[STANDFIRST] Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas.


I am going through a real battle within myself, and I wonder if perhaps you would be able to give me some comfort. I found some comforting words written by you for the people going through the same situation as I have been going through lately.

I am a 35-year-old Asian woman and, after an accident 15 years ago, I have burn scars on my hand and on my chin. I always try to cover them as much as possible, as I don't want anyone to see them or talk about them - I just don't feel comfortable talking about what happened.

As we went into lockdown last year, I met an old school friend via social media, who I had not seen since my accident. He is a nice man, and he lives in Australia. We Facetime every day and both feel comfortable talking and sharing our feelings. He says he likes me very much and wants to marry me.

We originally planned to meet in December, but could not travel because of this pandemic. I like him too, but I have no confidence because of my scars. I once mentioned them, and he asked me where they were, but I told him I don't feel comfortable showing them on video call and that I will show them when we meet.

After that, we haven't talked about it, but the scar that bothers me the most is on my chin. It's a long burn scar which I cover with make-up most of the time, but I feel guilty for not telling him. The truth is, I am worried and can't stop thinking what I'm going to tell him about the scars I've been hiding for ages.

I was thinking I could write him a nice letter explaining everything, but I've got no idea what to write. Please help me with what I should do?

S. D.


Whatever your scars look like, I'm almost certain they seem worse to you than they do to others. There are people with horrendous scarring, who have loving relationships with partners who see past any external disfiguration to the person inside. If this man really cares for you, that's what he'll be able to do.

But, perhaps the more important issue here, is how you feel about yourself. You are so much more than your scars. So much of how people see you is how you present yourself, and the more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable you will be with the idea of allowing yourself to be loved by another person.

The fact you can cover the scars sufficiently to be able to conduct video calls with him and not have him notice, probably means you're normally quite confident in your appearance. I suspect that what's worrying you is the thought of him seeing you without your make-up? What you're asking for now though, is how you tell him.

You've suggested you could write him a letter, but I think this is only going to raise more questions - what you really need to know is if he accepts you as you are. Why not revisit the conversation you had with him, where you said you would show him your scars when you met?

You could tell him that you're concerned how he might react to your facial scars, and that you want to know if he can accept you as you are before he comes all the way from Australia. You could show him a photo of your scar, without make-up, or you could tell him that the next time he calls, you are not going to be hiding your scar.

If he rejects you as a result of showing him how you look without make-up, it is going to hurt. But if he comes all the way from Australia to see you and then rejects you, I think you would feel even worse.

So, if you are serious about this relationship, then I think you need to be open with this man before he travels all that way to see you.


Why do I find it so hard to say 'no' to people? I suppose I have always been like it, ever since my schooldays. I can remember being constantly bullied into running errands for bigger girls.

Now that I'm married and have two children, you'd have thought I would have outgrown it - but I'm still put upon and it's making me very unhappy.

I was pressured into joining a local art society a few months back, as I enjoy painting as a hobby. It was particularly enjoyable whilst we were all forced to stay at home, and it was something I could share with my children.

Now lockdown is ending though, I've had the Chairman of the society on the phone pushing me to join the committee. They want me to organise a series of speakers for the monthly meetings when they restart.

He's said it won't be onerous, but I know what will happen is that it will start with me booking the speakers; then I'll have to meet them and liaise with them and sort cancellations. Before long, it will turn into a job that I really don't want to do at all!

On top of that, he's admitted that 'the committee' organise a Christmas lunch for members, and I could hear the wheels ticking, as he clearly thought I could organise that too.

If I had nothing better to do with my time, I guess I wouldn't be moaning now, but I have a busy job and family to manage. I can't cope with all this and wish I could get myself out of this mess.



Being helpful to others is something which is ground into many of us from a very early age, and consequently, it is often hard to say no.

For most of us, this may just mean having to cope with the occasional chore we'd rather not be doing. However, when someone gets into the habit of never saying no, life soon becomes unbearable. Assertiveness training is one solution, but you could also try to overcome the problem yourself.

Try, each and every day, to say no to something - even if you don't mind doing whatever it is being asked of you! I know you're stuck at home with your husband and children for now, but start with them.

For example, if someone asks you to make a coffee, say you made it last time and suggest someone else does it. If they ask you to get something for them, tell them you're busy with whatever you are doing and suggest they do it themselves. I'd also suggest you simply practice saying 'no' in front of a mirror - that might seem difficult at first, but it will be good practice!

Once you feel more confident, I suggest you tackle your art society problem. Contact the Chairman and tell him you've thought about his suggestion that you join the committee but, at the moment, you don't feel able to give it the time. If he tries to persuade you, stick to your guns.

If you feel you really must add an explanation, say that you have young children and a husband who take up what little free time you have. In addition, you have a busy job and that taking on additional work, even on a voluntary basis, would be too onerous. Remember, you have a choice here, and it really is ok to say no.


I have brought my children up alone; my husband having walked out years ago. Most of them have now left home and set up places of their own, that is all except my middle daughter.

I plan to sell this house and buy another with her. She has a well-paid job and thinks this is a good idea too, providing we respect each other's needs and so forth.

I am about to retire and like the idea of having her around, but I do have nagging doubts that perhaps this arrangement won't work. What should I do?

S. J.


Well, although I know it wouldn't suit me, that's not to say that what you are proposing cannot work - you just need to think about the various scenarios that might arise.

Have you sorted out who pays for what? How will you cope with each other's friends or lovers coming over? What if one of you wants to live with a new partner - would you all share a house together, and how would that work? Would you both sell and move into separate places, or would one of you sell your share to the other?

Perhaps, heaven forbid, one of you dies, who then gets the house? How will your other children feel about their inheritance being tied up with one of their siblings - would your daughter have to sell her home to let them have their share?

Things might be amicable enough now, but such life events can put a strain on even the best relationships. These are just the sort of situations that can lead to ill-feeling amongst family members.

If, though, you are both prepared to talk openly about these things, and really go through it all before making any decisions, then you should be able to reach a working solution.


My boyfriend and I have been going out for the past 18 months and in that time, we've never had a row. However, whenever he talks about his previous girlfriends, it seems he had rows with them all the time.

Is it a good idea for couples to row and clear the air, or should I just leave things as they are between us and ignore our occasional differences?

P. W.


I don't think it's a good idea to row all the time, any more than it is to ignore problems. Problems don't just go away, and can get bigger the longer they are left unresolved.

For some people, a row seems to clear the air and allows them to put whatever problem they had behind them. For others, and perhaps you are one of these, a discussion and a shared resolution produce better results.

If you and your boyfriend are happy in your relationship, and if you're able to talk openly with each other, rows may be avoided. The fact that this is playing on your mind though means it's something you should review with your boyfriend. The chances are that these concerns are something you can resolve without losing your cool, and then put behind you.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net 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.