Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a man struggling with debt and a woman whose family take her for granted.


I am 32 and my life is in a mess.

For four years I lived with my girlfriend and we had a daughter together who is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

However, the relationship with my girlfriend has fallen apart because we argued all the time.

She also saw her ex-husband behind my back.

One day I came home, and she'd gone taking our daughter with her.

She left me deep in debt with arrears in rent, water and credit cards, which she talked me into taking out in my name.

She then set her solicitor on me to try and claim money for maintenance - which I'm more than happy to do but she didn't even try to come to some sort of agreement beforehand.

I've been struggling for two years to meet minimum payments on all the debts she built up.

On top of that, with Christmas coming, she's decided to move to the other end of the country, and I have to find an extra £20 for petrol every week just to see my daughter.

My company has cut back on everything because of Covid and I can't get another part time job right now to try and cope with this debt.

I've been in touch with the Citizens' Advice Bureau for help but all in all, I feel like a complete failure and I cannot see a future for me.

I've destroyed my credit history and any dream I had for a happy family life and home is gone.

I feel so alone and what woman is going to want anything to do with me in this financial state?

Will I ever be able to get loans or credit again?

D. P.


Until your current financial problems are resolved, or at best controlled, I think loans and credit are the last things you should be worrying about right now.

Because of coronavirus and the subsequent economic effects, more and more people are struggling financially right now.

That is particularly challenging with Christmas on the horizon.

No debt problems are unsolvable though, and whilst it may take time, there is a way to deal with them and the sooner you do so, the better.

You've done the right thing by going to the Citizens' Advice Bureau and I am sure they will be able to negotiate a workable solution for your debt problems for you.

I would also suggest you look at the website for StepChange ( which is a charity set up to help people get their finances back on track.

Their comprehensive website is full of useful advice, and they can help you to set up a debt management plan.

The very fact you've acknowledged you have a problem is a good thing.

So many people simply shut their eyes when they get into financial difficulties and hope things will resolve themselves - which of course, they don't.

If debts are ignored, things will only get worse but, in time, and if you continue to make regular payments, your credit history will improve.

However, this is not going to happen overnight and, whilst this is probably not what you want to hear, I'm afraid patience is the key.

You've had more than your fair share of problems in the last couple of years and I can understand why you feel so down, but please try to stay positive, especially when you see you daughter.

If she gets any inkling that you are finding it difficult to see her, she may start to feel guilty and think she's responsible for making you miserable - and that's the last thing you want.

As for finding a new relationship, don't assume that debt is going to stop you having relationships.

Not everyone is motivated by money and, if you show yourself to be a responsible, caring person, there are plenty of women who are going to be interested.


I am a busy, overworked and increasingly angry housewife.

I'm the only person in the family who has been holding down a job over the past nine months or so while the rest of family does nothing to help.

We have three teenage children who seem totally self-absorbed.

They seem to think food, clean clothes and a warm place to sleep are acts of modern magic that simply appear for their benefit.

I blame my husband for this as he seems quite content for me to provide all of this, even though I'm the one working.

I'm angry and depressed and finding it increasingly difficult to motivate myself.

Yesterday I sat around the house all day in a dirty T-shirt and shorts and did nothing but watch TV. My family just carried on as usual and, when they realised I'd not cooked any supper, rather than offer to help, my husband ordered a take-away.

How do I get their attention, and get them motivated?

Z. V.


You don't say if your family has always been like this or if it's just a result of the pandemic.

That is no reason for them taking you for granted though, but it does affect how you deal with it.

If, in the past, they've taken their turns at helping, it's possible they're all struggling and feeling depressed by the current situation.

If that's the case then, however upset you are, you are going to have to treat them gently.

Depression can make people very self-absorbed and although you are carrying the load right now, they may need help to recognise the fact.

If, on the other hand, they've always been allowed to get away without helping, I think you are going to have to be quite assertive to get them to change their ways.

Whichever way this has happened, I suggest you start with your husband.

Tell him how you are feeling and make sure he understands that you're finding it all too much.

Hopefully, you can motivate him to start helping at least a little.

I would then encourage you to try and arrange a family talk and explain to your teenagers how they are making you feel.

Suggest that, to avoid the very real risk of you giving way to depression and illness, they should all take responsibility for a fair share of work around the house.

I'd like to hope that this will be the wake-up call they need, although you may have to help them initially by organising timetables and a cleaning rota.

Whilst they are certainly taking you for granted right now, it's possibly because they see you as the strong one, who is carrying on whilst the rest are falling apart.

They need to understand you are vulnerable too so, if they resist helping, I think you will have to resort to stronger tactics.

You've hit upon a good one already - stop doing all the things they've grown used to you doing. Instead, only do those things that you WANT to do for your own benefit; wash only your only clothes, clean your own room and prepare your own food.

It may take a while for them to wake up, but hopefully this will convince them you are serious about this and that you need to pull together as a family.

I'm also acutely aware, though, that some men - and probably some teenagers too - simply won't care.

An over-flowing rubbish bin, a dirty toilet and unwashed clothes may not bother them as they would bother you, so leaving things undone may make you feel like you're suffering even more.

So, stopping doing things needs to be combined with an effort to educate them into understanding that a clean, healthy happy home requires an emotional commitment by everyone living in it!


Last week I bumped into an old boyfriend of mine who I've not seen since I dumped him six years ago.

I felt really embarrassed; I was awful and dumped him publicly in front of his mates.

He seemed to have forgotten all about it and just chatted away, telling me he'd just moved back after being away and that he was looking to meet up with old friends again.

All I could think of was how badly I'd treated him, so I left in a hurry.

The silly thing is, I've not been able to forget about our meeting and wonder if this means I'm still attracted to him.

I'm married now and until this meeting I've not questioned my love for my husband.

Should I try and meet my old boyfriend and apologise?

O. L.


In an ideal world it would be nice to apologise to anyone we've hurt in the past, but I'm not sure this is practical or how it would be understood.

He seems to have moved on quite happily and perhaps you should do the same.

Re-establishing contact with this man now you're married carries some risk, especially if you think there may still be some attraction there.

I think it's far more likely that seeing him again has brought back an unpleasant memory and you're feeling guilty about the way you dumped him.

If you do meet up again, be polite, but please don't read too much into this.


I have been going out with my boyfriend since just before Christmas last year.

Because we live some distance apart and, because, of course, the virus, we've not managed to see much of one another.

He's also on a zero-hours contract and works shifts, so I never know when I'm going to see him.

This is making me feel very insecure and I've lost a lot of confidence.

I've not seen my friends and I'm feeling lonely and depressed.

I've suggested to him things might improve if we could share a flat, or perhaps even get married, but he always seems able to avoid giving me an answer.

R. B.


I can understand why you feel the need for some sort of stability in this relationship but please try not to place all your hopes for the future on this young man.

The harsh truth is that most 19-year-old men are simply not ready to make any sort of lasting commitment.

To expect him to do so when you've had a long distance relationship for the past year, is really asking too much.

If you pressure him for a commitment, he might just you push away.

Maintaining relationships has been hard for everyone, but it can be done.

Contact those friends you've not seen and try to arrange a social get-together via a video call.

I know it's not the same, but it helps - and it will help them, as much as it will help you.

Given time - and in normal times - this relationship may develop into something more serious but, if it doesn't, you'll still have support and friendship from those who care about you.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.