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Relationships - May 2013

It could be you ....

 

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor in private practice after 20yrs with Relate, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet as we pass our half-way markers. 

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 maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


My neighbour is heading for trouble

Dear Maggi,

Linda and I have been friends for years, seeing each other go through all sorts of events, some happy, some hard to bear. But now she has started and affair with a man many say is a bit of a con man. He is a lot younger, no-one knows quite what he does for a living and he is very smooth and charming to women.

Linda has been through a very painful divorce and is still getting over it. The trouble is she has somehow switched off being lost and angry and started going on expensive holidays and spending a lot of money I know she can ill afford.

He lives about 20 miles away and some people nearby know of his reputation. He spends a lot of time with Linda but then disappears for a week or two, but just says he is away on business. The odd thing is that Linda is not a shapely, groomed older woman, she is very overweight, doesn't look after herself and the house and garden look really unkempt too. But she now fully owns her house and it is worth a considerable sum in spite of its condition.

I tried to warn Linda but she just laughed and said I'd been reading too many sensational romance novels. I've been to dinner at Linda's when he's been there and found him very charming but when Linda was out of the room and I asked him about what he did and where he lived he was much less chatty.

I am really concerned for her and have such a strong feeling that he might be up to no good. What can I do? I'd hate to see her get hurt again.

What a dilemma. I can see why you are worried. The toughest thing is to see a person heading for difficult times but be helpless to stop them. Are you absolutely sure she is heading for trouble? Before you go any further you need to be sure of your information. You are going on hearsay and really it isn't your place to interfere. But you are her close friend and very worried for her.

Coming out of the pain of a separation is a very vulnerable time for a lot of people, women and men. Along with the hurt and shock of what has been happening, there is the knowledge that now they are alone. It can be a relief for some of course, but for others that is definitely not what they wanted in later years. Not only do they fear there will be endless solitude ahead, they will probably be unused to single socialising. It is a scary thing, dating for the first time for decades. For your friend to get herself up and off on holidays is something to be applauded. It takes courage to do that.

It is true that the best thing to do after divorce is to give yourself some time to adjust to the new way of life, perhaps a year or even more for some, and let all the contained feelings come out or settle to where they are safe. To suddenly rush headlong into a very different way of life might set up problems later on. Until the newly separated or divorced person has given themselves time to reflect on what happened and how it came to pass, especially their own part in the breakdown of the relationship – and each will have played some part in what happened – then they are in danger of repeating things they might have contributed to.

This might sound odd but in every freely entered relationship both persons will have made choices along the way, even if that was to ignore a behaviour which they didn't like, or agree to have no children, or try to change their partners way of doing something. The strongest approach is to accept we can only change our own ways, not anyone else's. That will be when we are ready for a new relationship.

Perhaps your friend Linda is already at that point. And perhaps she isn't, and is being lead into a situation where she is being exploited, and that is your fear. It is possible that she longs for some affection and attention from a pleasant man so much that she is blind to the risk she runs.

As a friend and neighbour you are in a unique position, close to her in both respects. You see her often and share confidences easily. You have her trust so can sustain your warnings if necessary, you can celebrate happinesses with her, but be there if she needs you in a hurry. Perhaps you can have a quiet glass or two of wine one evening and encourage her to tell you how she feels about being alone now, after the trauma of divorce. If she were to be more aware of her own state of mind it would be easier for her to exercise caution in this relationship. Try to explain to her your concerns further, telling her the last thing you want is for her to be hurt again, especially if there is a danger of her being used by this man for some reason.

He's been described as a con man. You need to have more information than that if you are to talk with Linda, as she will be reluctant to believe that of a man so attentive to her. Be careful you don't go too far without that information. It is easy to get carried away with the drama of such things, so ask those who have told you of their doubts about him to be more specific and gather facts that way first.

Be clear about the risk you are taking. You could make her feel so angry or humiliated that you could lose your friendship. Even if, after you have tried to warn her, she choses to continue to see her man, all might not be lost as she will be more aware of the possibilities.

Urge her to take some precautions at the very least – 'for friendship's sake, to stop you worrying'.

These are basic precautions a person should always take when welcoming a stranger into their lives:

  • keep private documents under lock and key
  • never let them 'borrow' your credit card or know the PIN
  • never sign anything on their behalf
  • deeds of the house, mortgages and insurance policies should be locked away, or better still, be placed in a bank or with a solicitor
  • never allow them to invest your savings on your behalf
  • never lend them money no matter how apparently urgent or compelling the story
  • ask to meet their family or friends, this is often an area of avoidance for a real con
  • introduce them to your family and friends and take their comments seriously
  • resist any persuasion to cut off from your own friends or family, another common ploy, a way of becoming more influential in the person's decisions

This might sound underhand and I advise you to be cautious, but, if you hear things which increase your doubts, try Googling his name to see what comes up. The web is full of information on us all. If he mentions a company name when you are talking with him, Google that too.

Most importantly, talk with Linda often to keep a good friend's eye on her. There may be no reason to worry about this man. But always listen to your gut feelings and look out for any changes in your friend. Remember, ultimately she must make her own decisions, but you just might help her make better informed ones.


You can write to Maggi at maggi@laterlife.com for her to respond in the column.


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