes.
“Your partner is best placed to be able to compare between her body before and after her pregnancies. Interestingly, it does not seem that she has noticed any changes herself,” says Teresa Bergin, a psychotherapist specialising in sexual matters.
You’re feeling anxious and fearful because you have been “faking it”, and therein may lie the problem. “If you are over-focused on size (yours as well as hers) then it will prove difficult to connect with sexual pleasure. In addition, you are now fearful about being able to ejaculate to achieve conception,” says Bergin.
“Orgasm happens as a result of what is going on in our heads as well as our bodies. If you are anxious, worried or caught up in your head, it will be difficult to achieve , as over-thinking impedes the natural arousal process . T his applies to men and women. ”
You must be honest with your partner and have an open chat about this. Be sensitive in talking to her, but do take responsibility for the part your own anxiety is playing. “You can then begin to talk about how you both can make this work for you,” Bergin advises. “Experimenting with position can help, but remember, penetrative sex is only one aspect of sexual play and there are many other ways to be satisfactorily sexual together .”
Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Kate on Twitter @kateholmquist. We regret personal correspondence cannot be entered into