auntie ag & uncle ony

I am a graphic designer and work from home. A friend of mine is married to a very wealthy man, has two kids and is always ringing me up asking me to meet her for coffee in the middle of the day, or take days off to help her choose antiques for her house in the country. If I say I'm working she gets offended as if it's just an excuse. I feel like I'm being a bad friend, but I can't help having to earn my living. Also, I'm sure if I worked in an office every day she wouldn't assume I could just waltz out to keep her company.

Lucy, Halifax

Uncle Ony: Power struggles, Lucy, are the biggest stumbling block to any relationship. We use power struggles to project the fear that both of us feel, and to delay us from stepping forward and saying "Yes!" to the relationship and the next life change. You need to welcome and fully experience your fear: fear at being "left on the shelf", of loosing control or independence, and of the ultimate loss of control - childbirth itself. Once you "welcome" these fears you should find there is no reason why you cannot keep your friend company on her shopping trips and do your work late at night or early in the morning.

Auntie Ag: Darling, the silly bitch has spent so much time in antique shops she's lost all grip on reality. Next time she calls in the middle of the day, simply leave the answerphone on, then ring her back at 6.30pm when she's right in the middle of bathtime, teatime and cooking supper and insist she drops everything this instant and joins you for a cocktail! When she refuses, go into the most frightful whoof, and accuse her of not loving or caring about you any more.

My girlfriend keeps getting drunk. Its not that she's an alcoholic or anything, she's not objectionable, she just gets very affectionate and giggly. I like a drink myself but I've been brought up to think that nice girls don't get drunk.

Stephen, Christchurch

Uncle Ony: What you have in your life, Stephen, is what you want - because that is what you have subconsciously chosen. One of our biggest tests comes at the point when we realise the thing we have chosen is something we no longer want. Will we emerge as victim or hero? Your job is to ask why you chose to be with this affectionate, high spirited, young, ripe, firm, and no doubt pliable girl at the end of each day. Then to choose to change, and in future to make conscious, not subconscious choices which will bring you a more sober, suitable mate. (I would be happy to meet the young woman in question to explore her alcohol problem if she would care to contact me.)

Auntie Ag: Oh darling, for heaven's sake don't be such a stiff. I haven't the first idea what you're complaining about.

My boyfriend refuses to make any arrangements in advance. If I suggest doing anything - even going to the pictures - more than a day ahead he makes excuses saying he thinks he might be out of the country, he's lost his diary, or he's going to have to work day and night for the next four months. We still end up seeing each other, it just means we can never get tickets for any good films or a table anywhere except Garfunkels. Do you think he has a commitment problem?

Deidre, Glasgow

Uncle Ony: Might it not be you, Deidre who has the commitment problem? A useful way of understanding the female psyche is in terms of a "council of Greek goddesses". When one or more of the "goddesses" becomes too dominant, relationships become a source of conflict rather than flow. It seems to me that your "Hera" (the goddess of faithfulness and commitment) is ranging out of control. Imagine yourself as chairperson of your own "goddess committee": subduing Hera and allowing the "Virgin goddesses" Artemis, goddess of the hunt, Athena, goddess of the intellect, and Hestia, goddess of spirituality to restore the balance by seeking their own goals independently of men. This will allow your boyfriend to enjoy his life and work instead of being plagued by your constant nagging.

Auntie Ag: Darling - have no truck with it - they all try this one on. It's nothing to do with commitment problems its just pure selfishness - he doesn't want to arrange anything in advance lest there is the slightest possibility of ever having to do anything except precisely what he wants to do at each particular moment. The important thing, darling is that you shouldn't have to do anything you don't want to do: like missing movies or eating at Garfunkels (Ugh! The mere thought of it makes me want to shoot myself in the head). In future, therefore, every time he turns down one of your delightful offers simply do it anyway with someone else, preferably someone rather charming and good looking. That should sort things out.

I recently went on holiday. A friend of mine who always likes to have a hand in everything I'm doing, forced this sun dress on me which I didn't even want to borrow. I never even took it on holiday but when I came to give it back to her I found there had been a leak in the cupboard where I'd left it and now its all stained. She always buys expensive clothes and I know it will cost a lot to replace, but I also know she got it in the sales and she's had it for three years.

Hazel, Wandsworth

Uncle Ony: Interesting. Has it not occurred to you, Hazel, that you may be denying your envy of your friend and your need to "take on" her qualities in the form of her dress, by convincing yourself that the dress was forced on you against your will; then rejecting, staining and destroying the dress, and finally refusing to "reincarnate" the dress by replacing it? It is important to resolve this jealousy or it will "block" your path and ability to say "yes" to life.

Auntie Ag: Darling, I'm afraid there's no way out of this one - you have to replace the bloody thing. Let that be a lesson to you angel, don't let people boss you around, and never borrow anything or - frankly - do anything unless you want to. It will only end in tears.

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