Agony Aunt

Patricia Marie, MBACP qualified counsellor is a member of The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, practising in Harley Street, Essex and Scotland. She has many years experience of dealing with domestic violence, relationship problems, bereavement, depression, addictions, post traumatic stress and many other emotional issues. If you have a dilemma, please email Patricia.Marie@lady.co.uk

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Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Thursday, 17 August 2017
The last week or so has been a frantic time for students up and down the country, with both the GCSE and A level results coming in. If the results are disappointing, it can cause emotional fallout for the student themselves and their parents, and cause problems between them...

Even if you are unhappy with your child's grades, try not to show this, as it could have a negative impact on their wellbeing. It is very important to remain calm and look to the future, so put aside your own wishes for them, look beyond the marks, and, at a time when they could be feeling disheartened and not good enough, remind them of their attributes, giving them reassurance that your love and approval are unconditional. Don't push them into making the wrong choice just to please you, as this may cause resentment in the future, and try not to compare their results with those of others, as even the most successful people in the world have had failures in their life. Make sure they have some time out to do their research and get as much advice as they can, before making any decisions and bear in mind that helplines are only a phone call away, so do encourage them to call sooner rather than later.

If you are a student, remind yourself that your parents ultimately just want you to be happy. It can be hard to see a way forward when you feel you haven't achieved, but learn from this setback, take responsibility for your results, and consider that if you work hard and commit yourself, your options are limitless. If you haven't been accepted at your chosen university, speak to your tutors, who have the skills and resources to help you explore your choices. Remember, there are always opportunities to improve yourself, whether in or out of education. Experience and other life skills are just as important as qualifications, so perhaps take a gap year, which will allow you time to think of alternatives that you may not up until now have considered.

Sharing life's challenges is a great time for parents and children to bond together, and, with mutual understanding and the right attitude, it can surely only lead to success...

There are helplines available for both students and their parents: The Universities and College Administration Service exam result helpline on 0808 100 8000 offers careers advice and practical support, and Family Lives can provide much needed emotional help on 0808 800 2222 or go on to their website: www.familylives.org.uk 
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My dog died six months ago and I am bereft

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Tuesday, 15 August 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

My beautiful old dog Henry, died six months ago and I am just bereft. He was always with me whatever I did or wherever I went, and as I live on my own he was my companion and I would talk to him all the time. When I walked him, people would often come up and talk to me. Somehow when you have a dog with you it makes you more approachable.

I just feel so lost without him, and so lonely, made worse by the lack of understanding of those around me. I can't believe that my friends have been so insensitive and have hardly mentioned my loss. I have thought about getting another dog, but just don't feel that any other dog could replace him.

Thank you in advance for any ideas you can give me.

Patricia Marie says...

Many people, even our closest friends, can often feel uncomfortable talking about any losses we may have experienced. Because of this, we can sometimes feel isolated just when we need some support. This applies particularly after the death of a pet, as there are some, particularly those who have never owned one, who can't acknowledge the loss of an animal to be a cause for grief. However, be assured that you are not alone - there are many dog owners who are left heartbroken after losing their most loyal companion.

Allow yourself time to come to terms with your sorrow. Recollect the wonderful memories that can never be taken away from you, and hopefully you will soon begin to remember your beloved dog with more smiles than tears. Display a photograph of 'Henry' - it will help you to feel connected when he is in your thoughts.

There are many dog rescue organisations desperate for help, where you could perhaps volunteer to assist with looking after the ones at the centre and, therefore, benefit from having dogs in your life, but without the full responsibility, although I can't promise you won't become attached to these vulnerable animals. Spending time at such a place would also enable you to make like-minded friends and not feel so lonely.

If the only reason you can't face getting another dog is because you feel the new one wouldn't replace the old, yes, of course, no two could ever be the same, but a different dog could prove preferable to not having one. Do consider this, and you may just want to begin a new unique and perfect bond with another furry friend, who would thrive from the love and care you could clearly offer.

For a comforting read, I recommend: Goodbye Dear Friend: Coming to Terms with a Death of a Pet - by Virginia Ironside.
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I don't find my husband sexually attractive anymore

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 04 August 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

I have been married for just over 2 years to my second husband, who is kind and loving. The problem is that I don't find him sexually attractive anymore. I love and care for him, but, to put it bluntly, no longer fancy him. I am 52 and menopausal, so keep thinking this may be contributing to my loss of libido, which has now started to affect our relationship. Our sex life was good when we first met, but it is now almost non existent. I want our love life to return to the way it was, but don't know how to do so.

Thank you for reading my problem. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Patricia Marie says...

In the early stages of a relationship, sexual desire can be intense, and then generally replaced by deeper love, warm companionship and familiarity. Nevertheless, loss of libido can become a serious problem for many couples, and appears to become more common with ageing. Often when someone is withdrawing from intimacy, they tend to push their partner away, yet, ironically, this is the time when communication is more important than ever. For many couples celibacy can become a habit, and the only way to break this pattern is to start indulging again. Of course, this is easier said than done.

Do consider there are many psychological reasons for not wanting to make love, such as stress, poor diet, lack of sleep, and depression. Part of the desire to make love is purely physical. The rest is emotional. Relate can offer expert Psychosexual Couples Counselling which you may find beneficial. The menopause doesn't help either, and can have an impact on sexual feelings and behaviour, so eliminate any problems here by arranging a blood test with your GP.

Can you share with your husband your desire to rekindle the passion between you both? This should open up the channel of intimacy and help create a reconnection. Plan ahead for an intimate evening. It's surprising how sending a few flirty text messages throughout the day can instigate sensual thoughts. Prepare an easy supper, so you won't feel tired, enjoy a candlelit bath together, and see where this leads - which may not necessarily be to the bedroom. Variety really does help. There is nothing quite as boring as predictable sex. We can all take what we have for granted. Remind yourself of all the things you used to find seductive about your husband, then re-visit those memories, which could reignite the spark between the sheets.

I recommend: Reclaiming Desire by Andrew Goldstein and Marianne Brandon.

Relate: 0300 100 1234 www.relate.org.uk 
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My friend has the life I want

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on Friday, 28 July 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

My friend has the life I want. We met at university where we were both studying the same subject. Since then she has always been one step ahead of me. She secured a job first at a place where I also applied for a position, has a lovely husband, 2 children and a beautiful house. I hardly get to see her now and miss the times we used to share. Meanwhile, I am struggling to pay my bills and don't seem to have the time for a relationship. I have been trying to just get on with everything, but I am now feeling completely stuck and resent my friend for having the 'perfect life'.

Patricia Marie says....


I believe that it's not so much that you're jealous of your friend for what she has, but now that her family prioritise her attention, it's more the friendship you're missing and fearful of losing. Speak with her and suggest whilst you fully understand she has commitments to her family, it would be good to spend some time together as her friendship is very important to you.

By writing to me you have taken an important step in acknowledging you are not happy with your life. Make this a turning point. Yes, your friend will always be special as you have shared your growing years together, but you need to start meeting others with whom you can now share more common interests. Start looking for a new job that pays more and will offer you a change of environment. This will enable you to meet new people and also improve your cash flow.

We can often be easily seduced by the fairytale of other people's lives and become blinded by the reality of how things really are. Remember that very true saying; 'the grass isn't always greener on the other side'. Have you considered your friend may be just as envious of you for different reasons? She has huge responsibilities, whereas you have lots of freedom to do as you please. You are so concerned with what you don't have, that you are failing to see what you do have. Be happy for her and see what she has achieved is something you can too, and more. Your life is full of great potential, but you will only find the happiness you are seeking when you stop comparing your life to your friend's and start embracing your own.
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My boyfriend constantly puts me down

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 21 July 2017
Dear Patricia Marie,

My boyfriend constantly puts me down, particularly when we are out with friends, and it is really starting to cause a problem. He says it is just his sarcastic sense of humour, and all his past girlfriends have found it amusing, but I am starting to lose my confidence when I am with him.

I am reasonably attractive, with a slim figure, but have always had low self esteem, ever since my mother walked out when I was 14 years old, and my father made it obvious I was a nuisance to him.

It has taken me a long time to accept myself as I am, and although I don't want to break up with him, I also don't want to start feeling bad about myself again. If I try to talk to him about it, he just gets angry, and says I have no sense of humour and that he is only joking, but he does seem to pick up on all the things I don't like about myself and make them into 'jokes'.

Is there anything I can do to make him stop?

Patricia Marie says...

People who constantly find fault in others, are generally insecure and unhappy within their own lives. It's unhealthy for any relationship to be filled with constant criticism and you need to let your partner aware of how much he is jeopardising yours. Perhaps he grew up with a critical parent, was bullied himself, or maybe he is carrying regrets or resentments from previous partners.

This man is able to make you feel worthless because you are allowing him to, and constantly facing such negativity is quite understandably wearing away your happiness. If you really want to salvage this partnership, calmly ask him why he feels the need to verbally attack and belittle you. I suggest you make it clear that you will not tolerate this behaviour any more. If he realises how much he is hurting you, and genuinely wants to address his issues, this will be a good start, but if not, you have to ask yourself why you would want to stay with a man who is making you so unhappy.

If you can't make a decision right now, have some time apart, to allow you to re-evaluate your feelings. It could be that your boyfriend's attitude has reignited in you painful memories from the past which you may not have dealt with at the time, and I therefore believe you could benefit from some counselling. This will empower you by building your self esteem, enabling you to think more clearly, and help you make better decisions both at this present time and in the future too.

You may come to a decision to sever ties, but remember, no relationship is ever a waste of time. If it doesn't bring you what you want, it teaches you what you don't want, and do keep in mind, all endings bring new beginnings.

I recommend you read: Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay, by Mira Kirshenbaum: A Step by Step Guide to Help You Decide to Stay in or Get Out of Your Relationship.
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