Thursday 18 October 2018

Dear Mary: I crave attention from men but I've never been in a relationship

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Mary O’Conor

I'm writing to you to ask your advice about something that as I've become older has begun to bother me quite a lot to the point where it has been affecting my day-to-day life. I am 25 years of age and I have never been in a relationship with a man.

Every one of my friends has already gone through the typical young adulthood problems of relationships, love and break-ups. I feel like a failure that I have not yet conquered having a relationship.

I have talked to boys, been on a few dates that went nowhere, gone through the whole fad of Tinder 'dating' and even had a few hookups with guys I thought were interested in me. All have ended up going nowhere.

Now that I am 25 and working and socialising that bit more than when I was younger, I am starting to realise how abnormal and socially awkward I am.

I was bullied in school very badly and my parents split when I was 12. They had a very messy and bitter split and it badly affected my relationships with them. Due to them both suffering with addictions - gambling and alcohol - I believe it has probably affected me being able to open up to others and has affected my ability to have relationships with other people.

My relationship with my father is not great, it never has been, and he wasn't an affectionate father. He wasn't cruel or mean but he just never really told me or my siblings that he loved us.

I feel myself craving attention from men but when they talk to me or text me, I find myself being unsure of what to say or how to act. I feel that because of my damaged relationship with my father, I am unable to fully connect with any man who comes into my life.

I'm so unsure of how to get on with my life while dealing with this baggage. I don't know what is best for me to do to help get rid of how I feel about men or how to be properly with a guy. I have considered getting professional help for my issues as I'm totally lost and I feel I need help to try and move on.

I could really do with some advice from someone of your calibre, otherwise I feel I will continue to struggle with these issues for the rest of my life and I will never connect with anyone.

Mary replies: It is a great idea for you to do a review of your life now that you have reached 25. You no doubt have matured somewhat since your early teens but still find yourself lacking in interpersonal skills with the opposite sex. I can understand how sad and insecure you must feel about this and you are absolutely right to tackle it head on, look for reasons and then try to change things for the better.

As your parents split when you were at a very impressionable age it is very likely that you have had no proper template from them as to how a successful relationship can be maintained. Try to look at it this way rather than solely blaming your father for being unable to have a relationship. I say this because it may help to lessen your anxiety with regard to men.

I feel very sure that if you seek the help of a qualified and accredited psychotherapist that you will be able to untangle all your emotions both with regard to being bullied and your parents' rocky relationship. You will then be able to decide what you need to change in your thinking in order to move on with your life. The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy will provide you with the information that you need (www.iacp.ie) no matter where in Ireland you live.

It may also help you to attend a couple of meetings of either Al-Anon (www.al-anon-ireland.org) or Gamblers Anonymous Ireland Family Friends (www.gamblersanonymous.ie/gamanon/gamanon.html) where you would meet others who have been through a similar experience as you have with regard to parental addictions.

I sincerely hope that things will work out for you.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie 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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