A problem shared: I keep pushing him away

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Something troubling you? Share it with your new BFs, Jo Davison and Molly Lynch.

After over a decade of being single, I’ve finally met a really great guy.

I met him on an online dating site, which I was really sceptical about as I’d heard so many scare stories about fake profiles, or people using it as a way to con naive and lonely types. But I got to know him slowly, by messages online, then email, then phone calls. We have now met a few times and I do think he is genuinely a nice, decent, caring man who wants to commit to a relationship with me and can see us having a lovely life together. After years of being unhappily single, I should be really happy. I’ve met so many commitment-phobic men in my time, and been incredibly hurt by them coming on strong, only to reject me as soon as I got affectionate towards them. He does seem to be different to them.

So what is my problem? Part of me wants to get to take what could be a promising relationship forward. But the other part of me keeps pushing him away. I always look forward to being with him but when we get together, I just put up the barriers. He can sense this, and that the reason I’m doing it is because I’m scared of being hurt. He’s told me several times he wants us to become closer and is not the love ‘em and leave ‘em type.

But I can’t let go of my fears and relax with him. He must think I’m weird. I’m affectionate on the phone, then I turn into a cold fish when we meet up and feel too shy even to talk much. I can’t go on like this otherwise I’ll lose him.

Jo says:

My dear singleton, you have both my sympathy and understanding.

I cannot tell you the number of commitment-phobes I have known and had my heart bruised by.

You, me and Bridget Jones have lots in common.

However, where Bridge and I differ from you is that we kept on trying. We didn’t condemn the entire opposite because of the emotionally stunted actions of the few.

Consequently, eventually she got her Darcy and I got mine (via Match.com actually, one of those online dating sites you so fear).

It seems you, on the other hand, have allowed your exes to mess up your attitude to love, trust and relationships, too.

Maybe you don’t actually realise this, but you have become just like them. You are now the one who is too afraid to move forward and get to know someone, even though you feel in your heart of hearts he genuinely cares for you and seems a decent guy.

Instead of seeing a great romantic adventure ahead, you see only a road filled with potential potholes.

You’re allowing fear to control what you do - which means you are continuing to allow the men from your past to control you and your emotions.

Stop. Let go of what happened to you in the past and let this man into your life. He sounds all the things you are not at the moment; caring, open, trusting, hopeful - and optimistic. But you? You sound cynical and mistrustful of everyone and everything. Your attitude to fellow internet daters is a prime example.

Without doubt, it’s wise to show caution and protect your safety; there has been the occasional story of exploitation. But you can’t go around thinking everyone online is going to be either a fake or a fraudster.

The same is true of anyone you meet, be it a potential date, or a new friend or work colleague. You have to trust there are great, kind, genuine men out there, or you’re sunk.

You say you don’t know why you’re acting so frostily, but I think you do. And you also know what you are risking if you carry on being cool and distant whenever you’re with this man. Him. And your happiness.

It is perfectly true that if you don’t even open yourself up to the chance of love when it comes calling, you won’t ever get hurt. But you won’t get love, either. You will remain alone, destined never to become a Smug Married. Some people are happy that way. But you say you are not. So it’s time to stop denying yourself what you really want. The fear of never finding lasting love should be more frightening than the fear of being hurt.

Molly says:

Zzzzzz....woops, apologies I must have nodded off for a little there reading the psychobabble-laden twaddle which was sent my way.

You’ve been hurt in the past, men get close then reject you, now you’re trying to push him away...it all smacks of self-help book nonsense to me I’m afraid.

Sounds like you’ve been watching too much Oprah, dear.

Why do so many women feel the need to diagnose their relationship problems like this?

Do you think men sit there with a copy of Cosmopolitan, nursing a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and weeping into a cushion, condemned to lifelong spinsterhood after answering Mostly As?

The answer is - of course - no.

They might mull the odd girl trouble over with a mate and a pint during half-time but as soon as you can say ‘kick off’ talk returns to arguing over whether Wayne Rooney is the white Pele.

Yet society seems to dictate that if a woman is single, there must be something wrong with her.

And so you sit, pigeonholing yourself and slapping on silly labels which actually mean nothing.

You’ve probably got smug coupled-up mates who brand you the ‘defensive type’.

It happened to me once and I did my utmost to show said friend that I was actually an attacking force - particularly when mates take it upon themselves to fathom why I am alone.

Stop over-thinking things. Stop talking about metaphorical barriers.

Forget how you met, or how long you have been single for, or the men who have spurned you in the past. It is irrelevant.

In fact it all boils down to one simple question - do you fancy this man?

You say he’s a ‘great guy’, but do you want to rip his clothes off?

I hate the phrase. To me it translates to the sort of inoffensive, dull types who can stir me a cuppa but not my emotions. Great Guy says he isn’t the love ‘em and leave ‘em type.

I smell a middle-aged man looking for someone to wash his boxers for the rest of time. You’d effectively be a housemaid/care worker with benefits.

Perhaps you’re a cold fish around him because he simply isn’t a great catch (see what I did there?!) and you’re just in denial. Or de Nile, if we’re still on with the fish puns.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been single for 10 minutes or 10 years, if you’re already rolling out the excuses it suggests to me your heart just ain’t in it.

The right thing to do would be to release this man back into the virtual wild with all the other Great Guys.

Jane Whitham, director of Cream public relations in Barnsley, is married with a child and lives in Barnsley. She advises:

There’s only one thing you can do if you don’t want to lose this man – tell him how you feel, The only way to develop this relationship is to be totally honest about your feelings. It’s critical in any relationship – never more so than at the start. It’s understandable you’re edgy. It may be he’s got similar anxieties and if he’s as genuine as he says he is, he’ll understand. If he doesn’t, he’s not worth being with.