auntie ag & uncle ony

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A former colleague of mine, who worked at the same level and with whom I got on rather well, moved on to another company and has recently been hired again as my boss. I don't have a problem with this because I'm not competitive. But she seems to need to exert her authority.. Whenever I make a personal phone call she hovers pretending she wants to ask me something. It's insane, because we're both in senior positions. She's constantly trying to catch me out in meetings. We spend all day talking to each other through clenched teeth. I've started sticking my fingers down my throat at her whenever her back is turned. What shall I do?

Denise, Clapham

Uncle Ony: I think, when you say: "I don't have a problem with this because I'm not competitive" you are being disingenuous. You plainly do have a problem, and perhaps it is, along with your unacknowledged resentment, a lack of motivation. Perhaps your boss has a point. Are you putting in the hours you should? And don't you think putting your fingers down your throat is a little childish? Maybe it is time to pull your socks up.

Aunty Ag: Hmm. The silly cow's evidently got herself on some absurd work ethic kick, with you cast as idle slag of the year. You've got to get her to lighten up. Have you tried slagging off men with her lately? Next time she's annoying why not just say, "Oh don't be so bloody bossy," and take her out at lunchtime, so you can lurch back hog-whimpering at four - anything to get her out of her Miss Goody pants. She'll be divinely grateful in the end, angel. There's nothing more tedious than taking yourself seriously. (Have you thought of sticking your fingers down your throat when her back isn't turned?)

My boyfriend is always getting at me. He's made me change my hair, and still doesn't like it. If I make a nice meal, he finds something wrong with it. One minute he'll be charming and lovely, then turn on me over some minor thing and walk out. He says I'm selfish, rude and inconsiderate. I've checked with my friends and they say I'm not, but I feel the size of a pea. I tried talking to him about it, but he just criticised me for not being able to take criticism.

Joanna, Bristol.

Uncle Ony: Your boyfriend has the classic symptoms of what we therapists call an "invalidator". He is employing suppressive mechanisms to erode your self esteem. If reason fails try "cause and effect". Whenever he invalidates, do something he won't like. You might try tweaking his ear, asking him to repeat what he just said, turning his comment round the other way. "Do you ever wonder what I think of your hair?" - or as a last resort, invalidating him back. But beware of leaving the relationship merely in order to invalidate him.

Aunty Ag: Chuck him, darling. If he doesn't make you feel divine, why in the name of arse would you want to go out with him?

I've been with my boyfriend for nearly a year, and four months ago I discovered he'd started an affair with a girl I vaguely know. When I confronted him he broke down and swore it was over. Then two nights ago a friend told me she saw them together holding hands in a restaurant. When I challenged him, he denied it.

Andie, Brighton

Uncle Ony: Why should you believe your friend rather than your boyfriend? It seems to me you are "manifesting" - creating what you want to happen, choosing the negative. Whenever you are hurt in a major way, you fragment a piece of you mind which is then projected outward and comes back to meet you as the problem. You need to put trust - your trust - into this equation which will unblock the relationship and allow it to unfold in a positive way.

Aunt Ag: For heaven's sake chuck him, darling. Once a lying, cheating toad always a lying cheating toad. You'll be well shot of him.

My boyfriend is incredibly inconsistent. At the beginning of September we had planned to go on holiday together to stay in a house in France with some of his friends. The week before we were going, he suddenly announced that he'd rather go on his own. I ended up just hanging around at home. He often cancels me and expects me not to feel hurt. Last night, I'd said I would cook dinner for him and his friend. Then they didn't appear. He rang up at 9 o'clock and said they'd decided just to stay in the pub rather than "put me to any bother." I don't want to complain all the time, but its really upsetting.

Liz, Nottingham

Uncle Ony: You need to develop two things: flexibility and assertiveness. Your boyfriend is obviously a laid back sort of chap, and you need to learn to set little store by these arrangements, be a little better at accepting him as he is. Try thinking, too, about your assertiveness. If you really feel that an arrangement ought not to be broken say so clearly when the arrangement is made. If he tries to break it, tell him how you feel, but with out judging, blaming or making him feel "wrong".

Aunt Ag: For God's sake. Chuck him. Just don't have it, girls. Times may change but standards must remain. Chuck them all.

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