What's your problem?

INDISPENSABLE ADVICE FROM REAL LIFE'S AGONY AUNT AND UNCLE

MATES ARE FOR LIFE

I'm in my thirties and have very happily and successfully kept up with half a dozen good friends from both school and university whom I regularly speak to on the phone, and visit. However, since I got married I am finding that not only am I keeping up with my friends but my husband's, too. He tends to go out in the week with work acquaintances, and has only kept in touch with a couple of people from further back. I like and get on with both of them (and their partners, too) but left to himself my husband simply doesn't bother to keep in contact with them; it's always me that calls, sends greetings cards, invites them over, etc. I don't want my husband to lose touch with his few remaining old friends but am actually getting a bit fed up with having to make all the running. Is this normal?

Sue, Hampshire

He says:

What makes you think that your husband welcomes this interference in his life? These are his friends, not yours, and it is up to him to decide whether and when he sees them. When you get married, you remain individuals and it is not up to you to take so much upon yourself. You are quite right tto believe that a nurturing circle of friends is a great asset, but concentrate on maintaining your own and leave your husband to construct his own social network.

She says:

Do not worry, angel, this is perfectly normal behaviour. Men are strange creatures and their friendships are strange, too. The fundamental thing is that they take absolutely no interest in each other; they don't chat or swap notes or gossip as we do. They just bump into each other occasionally and go for a drink and moan about work and compare cars and that is sufficient, even if it only occurs at huge intervals. After all, angel, if your husband is about your age, these two old chums have been around for a few years now, albeit in a shadowy, peripheral kind of way, and I would bet that they will keep floating in and out every now and again on a permanent basis. By all means, make the effort to keep meetings on a more regular basis if you would like to, but don't feel your husband's friendships will suffer if you do not.

DRY OUT THE DEVIL

My partner has just admitted that he is an alcoholic. He is trying very hard to combat the problem. What is difficult is that I don't want to give up alcohol as well. He would like our house to be "dry" and finds the sight of other people drinking very difficult to cope with, but I really enjoy the odd drink, and I don't want to have to curtail my own social life and give up something that I enjoy so much.

Penny, Manchester

He says:

If you really don't want to give up alcohol, even for a reason as important as (in the long term) saving your partner's life, and you believe that your social life depends on drinking alcohol, I would look very carefully at your own relationship with the demon drink. Could you in fact be similarly addicted?

She says:

While he is first coming to terms with this, maybe it would be kind of you to refrain for a while, angel. But the rest of the world won't share your consideration. If your partner can't cope with the sight of anyone else drinking, his efforts are doomed to failure. In the end, he will have to get used to watching others quaffing merrily, and he may as well start with you.

DON'T TAG-ALONG-A-ME

A very dear friend of mine has just moved to Birmingham from Paris, where we studied together. The problem is that she doesn't have any friends and she doesn't like the people she has met through her new job. She has latched on to me and while I love her to bits I don't want to see her every single night of the week. The worst thing is that she even wants to come out with me when I am going out with my boyfriend, and it is getting on his nerves when she insists on tagging along.

Suzette, Birmingham

He says:

Letting your friend "tag along" with you is doing her no favours. If she has no incentive to create a social life of her own, she will hang on to you for ever, quite possibly jeopardising your relationship. You must be much firmer: tell her that you will see her no more than twice a week and it is up to her to fill the rest of the time.

She says:

You don't say how long she's been over here, darling; and new country, new home and new job all at once would be a bit of a culture shock for anyone at first. If you know that underneath it all she's a happy, bubbly type, you can feel confident that she'll sort herself out sooner or later. Why not hold a little party of all your nicest friends and introduce her round? Or rope in another girlfriend for your evenings out. That will spread the load while she finds her feet.

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