I had a rotten childhood with my bullying father. He turned me into a nervous wreck and the happiest day of my life was when I left home. My second happiest day was when he died. My mother left him in the middle of the night when I was six and disappeared somewhere abroad, so I haven’t done well on the parental front.
I have worked hard to get myself a life and at some levels haven’t done badly. I am a primary school teacher which I love because you know where you are with children. Socially on the surface I can seem to be the life and soul of the party; upbeat and funny. I look good, go on lots of dates, but as soon as someone gets too close my self-sabotaging starts. I sulk, turn up very late to a date and don’t answer my mobile. All sorts of silly stuff like that. As a result I am usually dropped. I even self-sabotage with girlfriends. I am scared of getting intimate with someone or depending on them as I don’t want to suffer should I lose them.
I have built up so many layers over the years to protect myself from being hurt that now I feel I am locked in a cocoon and will never really fly. I can see it is a legacy from my dad and I need to do something about it. I am 37 now and my biological clock is ticking. Not that I want to have a child. I might love them too much and they might not like me which would be just awful so I’d rather not try. I do, though, want to have a stable loving relationship if I can. Can you help?
You may not have been lucky with your parents but you have done well to get where you are today. As you grew up you went through very difficult experiences so it’s totally understandable that you find it difficult to trust people and are frightened of getting too close to them. You call it self-sabotage but it’s actually your way of handling close connections and keeping people at a comfortable distance. However you are now beginning to question whether this defensive position is best for you.
Right now you are looking at all your relationships and the possibility of having a child which is understandably overwhelming. Close relationships are risky because they can go wrong. You can lose people you love, you may fall out of love or you could find the inter-dependency trying. Our advice is to take things more slowly than you seem to be doing. Before learning to trust others you need to be confident in yourself. This means being aware of your positive attributes and feeling more comfortable with who you are. Then, when you feel ready, try to share an intimate thought with a friend you feel you could trust. You don’t need to share everything or have a heavy conversation, you could just say something about why you appreciate them. Once you start to have faith in your choice of friends you could try the same process with dates.
You may be surprised to know that many people fear intimacy and it takes a lot of courage to put a toe in the water with relationships. Give it a go. You may make a few mistakes - but if you do learn from them. There is very little to lose.