Angst: Expert advice on your problems

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My girlfriend is a passionate and sensual woman. However, as a result of her strict upbringing, her sexuality is very repressed. Generally, she can only achieve sexual satisfaction after a lot of alcohol, by which time I am past my best. Can you think of any other way to help her relax?

Your girlfriend's strict upbringing has probably made her feel that sex is messy and something to be ashamed of, so she finds it difficult to let go and be sexually free. You don't say whether you are in a committed relationship or not, and this may be another factor that inhibits her. As she was strictly brought up, part of her may feel that 'nice girls' shouldn't have intercourse at all until after marriage, let alone allow powerful sexual feelings to engulf them. Another key question is where you make love. Surroundings are very important. I recommend that you make sure you have private, comfortable, warm surroundings. Start at the beginning again, expressing caring for each other by slowly and lovingly touching and exploring and learning about each other. Take things at her pace, and make sure she doesn't feel any pressure to perform. With increased freedom and a little imagination, there are many ways to enjoy sexuality.

Pat Lloyd, sexual and marital psychotherapist (registered with the UK Council for Psychotherapy), tel: 071-224 6872.

I live in a country town and the other day in a shop I was standing close to a couple with two young sons. I noticed that the first child had a black eye and thought he must have had an accident, but then I noticed that the second child also had bruising around his eye and on his face. I am so ashamed because I did nothing, and I have been thinking about the incident ever since. I have no idea who the people were or how they could be tracked down, so it is too late to do anything about it. But I am haunted all the time by the idea that these children may be suffering.

If you really want to try and follow up this family, perhaps you could ask the shopkeeper if they are regular customers, and whether anyone has noticed before that the children have bruises. It can be very difficult to know when to take action, and even more difficult to know how to set about it. The NSPCC recommends that if you are in any doubt about the safety of a child, it is better to risk being thought of as a busybody than to do nothing. Perhaps you could have asked in a pleasant and friendly way about what had happened to the children - there might have been a perfectly acceptable explanation from either the parents or the children themselves. It is usually best to ask the parents or offer to help first, but if you ever see a child in immediate danger, always ring the police or social services straight away. The NSPCC helpline employs trained counsellors to listen, advise and respond.

Eileen Hayes, Child Abuse Prevention Adviser, NSPCC, 67 Saffron Hill, London EC1N 8RS, tel: 071-825 2500. Helpline: 0800 800 500.

Last year my husband suffered a breakdown after several months of stress-related illnesses and he still suffers from extreme fatigue and anxiety attacks. These things have disrupted our social life and I have come to see them as very 'controlling'. I am becoming angry, and I am not giving my husband the same support I would if he had a physical illness. My husband refuses counselling, but might it help me cope with the anger and resentment?

A breakdown is a very frightening experience for the person involved, and those around. I have the feeling that little or no counselling was available for you or your husband after the breakdown; this means that some of the things that led to it remain unresolved. Your husband's controlling behaviour might be because he is very scared the breakdown might recur and so he restricts the life around him. Not only would counselling support you and help deal with the anger, but it would enable you to work out strategies for approaching your husband so that you can perhaps talk about the feelings together. In time he might agree to go to counselling with you.

Zelda West-Meads, counsellor, Relate, Herbert Gray College, Little Church St, Rugby CV21 3AP, tel: 0788 573241.

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