From stale sex lives to meddling mother-in-laws and inheritance battles – our 20 most read advice columns of 2022

Read the 20 most-read advice columns of the year from Ask Allison, Dear Mary, Asking for a Friend and Modern Morals.

20 Modern Morals: I caught my 17-year-old son having sex with his 16-year-old girlfriend, should I tell her parents what’s going on?


Son’s girlfriend does not want her parents to know. Photo: Picture posed

Question: I live in a very close-knit estate where a lot of the parents are friendly with one another. Our kids are friends too and the older ones have pretty much grown up together.

My 17-year-old son has been in a relationship with my friends’ 16-year-old daughter for about six months now. I’ve long suspected that they were sexually active and my suspicions were confirmed when I walked in on them recently.

Needless to say, they were both extremely embarrassed — as was I. My son’s girlfriend begged me not to tell her parents, who are quite strict and certainly not as lenient as we are.

We had a long chat with my son about using protection, STIs and, more importantly, the age of consent to sexual activity in Ireland (he thought it was 16). But now I’m conflicted. Do I tell her parents and risk them reporting the incident to the police or do I just say nothing and continue to monitor the situation?

Read Katie Byrne’s advice HERE.

19 Ask Allison: ‘I am done with my mother-in-law. How can I get my husband to take my side?’

Question: I have just spent the most infuriating Christmas with my mother-in-law. We had my husband’s parents and brother over for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and not only did she pass remarks on how I raise my children and how my tree looked “very stylish but not very festive”, she brought her own stuffing, pudding and gravy, even though I made it clear that I didn’t need anything.

And before you say she may have been trying to help, she just brought enough for herself and her husband because he can “only eat food with really good ingredients”. My husband thinks the whole thing is hilarious, as does his brother, and in a way I agree. I get great mileage telling my friends about her, but it is coming to the stage where I can’t be in the same room as her. How can I get my husband to stop treating his parents as the deciders of how we spend holidays and to stand up for me?

Read Allison Keating’s advice HERE.

18 Modern Morals: Our eldest child is annoyed we’re spending his inheritance on our bucket list. Are we selfish?


Parents can spend their money as they wish as there is no obligation to pass on inheritance from one generation to the next. Photo: Picture posed

Question: My wife and I are in our late 70s and we recently downsized to a small apartment, which our eldest son encouraged us to do.

We’re now sitting on a small nest egg and while we never outright said it was part of our children’s inheritance, some of them assumed this money was to be left to them.

Our attitude has changed, however, and after surviving the pandemic in reasonably good health, we have decided to spend the money on a bucket list of international trips, cruises and train journeys.

Our youngest children are very encouraging, but our eldest son recently suggested we’ve pulled the rug from under his feet. He seems to think we had an arrangement.

He says we’re not thinking straight and he has pointed out that we used his grandparents’ inheritance to pay off our mortgage early. He says this money should be passed down the line.

We’re beginning to feel selfish for putting ourselves first. Perhaps an inheritance should be passed down from generation to generation? What should we do?

Read Katie Byrne’s advice HERE.

17 Ask Allison: My dad has dementia and his much younger partner wants to put him in a home against our wishes. Help!


Seeking medical advice for a timeline of the right healthcare for a sick elderly loved one is a good option

Question: My father left my mother for a younger woman when my siblings and I were in our late teens. We are now middle-aged and my father is quite elderly. His partner is about 10 years older than us. He has recently developed dementia and she doesn’t want to look after him and has told us she wants to arrange for him to go into a home. He is perfectly capable of living at home with help but as she lives with him, she is refusing that option.

We are due to sit down and discuss this soon and I would like some help in terms of how to approach this. None of us like this woman and there is a lot of anger on our side. My mother is still technically his wife so my siblings want us to go the legal route. I just want to make sure we have a rational discussion without letting emotion take over. Have you any advice?

Read Allison’s advice HERE.

16 Modern Morals: My elderly neighbour’s daughter has moved in and built an extension that’s intrusive


Planning permission is needed if the floor is more than 40 square metres. Picture posed

Question: We have lived in the same house for over a decade and have always got along well with our elderly neighbour, a widow whose husband died before we moved here.

We kept an eye on her during lockdown, buying her groceries and so on, and she has always seemed really grateful. Recently, she had a fall in her house and she told me that her daughter was going to come to live with her to keep an eye on her, which seemed like a great idea.

However, the daughter arrived and then, without warning, so did the builders, who began extending and converting the garage, which sits between our homes, into a flat for herself.

The worst aspect is they added a window, which now looks straight into our garden, and extremely bright outdoor lights which are really intrusive.

I called over to discuss the work when it was ongoing, but my neighbour’s daughter was quite rude to me and just said the garage had always been there and she had to have a window to look out of.

My husband is furious and says they are in breach of planning laws and wants to report them to the authorities, but I am torn. I don’t want to fall out with the neighbours and I suspect even if we reported them, the authorities would do nothing, so what’s the point? What should I do?

Read Katie’s advice HERE

15 Dear Mary: I’m torn between my wife and my lover and it’s breaking my heart


“I’ve been disloyal to them both. My wife who has been a great mother and loves me, and Anna who doesn’t know the full truth of my life”

Question: I need help. I’ve a self-inflicted broken heart. I’m a married man of 21 years and I’ve three great kids; two in college and one almost there. I’ve never been happy. Never. I’ve had fleeting moments. Mostly with my kids, who I adore and am devoted to.

About four years ago I joined a dating site. It wasn’t for sex as that’s never been an issue in our marriage — it was always good. It was for a friend and to meet someone, just for me away from all in my world. I met someone, Anna*.

We spoke for months without meeting. We fell in love immediately and have had the best four years together despite not being able to give her the time and attention she deserves. We are best friends and she is the first person I think of in every situation.

I’ve been disloyal to them both. My wife, who has been a great mother and loves me, and Anna who doesn’t know the full truth of my life.

I’ve tried to pull away from Anna but my broken heart pulls me back to her. I know by leaving my wife I’ll lose my kids’ respect, and how they look at me is everything to me. But by staying, I’ll have a broken heart. I know Anna is who I’m meant to be with, but how do I break my wife’s heart?

I’m lost and have broken up with Anna now; I’m just not coping well with it all. I don’t know what to do and I’ve absolutely nobody to talk to. Please help.

Read Mary’s advice HERE.

14 Dear Mary: My husband and I had a threesome with my friend and now I’m in love with him and having an affair


“I know I can’t have both and it will end badly. What should I do?”

Question: I am married with children. One drunken night, my husband and I decided to have a threesome with my friend (male). It was amazing and it brought my husband and I closer together. As time went on, I found myself continuing things with my friend without my husband and I have fallen in love with my friend. I don’t know where to go from here. I don’t want to leave my husband . I do want to keep the affair going. I know I can’t have both and it will end badly. What should I do?

Read Mary’s advice HERE

13 Asking for a friend: ‘My boyfriend of four months is refusing to introduce me to his friends or family. Do we have a future together?’


‘If your relationship is just based on sex, it might not have a future outside of the bedroom’

Question: I’ve been seeing my new boyfriend for almost four months. We get on really well, and our sex life is really good. The only sticking point is that he says he wants to keep our relationship private and won’t introduce me to any of his friends, and if I mention meeting family, he definitely gets annoyed and changes the subject. It feels like I am up against a brick wall as he doesn’t seem willing to compromise. I don’t want to spend every weekend at his parents’ house, but I do want to know if there is any future in this relationship, and if he takes it as seriously as I do. It makes me feel sad and anxious that he won’t share his world with me. I feel like I’m having to ask him for more time instead of it just happening, and when we do spend time together, it’s just in bed. While that’s great, I do want more but I don’t think he does. Where do I go from here?

Read Dr Caroline West’s response HERE

12 Ask Allison: My daughter says her childhood was cold and abusive. I thought we were good parents


Family-related early experiences have profound and long-lasting effects on children

Question: I am writing to you in absolute despair. My husband and I have three children who are now in their 40s. I always thought we did a good job rearing our kids. I stayed at home to make sure they were well looked after and my husband worked very hard to provide, which he did well. Two of them are independent with good jobs and have happy relationships with children. My middle child never really took off, even though she was given the same start as the other two.

Now she has decided that her upbringing is the cause of all her problems and she asked my husband and I to meet her to talk about how cold and abusive her childhood was. We were absolutely flabbergasted — I couldn’t stop crying. I spoke to my other two children and they seem to be taking her side — they both mentioned that I was strict but I meant well. What is that supposed to mean? I am so down about this I don’t know what to do. How can I get to the bottom of it all?

Read Allison’s response HERE

11 Asking for a friend: My married partner has promised to leave his wife when their children turn 18 — but I’m not sure I can wait. Can I force him to do it sooner?


‘If you stay with this man, you will stay in limbo, waiting to be worthy of being chosen as his top priority’

Question: My partner is wonderful, and I love him very much. The problem is, he is married and has been for almost 20 years. He has three teenage children with his wife. I met him through work five years ago, and he asked me out for a drink after work. We got on really well and started dating.

He asked to keep it quiet as he didn’t want anyone at work to know in case people viewed us differently or we got in trouble. After almost a year of not going any further than hotels or coming over to my house, he finally confessed he was married. He said he didn’t mean to get into a relationship, but he had developed feelings for me. His wife doesn’t know about us, he says, as he usually works long hours.

He has said before he will leave her once the children are 18 and in college, but I don’t know if I can wait that long. I do love him, but I’m just not sure that we do have a future. It’s been almost six years now — and I feel like something has to change. How do I convince him to leave his wife sooner?

Read Dr Caroline West’s advice HERE

10 Ask Allison: I don’t fancy my husband any more and have no interest in sex. Should I stay for the kids?


Questioning what a fulfilled life looks like before changing directions can help decide your next move

Question: Is not being attracted to your husband reason enough to end a marriage? I am turning 50 next year and have three children — the youngest of which is age nine. I think we give them a happy secure home and I adore being at home with them. I work while they are at school but my husband is the main breadwinner.

When the kids were young, I didn’t worry about our relationship as I assumed it would reignite when we had more time. It didn’t. I really don’t fancy him and have no interest in sex. Am I cheating myself by putting the family first? Am I using him to support me as I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time with them if we separated? Please help me to figure this out.

Read Allison’s response HERE

9 Modern Morals: ‘My colleague is secretly working from Spain – should I report him to HR?’


Working remotely from a foreign jurisdiction leads to tax, insurance and employment law implications

Question: My colleagues and I have been working from home for almost two years now. Our employer introduced a long-term remote work policy but they made it very clear that we must work from a location in Ireland. We can’t work from abroad.

One of my colleagues has been working from Spain, on and off in stints, since 2020. We work very closely together but in the early days he wouldn’t admit that he was abroad. I could see during Zoom calls that he had a suspiciously dark tan. Then, during a phone call one day, I could clearly hear his children jumping into a pool. I asked him straight out and he begged me not to tell anyone.

We’re currently in the middle of a very demanding project and he’s taking off to Spain once again. He refuses to answer emails I send him after 6pm when he’s there. He just clocks off. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think it’s fair that he’s over there living the life of Riley while I’m working until 9pm or 10pm every night. I’m thinking of reporting him to HR. At the same time, I don’t want to start an all-out war. What should I do?

Read Katie’s response HERE

8 Modern Morals: ‘My mum left my siblings out of her will. Should I split my inheritance with them?’


Parents have no obligation to leave an equal inheritance

Question: My mum passed away last year and left the family home to me. She left my two older brothers out of the will and it has naturally led to a lot of conflict and rows.

My brothers live abroad and I cared for my mum in her final years. When my dad became ill eight years ago, I took unpaid leave from work so I could help my mum care for him.

I’m the only female sibling and it was always assumed that this was my role. At the same time, it feels like my life has been on hold for the last 10 years as my brothers have built up their careers and personal wealth.

My mum suggested over the years that she’d “look after me” in her will. I assumed she was going to leave me a larger share to recognise the sacrifices I made to be both her and my father’s carer. I didn’t expect her to leave my brothers out of the will entirely.

They were shocked when they discovered this and think I should sell the house and split the proceeds equally between the three of us. They say it will just cause hurt and resentment if I don’t.

I’m open to giving them a sum of money, but I think my contribution to the care of our parents and the impact it had on my career over the years needs to be recognised. At the same time, I feel I have to honour my mother’s wishes. What should I do?

Read Katie’s response HERE

7 Dear Mary: My husband is unaware of my work affair. It’s over, but I’m in love with her and not coping


“Why am I finding it so hard to pick up the pieces and move on with my life? She seems to be coping just fine. I just can’t stop thinking about her and what we had.”

Question: I’m desperate and finding it hard to cope. I’m 40, married with two children. For the past two years, I have gotten extremely close to a female colleague, and things escalated where we kissed several times passionately at work. We hung out all the time after work and on days off.

We never slept with one another and she’s never come clean about her sexuality. I’m not gay — well, until she came along. I don’t know what I am any more as she has confused me. She doesn’t tell me how she feels and never wants to discuss anything about this — it’s like she’s embarrassed. She doesn’t have a boyfriend, nor does she ever talk about men.

After two years, I had enough and needed answers — she had none, so I walked away. It’s been two months of no contact. But I’m finding all this extremely hard. We still work together and I see her often but I make no eye contact and avoid her throughout the day.

I feel guilty for what I did but I feel like a relationship ended. I would say I am in love with her. Why am I finding it so hard to pick up the pieces and move on with my life? She seems to be coping just fine. I just can’t stop thinking about her and what we had.

Read Mary’s response HERE

6 Ask Allison: My wife’s weight gain is ruining our marriage. I feel like a bad person, but I just don’t find her attractive. Do I have to settle? 110,000


Body based sexual rejection can create an intense wound. Photo: Kimmy

Question: I know this is going to sound awful but my wife’s weight gain is ruining our marriage. Looks are important to me, and when I met my wife she was stunning. We had a whirlwind romance and married within a year. We have three kids, the youngest is five years old and my wife keeps talking about losing the weight but she has done nothing about it.

I love her personality and she is a great mum but I am just not attracted to her at all and our sex life is non existent. I never verbalise how I feel — she would be shocked if she read this, and I feel like a bad person but it is how I honestly feel. What should I do? Do I have to settle for a marriage to someone I don’t fancy?

Read Allison’s advice HERE

5 Asking for a friend: ‘I’m in my mid-20s and my boyfriend of four years recently proposed, but it just doesn’t feel right. What should I do?’


‘Public proposals might seem like the stuff of romantic films but, in reality, they can catch a person off guard’

Question: I feel really embarrassed writing to you, and I’m not sure if my feelings are justified or not. I’m in my mid-20s and basically have exactly what I want, but it just doesn’t feel right. I have a great job and live with my boyfriend. We have been going out for four years, and it’s been really good. There have been no major arguments, and we communicate quite well, at least I think so. We met in our last year of college and it was really great to be at the same stages in our lives and careers.

A month ago, he proposed. It was a huge event — he took me to our favourite restaurant and got the waiters to bring out flowers and champagne when he went down on one knee. The whole restaurant was watching and clapped for us. I said yes and felt very excited and showed off the ring to my family as soon as I could.

Everyone was so happy for us and said they knew we would end up getting married. But now that things have settled down a bit, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that I am not sure about this. My fiancé is a great person, so I don’t know why I feel like this is the wrong thing. What should I do?

Read Dr West’s response HERE

4 Asking for a friend: ‘I cheated on my wife eight years ago with a colleague. I feel so guilty and want to come clean, but I am afraid of losing her. Should I tell her?


‘A reasonable person would assume that a partner would be hurt by an affair, yet you carried on’

Question: I cheated on my wife years ago, and I am eaten up with guilt. We have been together 10 years, and this happened in the first two years of our relationship. I had a very brief affair with a colleague, and by brief, I mean we only slept together twice. We flirted for a while before that and sent lots of steamy text messages.

Now, I can’t believe I did that, and I know my wife is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I am so afraid of losing her but, at the same time, I feel I need to come clean so that there are no secrets between us. I don’t want to carry this feeling around for the rest of my life, and I don’t want to lie to her for the rest of our marriage.

Is it worth telling her and getting it over and done with? We don’t have children, but she is my whole world. I am afraid that I will just blurt this out and I don’t want to do that.

Read Dr West’s advice HERE

3 Dear Mary: I am happily married but my best friend’s wife keeps coming on to me


“When I went to the bathroom she was waiting for me when I came out”

Question: I really need your advice. I am in my 40s, happily married with two kids. My best friend from school and I have had a great friendship over many years and we do lots of things together — go to sports matches, play golf and so on.

He and his wife and my wife and I have even been on a few holidays together, though not recently because of Covid-19. But, we do meet in one another’s houses and did so over the Christmas. In the last few meetings, his wife has been pretty open in saying to me that she wanted to see a lot more of me — on my own.

When I went to the bathroom, she was waiting for me when I came out. She strokes my hand and other parts of the body at every opportunity. I am very nervous about this as I don’t want my friend to be aware that she is coming on to me and I certainly don’t want my wife to feel that I am being in any way unfaithful.

I’ve distanced myself from my friend because of all this and now he has emailed me to ask if something is wrong and to ask why I haven’t answered his last few texts.

What can I do? I am in a terrible state and don’t know how to resolve this without breaking up our friendships.

Read Mary’s response HERE

2 Asking for a friend: ‘I’m bored silly with my wife, and our sex life is so lame. I’ve been messing about with escorts and other men. Should I just stay with her?’


‘If you are having sex with others, you need to be having regular STI checks’

Question: I’m a married man in my mid-40s. We have three kids, have been together for 18 years and, on paper, everything is great — good jobs, good health and a nice home. In short, I’m bored silly with my wife. She is an amazing person but seems to be transitioning to middle age while my sex drive is going the other way.

When we met, sex was great. We even went to a few swingers clubs to exhibit to others. We have sex frequently but it is so boring. I now often sleep in another room where I can relieve myself with porn.

The sex is so lame that the other night we did it and I decided to have sex without even touching her, and I don’t think she even noticed. She is more interested in her hot water bottle than prolonging a sex session. This is disappointing as she is good looking, and I really fancy her. I have asked about making the sex more interesting — some bum play and so on — and there was no interest. I put forward the idea of a threesome with a stranger as an idea. Again, no interest.

We’re not financially strong enough for me to move out and get a place of my own. Also, why would I do that when I would miss my kids. I have been messing about somewhat with escorts and the occasional man, but such actions merely serve to further highlight how bland my home sex life is. At this stage, I feel I will just clock in the years with her until the kids are raised and then break up. My question is whether that is a wise decision?

Read Dr West’s response HERE

1 Dear Mary: My wife of 30 years is no fun any more and is always too tired for everything, including sex


“The fun seems to have gone out of her life and out of our relationship. Everything seems to be a bother to her.”

Question: I am a happily married man in my 60s, married for over 30 years with three children and a clatter of grandchildren who gladden my heart every time I see them. When I married, my wife was just amazing — beautiful, full of fun, a great hostess, had endless patience with all my foibles, was ready to join in any adventure and was a marvellous mother to our children.

But over the past 10 years something has happened to her. The fun seems to have gone out of her life and out of our relationship. Everything seems to be a bother to her. She rarely wants to entertain any more. She is not interested in going to the theatre, concerts or even out to dinner. She seems tired all the time. I have asked her to go to the doctor but she says she is fine and to stop bothering her.

We haven’t been away on a holiday for six years. She says she wants to be around the grandchildren, but now, when they come, she finds them a bother and our children don’t want to tire her out so they are not coming as regularly as before. So now she complains because she never sees them.

Friends went on the Orient Express from London to Venice just before the pandemic and absolutely adored it. Then they stayed on for a few days and had great fun. I suggested to my wife that we do it too but when she saw the cost, she was horrified and refused to entertain the notion — even though we have ample money for the odd extravagance.

I am at my wit’s end. I still love her. To me, she is still beautiful and still has the spark that first attracted me all those years ago. But how do I get the sparkle back in her eyes and in her attitude to life? She used to be so positive but now is usually negative about everything.

We have no sex life, which I miss because it was a very important part of our life. It’s not for the want of trying on my part but she always says she is too tired.

Read Mary’s advice HERE

Dear Mary: You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

Asking for a Friend: Dr Caroline West is a sex educator and host of the Glow West podcast, which focuses on sex. Send your questions to Dr West regrets she cannot answer questions privately

Modern Morals: If you have a dilemma for Modern Morals, email

Ask Allison: Allison Keating regrets that she cannot enter into correspondence. If you have a query you would like addressed in the column, email From stale sex lives to meddling mother-in-laws and inheritance battles – our 20 most read advice columns of 2022

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