Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony

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TIE ME UP, TIE ME DOWN

My boyfriend has just asked me to marry him. I love him a lot, I'm pretty sure he loves me, and I think we'd have a good chance of making a go of it in a way. But I'm also terrified, because I've had long relationships collapse on me before, and so has he, and it seems to me highly unlikely that we would make it until death us do part. I keep thinking about ending up a few years down the line, with babies and a mortgage, having made all sorts of compromises for a relationship that has imploded. I've been in this situation before - without the babies, thank God - and I'd almost rather be a spinster than ever risk getting into it again.

Deirdre, Amiens, France

UNCLE ONY: From your letter, Deirdre, I feel that you would be making a mistake marrying this young man. I cannot think that it is healthy that you write in terms of "making a go of it in a way" rather than looking joyously forward to the future. At the moment, if you were really sincere, you would be choosing a nice dinner service rather than worrying about imploding relationships. You need to work on developing your ability to trust, plus your self-esteem - if you feel good about yourself you will be less likely to worry about being abandoned.

AUNTIE AG: This kind of cold-feet feeling is so natural, angel, because we've all seen (and experienced) disasters before. Only you can make the final decision, but let us be practical and remember that marriages can be dissolved and mortgages handed back to the bank - although unravelling such matters is horrid, horrid, horrid, it can be done.

The real sticking point is the babies, because they are a truly permanent commitment. There will always be a question-mark over the "till death us do part" thing, but if you want babies at all, and you sound as though you might, you are going to have to involve a man at some point. I wouldn't rush to decide if this is the one. Why don't you just get engaged? That way at least you get a ring, darling.

HOME ALONE

I have just discovered that I, unlike my boyfriend, my family and my friends, am going to be stuck in London working over Christmas, so I'll be spending Christmas Day on my own. I've never done this before, and I don't know how to manage it.

Nicola, London NW5

UNCLE ONY: The esprit of the festive season is one you can carry with you, Nicola. So what if you don't have any turkey or presents or crackers? Concentrate on the spiritual side of what is after all a religious event. Make a special effort to treat your co-workers courteously, smile, give up your seat on the train (if there's anyone else travelling) and it will give you just as much satisfaction as 24 hours of over-eating, over-drinking and conspicuous consumption.

AUNTIE AG: I would ignore the whole thing on Christmas Day itself, darling, or you'll just start feeling all resentful and cross that you are missing out. Just pretend it's any other day, except that the city is blissfully unencumbered with people. And to make up for it you must organise yourself a lovely treat, with friends and family, all your presents and delicious things to eat, as soon as possible after the real day has passed.

FILE UNDER OFFICE LOVE RAT

I am deeply in love with a man at work. He is already spoken for and not my usual type, although he has enthusiastically embarked on an affair with me. I have six months to run on my contract, am reluctant to leave my job, but would be left in an awkward situation if I finish the affair now. Should I stay or should I go? Or should he go?

Prudence, Bath

UNCLE ONY: I cannot help but notice what an inappropriate name you have, Prudence. Starting an affair with a man who is already in a relationship is imprudent to say the least. Break things off while you can. If he already has a partner, he will be as keen as you to keep things quiet in case his "official" inamorata finds out.

AUNTIE AG: He sounds like a nasty piece of work, angel: men who keep two women on the go at once and think it is somehow acceptable because at least one of them is quite aware of the situation are a bad long-term bet. If, despite this, you are really "deeply in love" surely the two of you should be discussing his ditching the other woman? If that's completely out of the question, cut your losses, sweetheart.

SINGLE WHITE FEMALE

My flatmate's girlfriend, who is deeply vindictive and nasty, suspects me of eyeing him up. She has made my life so unpleasant I am now moving out of what was a perfectly good flatshare. When I move, I feel revenge would be in order. What do you suggest?

Sarah-Jane, Purley

UNCLE ONY: Revenge is an ugly word, Sarah-Jane. You should feel sorry for this poor girl, who is so unsure of her own attractions that she does not dare leave her boyfriend alone with another woman, even when the relationship is a purely platonic, businesslike one. Imagine what her life must be like: uncomfortable at the very least! You should pity her, not seek to make her even more miserable.

AUNTIE AG: Darling, what a bloody nightmare this woman sounds. You must throw a flat-cooling party, and invite only your most attractive and vivacious girlfriends - no men at all other than your flatmate. Inform them of the situation beforehand and get them all to flirt outrageously with this chap. A spectacle like this will show her exactly what "eyeing up" really means.

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