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Why do I choose partners who just bring me misery?

Q: I HAVE a pattern of choosing men who I see no future with -- they might be keener on me than I am on them or vice versa or, even worse, they may be with someone else. I have come to understand that this is ultimately a way of me avoiding even the possibility of a long- term commitment. I don't know why I am so afraid, but at this stage in my life I want to at least be open to having a normal relationship with the chance of a future -- the problem is I don't know how.

aYou seem to have lost your sense of what you really want in a partner, and this may be a reflection of your own sense of self-worth. You admit to recognising the pattern but can't seem to bring it to a halt. It's almost a form of self-abuse, to choose a partner who you know will bring you misery and stress.

My strong advice is to take some time away from relationships to be alone and figure out exactly what you want and what is best for you. Confide in close friends or family, too, for their insights.

Compile a list of warning signs in a potential relationship and of the positive qualities you're searching for in another person. I would urge you to concentrate on building your own self-esteem and long-term focus before you begin searching for a man.

QI've been living with my girlfriend for five years. Recently her best friend temporarily moved in as she had just broken up from her boyfriend and needed somewhere to stay until she sorted herself out. One night when my girlfriend, who is a nurse, was at work, myself and her pal had a few drinks and kissed. We both pulled away and it did not go any further, but things have been very awkward between us ever since. My girlfriend has noticed, but just keeps reassuring me that her mate will be gone as soon as she finds a decent flat. The guilt is killing me, so do I tell her?

aThis is rather a big secret to have to keep to yourself and no doubt admitting everything would be a huge weight off your conscience. But only you can decide if it's worth your girlfriend possibly leaving you for.

For her best friend and boyfriend to act so disloyally towards her would be an enormous source of upset, hurt and anger. I'm all for being upfront and honest with people, but since you both know that you've made a big mistake and it will never happen again, I would gently suggest that you put the whole ordeal to the back of your mind.

Your secret is presumably safe as no doubt her friend isn't too keen on admitting what happened, so my advice is to ensure she leaves your place as soon as possible and you take care to avoid any future situation which may lead to a similar temptation.

QThis is going to sound like a teenage question but I am actually in my 30s, as are the women who are my friends. There are 12 of us and we

have known each other for a very long time. There is one woman who is rather dominant and she's always very 'honest' which, from what I have seen over the years, can be the same as tactless, rude and ungrateful. I've seen her open presents and say straight out that she doesn't like them, ruin the atmosphere on a night out because she doesn't like the food and turn her nose up at clothing etc that someone else has just bought. I'm not interested in bitching so do I say something to her privately after all these years or just bite my tongue?

aThis really depends on whether you're prepared to shake up the group a little bit, and if you feel that saying something is worth the potential trouble it may cause.

She presumably will not take kindly to you bringing up the subject of her domineering and negative traits, but it may also help to clear up any tension. Before you take any action, I would suggest you seek the advice of a close friend in the group.

Say that you're tempted to say something to this woman but you're worried about the repercussions. Another opinion should help you to decide what you want to do. If you choose to bring it up, then my advice is to be non-combative and non-aggressive, but gently point out that there's no need for her to be negative and that such an attitude tends to ruin the atmosphere of the whole evening. Try to be as understanding and empathic as possible.