Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas


Ever since I married four years ago I've wondered whether my husband is the right man (we have a small child we both adore.) He's totally undemonstrative, a workaholic, and doesn't understand where I'm coming from. We were going to go for counselling, but then I got a job that means I work nights three times a week and, though I'm tired, we're getting on better – probably because we don't see each other so much. I'm worried, though, that the job is just a distraction, a plaster stuck on, and we're not facing up to the real problems. What do you think? Yours sincerely, Celia

Virginia says...

We're so hung up on the idea of romantic love overcoming all, that we often forget, as I think you have, that the environment of a marriage really can have a huge effect. Marriages don't break down necessarily because people fall out of love. They break down because he retires and hangs about all day, asking what's for lunch, or because she gets a job as a croupier and sleeps all day. They break because he's made redundant, or suddenly her son by a former marriage moves in with them. In other words, they break because there's a huge shift in the whole arena in which the relationship is played out, and although there are marriages that thrive under adverse circumstances, on the whole love does not necessarily conquer all.

And anyway, some marriages only work because one partner works abroad for half the year, or because the partners live in separate houses. This doesn't mean the marriages are useless. Indeed some of these may function better than most.

Now, just because you've worked out a modus vivendi that means you're rubbing along a bit better doesn't mean to say that it wouldn't be a good idea to go for counselling. Though from what you say, it sounds as if the result of counselling would, in the end, simply involve you accepting your husband as he is. "Undemonstrative, a workaholic, doesn't understand where you're coming from" – they're all male characteristics that are difficult if not impossible to change. It doesn't prevent him from being, however, a kindly and reliable man and a good father to your child.

Why do you feel so critical of the new situation? You've got a new job and you're getting on better. Great. Don't try to sabotage a very good prescription for saving your marriage by describing is as "just a plaster". I know what you're saying, but a plaster is what you put on a wound, and it's a very useful piece of kit in your first-aid box. Sometimes, if it stays on long enough, you'll find that, when you take it off, the wound has healed.

Don't be seduced by the idea of always getting to the bottom of a problem. Sometimes it's a good idea but sometimes, particularly when a child is involved, a series of distractions, plasters, changes in circumstances, whatever, can be a very good way of muddling through and ending up with a marriage that, because you don't expect too much of it, becomes at least as good as most and often better.


Readers say...

Make time for him

My guess is that your hubby is the right man, and that your adorable little child proves it. You can't expect to live with wedding euphoria for ever, and I guess you may have just started to realise that. With two demanding jobs and a young child, your life together could well be tough, and you won't be the first to discover that. What I'd suggest, though, is that you give yourselves some long weekends away together and let someone else do the babysitting, if circumstances allow. This would give you a more relaxed environment to sort yourselves out without the need for counselling.

Don Manley By email


Face this together

It seems to me that you need to take a long hard look at why you married your husband in the first place. Only you can decide whether this marriage is worth fighting for, and if it is, then you both need to take responsibility for it and find ways of dealing with whatever issues are between you. Avoiding seeing and talking to each other is not the answer.

Elisabeth Storrs By email


Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, Last year Christmas was a disaster. We went round to my husband's mother and stepfather and he was so rude and critical of the children that I never wanted to see him again. This year we're going to have Christmas at home, and my husband wants to ask them, too. I'd love to see my mother-in-law, who adores the children, but the idea of having her husband in the house makes me feel ill. I don't see why I should have to put up with having my Christmas ruined again. How can I somehow make it all right? Yours sincerely, Dottie

What would you advise Dottie to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas @independent., or go to independent Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers (

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Project Manager

    Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

    £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

    IT Manager

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

    Day In a Page

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

    'You need me, I don’t need you'

    Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

    Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

    Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
    Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

    Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

    Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

    UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London