Saturday 24 February 2018

Dear Mary: I was bullied so much at school I'm not sure I could trust a girlfriend

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Photo posed

Mary O'Connor

Mary O'Conor is a relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist who offers advice in her weekly column.

I'd like a girlfriend. But if I get one how could I trust her?

I'm in my early 30s. As a child I was bullied back in National School by my friends.

When they asked me to lend them my pencil, rubber or biro because they had forgotten theirs, or theirs had run out, I'd give them to them.

They always promised me that they would return them.

I would put trust in them that they would.

Afterwards, when they were finished with my stuff, they never gave it back to me and instead held on to it.

My trust in them then was broken.

Ever since I've gone through all that I haven't been able to put my trust in people.

If I ever got a girlfriend and told her what happened back in my National School days and she then promised that she would never cheat on me or go out with anyone else behind my back how would I put my trust in her that she would keep her word?

What if I saw her talking to a boy when we were out some night?

How would I know that she was keeping her promise and not breaking the trust that I put in her?

I would be really grateful if you could help and give me your advice on this.

Mary replies: I imagine that there is a lot more to the bullying that you experienced than just not getting your pencil back.

Children can be incredibly cruel to one another, and indeed often regret what they did in later life when they look back on their childhood with adult eyes.

People tend to think of bullying as a part of growing up and an opportunity to learn to stand up for themselves, but the effects of bullying can be enormous, leaving the victims lonely, unhappy and frightened.

Nowadays there is a lot of cyberbullying that can have catastrophic results because in some cases the victims have taken their own lives as a result.

Your childhood experiences are still very much alive resulting in you feeling that if you do get a girlfriend you will be unable to trust her.

I feel that you are looking far too much into the future because there is no point in worrying about what will happen when you don't currently have a girlfriend.

If you are consumed with thinking about what happened to you in the past you are never going to attract anybody, so look into your heart and ask yourself what you have to offer a potential girlfriend.

Are you good company, do you have a sense of humour, have you interests that you feel strongly about?

In other words, would she enjoy being with you?

If you really are stuck in the past then you should talk to somebody professionally about what happened to you at school and how you suffered, in order to be able to move on.

If, however, you feel that you have dealt with it sufficiently - and your letter leads me to question that - then concentrate on trying to attract the right girl rather than worrying about how she might let you down.

You will only be dating at the beginning - not choosing a life partner - so don't be too hard on yourself, or indeed any girl that you might date.

I'm sorry you had to endure so much unhappiness as a child and I hope that the future is much kinder to you than the past.

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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