Caroline Buchanan is our new Agony Aunt at the Dorset Echo. She’ll be helping readers with their problems on a weekly basis.

Dear Caroline,

I’ve been seeing my boyfriend since January and, though he’s pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted, I struggle with his inability to show affection. He says he loves me but he makes me feel silly if I ask for affection – should I have to ask anyway? I’m a very tactile person and find this form of rejection very hurtful. Sometimes he can be very loving with words so I get horribly confused. As we’re both 31 it’s unlikely he’ll change so should I try and adjust to his way of thinking and appreciate all his other qualities? He says he shows his love for me by what he does, for example DIY, taking me shopping etc. Or should I try and find someone who fulfils all my needs?

Ms H, by email

Please accept that no one person can fulfil all another person’s needs, however romantic the idea. We can’t, or don’t, even fulfil our own! Having said that, though, I agree it must be very hurtful when your gestures of affection towards him are rejected. You need to tell him that physical affection is very important to you because he’s not going to change his behaviour unless you spell it out. Giving affection obviously doesn’t come easily to him. I’m glad to read he can be very loving verbally but I think it’s time to show and tell him exactly what you want. If necessary, take hold of his arms, put them round you and tell him how lovely it feels. He sounds a decent sort so I think a little bit of puppy training will work wonders! Mind you, if he spells it out to you that he actually doesn’t enjoy affection, then you really need to find out why.

Dear Caroline,

My husband drives me mad in that he doesn’t understand how necessary it is to back me up when it comes to dealing with our children. He hates conflict. As a result, he always gives in to rudeness and excessive demands for the sake of a quiet life. When I try to keep reasonable boundaries and then get further abuse, he undermines me in front of them! I’ve explained how unhelpful this is but it just doesn’t sink in. I fantasise about escaping from it all and going off to live by myself! Please help.

Diana, Sherborne

Oh dear, Diana, a difficult matter and one with which lots of mums will identify. Many people who are afraid of conflict simply don’t seem to realise that by trying to avoid it, ie giving in, they’re keeping going the very situation they dread. You’re both in this for the long term, and unless something changes, this horrible merry-go-round will continue. Appeal to your husband’s intelligence and suggest you both come up with a constructive plan to present a united front. Point out to him that kids aren’t stupid and if they sense any chink in the joint armour then they’re in there, doing all they can to divide and rule. That’s not good for anyone. The children will try it on, of course, but when they get the message that their parents are together on the particular issue, their behaviour will change. Once your husband sees the positive results, he’ll be keen to try the united front again!

CAROLINE Buchanan is a journalist, author, agony aunt and Relate- trained counsellor who lives in Dorset and West London. Her latest book is The 15-Minute Rule for Forgiveness. Her previous book, The 15-Minute Rule - How to Stop Procrastinating and Take Control of Your Life, is a bestseller. If you would like Caroline’s advice, send your problem to joanna.davis@dorsetecho. co.uk and it will be passed on.