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

My son is being bullied

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 22 January 2016
Dear Patricia Marie,

My 14 year old son has told me that he is being bullied at school, and I don't know what to do. He refuses to talk to me about it since I told him I would speak to the headmaster to get it sorted.

It started when we moved, and he had to be initiated into a new school. He is only slightly built, and an easy target. I just want to protect him.

What can I do?

Patricia Marie says...

Bullying, both inside and outside school, is a common distress for children and an anxiety for their parents. It often goes unreported, with victims suffering in silence, and parents left concerned by their child's withdrawn behaviour.

Your son should be praised for confiding in you, as he may have been fearing that if he speaks out, the problem will worsen. Build on his confidence by working together to stop this unacceptable torment, and tell him that unless bullies are stopped, they continue to intimidate others, and worsen their tactics. Make him aware that every school has a zero tolerance to bullying, and that whilst you must demand the Headmaster investigates, you will insist that the matter is dealt with sensitively. Your son needs to understand that the bullying is in no way his fault, but he may be able to avoid it. Encourage him to make friends with one or two of the quieter, more sensible people in his class.

Try not to take your son out of school, as you could experience problems re-introducing him, and it could affect the school's ability to sort out the problem effectively. Most schools have Befrienders, assigned to support pupils who are experiencing difficulties, which could assist your son greatly. Request to be given a contact at the school, with whom you can liaise at any time to check on your son's welfare. If you are not satisfied with the school's response in any way, approach the school governors, or in the absence of a satisfactory conclusion, The Advisory Centre for Education.

Increasingly, social media has become a forum for bullying among school children. This is known as Cyberbullying. If this happens to your son, block the perpetrator immediately and save any detrimental evidence. You may need to refer to this as the investigation progresses.

Understandably, you may want to contact the bully yourself, but this could cause embarrassment and further anguish for your son, as well as escalating the situation. Concentrate instead on keeping him as stress free as possible, encourage him to open up about his concerns, and ensure he is eating healthily, getting regular exercise, and sleeping well to enhance his wellbeing.

Family Lives (formerly Parentline) offer 24/7 help and support in all aspects of family life. Also, Childline can offer counselling for your son, as well as professional advice at any time of the day or night.

Hopefully when it's all sorted your son can start to enjoy his school days again, which each and every child is entitled to, and deserves no less.

The Advisory Centre for Education (ACE): 0300 0115 142
Childline: 0800 1111
Family Lives: 0808 800 2222

I don't find my partner sexually attractive anymore

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 15 January 2016
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, then generally the passion is 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, as most hormones have an impact on sexual feelings and behaviour, so eliminate any problem here by arranging a blood test with your GP.

Can you share with your husband your desire to rekindle the fireworks 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

New Year Problem

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Monday, 04 January 2016
Dear Patricia Marie

New Year is a difficult time for me. My wife told me about an affair she was having with my best friend last year on New Year's Eve. She admitted it wasn't a good time to tell me, but couldn't go into another year unhappy and wanting to be with this other man. They are still together and I hear from a reliable source that they are very happy, which hurts me very much, as I have not only lost my wife, but my best friend too. I have tried to move on with my life, but nothing feels the same. I don't know what to do.

Patricia Marie says...

I am so sorry for your loss, made particularly worse for you because of your wife choosing to leave you for your best friend. When you lose someone important to you, it is natural to feel sad; that is an essential part of the recovery process. The problem with broken-hearted people is that they often relive their misery over and over again and the pain becomes a mental habit. This habit can and must be broken. A good start is to break connections. Don't listen to idle gossip, as what you don't know, can't hurt you. Turn off the music that reminds you of your ex, and make your home look and feel different from when you lived there together.

Take up a new hobby or activity, which will help create new friendships with common interests. Making changes isn't just about leaving the past behind, but also about embracing the future. However painful this may seem, this could enable you to move on with your life in a positive productive way. Your negative association with the New Year is understandable, but next year you will feel stronger, and you could plan to do something enjoyable on that New Year's Eve, which will help dilute emotions surrounding this time of year. And finally, believe that you can love again. There are many people who have had their hearts broken only to find even greater happiness with another. I wish you a very happy new year and hope 2016 becomes a memorable one for all the right reasons.

I recommend you read: How To Mend Your Broken Heart by Paul McKenna and Hugh Willbourn

Tips for a healthier and happier New Year

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Monday, 04 January 2016
Dear readers,

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy, Healthy, and Peaceful New Year, and have included some tips to encourage this. However, sometimes life doesn't always run smoothly, and I therefore continue to look forward to helping and advising you with any problems that you may encounter.

We can often be pulled in many directions and rarely stop to recharge. Prioritise the important tasks, such as work, but ensure you create a good balance of relaxation time too. Try meditation – switching off and relaxing your mind is an excellent way to take stock of life and find peace, even just for five minutes, and enhances wellbeing.

The festive period may have left you feeling sluggish due to lack of exercise and overindulging. Feel more energised by making healthier eating choices, and raise fitness levels as well as overall happiness by increasing your exercise. You don't necessarily have to rush out and join a gym. Small changes can make a big difference, such as walking instead of taking the car.

If you are a smoker, giving up is probably the biggest simple step you can take to improve your health. Sometimes this addiction cannot be fought alone - help is only a phone call away. Ring the NHS Stop Smoking Service on 0300 123 104. Kicking this habit will increase your chances of living a longer, far healthier life.

Alcohol has been linked to obesity, cancer and liver damage. If you regularly drink too much alcohol, it can make you feel anxious, and interfere with your sleeping patterns. This habit needs to be broken, so, instead of heading for the bottle, try a relaxing bath, and have some non-alcoholic drinks in the fridge to enjoy. Diverting your thoughts to something pleasurable will help keep you focused. If you really can't resist, allocate dinner time only to enjoy a glass of alcohol.
If you think you may have a problem with alcohol call Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on: 0800 9177 650

Do something different - be it embarking on a part time course at your local college, joining a dance class, or taking up cross stitching. There is nothing more empowering than learning a new skill, and new found enjoyment helps keep depression at bay.

If you are experiencing financial gloom, make 2016 the year to address this. Start by listing your income and expenditure, then plan a budget and stick to it. Give yourself rules, such as leaving your debit and credit cards at home. You will be amazed how much you can save by not having available cash to hand. If you can, tear up your credit card to avoid the temptation to spend unnecessarily. Ignoring any creditors only makes things worse, so be brave and contact them to arrange an affordable repayment plan, thereby regaining control.

If you are in a relationship with either a partner or a friend, which is causing you to feel unhappy, resentful, exhausted, drained, or bad about yourself, take responsibility and either work on improving the relationship, or sever ties, and spend more time with those who make you happy.

And finally, some wise words
'Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instil in us'. Hal Borland

I'm worried for my friend

Posted by Patricia_Marie
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on Friday, 18 December 2015
One of my friends has recently set up a joint account and is planning on renting a house with someone she met on the internet six months ago. He seems nice enough but my husband and I have noticed he has some serious money issues and lies a lot, for example when he told her he has never been engaged before when in fact he has. He has become friends with my husband and tells him things that are different to what he tells her. She is completely in love with him and is planning their entire future, oblivious to his financial situation. I don't know what I should do. I can't tell her anything my husband has told me about him as I don't want to spoil their friendship or be in the middle. Also, I'm worried it's none of my business. However, I'm struggling to sit back and do nothing when I'm worried he might hurt her. Or am I just overreacting and should ignore it? Please help. Thank you.

Patricia Marie says...

You are concerned that you don't wish to jeopardise your husband's friendship with this man, yet they have only known each other for a few months, and in this time he has lied about both personal and financial matters, so perhaps discord between them is preferable, to protect your friend from making a huge mistake with him.

However, please remember, your friend is in love with this man, and may be in denial if told something she doesn't wish to believe. Rather than being seen as a caring friend for disclosing this information, you might be construed as a troublemaker, which could cause you great anguish, despite your good intentions.

Although I do understand your wish to enlighten, you may risk your friendship in the process. Nevertheless, you could have a candid discussion with her, and explain how worried you are that she is verging on a huge commitment with a man she barely knows. Suggest she checks his authenticity, and particularly the personal facts he has communicated to her. If she shows resentment at your suggestion, be prepared to let her find out the truth for herself. Some of the best lessons ever learnt are those we learn from our mistakes and failures. After all, the error of the past can be the success and wisdom of the future.

It is possible that this man may have no ulterior motive, other than perhaps retaining information for fear of being misjudged by your friend. If it should prove that he has been manipulating the truth, is not to be trusted, and the relationship does crumble, continue to be there for her, and she will see that you are very much a friend she can depend on.

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