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Getting Beyond This

Question:

I was in the midst of doing my oral exams when the man I was engaged to dumped me out of fear. I too went into shock like your other reader. I want to be able to trust men. I want to be able to trust me and my decisions around men.I won’t even invite male friends to my home. I need to get beyond this. It’s been almost two years. Any suggestions?

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
  • ‘Anne’ bases her responses on her personal experiences and not on professional training or study. She does not represent herself to be a psychologist, therapist, counselor or professional helper of any sort. Her responses are offered from the perspective of a friend or mentor only.
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Answer:

Getting dumped sucks really bad. It can be just about the most painful thing that happens to someone. Being close to another necessarily requires that one is open to being hurt by that other – this is the ‘catch-22’ of love. If you want love you have to risk getting hurt. You may get hurt or you may not – but you have to risk it. This risk of getting hurt is the currency you must spend to have the rewards of being intimate with another. No one likes this fact. But it is still true. So – you were hurt in what sounds like an ugly way and you went into shock and it hurt you and you closed up in order to protect yourself. This is a natural reaction. That you did this at the time meant that you were healthy and reacting in a normal human way. The problem is – at two years distance from the event – that defensive curling-up that you went through now is harming you. You’re holding on to the past in a way that is harming your ability to grow in the present. Like an anxious person, you’ve made an overgeneralization as to the rottenness of ‘all men’ (not limiting it to the one man who let you down), and are now afraid of getting close to any man. It is not true that because you were wounded by one man that another will also wound you. Some other men will wound you – but many others won’t. There are even a lot of men out there who have been wounded by women and who don’t trust women not to wound them. It is time – certainly time at two years distance – to begin the process of coming out of your defensive shell. There are two tasks that need to be addressed. You’ll ultimately need to make yourself available to dating again. Also, you’ll need to learn how to feel better and stronger and more ‘healthy-selfish’ about yourself – to grow a thicker skin to some extent – to focus and care more about what you want out of a man than what he wants out of you. You’ll have to learn to love and accept yourself and to forgive yourself for your failings, and to (ultimately) care less when someone leaves you because of the confidence you’ve developed in your own ‘good-enoughness’. A gentle way to start this cracking out of your defensive withdrawal might be to find a good therapist or support group, and to immerse yourself in social activities that you like to do because you like to do them (and not as a way to meet someone). Also – seek out and talk to people who are older and wiser than yourself and see if you can get them to tell you how they have handled this type of situation. Not everyone will have advice that fits you – but gaining perspective on how other people have handled things is valuable, and you might learn something you can use as well. If you have the strength for it, date just to practice dating. If you don’t – do these other things first until you feel more confident. Just don’t wait until you are perfectly confident because that will never happen. Good luck!

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