Husband still buying the wrong presents? Auntie Ag and Uncle Ony explain how to put him straight. Plus what to do with wives who won't grow up and a friendship that's grown old
My husband keeps buying me totally unsuitable gifts for Christmases and birthdays. I don't mean Black and Decker drills or the like - he does buy me clothes, but they are always wrong. I prefer to stick to tailored black but he keeps coming up with bright colours and odd styles - for Christmas I had a peacock-blue silk twinset. I don't want to hurt his feelings as I suppose he is trying in his own way, but we have been married now for five years and I can't help thinking he should have worked out what I like and what I don't like by now.

Helen, Sheffield

Auntie Ag: As you say, at least he is trying, and some women do end up with drills and workbenches (or diet books, which is even worse). Perhaps he is actually trying to wean you away from black - your wardrobe does sound a bit funereal. Why not simply suggest that you pick your gift together? Or say that you have seen something that you like and ask for it specifically. Often the simplest solutions are best and he may well be glad not to have to run the gamut of helpful salespersons. Failing that you had better be prepared either to invest in a job lot of black Dylon or wear a lot of yellow this season.

Uncle Ony: I wonder if this could be a symptom of an underlying malaise in your relationship. As you rightly point out, five years is plenty of time in which to assess your life-partner's preferences. If he cannot even work out your taste in clothes I wonder if he could be wide of the mark in other, more significant, areas too? Perhaps you should consider couples' counselling.

I have been happily married for some years now and am lucky in that I also get on very well with my sister-in-law. However, what drives me mad is the way my wife acts when she gets together with her sister. They are very close and when they are together they giggle and whisper like a pair of schoolgirls. This is particularly marked when we all visit her parents together and I'm sure it is as maddening to them as it is to me. How can I discourage this?

Richard, via e-mail

Auntie Ag: Don't be such an old misery-guts. Let the girls have some fun!

Uncle Ony: This is a classic case of regression. Your wife and her sister grew up together and now, as adults, when they meet they return to that happy childhood time. You hit the nail right on the head when you say they are like a couple of schoolgirls. And of course the effect is emphasised when they are with their parents. It is harmless enough and unless it is completely intolerable I would leave well alone: getting the two ladies to relate to each other as adults could involve intensive and expensive therapy.

I have a good friend I've known since school. We both work in London now and she is a high-powered financial something-or-other. I know she is busy and stressed but I am still annoyed with her, because the last three times we have arranged to meet after work she has simply not turned up. I can't help feeling insulted and hurt - after all, I'm busy too! - and wonder if she's trying to drop me. But if this is the case, why does she keep arranging to meet?

Suzanne, via e-mail

Auntie Ag: Keep on arranging to meet up, but don't turn up either. That way you will be able to maintain the relationship with minimal effort on both sides.

Uncle Ony: This is completely unacceptable behaviour. By not showing up she utterly belittles you as a person with a life of your own - she is acting as though you have nothing better to do than wait on her presence. It is very unhealthy for you to believe that her "high-powered" job makes it all right for her to act in this way towards you. It may be that the desire to end the relationship is subconscious which is why she keeps making dates and not keeping them - but could there also be an element of the same thing on your side? After all, you can't even remember her job title! Sometimes we simply grow out of friendships. I would accept that this one is now a size or two too small and move on.