ANgST: Expert advice on your problems

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I have been in a relationship with a man for two years and he has said he wants to marry me, as I do him. I have a child from a previous relationship and she has become very attached to my friend. But in recent weeks he has seemed less enthusiastic about our plans. When I confront him he insists it is just that he is overworked, or anxious about money, and doesn't want to talk further - but there seems to me to be a perceptible distance that wasn't there before. I am very frightened because I was ditched by my daughter's father just before we were due to marry, and I fear the same pain again for me and my daughter.

Before you can have a good discussion with your partner about your possible future together, you need to find a way of defusing your terror of being 'ditched'. I feel sure this is communicating itself to him and contributing to his anxiety. Try to confront what living on your own would mean, and how you'd cope. Having the courage to contemplate a life on your own can lessen its terrors. This may ease the load on your partner and open up a way forward together. If you want a good and lasting relationship, it has to be based on mutual dependence and support. Otherwise you may find the unhappy patterns of the past are repeated.

Renate Olins, director, London Marriage Guidance, 76a New Cavendish Street, London W1M 7LB, tel: 071-637 1087.

A relationship I cared about very much ended in a painful way a year ago and the man is still in my mind all the time. I feel I am hanging on to my thoughts and feelings about him in a damaging way, but I can't seem to do otherwise. I have had therapy since the break-up but I can't see that it has helped. I understand more about myself, but the painful feelings are as strong as ever. I have heard about psychic healing and wonder if this might be a way to tackle it.

Psychotherapy can be valuable in helping you see how pain is a repeat of something experienced in the past, but it may not help you deal with it. Psychic healing, according to those who practise it, works more directly with what is going on within you at the present time. Rather than using an intellectual approach, a healer will try to reach, through psychic energy, the centres (or 'chakras') which are being affected. In your case this could be the heart and throat, from which emotion is expressed. I would also listen to you and use the information to help you deal with your feeling of being stuck in the situation. I might suggest you write a letter expressing your pain and anger, so getting it out and acknowledging that these feelings are allowed. I believe it is vital you should be a partner in the healing process.

Tony Neate, healer and counsellor, Runnings Park, Croft Bank, West Malvern, Worcs WR14 4BP, tel: 0684 565286.

My marriage broke up recently and one of the hardest things, I find, is being alone in the house so much of the time. My children have left and I have a couple of spare rooms, and I would like to take in paying guests - partly to help with household expenses, but also as company. But I am concerned to get the balance right so that I don't step over the mark with the guests, or vice versa.

You must start by being clear about what you want from the situation. If you are simply providing a home and perhaps some meals, then that is fairly clear-cut. If, on the other hand, you want more of a sharing set-up where you have meals with your guests almost like a family, you need to consider the details more carefully. It might be sensible to discuss with your guests at the outset exactly how it will work. At what times will you want privacy, for example, or the right to decide whether music is listened to or a video watched? It is useful to draw up a list of questions and go through them, and perhaps write down the 'deal' you come to. You also need to be aware, if you set up a cosy, family-style arrangement, that things may change if you or your guest take a lover. I wonder if you are not looking for someone to fill the void in your life just now. A paying guest - however much he or she enjoys your company - is ultimately only looking for a place to live. It is important not to have unrealistic expectations of the situation.

Anna Kemp, counsellor, 65a High Street, Girton, Cambridge CB3 0QD.

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