Sunday 26 May 2019

Dear Mary: Could my brief engagement ruin my chance of ever finding a man?

File photo
File photo

Mary O’Conor

I was dating a guy for about a year and then we got engaged. The engagement was all driven by him and in hindsight I got completely caught up in the moment and went along with it.

After a few weeks he told me the engagement was all over because he said I mirrored everything he didn't like about himself.

He pointed out all of my flaws and truth be told he turned out to be a complete fraud.

We all have flaws and none of us are perfect but that being said, why did he propose to me if I was so imperfect?

He was engaged before and broke up with that girl too.

I would really like to meet someone but I'm really scared that if I do and I tell them I was previously engaged, they will run a mile.

I'm in my mid-thirties with no child or financial ties.

As fate would have it, I met these random strangers last week when I was holidaying by myself on the west coast. They were wondering what a smart, attractive and outgoing girl was doing by herself?

It really upset me because when I said I was previously engaged and it broke up, they said any guy would assume that I was still in love with my ex even though I'm not at all.

They advised me to never mention that I was engaged.

I'm very happy to not mention it but I'm worried that a potential guy could find out indirectly, and might think I was concealing it for some reason.

I am heading abroad in a few weeks on a solo holiday again. Ultimately, I feel so lonely and let down. I have been through an awful lot and would like to meet someone who will fully embrace my past and not just pretend to.

I faced one of the biggest challenges in my life in my twenties and when I got engaged I really believed everything was falling into place, only to discover my whole world crashed again.

I feel at this stage in my life I am entitled to meet a guy who won't mess me around the place.

I don't think it's too much to ask for. It really upsets me that all my friends, family and colleagues are all married or almost married, and I'm still the one on the shelf.

Mary replies:  I have always hated the term 'on the shelf' as it conjures up an image of somebody that nobody wants and is considered to be too old to marry.

I particularly dislike it because it is almost exclusively used in relation to women - whoever heard a man being described as being on the shelf? Instead he is called a bachelor which has a much more pleasing ring to it. So why not think of yourself as young and worth having?

You had an awful experience with your ex-fiance who treated you very badly, and you certainly didn't deserve it.

He seems to have projected all his own feelings of inadequacy on to you. I can understand how your trust must have been destroyed, especially having overcome whatever challenges you had faced previously.

Your main worry seems to be that when you meet somebody new they will think that you are still in love with your ex, and therefore not worth pursuing. I think you are jumping too far ahead with all this.

When people first meet there is an initial getting to know you phase where they discover mutual interests, feel a mutual attraction if there is one, and find that they are looking forward to their next meeting. It is only as a relationship develops that people feel safe in disclosing any secrets they may have. There is no need to go into our backgrounds in depth if a relationship isn't going to last more than a month or two, so things are kept at a fairly superficial, if enjoyable, level. Then when it becomes apparent that things are getting a bit more serious people feel comfortable enough discussing things like addictions, financial difficulties, family rifts and all the other things that we encounter in our lives.

It is at this stage that relationship histories get discussed and by then you should be relaxed enough to know that no judgment will be made simply because you were previously engaged.

I'm sure you have lots to offer and you are absolutely right that you are entitled to meet somebody special. Try not to worry too much about what happened with your ex - he simply didn't deserve you and you most certainly didn't deserve him.

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

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