ETCETERA / ANgST: Expert advice on your problems

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The Independent Culture
My husband and I try not to row in front of our children aged 11 and 13, but it happens sometimes and neither of us seems able to stop it. On several occasions my elder daughter has intervened and tried to mediate - telling us to listen to each other and then to listen to her. She is uncannily grown-up and my husband assumes that this means she is coping all right, but the last time it happened she burst into tears and said she shouldn't have to be sorting us out. I cannot seem to stop these rows happening; we're still together despite some stormy patches, after 18 years. I worry that my daughter has been fundamentally harmed by feeling she is responsible for keeping the peace and I worry that she may feel constantly anxious about us.

You may not be able to stop your rows, but you can choose where and when to have them. Can you and your husband agree to have your serious arguments privately in a different room? Your rows are your business. Your daughter's role is not to be her parents' marital therapist; she does not have the experience or the qualifications. Is her presence stopping your rows from becoming more serious? If so, perhaps you should seek professional advice. First, you need to decide what you can resolve together. Your daughter's involvement is preventing you from doing this. Have you both thought about how much your rows keep the relationship alive?

Hugh Jenkins, director, Institute of Family Therapy, 43 New Cavendish Street, London W1 7RG, tel: 071-935 1651.

About six months ago I got involved with a man who had suffered a good deal after his wife left him for another man. At first it was wonderful and I believed I was in love with this man, who is 15 years older than I am, and he has declared himself in love with me and said he would like us to live together. The trouble is I don't feel so keen any more, and I am starting to make excuses for not seeing him. In many ways I would like to break the relationship off, but it seems terrible to contemplate hurting him when he has already been so badly rejected. I am 31 and want to have children, so I need to settle soon and I could so easily do it with this man. I wonder if I am just being silly.

If after only six months you are looking for excuses not to see him, I think this is a warning sign that you are not really in love. Perhaps, when you met him, because he was so vulnerable and needy and wanted you, you thought you loved him. Add to this your biological clock ticking away and the need in you to settle down and have children, it is understandable that you imagined yourself in love. Yet another rejection will hurt him much more if you settled with him now, only to leave him later. So stop making excuses, be honest with him and tell him how you feel, otherwise you are not being fair to him or yourself.

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

I am 23 years old and pregnant, and very much want to have a home birth. I do not have a partner but will live at home with my Mum. She says I should have the kind of birth I want, but I think she feels worried that she does not know how to cope if the baby comes and there's no midwife around. My GP is very hostile to the idea, so I'm not getting any help from him. Is this foolish, or can I set up the birth in a way which will be safe, by myself?

It isn't a foolish idea, but you can't legally set up to deliver yourself. The law says there must be a midwife present. Your hostile GP is not a problem because you don't need a GP. You should get in touch with the senior midwife at your local maternity unit. Arrange to see her, and take your mother along as she is supportive, and ask for a midwife to be sent to you for antenatal care and to be there for the delivery. This is your right, but most of the community midwifery services have geographically based groups, so unless you hire an independent midwife you cannot choose which midwife you get when. You have whoever is on duty. This said, many health services are are now taking notice of recommendations for continuity of care.

Ishbel Karger, Association of Radical Midwives, 62 Greetby Hill, Ormskirk, Lancs L39 2DT, tel: 0695 572776.