CAROLINE WEST-MEADS: ‘My friend’s partner uses her as a meal ticket’

I have a friend I have known for 35 years. She is kind and generous – to everyone but herself. She comes from a loving family, is intelligent, has a good job, good friends, owns her own home, but has always had extremely low self-esteem. She is now in her early 50s and has been very overweight most of her life.

The problem is she has always neglected her health and now has type 2 diabetes, which has begun to impact her sight and cause other issues. Recently, she was in intensive care, but has since returned to her mum – who is in her 80s – to be looked after. 

However, the difficulties don’t end there. She is soon due to go back to her own home and her partner – a horrid man who leeches off her. She never had a boyfriend until her mid-40s, so at first we were all pleased for her. However, it soon became clear that he was just using her as a meal ticket. 

He moved from his parents’ house to hers, doesn’t work or help at all, isn’t loving or kind and makes her pay for everything. He didn’t even visit her in hospital – apparently taking two buses would have been too expensive and too difficult. I have tried to talk to her, as have her family and other friends, but she just gets defensive.

A It is hard watching someone you love make bad choices – and her health sounds like a big worry. It is also concerning that she will soon return to her partner who, you say in your longer letter, insists that she look after him when quite clearly he should be the one doing the caring.

I wonder what is behind her lack of self-esteem, especially when she comes from such a loving family. Perhaps she was bullied at school or has successful siblings who have left her feeling second best. 

Alternatively, maybe one of her parents was anxious or lacking in self-confidence themselves, and this has left an imprint. She is in an abusive relationship, if not physically then emotionally and financially.

Sadly, as she is so defensive when you suggest changes, there are no easy answers. So all you can do is listen and attempt to get her to a stage where she recognises the damage he is doing. Instead of cautioning against him, just ask gently how she feels about returning. 

You could ask if she was upset that he didn’t visit her in hospital or whether she feels anxious about all the housework she will have to do when she goes back. Ask her to tell you what she likes about having him around.

Please also contact organisations such as or for help in supporting her. The latter can sometimes offer free counselling if you can persuade your friend to reach out. 

Please look after yourself, too – this is so stressful. Don’t let it consume you.

Are his manners too old fashioned? 

Q I am in my mid-50s and have been divorced for five years. We were never able to have children, which I have come to terms with although it drove a wedge between us. I threw myself into my career instead and have done extremely well.

I have now started dating again and a couple of months ago,

I met a very nice man. However, because he is of a certain generation, so far he insists on paying for everything when we go out. I have explained that money is not a problem for me and that I would like to go halves but he looks hurt. 

He seems to almost take it as an affront to his masculinity. To be honest, I find it a bit sexist and I am wondering if he is too old-fashioned. In every other way, though, he is lovely.

A Yes, his attitude to money could indicate that he is a little stuffy or old-fashioned, and if this was reflected in the rest of his personality, it would be a warning sign. But as he is so nice in other ways, I wonder what more is behind this. 

Maybe he has not been as successful as he wanted in his own career, or spent a childhood or a previous marriage living up to impossible expectations and believing he is somehow not quite good enough. 

So he could feel as though he needs to impress you and that if he doesn’t appear successful, then you might get bored of him. You won’t know unless you really talk to him about this. 

If I were you, I would be direct and straightforward. Tell him calmly and politely that it makes you feel uncomfortable when he refuses to let you pay and that in order for your relationship to flourish, this issue really needs to be resolved.

If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email You can follow Caroline on X/Twitter @Ask_Caroline_

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