If you have a problem, email Caroline at c.west-meads@mailonsunday.co.uk. Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally

If you have a problem, email Caroline at c.west-meads@mailonsunday.co.uk. Caroline is open to reading all letters, but she regrets that she can’t answer every one.

What is the best place to spend Christmas? 

Q    My partner and I can’t agree where to spend Christmas. We used to alternate between his parents and mine, but both our mothers are recently widowed – and now we each feel obliged to spend Christmas with our own mums, especially as we didn’t see them last year during lockdown. To be honest, we’d both rather visit my partner’s mum because she’s sweet and easygoing while mine is quite difficult, especially since my dad died. She complains all the time about our two sons – who are in their late teens – saying they are scruffy, and criticises them for not getting out of bed until lunchtime. You can guess which grandma they’d rather visit! We’ve been putting off the decision, but my mum keeps piling on the guilt and asking what we are going to do. We have thought about taking my mum with us to my mother-in-law’s house but they don’t get on particularly well. My partner has always felt that my mum looks down on his family because his lovely dad had a trade instead of a ‘career’, and it makes his mum feel a little uncomfortable. I’m an only child, so if we don’t go to my mum she will be alone, whereas my partner has a sister who will visit his mother with her husband and kids. I’ve been wondering about seeing my mum on my own while my husband and the boys go to his family, but he doesn’t want us to spend the day apart – and I don’t want to set a precedent for following years


My partner’s mum is sweet and easygoing; mine is difficult 

  Goodness, it’s enough to make you want to hide under the duvet throughout December and wait for Christmas to be over! It’s a difficult dilemma, and I completely understand it. Your mother sounds very hardworking and manipulative. Of course, she is also lonely and grieving (as are you, for both your father and father-in-law) – and understandably you don’t want her to spend Christmas alone. But don’t go to your mum’s house on your own – it will just make for a miserable time. The only real solution is to take her with you to your mother-in-law’s. Make sure that you plan in advance so there are no unexpected problems. Tell your father-in-law and your husband how important she is to both of you, how you love her, and what you are thankful for. You can tell your mom-in law that it is hard to be a mother and encourage her to not make insensitive remarks. You can then distract yourself and have a much more relaxing day. Your partner could help your mother cook while you keep her busy. Invite your boys (and their relatives) to organize a game or quiz for the family, and find some good films for later. It will make the day easier to reduce conversation. In the longer term, encourage your mother and mother-in-law to join support and friendship groups for widows, such as thejollydollies.co.uk, way-up.co.uk or u3a.org.uk to help them adjust to lives without their husbands.

My friend’s spiralling out-of-control

 Q   M A group of my friends and I usually go out to drink with each other about once per month. We’re in our mid-50s and we’ve been Friends for many years. However, After her husband abandoned her, one woman feels devastated. She’s always been a bit of a drinker, but last week she was knocking back It was way too fast for her to finish the prosecco. We tried to stop her but she was too fast and we had to take her home. I called the next morning to ask if she was OK, but she started yelling and saying that I might think I had the perfect life but that I was a ‘boring cow’ and at least she knew how to have fun. I am so shocked and hurt that I almost want to give up on her, but I’m worried about her adult children.

   Please don’t take it personally. She’s obviously not coping well, but what is very concerning is that her behaviour on the phone may well have been because she was still drunk, and this sounds as if it could have developed into a serious problem. Don’t give up on her: she clearly needs help. You can visit her in person with one of your best friends to ask how she’s doing. Make sure to tell her how concerned you are about her, if she looks sober. Keep calm, even if she becomes angry. Tell her how much you love her and that your friends are sorry for her misery. Don’t be afraid to tell her adult children that you are worried about her, and perhaps you could inform her ex-husband too if you are still friends with him. Al-Anon, which offers support for the friends and families of trouble drinkers (al-anonuk.org.uk 0800 0086 8011), can offer advice to you all.