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My friend is too big for skimpy clothing

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Q MY friend wears all of the latest trends, regardless of whether they suit her or not. And the skimpier the better seems to be her rule of thumb.

She's a big girl, and on the one hand I admire her confidence to rock up to nights out in shorts as if she's a size eight, but she's completely unaware that the looks she gets are of horror, not admiration.

People say very nasty things about her to me when she's not around, and I don't know if I should say something to her about it all. I have tried gently suggesting less revealing clothes when we are out shopping together, but she never takes the hint.

A Either your friend doesn't care in the slightest about what people think, or else she genuinely doesn't realise how she looks to others.

If it's the former, then I do admire her confidence in a world where people are unfortunately so quick to judge others. We come in all shapes and sizes, which is a wonderful thing.

But I do think it's important to dress for your body shape, size and height. It means you'll always look comfortable and appropriate, and small, tight clothes seem to end up making people look bigger than they should.

Since your friend hasn't taken any of your hints yet, maybe it's time to make them more obvious. Whatever you do, make sure that none of the rude comments gets back to her. I suggest you go shopping with her and arrange to avail of the services of a personal shopper who you will ideally have briefed before the outing. Allow them to explain the importance of dressing appropriately for your shape, and they will be able to advise on the best clothes for your friend. I feel that this may be the best option as you will be there to encourage her, but she will hopefully listen to the advice of a style expert.

Plenty of compliments on more appropriate clothes should help her to feel better about covering up and dressing for her size.

Q There's a girl in work who gets very stressed when things get busy. We work in the office of a manufacturing company and big orders are the norm, and with big orders comes a frantic pace – which is when she falls apart. We all have to pick up the slack and hide her mistakes from the boss, but it's getting harder.

There's nothing actually wrong with her, so I don't know why she acts like such a moron – the work is not that hard, so surely everyone should be able to pull their weight in a workplace or make way for someone who can?

She's a nice person and I think the only reason we've been protecting her is because her mum has a chronic illness and this girl is her only support; but other more capable people have been let go since the recession hit, yet this incompetent survives.

A THIS is tricky, and it's certainly kind of you to protect this girl from her mistakes being exposed. She sounds like somebody who doesn't have the physical ability to cope with the various stresses of life, and that's something I can understand given the stress she's probably under with trying to hold down a job and look after her mum.

But it's also extremely unfair on you and your colleagues to be put under this extra pressure in work when you have to cover for her mistakes. There has to be a solution or a compromise which will work for everybody. If I were you, I would have a very honest and confidential conversation with your boss.

I advise you to explain the situation and speak on behalf of your other colleagues, but also ensure that he knows the home circumstances of this girl. It will give him the opportunity to keep an eye on her and to perhaps think about changing her role within the business to a less stressful position, or even giving her some tips on how to deal with the big orders in a more relaxed way.

You could also suggest some ways for her to relax and cope a little better with the job. Meditation, deep breathing exercises and yoga have all helped many people to deal with everyday life a little better.

Q MY wife is agoraphobic and has not left our home in 15 months. She was always nervous and a worrier, but the symptoms slowly escalated over our five years of marriage and now she will not set foot outside the house. She came from a happy home, suffered no childhood trauma and until soon after our marriage held down a highly responsible job – she quit so we could start a family, but we no longer have sex or are not intimate in any way. She won't discuss her disorder at all. All she does most days is clean. The house is spotless, but not even her family are allowed to visit us.

I've tried to get her permission to bring an expert to our home to talk things through, but she won't allow it and becomes distraught at even the mention of another person visiting and she won't do it via the phone. My GP has now put me on medication for my nerves. This is not the woman I married. I am almost at the end of my tether and just want to leave her and start living again.

A I REALLY sympathise with you, as this is an incredibly difficult situation to be in. It seems that you have done your best to help your wife and be a supportive husband, but this has not been enough to alter the situation.

Your wife may be suffering from an illness, but you deserve to enjoy a happy and fulfilling life. However, before you do properly consider leaving her, I would urge you to really think about what this would achieve.

It's undoubtedly the selfish option and would do nothing to help her; in fact, it would probably compound her problems even more and worsen her paranoia. I feel that it's time to implement more forcible means.

She will always say no to help and deny the situation she's in, but I suggest you seek the assistance of a reputable doctor or psychologist to go to your home and speak to her. If there's even a family GP that she knows, that may be a better place to start.

Don't give her the option any more because you know what she will choose every time. You need to make some serious changes for the sake of your marriage and your future.


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