Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective to a wife who regrets separating from her husband, and a concerned single mother.

I BEGAN a trial separation from my husband three months ago. We agreed that it was for the best, as we had been drifting apart for some time. We both have busy jobs and our downtime was usually spent with other people, as we have almost no interests in common. Any time that we did spend together usually triggered bickering or outright arguments, so he moved back in with his sister who has a house nearby and I stayed on in our flat.

We seem to be getting along better now and usually have a coffee or meal together most days, and we've also slept together occasionally. He seems so much more relaxed. I realise that I miss him and I think I want us to get back together again. When I mentioned this to him, I was shocked that he didn't want to try a reconciliation. We seem happier together now and I think our trial separation was a terrible mistake. I'm worried that, no matter what I do, our marriage really is over. – M. H.

Fiona says: Try giving your marriage some space.

I know you are worried by this development, but I think it's too soon to assume that your marriage is over. In a sense, you haven't really had a trial separation. You may have spent a little less time together, but you did continue to meet up most days and presumably have sex occasionally. How is this significantly different to when you were together? This might also explain your husband's reluctance. He hasn't really had a chance to miss you and so has little incentive to make any changes. He also has yet to experience the real consequences of a separation and what he stands to lose. So, while you desperately want to see more of him, perhaps the better approach is keeping your distance for a while, and certainly avoid having regular sex with him.

Some guidance from a Relate counsellor ( would help you to think this through and implement it. You can then talk this through with your husband or, better yet, get him to attend some sessions with you. At the very least, a genuine trial separation should include an agreement on how long it should last, boundaries to behaviour and how often you should meet up to discuss progress. I know this might seem like a risky strategy, but unless there is some sense of jeopardy for your husband, I think he is less likely to consider a reconciliation.

Meanwhile, please consider developing some new interests outside of your husband and marriage. It will take your mind away from fretting about the situation and let your husband see that your life does not revolve solely around him. I'm not suggesting your marriage is over but, should the worst happen, you'll be better prepared to cope with the fallout if there are new friends and interests in your life.

I can't afford to take my children on holiday

I'M a single mum with two children aged eight and nine. My long-term partner walked out a couple of years ago, leaving me completely in the lurch. Because of that, I've avoided other relationships and devoted my time to looking after my children instead. It's been tough as I have no family nearby and there is never enough money - so much so that I've never been able to take my children away for a holiday. This time of year is particularly hard because my kids will have to return to school and listen to other children talk about their exciting holidays. They have never complained, but I do feel a failure as a parent. – S.R.

Fiona says: You aren't a failure

Please don't feel that you are a failure. You've provided a loving home for two children and that's no small thing. In my book, you deserve a holiday, so please consider getting support from the Family Holiday Association ( This is a national charity that provides short breaks and trips for parents in need. You'll need to get someone like a teacher or support worker to approach the charity on your behalf. The charity can also provide information about other organisations that offer help with holidays.

What can i do to relieve my painful migraines?

FOR the past couple of years I have been getting regular migraines. My GP is happy to provide painkillers on prescription, but seems unwilling to discuss other treatment options - even though I think my episodes have been getting worse. He's an otherwise good doctor and I don't want to create a fuss, but I feel that I need more help. – W.A.

Fiona says: Speak to a different GP

If you are unhappy with the care you are receiving from your GP on this issue, please consider discussing it with an alternative doctor. You shouldn't feel that you are a making a fuss, you simply need to ask to see another doctor at your group practice. If this is not possible, consider switching to another surgery. It's important that you feel able to talk to your GP and that he or she is listening to your concerns.

You could also contact the Migraine Trust ( which can provide a wealth of information about living with migraines and seeking treatment. It also has an 'advocacy service' if you feel you need additional help in accessing appropriate healthcare.

Is my dad becoming an alcoholic?

I'M worried that my father is an alcoholic. When I visited last week for a few days, I was shocked to see him drinking large glasses of whisky at odd times of day - I even found him swigging straight from a bottle in the garden. I can't be certain, but I think he must have tucked away at least half a bottle a day. When I finally confronted him over breakfast on my last morning, I said I thought he had a drink problem.

However, he shrugged it off saying that he's simply stressed at work and needs to unwind at home. When I pressed him again and pointed out how much he'd drunk across three days, he got angry. I tried to share my concerns with my mum, just as I was leaving, but she simply changed the subject. I'm now back at home and probably won't see them again for a few months. Am I right to be so worried? – P.N.

Fiona says: It's up to your father to seek help.

Quite possibly, as people with drink problems typically refuse to accept that they have a problem and often get angry when pressed to confront the issue.

Unfortunately, they can carry on like this for many years. This is going to be difficult for you, but all you can really do is continue to talk with your father as often as you can and try to get him to accept that there is a problem and seek help from Alcoholics Anonymous (

Ideally, you'll need your mother's help as well, so talk to her again. You are more likely to get your father to seek help if you can both work at it.

Ultimately though, it is his decision and you'll need to be prepared for more denial and anger. To help you deal with this please contact Al-Anon (, a support organisation for people affected by someone else's drinking.

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