Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her support to a woman who’s fed up with her feuding family, and a teenager who hates housework.

MY husband and 17-year-old daughter fight and argue over anything and everything. My husband's always been a bit dictatorial around the house and has got used to my daughter doing everything that he says. That stopped about six months ago and since then, my daughter has refused almost every single request he has made, even when it's a reasonable one. For example, last week he asked her to tidy her things in the bathroom, as he felt they were taking up too much space. As usual, this quickly escalated into a full-blown confrontation with shouting and door slamming.

I tried to intervene and calm things down but, as so often before, it had little or no effect. It seems that both must have the last word, and neither is prepared to compromise in the slightest. I hate the atmosphere this is creating and wish there was something more I could do to resolve it. The problem is, the longer it goes on, the more run-down I feel.

I spoke to my GP last week and he thought I might be suffering from depression and suggested anti-depressants. I took the prescription but can't bring myself to take the tablets, because I am not convinced I am depressed, I'm just miserable and upset by my family's behaviour. What should I do? – LT

Fiona says: Set some boundaries

If you're not sure about the medication, I suggest you revisit your GP and discuss it further, or perhaps talk it through with another doctor at the practice. If they maintain their stance, please don't dismiss the advice out-of-hand, anti-depressants would certainly help you to cope better with the stress you are feeling at home. As for your family, it sounds like you've been the voice of reason and I can understand how frustrating you must find this, especially as it seems to have been ignored largely. However, in one way, you have been quite fortunate that your daughter has been exerting her need for independence for only six months. I get many letters from desperate parents whose teenagers have been creating discord since their 13th birthday.

In fairness to your daughter, she is probably the one who is least able to control her behaviour. Her body and mind are in a state of flux as she completes the transition from young person to adult. This produces a wave of different emotions and problems that many young people struggle to handle. Add pressure from peers and a growing need for independence into this mix, and it's easy to see why life at home can become volatile.

In your case, though, the problem seems to be compounded by the intransigence of your husband. He should have the maturity to understand this situation and adapt. For this reason, I think you should start this process by talking to him. Explain that the constant arguments are getting you down and affecting your health, then ask him to back off a bit from his daughter. If he resists this, I suggest you urge him to visit the Family Lives website ( and have a read of their material about teenagers. Ultimately, if he continues his confrontational stance, he risks alienating his daughter and perhaps pushing her even further away, something I am sure neither of you want. Your daughter too needs to understand that compromise is not a one-way process. She needs to accept that for you to live together harmoniously, some behaviour is not acceptable and a few boundaries may need to be set.

If at any time you feel overwhelmed by the situation, please contact the helpline at Family Lives on 0808 800 2222.

Why does my mum make me do housework?

I AM 16 and my mother makes me do housework, which I hate. I particularly hate cleaning the bathroom, yet I end up doing this once a week. I have tried to get her to understand that I have no interest in it and never will, but she says I need to know how to do it for when I get my own place or get married. Frankly, I would rather watch grass grow than do housework and would much rather be with my friends, at my canoe club or playing tennis. Why can't she see this? – WH

Fiona says: Look at it from your mother's perspective

I suspect she can. I also suspect she finds housework boring too, but you live there, so why should she be the only one to do it? She knows that it needs to be done and that it will get done all the sooner if everyone mucks in and does their fair share. So please, stop feeling that you are being singled out for unfair treatment, I am sure that is not her intention. Can't you accept that perhaps she too would like some free time to enjoy the things that interest her?

I don't want my parents to meet my girlfriend

I HAVE been living with my girlfriend for two years now and in that time, have had very little contact with my parents. I left home to go to uni and did not return home afterwards. Unexpectedly, we bumped into them last week and the first thing they did was invite my girlfriend and I to visit and stay for a couple of days, which she accepted before I could warn her off. I am not close to my parents (never have been) and, frankly, don't understand why they've invited us to visit. They never accepted the fact that I was gay when I lived with them.

We're not due to see them for a couple of weeks, but I am already feeling tense, as I know it's going to be a disaster. I have told my girlfriend that I may well have a headache on the day and not go, but she can't see what the fuss is about. – AH

Fiona says: What have you got to lose?

If you have a headache this time, what will be your excuse when they rearrange the visit, as they surely will? Or the time after that? I understand that you're worried, but this situation isn't going to go away. Your parents seem genuinely keen to re-establish contact with you, so why not give them the benefit of the doubt?

In their eyes, you could very well have still been a child when you left home. Now, you been living independently for some years and that is bound to create a different dynamic between you, one in which they will probably see you as an adult. So please, stop worrying about this, because you may well find that you get along with your parents so much better now, and that they accept you for who you are. And if you don't, what have you lost, other than a couple of days which will probably help your girlfriend understand you better and bring you closer together?

Is it too late for me to find a new love?

SINCE my divorce three years ago, I have had nine one-night-stands, and short relationships with two married men. I am not proud of this of this record; in fact, I am embarrassed by it because, prior to the break-up of my marriage, most people would have described me as quiet and traditional. I now realise the driving force behind this behaviour was loneliness; I simply do not like being on my own.

At 36 though, I wonder if I have left it too late to change, and has all this casual sex ruined my chances of ever having a loving, genuine relationship again? – TM

Fiona says: Take your time to develop relationships

I don't think so, as you've had the courage to look honestly at your past behaviour and realise that it's not going to give you the long-term companionship that you need. That's rare self-awareness and suggests to me that you are more than capable of putting this phase of your life behind you, if that's what you decide to do.

In the past, you've readily said 'yes' to advances, all it needs now is for you to start saying 'no'. Instead of going straight to sex, spend more time getting to know people and look to develop friendships rather than relationships. If they're right for you, these will develop in their own time. In the meantime, friends will give you the companionship you need until Mr Right turns up. Good luck.

* If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.