ASK FIONA: We're getting married and I don't like the idea of his stag do...
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: stag dos, an abset brother and how to deal with a worrying past
I LOVE my fiance very much and we're getting married in nine weeks' time.
His best man, though, is really upsetting me, as he and their mates are planning a weekend stag do involving strippers and all kinds of unpleasant stuff.
I find it really degrading and I'd prefer it if my fiance cancelled the whole thing.
I know it's considered normal to behave in outrageous ways on a stag do, and I know people will think I'm a party-pooper, but I'm not.
I love a good party but this kind of "do" is just distasteful and offensive.
How can I make my fiance realise that I am serious about this?
FIONA SAYS: What some men do on what they see as their 'last night of freedom' has become something of a tacky ritual in recent years.
Some men go abroad for a weekend of riotous activity, and the men are no longer alone either, as plenty of brides-to-be have equally tacky hen-dos.
While some people are able to shrug it off as harmless entertainment, there are others, like yourself, who find it degrading and frankly juvenile.
Have you tried to explain your feelings to your fiance?
If you can get him to understand how strongly you feel about this, it may make it easier for him to call the whole thing off with his mates.
He'll almost certainly want a stag-do of some kind, and his friends really won't thank you if you curtail all their 'entertainment', but you might try and encourage them to do something else.
A stag-do doesn't have to involve the exploitation of other women – look online and you'll find dozens of potential activities in this country and abroad.
At the end of the day though, however much you dislike it, he will come under a lot of pressure from his friends to go crazy in some way.
If you are sure of him, and you love and trust him, don't be too hard on him if, in the end, he feels he has to go along with what they plan for him.
I'M WORRIED SOMEONE WILL DISCOVER MY PAST
MY dad was an alcoholic and abused me and my mum for many years before they split up.
I was 15 at the time and took it hard because I didn't really understand, so, when I was 18, I contacted my father again.
He was even worse than before as, apart from the alcohol, he was into drugs as well.
My mother felt betrayed by my seeing him and kicked me out of the family home, and, for about seven months, I supported myself by doing some pretty awful things.
I was shoplifting and sold myself too but, eventually I found a job looking after a disabled friend, and four years on, I now have a job and my mother and I have made up.
I've been to college and got some qualifications, but I'd really like to meet a nice guy, settle down and have kids.
The thing is, I'm terrified of anyone finding out about my past, so I'm very miserable and have contemplated suicide many times.
What should I do?
FIONA SAYS: Most people have things in their past they're a bit ashamed of, the difference between them and you is that they've left them behind and moved on.
I don't think you see yourself as I, and I'm sure other people do, though.
You're a forgiving person for trying to re-establish a relationship with someone who abused you, when he should have protected and cared for you.
You're a caring person for continuing to spend your time looking after a disabled friend. An intelligent person for pulling yourself out of crime and prostitution, and going on to find yourself both a home and qualifications. A brave person for facing a horrendous past and trying to work your way through it.
In fact, you're the sort of person people would, and should, be proud to know, to count as a friend and even come to love. I wonder if you've ever thought about yourself like that?
You've achieved a lot and can go on to do all the other things you want if you'd just had more faith in yourself. Even if people do find out about your past, the way you live now shows you've put it behind you.
If you still find yourself having suicidal thoughts, do please contact the Samaritans on 116 123 as they will help you begin to recognise you have a lot to live for.
HOW DO I LET HIM DOWN GENTLY?
I'VE been going out with a guy for about a month and I've realised now that he's not for me.
I've tried to gently suggest that we should move on, but he's ignored all my signals and is making things worse by buying me all sorts of expensive presents.
Last week it was a necklace and yesterday he gave me a new TV for my flat.
All this does is make me feel guilty and mean for not liking him very much, so how do I get out of this mess without hurting him?
FIONA SAYS: I'm afraid that probably won't be possible. Rejection is never easy to cope with, however gently it's done, but you must end this quickly for both your sakes.
Rather than drop hints about moving on, you need to explain that you don't feel you're right for each other. If you think it's appropriate, apologise for not saying something sooner, but say you were worried about hurting his feelings. Offer to give the presents back too.
It may well be that he is less surprised by this than you're expecting, and the presents may be a way of trying to buy your affection. You need to do this quickly and move on – there's no future in this relationship for either of you.
MY BROTHER WON'T RESPOND
FOR 12 years, until just before she died, I looked after my mother. I didn't begrudge this at all as I'm divorced with no children to worry about.
Unfortunately, just as she started to go downhill, I was diagnosed with cancer and became very ill myself, so she went to live with my brother and his wife where she died, two months later.
Since the funeral, my brother hasn't spoken to me or anyone else in the family. I've tried calling and I've written him a couple of letters, but haven't received a reply.
I know he hasn't had to look after a sick person before, but surely, he can't be angry with me for being ill and unable to look after our mother at the end?
I don't like this ill feeling between us, but don't know what else to do.
FIONA SAYS: It's possible that coping with a death has shocked him to the core, especially if he's never had to cope with looking after someone before. Grief affects people in different ways.
If your brother has never been so intimately involved with losing someone close to him before, cutting himself off from the rest of the family may be his way of dealing with his feelings.
It may also be that he didn't realise how much you had to do, looking after your mother, until he had to do so himself, and he may now be feeling guilty.
As you have cancer too, it might be he's simply too afraid of losing you as well.
Keep contacting him, by phone, email, letter or however, to let him know that you, and the rest of the family, are concerned for him and want to be back in touch as soon as he feels ready.
:: If you have a problem you'd like Fiona's advice with, please email firstname.lastname@example.org