Jane, via e-mail
Aunty Ag: It's far better to be reacting a little strangely to the odd glass of wine than to be turning into an uptight, angst-ridden worry-wart. So if I were you, I'd stick to your wine theory whatever anyone else might think.
Uncle Ony: The obvious way of seeing if alcohol is having this effect on you or not is to cut it out for a few weeks and see if this makes any difference. Though I'm sure your boyfriend can fill you in on psychosomatic symptoms and the placebo effect! I suspect that your real problem is not with your sleep patterns, though, but with the encroachment of the passing years. You're realising that, at your age, you can't carry on as you once did: you can't party all night and drink what you want and still fulfil your responsibilities the next day, can you now? This comes to us all. You need to learn to embrace maturity and welcome the onset of middle age with grace, rather than try to cling to the last fleeting remnants of youth. It's all downhill from here on in and you may as well get used to the idea.
I am madly in love with my boyfriend, but I have a problem. He is a research scientist, in the field of medical genetics, and forever doing things with gels and DNA strings and pipettes. And I find it terribly hard to understand what he's talking about! I really do try to listen, but my eyes just glaze over and I start thinking about food and new shoes. Last week, I was moaning about my job and the poor darling suddenly started slamming doors and shouting, "I've just told you, that's two months of experiments down the drain, and you don't even care!" It's not that I don't care, it's just that I don't understand the implications of all this science stuff, so I find it hard to work out whether he's pleased or upset. He's passionate about his work, and so am I about mine, so this seems to me to have the potential to become a serious rift.
Madeleine, via e-mail
Aunty Ag: You are going to have to start using one key phrase when your chap is talking about his work - "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" - every time there is a suitable pause (perhaps when he takes a breath). By working out the good thing/bad thing ratio in each conversation you will know whether the appropriate response is sympathy or jubilation. And don't worry too much about it. Most jobs one doesn't do are incomprehensible. I mean, what do actuaries actually do all day? Or management consultants? Or cake shop managers, come to that? Who knows?
Uncle Ony: These days work is a huge part of our lives; most of us spend more time with our colleagues than with our partners (especially if you don't count the hours when you're both asleep). However, this does not mean work should be allowed to encroach on quality time spent with your boyfriend. Decide between you that you will allow only a fixed amount of time for monologues on work! Ten minutes each might be good. Set a timer with a good loud ring, and once it goes off, then no more shop talk: only chat about topics of general and mutual interest is permitted. If you can't find any, you do have a serious problem.
I'm dying to see The Phantom Menace! Is it acceptable to admit this when all serious reviewers have been sniffy about it?
Aunty Ag: Yes, but pretend you're only going along to see if it's as bad a movie as they all say it is.
Uncle Ony: If you are keen on Jedi knights and light sabres and beautiful princesses in need of rescue by big strong heroes, admit to it and be proud. We all need fantasy in our lives and if you prefer yours ready- manufactured by Hollywood film-makers then don't be ashamed - you are not alone. Stand up for what you believe in, Mark. Be a man!
Send your problems to Aunty Ag and Uncle Ony at The Independent on Sunday, Canary Wharf, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL or firstname.lastname@example.orgReuse content