Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on a confused boyfriend, over-sharing in the office and impressing new friends

MY ex-boyfriend of five years and I broke up about a month ago after he said he wasn't sure what he wanted in life right now. He studies hard, goes to the gym and works and has found it hard to juggle all of that plus a relationship with me, but I've never pressured him to marry me or even move in together. I'm just as busy as he is and would like to have more life behind me before I settle, but he's been really confusing the last few weeks.

We've gone from no contact to minimal to full-blown contact like we used to, spending the weekends together and talking on the phone every night. He says he's really confused about how he feels, doesn't know what he wants and doesn't want to be in a relationship. He's also said that I'm his first love and all that he has. He's admitted to having a crush on a girl at the gym (who has a boyfriend) and that killed me.

I don't want to be with him right now, not while he is the way he is. He has a lot to sort out in his own head, not helped by his family life, which is difficult at home. I feel like he just won't let me go but, if I talk about space, he just threatens to cut me out entirely, which isn't fair. I want to be there for him, but I can't be his emotional punch bag anymore, not while there's no commitment from him - but what do I do? We're both 24 now and he's all I ever needed, but I can't be stuck in limbo like this for much longer. – DC

Fiona says: He's being very selfish

Your boyfriend sounds like a very confused young man and I am sure this is a horrible situation for you to be in. He's not being fair to you and he's also being very selfish. For someone who doesn't know what he wants in life and who says he doesn't want to be in a relationship, he didn't let your so-called separation last very long. He clearly depends on you but he's being immature and very unfair because he's not letting you get on with your own life while he tries to sort out his own.

Part of the problem may well be that he's got no idea of what life would be like without you - he's never experienced the real emotional cost of splitting up. It sounds as if you're spending as much time together now as you did before you split up. I think he's afraid of moving on with his life and his threat to cut you out completely if you talk about some space apart suggests to me that this frightens him. However, I think time apart is the only way that is going to focus his mind on what he wants from this relationship.

You are the more mature, stronger person here, and if you're going to have confidence in his feelings for you, I think you are going to have to force a proper separation.

Yes, it's a risk, especially with this other girl in the picture, and yes, it will be very hard for you to do, but at the moment, you're both drifting and neither of you can rely on your feelings for one another. You were only 19 when you got together, and those five years have involved a lot of growing up so you've both changed. Whether his feelings have or not, it doesn't sound like he knows, but he's probably thinking he needs to see more of life before he settles down.

You imply his family life is unsettled and this could be adding to his anxiety about his future with you. A separation, instigated by you, might lead to an eventual split but, however painful it is for both of you, I think it's the only way to know how you both feel. And is it any worse than the horrible uncertainty you're stuck with now?

My colleague keeps over-sharing about her sex life and I can't bear it

I'VE just started a new job and work in a smallish office with five other people. The work and most of my colleagues are great, but one woman has latched onto me and won't stop talking about her sex-life. I'm open-minded but some of the stuff she's prepared to talk about would make anyone blush. I've tried ignoring her, but she just carries on. I've even got up and left the office only for her to follow me down the corridor, still talking.

I want to make a real go of this job and don't want to create a fuss so soon after starting. However, I'm not sure I can cope with this woman for much longer. – LS

Fiona says: Maybe it's time to tackle this directly

She's ignored your hints that you don't want to listen, so you probably need to be a bit more direct to get the message through to her. There's no need for this to be confrontational, simply and calmly explain that you'd rather not hear about her sex life. This should stop it but if not, I suggest you have a chat with your other colleagues and see how they deal with it. If they too are finding it difficult, enlist their help and approach this woman as a group. Same rules apply, non-confrontational and stay calm. If after these two approaches she still refuses to stop, your only other real option is to take the matter further with a senior manager or the HR department. If you do this along with your colleagues, I don't think anyone would see this as making a fuss.

My boyfriend seeing me without make-up fills me with fear

I'M going on holiday with my boyfriend for the first time in a few weeks. I am really looking forward to it, but I am also worried too because he has never seen me without make-up. I have a small but ugly scar on the side of my face where I had a mole removed a couple of years ago.

I know this seems like a silly thing to fret about, but we are very much in love and I don't want to risk spoiling the holiday or turn him off me. – RP

Fiona says: He really won't be put off

It's not silly to be concerned, but I think you might be worrying a bit too much. If this man loves you, I am sure he won't mind in the least seeing you in the morning without your make-up. Indeed, many men (mine included) prefer women with little or no make-up. Nor will he be bothered about a small scar. If you're still concerned though, why not get him used to seeing you with little or no make-up before you go? That way you can relax and enjoy your holiday.

I'm so worried I'll disappoint my new friends

WHILE doing an art & design course at a local college, I have make some good friends. To keep in touch, we have been taking it in turns to cook an evening meal for the group once every month. It's my turn now and I am worried sick. I am not a good cook and usually do very simple, pre-prepared food for my three children. My house never looks tidy, in fact it looks like a hurricane has blown through it!

I have managed to avoid my turn once, pretending that my youngest was sick, but I can't do that again. My friends have all gone to a lot of trouble to do these meals and I don't want to let them down. – LH

Fiona says: Just be yourself - they're not going to judge

Cook what you normally eat. Alternatively, if you'd prefer, get a takeaway or supermarket ready-meal. You're not letting anyone down and you'll probably find that your friends may even welcome it. Some of them, I am sure, would have found doing a formal meal quite challenging and will be happy that future events could now be a bit more relaxed. As for your messy house, so what? Your friends are coming to see you, not your house. If it's a busy, messy, loving family home, so be it. Don't bother trying to create a false image of this or your family, just be yourselves. Make sure there is soap and a clean towel, and that the loo and handbasin are clean, then forget about it and enjoy your evening.

If you have a problem and you’d like Fiona’s advice, email