Working life: What's your problem?

INDISPENSABLE ADVICE FROM REAL LIFE'S AGONY AUNT AND UNCLE
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Indy Lifestyle Online
SAVE ME FROM DIY

We've just moved to a large property that needs a lot of work. The trouble is my husband has suddenly taken it into his head that he can do it all, yet he has no experience of electrics, plumbing, plastering or the most basic decorating (he once put some curtain rails up). I think he is bonkers. Am I right?

Tracey, Solihull

He says:

I wonder what profession your husband is in. Something deskbound, perhaps, that involves much mental effort but never honest physical exhaustion? Something that involves a strict pattern but never the opportunity to be creative? So many 20th-century workers are stuck in this rut. Working with one's hands and muscles are very much bound up with traditional notions of masculinity. Creativity is vital to fulfilment and working on the home satisfies both these criteria. Don't stamp on your husband's natural desires. Let him pit himself, bone and sinew, against raw elemental brick! Let him run riot with rich colours and challenging textures! In short, let him be a MAN!

She says:

Scotch this madness at once. If you allow him to persist, he will disappear for hours into some dreary DIY emporium, and return in triumph with hundreds of pounds' worth of equipment and materials, much of it unsuitable. He will attack the first task with enthusiasm, run into a problem or run out of time, then retreat into a sulk. If he completes anything (a big if) the best you can hope for is that it will be kind-of-functional and look home-made. Trying to discourage him on the grounds he is incompetent will, however, make him more determined. Be subtle. Burst into floods of hysterical tears and sob that if he takes on all this work, you will not see him for years because all his time will be taken up stripping and grouting. This may be enough. Failing that, use one of the following desperate measures: book yourself into a hotel for the duration/flee to your parents/divorce him.

TOO CLINGY BY HALF

I've got a new boy in my life and we have a nice time, but he assumes we should spend all weekend, every weekend together unless I have a good excuse. For the first couple of weeks it was great - it was a real adventure tapping into someone else's world - but I've got a life with friends whom I like spending time with and nights out on my own. Now the heady bit's over I want to see less of him. But it's difficult - I feel as if I snatch a few hours on my own and he's back again. Help!

Chloe, Clapham

He says:

What an odd phrase to describe exploring the first phase of a new relationship: "a real adventure tapping into someone else's world". This seems an alarmingly clinical way of looking at what should be a very special time. Do you have difficulties forming lasting relationships? Wanting to stifle your boyfriend's enthusiasm for your company is neither normal nor kind. I suggest you work through your commitment-phobia with a qualified therapist.

She says:

There is something uncomfortably adolescent about wanting to spend every waking moment with one's beloved: the same mindset that wants to write their name all over the cover of your exercise books so everyone in the class can see you have a girlfriend/boyfriend and will be madly jealous. I can't help feeling it doesn't bode well if you are already fighting to escape. I do hope he isn't the type who will end up outside your house with binoculars and bugging equipment to see what you're up to when he's not there with you. Doesn't he have any friends he might like to spend time with? If not I'd really worry. I assume you've tried being kind but firm. If all else fails, make sure you are only available when you want to be: get a colleague to answer your phone at work, put your answering machine on overtime, switch off your mobile and be charmingly vague about your movements.

CUCKOO IN MY FLAT

I live alone in my one-bedroom flat, but was recently persuaded to take in an old friend for a week or so while he was waiting for his new flat to become available. That was a month ago: his flat isn't ready and I'm starting to feel put upon. He is quiet and studious but his muddy football gear is always drying on the radiators, he never buys milk, and his girlfriend lives in the US, so he's on the phone to California for hours.

Marcus, Fulham

He says:

Your primitive territorial instincts are coming to the fore and, as the dominant male on home territory, you will find yourself picking a fight. If you want to maintain the relationship, he must go - soon. Put things on a formal footing: set a deadline by which he must leave.

She says:

As he's an old friend I shouldn't think you want to dislodge him brutally. Instead, cultivate an antisocial hobby that will focus his ideas on speeding up the new-flat process. Take up the saxophone. (Do warn the neighbours it's only temporary.) Become macrobiotic and refuse to have any food but rice in the flat. Start fishing. Create a maggot farm. Anything like this might do the trick; you will know better than I do what he his particular pet hates are. As soon as he is out, go back to normal, of course. As for the milk: surely that's forgivable. And what do you think itemised phone bills are for?

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