auntie ag & uncle ony

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Last week I received an invitation to my sister's wedding. My family is aware that I have been living with my boyfriend Mark for more than three years but the invitation was to "John and a friend". I don't want to hurt my sister, but I don't want to go to the wedding if my parents will not even acknowledge my relationship with Mark.

John, London

Uncle Ony: Are you sure you are not jumping to conclusions here? Our determination to cling to the emotional baggage of old hurts often causes us to misread the intentions of those around us. How do you know your family is not being tactful - leaving you the choice of whether to "go public" and bring Mark as your boyfriend or discreetly bring him as "a friend"? I suggest you simply reply saying that you and Mark would love to come.

Auntie Ag: Oh don't be absurd, Ony. They wouldn't put "John and a friend" if he was living with a woman! It's an obvious bigoted snub, darling, which simply mustn't be swept under the carpet to fester. At the same time,it would be a shame to spend the day watching tedious sporting events in a sulk. Get your sister on your side. Confront your parents together and say that either they graciously acknowledge the relationships of both their offspring or none at all. I think you'll find a woman's fundamental need for a Mother-of-the-Bride hat is more than a match for a little homophobia.

The other day I took my laptop into the office. My colleague, who I have had a crush on for ages, spilt a cappuccino into it. He said: "Oh my God, I'll pay for the damage" but hasn't mentioned it since. It's going to cost pounds 500 and it isn't insured. Should I make him pay and risk alienating him?

Rebecca, Malvern

Uncle Ony: Why do you instantly assume that asking for what you want, and consider your right, will alienate this man? I suspect you sense that what you are asking is unreasonable. If he pays up you will "win" and he will "lose". What you need is a "win / win" situation where you both emerge feeling good about yourselves. Sit down with this chap, say you know he has very generously offered to pay, but explain how much the repair will cost, and say you feel you cannot accept the whole amount. Ask him how much he would feel comfortable in offering. That way, he will feel he is being generous and protective rather than criticised and may insist on offering the whole amount anyway. You should also study my video, Win/Win: a Guide to Healthy, Loving Working Relationships (pounds 14.99 from larger newsagents), which will help you avoid similar expensive dilemmas in the future!

Auntie Ag: (Ony, the last thing she wants to do is to fork out for a video of you wearing a polo-necked sweater and insufferable expression.) To me, darling, "win / win" means neither of you has to pay! Why did you take your laptop into work? I assume because the computers provided aren't up to scratch, or because you've been doing office work at home (ugh). Either way, your employers are responsible and you should explain the position and get their insurers to cough up. If they complain, tell them you won't feel able to use your personal computer for their business matters any more, which will halve your productivity. Incidentally I hope you'll rethink your "crush" on this clumsy, shifty fellow. If he was even slightly worth having, he would be sorting this out for you and showering you with gifts.

My boyfriend and I are getting married and made a pact that we would not invite anyone whom either of us has slept with. A couple of years into our relationship I had a secret fling with his best man. If I admitted this, my boyfriend would be devastated. Also, how would we explain the sacking of the best man?

Phillipa,Padstow

Uncle Ony: Principles, Phillipa, are like lighthouses. They cannot be broken - all we can do is break ourselves against them like ships in a storm. You must tell your fiance that in the past you foundered and broke against the principle of fidelity and since you have been repaired you have no wish to begin your married life by foundering again against the principle of honesty: then tell him the truth.

Auntie Ag: (Ony, if the number of times you bash against the principles of fidelity and honesty with your poor wife is anything to go by, there must be nothing left of you but a waterlogged toothpick.) Darling, I'd simply brazen it out, with a surreptitious wink at the best man - after all, how do you know your fiance hasn't slept with one of the bridesmaids? Or you could announce that it's too hard on the ex-shagees to exclude them from the list, so long as your budget can cope. (Are there an awful lot of them?)

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