Sunday 27 May 2018

Dear Mary: I'm a heartbroken single mum

Illustraton: Tom Halliday
Illustraton: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Connor

Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column

Question: I am sending you this email because  I have no one else to turn to. I have recently become a single mother in my late 30s and am completely lost and desperate. I am try       ing everything to improve my situation, but just keep getting more and more lonely, and alienating everyone around me.

I met my partner in college. We were acquaintances for a long time before getting together. It is important that I point out my partner lost a family member in an accident some years ago and this has had a profound effect on his life and his family who would be known for hard living and heavy drinking. My partner never held down a permanent job and, like his mother and sibling, live in total awe of the father, who is capable of being very generous materially but can also be very nasty and controlling. Part of the awe, I always thought, was fear.

I had a very difficult pregnancy, with complications meaning I had to give up work. We were very happy 90pc of the time but if there was ever an issue my partner would clam up or bolt out of the house and go drinking or sometimes leave me for days, staying in his sibling's house until I begged him to return. When our baby arrived we were over the moon and everyone in his family said the child and I would be the making of him and they had never seen him so happy. For this reason, I can never give up on him. Not even now, after all that has gone on.

Anyway, with the arrival of a new baby, me being sick, shortage of money and him not working things were very tense. Eventually, I got him a placement working with a family friend. We shared a car so being stranded in the apartment in winter, the days were long and I was struggling even if I did not realise it myself.

The intermittent fighting continued (to my shame now, I didn't find a way of managing him better) and it became more obvious to those around us that there were problems. On one hand, I had a good relationship with his family, especially his mother who would tell me I was putting up with a lot, but if something arose would always support her son, regardless of how badly he behaved. Like the others, I had a peculiar relationship with his father who, having spent years in the spotlight, believes he should be treated like a demi- God, but more importantly believes he is answerable to nobody. However I thought he respected me.

Christmas came and went and my partner was out partying with his dad every night (he has very few friends aside from his father). On Christmas Eve in their house, I was left alone to prepare the vegetables for Christmas dinner while he and his dad went to the pub and his mum went to bed. I was distraught and when he came in I was hysterical but he just locked himself in another bedroom and went to sleep for the night. I stupidly said to his father that I believed he had a drink problem. It was a mistake. It started a war and pitted the father firmly against me.

My partner's father contacted my mother and told her to take me and the baby out of the apartment (my partner's property) as there was no feeling between us anymore. I moved, but two days later I moved back, as my partner had not said it to me himself.

I should say I don't have a great relationship with my family, particularly my father, and am all too aware that I go through life looking for the love and affection from others that I never got from him. The following night, my partner and his father came in at 1.30am, drunk, and his father shouted abuse at me and banged the walls for hours. He told me I was poison and a slut for getting pregnant, among other things. His wife lay in the bed in the spare room and said nothing. I had gone to a doctor that week who diagnosed me with post-natal depression and when my partner told his father the response was not to believe me and he called me more dreadful names.

Somehow, my partner and I muddled along and agreed to go to counselling. In hindsight, I was at breakdown stage and was consumed with anger and a need for revenge which eclipsed everything else. I learned afterwards that the dad had been in contact with a solicitor as to how to remove me. What followed was a very sad series of events which involved the gardai being called on a couple of occasions. I couldn't understand why my partner didn't stand up to his father. We muddled on for a while until he finally left.

He has been gone for a few months now. I have tried counselling for myself, but don't like it. I feel we are talking in circles, and my despair and loneliness are getting worse. I have returned to work but am walking around with this gaping hole in my life, consumed with regret that I didn't manage things better and in agony with the guilt that my baby doesn't have her dad. He isn't a bad man, he is just weak. I have tried to contact the family asking if we can build a bridge for the child's sake, but have been totally ignored. My partner has given me no money towards the child for quite a while and last week I received a solicitor's letter instructing me to vacate the property within seven days. I have nowhere to go I am at my wit's end. I can't understand why someone would hurt and punish me so much and put their grandchild out on the street. I am completely and totally heartbroken.

Mary replies: Yours is a long and tragic story, and I have printed only enough detail to give people a flavour of what you have all been through. Because it sounds like you have all been through the wars - you, your partner, his family and your family. Also your baby in the long run is going to suffer by being deprived of two of her grandparents, and as things are at present, she has no father in her life either.

It can be very difficult to integrate into a family, especially as you saw this family as being largely dysfunctional and controlled by the father. Apart from the communication problems that you and your partner experienced you made the major mistake of criticising him to his father. This never goes down well - we can criticise members of our own family but we find it particularly difficult to hear them being criticised by others. You are aware that this event started the problems between the father and yourself, and the damage seems to have been irreparable.

In order to be as good a mother as you can, you owe it to your child to have a full check-up with your GP to ascertain if you are still experiencing PND. If so, you should still be on medication. I'm concerned that you feel so alone - nobody should feel like that. Being a single mother is indeed difficult, and if you are now without a home of your own it must be especially hard.

To be completely sure that your partner and yourself are definitely finished, could you get a mutual friend to arrange to meet him to see if his mind is fully made up, and he is not just being unduly influenced by his father? In any event it seems wrong that he is not contributing financially to the upkeep of your child. You should write to him asking that he make some contribution and if you get no reply then talk with the Citizens Information Board ( as to how to proceed.

You have already approached his parents to try to move forward but write once more saying that you don't want your child to grow up not knowing the grandparents and suggest that your partner picks the child up from, say, your parents' home so that you don't have to appear in the equation and yet they have a chance to have a relationship with your baby. This will at least let them see that you have everybody's interests at heart and not just your own.

Please try to take each day as it comes in order not to get too down, and also try to re-connect with any girlfriends that you had previously even if you have neglected them lately. You need to try to make a life for yourself and your child, a life where there should be some laughter and lightness and friends are usually the ones we call on when the going gets tough.

My partner suffers from premature ejaculation

Question: I'm in a relationship with a man I really like. He suffers from premature ejaculation.  He is a very good lover regardless, and it doesn't affect me. However, he is divorced and his wife was pushing him to get a circumcision in the hope this would remedy the situation and so he does brood about it and it does affect him.

I'm wondering if there is anything less drastic that he could do. There isn't a hope he would talk to anybody about it.

Mary replies: While a circumcision is one of the ways of treating P.E., I agree that it is a fairly drastic solution, and other options should be explored first. As it doesn't affect you - indeed you find him to be a really good lover - then you should reassure him of this. However, for a lot of women, P.E. is a source of great frustration and they wish that their partners would do something about it. It can also have a lasting effect on the sufferer. A young man told me once that he was so embarrassed at having P.E. that whenever things began to look like he was going to have sex with a girl, he would stop seeing her and move on.

It's a pity that your partner doesn't want to go to a sex therapist who could help him by putting him on a programme of exercises that could be done at home and with which there are very good results. You might, however, be able to encourage him to see his G.P., as there is medication available that treats P.E.

There is also a very good book on the subject written by Michael E. Metz and Barry McCarthy: Coping with Premature Ejaculation: How to Overcome P.E., Please your Partner and Have Great Sex, which you could get and suggest that he reads, but again with the proviso that you emphasise your happiness with your love-making as it is right now and that it is only for his own satisfaction that you are suggesting it.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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