Saturday 24 August 2019

Dear Mary: My new man makes me so happy - but still, I'm scared...

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Conor

I'm finding myself in a situation that makes me very happy as much as it terrifies me, and I would like some advice.

I'm used to people leaving me. My dad left us when I was very young. He was, in fact, coming and going until he finally left for good.

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The two people that seemed to actually care about me besides him were my aunt and grandad (both on my mum's side) who also left the city around the same time and my grandad passed away a few years later.

My life was hell for several years after they left. In secondary school I had a friend for the first time in years. My very best friend. We had such plans and fun and then she passed away. I feel these experiences have followed me through the years. I avoid getting close to anyone.

I met a guy at work in my late teens who eventually got my attention and then he just vanished. I was so terribly heartbroken. A couple of years later, I met someone else and we went out for a few weeks until we realised we had different expectations from life. Since then, I've done everything in my power to avoid finding myself in a similar situation.

It's been 10 years and now I've met someone. I liked that he respected me when I said I wanted nothing. He still kept showing interest, but without being pushy, and eventually got my attention.

We've been going out for a week now. He told me his personal situation and that he wants this to be long-term, maybe even for life, not just a two-week thing. And he's been very patient with me - physical contact has never been easy for me though he makes me feel comfortable which makes it a bit easier. He is very sweet, I really like him, and I'm so happy and at the same time I'm absolutely terrified. I can't shake off the feeling that one of these days he'll decide I'm not good enough or that it will turn out that it was all just a game or a bet. He also wants us to go on a trip next month to celebrate his birthday.

It's not that I don't want to go, I'd like to experience it but that's something else that absolutely terrifies me.

He sends me so many cute messages, I feel I'm getting very fond of him but I'm frightened.

Is there anything you would advise?

Mary replies: You have indeed experienced a lot of losses in your life and I can understand why you are frightened of yet again losing somebody that you care for.

However, I am a little anxious that this man whom you have met so very recently already says that he wants it to be long-term.

That is far too soon for anybody to be sure of their feelings for another person, though there have, of course, been cases of 'love at first sight' which have worked out. But in general it takes quite some time before people are sure that the person they are dating is "the one".

I would advise you to stop looking ahead and live in the moment. Enjoy what you are having right now with this man, and the emotions that he is re-awakening in you. But don't be looking too far ahead and worrying if or when he is going to leave you - you may be the one doing the leaving, or it simply may not work out.

But that shouldn't stop you from feeling happy that he is in your life at the moment.

I can understand your feelings of excitement about a forthcoming trip. I would suggest that if you do go, it should be a short trip, because you don't know what it will be like spending all day in his company as it doesn't appear to be something that you have done before.

What are the sleeping arrangements going to be? You should not feel under any pressure and so suggesting separate rooms should be quite acceptable. If he is as understanding as you say he is, he should be prepared to wait until you feel ready.

If you continue to feel very anxious, then it may be time for you to speak to a qualified and accredited psychotherapist about the effect that all your losses have had on you and your resultant feelings of inadequacy.

Mary O'Conor is a sex therapist and relationship counsellor.

You can contact Mary 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

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