I Want Love, So Why Do I Ruin It When I Meet Someone?
Psychologies|February 2020
Our agony aunt, Mary Fenwick, offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you

Q I have been online dating for numerous years and I recognise a pattern in my behaviour. When I really like a man, I sabotage the potential of a relationship blossoming. I also overthink things. Recently, I went on a date with a guy I fancied. I asked him to ring me and he said he did not like speaking on the phone. I got angry because it appeared he was not putting in much effort and I feel I always give my all. My deepest fear is not finding someone with whom to share my life. Please help! Name supplied

A There’s a lot to unpack here, so I talked to dating and relationship coach Elizabeth Sullivan, who helped me work through similar feelings.

Elements of online dating are like a marketplace for arranged marriages, but without the safety net of people who know and care about you. A bit of self-protection is healthy in that space; the sabotage is what can happen when that instinct takes over.

It would be useful to get to the root of the fear, which is probably something in your past. One of Sullivan’s nuggets is ‘if it’s hysterical, it’s historical’: an over-reaction is usually to do with your past. There are techniques that help you talk to your past self, reassure it, say a gentle ‘thank you’ and lay it to rest. One useful way is to journal about your experience – not deliberately trying to change anything, but naming each element. ‘When he said x, I felt y in my body; I heard this story in my head; I saw this part of myself nodding and saying “I told you so”.’

Another way is to ask yourself positive outcome questions – what do I need to learn so I can find someone to live my life with? What’s one way I can create more joy in my daily life, which I might eventually share with the right person?

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