DILEMMAS / Learn to share the fruits of success

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Jim sounds like a man who just can't deal with women on top. And while some men would be delighted about their partners raking in the cash, others, particularly those with frail male egos, just can't cope. After all, readers pointed out, if the po sitionwere reversed, this would hardly amount to a dilemma - a woman would be expected to make encouraging noises from the sidelines and get some interests of her own back at the ranch.

It would be too simplistic to advise Jim to get his act together, build up his own business and beat Anna at her own game by putting on a pair of designer clogs and going out late-night drinking with other crafstmen. Presumably, he's doing as much wood-turning, potting, model-making, weaving or whatever dexterous profession he's into, as he possibly can. But it does sound as if Jim is a man who is extremely dependent on Anna, and not only cannot bear to be without her day and night, but also can't bear his dependence - and her independence - being highlighted by the fact that their emotional life is being symbolised publicly, through their professional lives.

Perhaps Anna, too, was starting to feel trapped. Don't she and Jim sound rather young to be already stuck in a rut of only seeing old friends? What about making new ones? It sounds as if Anna was getting bored. And she's only pulling the wool over Jim's eyes by saying she has to socialise, power-dress and hurtle around in expensive cars to get ahead in her job. Most successful people in any profession except, perhaps, modelling and sales, get to where they are because of their talent and hard work, not because of their image. Her sudden splurging out and late nights are more likely be a sign of being temporarily carried away by the initial glamour of her new job.

Each partnership consists of three elements. Him, her and the partnership. She's happy in her job, but not happy to spend time with Jim. He's unhappy about her withdrawing from him, and her success. And the partnership's on the rocks because it doesn't seem to be able to sustain the changes that are taking place within it.

So it's important to tackle the two unhappy elements separately. First, discuss Jim's problem - his dependence on Anna and his irrational, but understandable jealousy of her playing hare to his tortoise. Then, find out why Anna would rather be drinking with friends than coming home to a pair of cosy old slippers. And finally, address the relationship itself, by finding some kind of mutual goal to share. Could Anna not provide the cash to buy a plot of land on which Jim will build their dream home? Or could she not introduce craftsman Jim to some of her newly affluent friends and get him some more work?

An individual's success in a partnership can be used two ways - to create a destructive atmosphere of competition and resentment, or to be shared. If Anna can be persuaded to share some of her success in some way and, perhaps more important, Jim can be persuaded to share it too, they could both find themselves on to a good thing, not just materially, but emotionally as well.

Last week's letter Dear Virginia, My girlfriend, Anna, has recently got a high-powered and highly paid job.

She now works into the evenings, then goes out with colleagues who seem only interested in work and money.

Last week, she bought an entire new wardrobe and is planning to buy an expensive car.

We used to have a simple lifestyle, spending time with old friends, enjoying ourselves without spending lots of money.

She says that all this spending and socialising is crucial to her image - she works in film - and that she has to make the most of this career opportunity.

I work as a craftsman and have quite a bit of time on my hands, which I'd like to share with Anna.

I can't help feeling uncomfortable about the fact that she is living in the fast lane and is leaving me behind.

Do other couples have these problems?

Yours sincerely, Jim HIGH_POWERED WOMAN I had a high-profile, well-paid job in marketing, while my boyfriend, John, had a job as a travelling computer salesman outside London. He didn't like the fact that I was earning more than him and that my offices were in Soho, while he worked outside London. He kept going on about what an exciting job I had, although of course the reality was quite different.

Because of my job, I often worked late into the evening but he didn't believe me, so he would call me throughout the evening to check I was still there. He was convinced I was spending all my time meeting other men.

He moaned about the fact that we only had sex infrequently and said I didn't make the effort to spend more time with him. But when we did go out, he would insist that we went out alone, without other friends.

We had been living with each other for three years and I finally decided to leave him. It wasn't just the fact that our lifestyles were diverging and that he resented my success. That was just the catalyst which made me recognise that his behaviour was increasingly peculiar and obsessive. I realised my career was stagnating, the relationship was stagnating and I was losing friends.

I had turned down a new job and a £5,000 pay rise for John's sake; he would have resented me desperately if I had accepted it. Now I've got that new job and I am happily married.

Anon, Hampshire LOWER-STATUS MAN I found it difficult when my girlfriend, Karen, whom I met when we were students, started earning more than me as a financial advisor in a prominent company.

I am 29 and she is 26, and we met when we were students. She has always been an over-achiever; she graduated with a first and speaks five languages fluently. I work in the same field and am always pleased when she asks for my advice, which she often does, even though I can't believe she needs or values my input. But she says she does. We help each other; we are not competitive. Although her work sounds glamorous, I think much of it is quite dull and routine.

Now her job has taken her abroad and though we speak every day on the phone, it is no longer the fact that she has a prestigious job that bothers me. It is simply the distance. We argue about the most ridiculous things and I realise that what is most important is that we should be together and not who earns what.

We would like to marry and have a family, and I realise that it wouldn't matter if I earned £5,000 a year and she £1,000, as long as we could support a family. I am really surprised that my attitudes have changed and that I have got used to the fact thatshe is doing better than me. I am not a 1990s man - I'm more like a 1490s man - and I am not interested in all this new man business.

Yours sincerely, Paul, Manchester Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, My best friend's getting married and she's insistent I go to her hen party. One of her friends has organised a sex-aid party in the afternoon, another is making dinner at her house, then we're all going to play charades and strip poker, and a third has got a male stripper. Each of these events fills me with horror. I'm no prude and have a great sex life but I hate party games and feel embarrassed at the idea of a male stripper. Should I just not go, or go and make the best of it?

Yours, Maria

Everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a Dynagrip 50 ballpen from Paper:Mate. Please send your comments to me at the Features Department, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL; fax 071-293-2182, by Tuesday morning. Andif you have any dilemmas of your own, let me know.

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