I told my partner not to be paranoid about my work wife and now we’re not speaking’

Dear Coleen
I have to work very closely with a female colleague as we run projects together.

I’m working from home at the moment, which means I’m on video calls to her all the time and we also email and text a lot.

We’re friends as well as workmates and I jokingly call her my “work wife”.

However, my girlfriend doesn’t like it and the other night she had a huge go at me over this relationship.

She accused me of talking more to this colleague and paying her more attention than I do to her.

I laughed and told her not to be so paranoid, and she’s hardly spoken to me since. I think she’s being ridiculous – am I wrong?

Coleen says
Well, maybe you have to think a bit deeper about why your girlfriend has reacted like this.

Part of it is probably the intensity of working from home and having this friendship in her orbit – usually she wouldn’t have a clue what you were up to at work.

But also, maybe she is feeling a bit sidelined and insecure because she can see how well you get on with this other woman.

And if she’s not feeling that close to you at the moment, then it’s probably playing on her mind.

Rather than laugh at her, reassure her and then make the effort to focus on her when the working day is over.

It’s important to leave all the work stuff behind completely, which is harder when you’re working from home. That means not answering texts or emails (from this woman or any other colleague) and not talking about work or the people at work.

At the moment, we all have to try harder not to let work encroach on our free time and relationships.

Dear Coleen
My husband’s stepmother sadly passed away recently.

She was in her 70s and had been ill for some time. I’m now quite worried about his father because it’s only been a few weeks since his wife died and he’s already been on a couple of dates.

He’s not trying to hide this – he’s very open about it – but I can’t help worrying that it’s too soon to be setting up his next wife!

Am I right to be concerned?

My husband did ask him about it and all he said was: “I’ve only got one life and I don’t know how long I’ve got to live it!”

Coleen says
Yes, maybe he hasn’t dealt with his grief or maybe these dates are a way of avoiding it.

I think you just have to be aware of that and be there for him if he hits a wall and needs support. But everyone deals with grief differently and I think it’s a mistake to judge him.

His wife was ill for a long time by the sounds of it and maybe he’d had time to come to terms with things, and he’s decided to make the most of the time he has left and start living again.

It’s very challenging to care for a loved one who’s terminally ill and maybe he needs to just feel alive and enjoy some company, even if none of these dates he’s been on turn into anything more serious.

Dear Coleen
I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly 10 years and it’s been a roller-coaster ride from the start.

We’ve had some amazing times, but also some real lows.

It’s never been steady or calm and it’s taken me a long time to realise how stressed I am all the time because of it.

We don’t have kids and we’re both in our late 30s. He’s too selfish to be a dad and, because I love him, I just went along with shelving the idea of parenthood, believing he’d be enough for me.

He’s very volatile, although never aggressive or violent, and I never know what mood he’s going to be in from one day to the next.

I’ve found it tough over the past few months and it’s made me realise I don’t want to be in the relationship any more.

My problem is, I’ll have my bags packed, ready to walk out the door, and then he’ll be unbelievably nice to me – considerate, loving, passionate – and I change my mind.

The sex has always been good and it’s probably one of the reasons I’ve stayed for as long as I have.

On other days he’s moody, blames me for everything, plays online games for hours and literally won’t talk to me.

I feel trapped, especially now when options are more limited because of Covid. Can you help?

Coleen says
It sounds exhausting and I wonder if his mood swings are down to a mental health issue.

You might be a bit addicted to the drama of this relationship, but I also think you’re mistaking good sex for a good relationship.

If it’s just the sex and the rest of the time you feel stressed and unfulfilled or you have to walk on eggshells around him, it’s not enough.

You’re operating on such a high level of stress all the time but, the truth is, we also need the steady (even boring) times to make us feel secure and grounded.

You shouldn’t just shelve the idea of motherhood if it’s something you want to ­experience in your life. If he doesn’t want children, then maybe this will give you the determination to leave.

You’re not trapped – you can walk away from this relationship, pandemic or no pandemic.

I think you just need to dig deep, trust your instincts and go for it. And if you need reassurance or support, then reach out to your friends and family.

Good luck.