Our agony aunt, Fiona Caine, attempts to solve readers’ problems...
Q: I’m 24, a teacher and have become attracted to one of the sixth form boys I teach.
He’s very attractive and bright and while I’m not meant to favour one pupil over another, I know I spend more time than I should helping him.
I don’t think anyone suspects how I feel and I know it’s wrong and that there’s nothing I can do about it, but my feelings are genuine and I wish I could take them further. What can I do?
A: There is no easy way around this, but you are his teacher and, as a student, he’s vulnerable, while you’re in a position of trust.
There are ethical and professional boundaries here and they’re not easy to surmount.
Even once he’s left school, you’ll still be the person in authority and you will face any and all of the consequences if anything went wrong.
You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t have some feelings for the young people in your care, but you run the risk of ruining your career, so put some distance between yourself and this boy as soon as possible.
Q: I left my husband two years ago after 15 unhappy years together.
I am now with another man who has since become the man I want to be with for the rest of my life.
He is loving, sincere and kind, but my adult children cannot accept what I have done.
They refuse to speak to my new partner and on the rare occasions they’ve met, they’ve been rude and unpleasant.
It’s not as if their father cares – he has a new partner – so why can’t they just be happy for me?
A: Even adult children find it difficult to accept that parents have their own needs.
Some children see their parents as an unbreakable unit and the break-up of a marriage – even a bad one – hits them hard.
That said, there is no excuse for their rudeness. I think it’s time for some tough love.
Tell them that while you will always love them, you love your partner too and are no longer prepared to accept the way they’ve been behaving. It may take a little while, but hopefully they’ll come around in the end.
Q: I’ve never wanted children and my marriage broke up last year because of this.
My husband always thought I’d change my mind, but I’m now in my mid-thirties and still more interested in my career than in having offspring.
I’d like another relationship, but not if it involves children, and frankly, I would rather remain celibate for the rest of my life rather than risk becoming a parent.
I said this to some friends who looked at me as if I’d suggested something shocking, but what’s so wrong with that, and why has opting to be child-free become such a hanging offence?
A: Whilst there are many women who decide not to have children, there are still people who find the idea difficult to comprehend.
Celibacy is a different issue though, and I think some people would feel threatened by being forced to focus on their sexual lives.
I suspect many of your friends won’t believe you’re serious, and I am sure you will find there are lots of attempts to pair you off with someone.
It’s only because they want you to be like them, so try to explain to them that, for now, you really aren’t interested and want to focus on your career.
I hope they’ll be able to be supportive, but try not to get upset with them as I’m sure they mean well.
While I understand your need to focus on your career, please do not do so at the expense of friendships outside work.
However important your career is, you will need space outside it to unwind sometimes and people who can give you a different focus or perspective on issues.
If you’re single and child-free, then, in years to come, friendships will be even more important, so please don’t alienate them now just because they don’t understand you.
Q: All the friends I had when I was younger have either got married or moved away.
I’m 27 now and although I have a job, it’s really boring - but exhausting so that, in the evenings, I’ve no energy and end up slumped in front of the TV.
I haven’t had a proper boyfriend in years and although there is someone at work I like, he hasn’t given me any sign that he’s interested in me.
He’s perfectly friendly, but nothing more, unfortunately.
It feels like my life is going nowhere and I’m helpless to do anything about it.
A: You’ve fallen into a rut, so no wonder you find it difficult to be positive - you sound depressed too which is, in itself, exhausting.
Although you’re tired, try going for a walk each evening.
It only needs to be for about 10 minutes to start with, but, just getting out in the fresh air - preferably in a park, by the sea or in the countryside - will begin to make a huge difference.
Surprisingly, taking more exercise will make you feel more energetic and walking outside has been shown to help people with depression.
After that, try setting yourself small goals to achieve each day or each week; perhaps to ask a work colleague to go with you to a film, or a weekend trip somewhere.
You could also try making contact with your old friends - they may be happily married or have moved away, but could still welcome a chat from time to time.
Once you start feeling a little more positive, it’s time to tackle the bigger problems like your job and your relationships.
It could be that you’re only really interested in the man at work because at the moment he seems like the only option, but once your horizons expand, he may no longer interest you at all.
If he still does, wait until you’re feeling more positive and approach him - you really don’t have to wait for him to approach you!
Write to Fiona Caine c/o Danny Randon, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth PO6 3EN or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence, nor pass letters on to other readers.