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Planning Retirement Online

Relationships - 39

It could be you....   

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.


My partner is an alcoholic

Mark writes:

I'm 56 and met my present partner on the rebound after finding that my wife of nearly 30 years was having an affair. As she had hotly denied it, I thought I'd never be able to trust anyone again.

This happened when I was going through a nervous breakdown, forcing me into early retirement, after the death of our 15-year-old daughter from cancer. I moved into a flat on my own, where I spent a lonely year trying to regain my confidence. Then, via the Internet, I got to know a woman who was also going through a marriage breakdown. We became close friends and, when we met, realised we were in love. Eighteen months later we still are, and live together.

But: she is an alcoholic. This affects her health, her personality and her 10-year-old son. It is straining our relationship dreadfully and destroying my re-built trust in others. Yet she refuses to seek professional help.

I'm not sure how long I can keep going if I stay with her. So now, to jolt her into realising what the problem is doing, I am saying that unless things change, I will move to a place of my own. It will be nearby because we still love one another and I do not want to abandon either her or her son, who has come to rely on me as her only stable influence.

Am I doing the right thing? I would so much appreciate your views and any advice that you could offer.

Maggi answers...

You have been through so much and your struggle to find some peace and happiness continues. The trauma of watching your teenage daughter fight and finally succumb to an awful illness at such an early age is a terrible thing to face. I'm very sorry; it is every parent's worst fear.

Sadly, it isn't uncommon for such an event to put enormous strain on a marriage, as each person deals with their loss - sometimes understandably - unable to share grief or comfort each other. Following the break-up of your marriage, and the wilderness year living alone, you found new friendship on the internet which sounds very powerful.

Relationships that follow great traumas can be very highly-charged, but because they start at a time of intense emotional upheaval, they can sometimes be founded on needs that are not lasting and emotions that are not sustainable long term. It sounds as though your partner also had huge needs and was unable to move past them. You probably gave her the acceptance she was lacking in her struggle with the end of her marriage and her alcoholism and have given her young child someone to trust in and rely upon.

Sadly you have tried all you can to help her beat this addiction to no avail and it really does sound as though you are making the right decision to move out and live separate lives. She will not be able to beat her addiction until she decides to do it for her own sake. It is too much to ask of an addict to stop for anyone else. The terrible thing for the rest of the family is having to stand back and watch while the person struggles with the awful consequences of the illness until their realisation kicks in.

You have been through enough. Your own self preservation is telling you to withdraw – maybe temporarily, but perhaps permanently. Painful though it is, you need to do this for yourself in the knowledge that you have - and can - trust another person after all.

Even if this relationship does not survive, you have loved someone else at a time when you didn't think it possible. Sometimes a transitional loving relationship can turn our life around and, although the powerful relationship itself cannot last, the effect it has on us is profoundly healing and can bring new insight and purpose to our life ahead.

Type into your search engine and you will find many very useful links to support you and possibly your partner's twelve year old daughter.




You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

To view previous articles in this series - see the Relationship Counselling Index page



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