Sunday 20 August 2017

Dear Patricia: I'm attractive but I can't find a man to share my life

Patricia Redlich

QI'M A 32-year-old woman who would dearly love to find a partner. But relationships with the opposite sex don't seem to work.

I'm told I'm attractive and often have guys asking for my number, but somehow it seldom seems to go anywhere.

I had one serious relationship lasting three years, with a man I truly loved and was heartbroken when it ended. That was four years ago. I've had several liaisons since, all lasting only a couple of months and none of them very serious. I have a great job and good friends, but still feel something is missing.

My belief seems to be that if I were in a proper relationship, my life would fall into place. Logically, of course, I know this is not necessarily the case and happiness is found within -- not through another person.

I have been in counselling for a year now. I sought help when I realised that I had never fully recovered from being raped a decade ago. The counselling has helped me let go of all the bad feelings about the rape and has led me to examine other areas of my life.

All of this has been hugely beneficial to my emotional well-being and I now deal much better with life in general. Certainly, I am more in touch with my emotions and more accepting of myself and others.

One question haunts me. Is there something I am doing wrong? Am I in some way preventing potential relationships from working, some residual anger or defensiveness perhaps? Or could it be that I simply haven't met the right person yet?

Patricia replies:

OF course something is missing. You would like to have a loving relationship, meet that someone special, build a life together, share life's joys and vicissitudes. Why wouldn't you want to do that? You're not looking for someone to solve your life. You're looking for someone to enhance it. Don't knock yourself for wanting something so natural and normal.

No, you are not doing anything wrong. But yes, you may be preventing potential relationships -- although not, perhaps, quite the way you might think. I'll explain later.

What's important is that you don't knock yourself about that either. Being self-protective, tentative, slow to trust and anxious is appropriate. And it is essential that you love yourself enough to have patience with your wounded self.

Rape doesn't just make us wary, or acutely aware of our vulnerability. It also ignites great anger and outrage. And yes, it can take time for us to avoid generalising that anger to all men, and learn, instead, to reserve it for the perpetrator.

More subtly, and powerfully, rape can lead us to question ourselves. At a conscious level, we know someone else committed an act of violence against us. The perpetrator is the guilty one. But deep down lies a buried fear that perhaps we invited it, or even worse, deserved it. It's not true, of course.

But that's the awful thing about violence. In the subterranean areas of our unconscious, it can feed into a low sense of personal worth, and strengthen it. So many of us feel we are lesser beings because we were raped -- and have to learn to deal with those feelings, and ditch them, because they are so completely untrue.

I know the rape was 10 years ago, but a year in counselling is a very short time, and until then the damage lay buried and largely untouched.

Go gently with yourself. Take relationships as slowly as you need in order to feel comfortable. Don't try to hurry or hassle yourself.

If you are sabotaging potential relationships, then you are more than likely doing so by trying to push yourself; trying, in short, to be a different person -- and in the process becoming inauthentic.

You don't have to explain to anyone that you were raped. You do have to pace yourself and be true to yourself. You were wounded. That has left you with a variety of feelings. Respect them, and they will ease away, leaving you with a memory of something awful, but only that, a memory.

And don't for a moment doubt that you will find the right man. Because you will.

Sunday Independent

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