On coping with life after birth, wedding bills, a diet fanatic and a selfish friend who wants a loan
Q Last year, I had a baby with my partner. Since then, he has completely gone off sex. Although he says that he loves me and loves our baby son, he just isn't himself. He is withdrawn and quiet and won't speak about his feelings, especially the fact that we don't have sex any more. I've been trying to make him go to the doctor but he says that everything is fine. I've asked him if he has met someone else and he denies it and says that he'll be fine, that it's just a phase and it'll be okay. But he's getting more and more distant all the time. What should I do?
A I really sympathise with your concerns and the sense of urgency you must feel to resolve this problem before all is lost. It's a surprisingly common complaint in relationships with a new baby, as the man often feels that sex comes second to the needs and demands of his child.
If you can rule out infidelity and it's not a physical complaint, then you may have to consider the idea that he's struggling with a problem with his family, in work or with a friend, and he feels that he can no longer speak to you about it as he's not the most important human being in your life anymore.
I would urge you to be firm with him and get to the bottom of this. Sex and intimacy are so important for maintaining the closeness and trust in a relationship, and you must feel that your connection as a couple is slipping away. Seriously consider trying to encourage him to speak to a sex and relationship counsellor. An outside point of view from somebody with considerable experience and advice may be exactly what you need to refresh your partnership.
Q I'm getting married at the end of the summer but I'm having terrible fights with my fiancé. I want to have a wedding day I will never forget but he says we can't afford to go over the top. We're only going to get married once so I believe we should go all out and really enjoy it. We've both got jobs. But he thinks we should cut everything back and only invite family and really close friends. I still love him but I don't really want his penny-pinching to ruin what is the biggest day of my life.
A For the sake of your relationship and your future together, it is vital that you manage to agree on where to draw the line on expense for your wedding day. I do also believe that it's one of the biggest days of your life, and it's important to make it as exciting and memorable as possible.
My advice is to aim to have the best wedding you can possibly afford, by firstly strictly agreeing on a budget which is realistic yet allows some room for luxuries.
It is crucial that you do your research and make it a joint project to source the best value for every aspect of the big day. And be fairly ruthless when compiling your guest list.
Good luck and whatever the outcome, I hope you have a wonderful day.
Q A friend of mine has become obsessed with diet and exercise. Like me, she is in her early 20s and has never been either body conscious or overweight. However, a few months ago a fellow student (male) in our college made a comment about her thighs and ever since then she has been hitting the gym and now has an alarmingly thin frame. She is well over the age of consent so I don't even know if I should contact her parents. She is bright, beautiful and kind so I don't want to stand by and watch her waste away.
A You're right to be concerned. The ill thought-out yet probably innocent and innocuous comment by your fellow student obviously brought to light some deep-rooted issues in self-esteem and control connected to food and body image. As you're reluctant to contact her parents, since she's no longer a child, my first instinct would be to approach her directly with your concerns. Just be totally honest as her friend and let her know that you're worried that she's taking her diet and exercise regime to extremes -- and there's no need for it. Be understanding and gently coax her into opening up to you about her relationship with her body. Even share your own concerns about body image. You will hopefully manage to resolve some of her issues by letting her talk about them and the experience will bring you closer.
Q I have a long-term friend from our school days who only contacts me when she wants something. I find it very hard to say no but recently she asked for a loan. I am just about keeping my own head above water.
She is in massive debt, so I refused.
Now she won’t take my calls. I find it difficult to walk away from longstanding friendships but I can’t help feeling that this girl is using me.
I’m in my 40s with a husband and three children so I am not naive, but I do like to help out when I can.
Where do you draw the line?
A It seems to me that this friend of yours is trying to take advantage of your obviously kind and sympathetic nature. If she was a close, loyal and supportive friend, who would do anything for you and could be relied upon for support through thick and thin, then I would be absolutely willing to lend her money. But this person does not represent or possess any of these qualities and therefore I am in complete agreement with your decision to refuse to give her the loan.
It is downright rude that she's refusing to take your calls. My advice is to cut all ties with her until or if she is willing to approach you and apologise.
If she has the grace and courage to come to you then you may be able to bring up the underlying issue in your friendship and make an attempt to resolve things.
If not, then she really isn't worth you wasting all of your time and energy.