Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her advice on leaving an aggressive boyfriend, and moving on from unrequited love.


My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. I'm 19 now and was only 16 when we got together - he's now 25, so there's quite a big age gap.

I was a little naive, so was happy for him to take the lead on things when I was younger but, as I've got older I've learnt a lot and have ideas of my own. The thing is though, he's forever telling me what to do and he thinks he knows best because he's older.

It's really starting to annoy me now - and I think he's getting worse as he tries to tell me what to wear and who I should be friends with. He can get quite aggressive when I don't agree with him, too.

Three years is a long time to invest in someone but I'm getting more and more uncertain of my feelings for him. Do you think it's time I left him?

N. Y.


I think you're right to be concerned. The fact that he gets aggressive with you when you don't agree with him is worrying. And the fact that he tries to control who you make friends with is a big red warning light for me, and I think you need to be very cautious.

I suspect he has stepped up his attempts to control you precisely because he senses that you're not the same, naive person you were three years ago. If he was just a bit grumpy about not getting his own way, I wouldn't have been overly concerned, as - for some couples - having one dominant partner seems to work.

The fact that he gets aggressive about it though, hints at a controlling personality and many women have found themselves in this position, to their cost.

For some, this aggression and dominance doesn't develop into anything physical - none the less, it can strip away the strength and assertiveness to get away from it. For others, what starts as verbal aggression gets worse and worse, and can become physical aggression too.

It doesn't sound as if your boyfriend has hurt you, but please be aware that this might happen if he gets aggressive with you when he doesn't get his own way. As for his interference in who you should or shouldn't be friends with, this could be a way of alienating you from people who might help you stand up to him.

You are clearly already unhappy about the way he is treating you, and I think you need to take a stand, so he understands that you're not the person you were. Make it quite clear that you have your own ideas and opinions, and are perfectly capable of choosing your own friends. It might be wise to do this somewhere you can get away and be with others if he does start losing his temper with you - just to be safe.

It may be that I've read this wrong and that he'll back down, apologise and encourage you to develop from the girl you were into a woman with a personality of your own. I'd like to hope he can change, but he's got into the habit of controlling you and it won't be that easy for him.

If he shows any sign at all of aggression - either verbal or physical - then I'd say it's most definitely time to move on.


A good friend has asked me to help her out as, since her boyfriend dumped her recently, she has no one else to turn to.

She wants me to go and stay for a week to decorate her house, pick up all her stuff from where she's stored it and drive to her new place - a round trip of about 300 miles.

I don't want to appear mean, but should I ask her to contribute to the petrol? She has been a good friend for many years and I don't want to do anything that will affect this, but money's a bit tight for me at present. Do you think she will be offended?

J. T.


If you can't afford the money for the petrol without it causing you hardship, then I think you should ask. You're willing to give your time to help her - presumably a week of your holidays - so you shouldn't be financially out of pocket as well.

Pick up the phone and tell her you're happy to help, but because you're short of money at present, could she help you with petrol costs.

Make sure she understands, though, that money is an issue for you. It may be that she thinks you're well off and can easily afford the time and money to help her - in which case, she might feel a little offended, especially if she's helped you in the past. With petrol being the price it is, though, very few people would be offended at being asked for a contribution when someone is driving around the country for them.


I was going out with a guy I met last year and I thought things were great between us.

I really liked him. But when I told him I loved him, he said he was sorry and that he didn't feel like that for me. Now we hardly see each other and I'm sure he is avoiding me.

I miss him so much, but I miss his friendship too - I wish I could take back what I said. If I told him he was right and now I don't love him, but still like him, would he come back? It would be hard, but I could pretend and mask my feelings. I wish I'd never told him how I feel.

B. B.


You've been very brave and taken a chance on love, by telling this man how you feel. You'd developed a relationship together but you were very unlucky that he didn't feel the same.

Some people never risk sharing their feelings but, if you'd hidden them from him, wouldn't that have been painful too? And can you imagine what a waste it would have been if he had loved you, but had been afraid to speak out himself?

I don't think it will be easy to revive a friendship, especially as he is trying to avoid you, but it isn't impossible. Make sure he knows that you have accepted he does not love you, but would still welcome his companionship.

What worries me, though, is that if you can't really accept the situation, you'll hurt yourself more than ever - in which case, it would probably be better to wish him well and move on.


My younger sister recently got married so I was really shocked when her husband of less than six months made a pass at me.

I didn't say anything at the time, because I didn't want my sister to be upset. I assumed, having been given the brush-off, he'd leave it alone, but since then, he's called me practically every evening.

I'm so angry, I don't speak to him any more and just put the phone down, but I feel so guilty keeping it from my sister. I told him I'd tell her, but he said he'd just laugh it off and convince her I'm fantasising because I'm old and lonely - I'm not, by the way, I just don't know what to do.

R. G.


I can understand your frustration, but you're not the guilty party here - her husband is, so don't feel guilty.

Point out to him that records will show who is making the calls - your sister isn't so naive to think he's calling you daily because you're forcing him to. You could get a call blocker installed but, if he's calling from a number your sister might also use, that wouldn't really help.

Is there anyone you could talk to about this - perhaps your parents - as it would help if someone else could be made aware of what's happening?

Do gather as much evidence as you can - if he's calling you on a landline, call your provider and ask for your phone records. If he's calling you on your mobile, it will keep a record of his calls anyway, but save any messages if you can. You will then need to decide whether to make good on your threat to tell your sister and, with evidence of recorded calls, it will be much harder for him to deny what he is doing.

I know you don't want to hurt her but she will surely be much more hurt if she finds out and you have said nothing in spite of having proof of his behaviour.

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