Ask Fiona: My son is becoming withdrawn – should I be worried?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on a withdrawn son, how to deal with an snoring husband, and what to do when your partner's family take an instant dislike to you.
MY 23-YEAR-OLD son lives at home with myself and his older brother. He has always been a quiet boy but over the past year he has become very withdrawn.
We all work but when he's at home, he spends most of his time in his room and it seems to me that he only comes out to eat, use the bathroom or dump his clothes by the washing machine. He rarely goes out to socialise and, when he does, it is usually with his brother – and that might be the problem.
His brother is 26 and meets up with his friends at the sports centre and the football club nearly every night of the week. He's very sporty and seems to have a different girl hanging off his arm every time I see him.
My younger son did have a girlfriend, but they split up over two years ago and, as far as I am aware, he's not gone out with anyone else since.
I've asked a few times if anything is troubling him, but he simply replies that nothing is wrong. However, I am really worried about him and wish he was more like his older brother.
What can I do?
FIONA SAYS: Some people are naturally less outgoing than others
ALTHOUGH your son seems to be more withdrawn than usual, it is possible that there is indeed nothing wrong – just as he says. Yes, he may not be as outgoing as his brother but that doesn't mean that there must be a problem.
Some people need company but many others are happy to live more solitary lives and your son may simply fall into this camp; it's not wrong, it's just different.
It is also possible that he is not as isolated as you might think. He might have a thriving network of friends on social media who he doesn't need to meet very often. It may also explain why he doesn't engage as much at home.
I don't like the trend, but family units under the same roof are now much more fragmented. Modern smartphones, tablets and PCs enable people to do whatever they like, when they like. It's no longer the norm for families to sit around a TV and spend an evening together.
However, it is possible your son may have a genuine problem. You say his behaviour has become more solitary over the past year and that he seems not to be dating any more, both of which could indicate that something is indeed troubling him. Have you spoken to his brother about it?
Whilst your younger son might not confide in you, he might be talking to his brother.
If he is, you may still not find out if anything's wrong, as your elder son might not be willing to breach his confidence if he's been told something.
If he's not talking to anyone all I can suggest is that you continue to let him know that you love him and that you are there if he wants to talk. Perhaps you could start by creating more opportunities to talk.
Ensure meals are taken together and are technology-free; don't let them scatter to other rooms with food on trays. Better yet, extend the opportunity by encouraging them to help with the cooking and the clearing up afterwards.
There's no excuse. You all have jobs, so it seems reasonable to me that these chores should be shared, and they're often a good time to chat. Talking of chores, instead of putting his clothes by the washing machine, at 23, it's time he learned how to use it!
My husband's snoring is making me miserable – how can I stop it?
AFTER 15 years of marriage, my husband has started snoring – and it's not a gentle sound either. It's loud enough to wake me up and if I prod him to make it stop, he gets cross and refuses to accept that he's been snoring at all. This has been going on for a few months now and it is really getting me down. I am getting so tired. I have to use the spare bedroom just to get some sleep, which I hate.
What should I do?
FIONA SAYS: Confront your husband with the evidence
THIS is unfair on you and the key here is getting your husband to accept that he has a problem. I suggest you make a start by using a tablet or phone to film him while he is snoring.
Hopefully, when faced with this evidence, he will visit his GP and discuss treatment options. If he still avoids the issue, you could get some information about snoring for him to read it. Ensure that whatever you get includes details about sleep apnoea, a type of snoring which can cause people to stop breathing. Perhaps then he will see sense.
My sister-in-law doesn't like me and it's ruining my marriage
SINCE I married her brother three years ago, my sister-in-law has made it clear that she doesn't like me. I know that she has been saying things about me to the rest of her family, but my husband won't accept this and thinks I'm trying to drive a wedge between him and his family. We've had a few arguments about this and, last week, he really lost his temper and stormed out of the house. I hate what this is doing to our marriage but I don't know what I can do to stop it.
FIONA SAYS: Let it go
IF YOUR sister-in-law is the only source of friction in your marriage, why don't you just let it go? If she doesn't like you, so what? Is it worth jeopardising your marriage over? We can't pick and choose our families and many people would identify with the problem you are experiencing.
So please try to accept that, for some reason, she doesn't like you and ignore her. If things she says start to affect your relationship with other members of your husband's family, then you will have to talk to someone – perhaps your mother-in-law. Otherwise, don't let her get to you – it's just not worth it.
The arguments with my husband have gotten worse, but the sex is better than ever
I HAVE always had a lively relationship with my husband but, over the past couple of years, we have started to have more and more rows. I have never been one to let things fester and, while my husband is slower to get cross, he won't hold back if he thinks he's in the right. What's odd is that while we now argue more, our sex life has never been better.
Should I be worried?
FIONA SAYS: It might not be healthy
YOU seem to have established a pattern of behaviour that leads from rows to making up to sex. It may even be possible that you've now reached a point when you can't be intimate unless you've first had a row. While this is not unusual, it is certainly not a healthy basis on which to build a long-term relationship.
You need to find ways to love each other that don't involve arguing and, if you can't do this yourselves, I suggest you contact Relate (relate.org.uk or phone 0300 100 1234).
:: If you have a problem and you'd like Fiona's advice, email email@example.com