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My girlfriend is living in pyjamas

Q I'M living with a pyjama girl after my girlfriend was made redundant two months ago and doesn't bother to get dressed some days. Other days I come home and she has changed, but into another pair of pyjamas. We used to wonder how women lived like this, I suppose we were a bit snobby. They are nice pyjamas but, even so, she's getting depressing to look at. How do I get her to put some clothes on?

A It's a shame to hear that your girlfriend is going through a tough time, and it sounds to me that she is suffering from a mild form of depression. Losing her job has compromised her sense of self-worth and her confidence. She has lost interest in wearing clothes suitable for the daytime and, by doing so, is making a big statement about how she is currently feeling towards herself and her life.

Rather than making her feel bad offer her kindness and support. Have a chat with her about how she's feeling, and why she doesn't get dressed every day. Encourage her to spend more time on her appearance and she'll begin to feel better about herself.

You really need to get to the core of the issues that she's facing and help her to begin looking for a new job. Patience and understanding are required.

Q My boyfriend had better propose over Christmas, or I'm going to get a lot of stick from my family. We've been together for five years, and in that space of time my sisters and many of my friends have either become engaged or gotten married. We're both 28 and are laid-back people who are happy together. If I'm honest, the thought of organising a wedding stresses me out. Yet everyone else thinks it's time for us to do the deed and are looking at me like I've got to get the ball moving, but how?

A You tell me that you're very happy in your relationship as it is, so why put yourself under the stress and pressure of marriage for the sake of other people?

I understand that your family would love a big day to look forward to, that they feel that you're at the right age for marriage and secure enough in a long-term relationship for it to work, but this is your life, not theirs. It's up to you and your boyfriend to decide when, if ever, the time is right to tie the knot.

Even though siblings have got engaged or married, it doesn't mean that you have to follow suit.

Explain to your family that you don't appreciate the pressure they're putting on you. If the idea of organising a wedding in the future fills you with dread, then it's likely that it would put a strain on your relationship.

Q I'm due to meet up with an old friend this weekend and am dreading it as she never misses an opportunity to put me down. She will subtly remind me that her boyfriend has a better job than mine, or that her dress costs more and if I express an opinion she'll contradict what I say, because, she knows better. It's always been this way, and I let her away with it because when we were growing up I was a bit intimidated by her. I want to remain friends, but I also want some respect.

A You have allowed yourself to be treated with a lack of respect. It sounds as if this person brings you more stress and unhappiness than joy, and it's not a healthy dynamic. Do you walk away from your meetings feeling insecure and drained of energy? If the answer is yes, then I would consider distancing yourself from her.

Friends are meant to treat you as equals, be pillars of support and understanding, no matter what.

If you're absolutely certain that you still want to keep her as a friend, then my advice is to point out every time she puts you down. Ask her why she is insulting you and calmly ask her not to do that again. Be mature and firm without being combative.

Start to stand up for yourself and demand some respect. She continues to do this because you have been too weak to say no. Show yourself some respect and she will too.