Dear Dr. T:I am a single 52 year old man who had a 10 year love affair with a married co-worker. Six years went by before I realized she was not going to leave, but by then I was too in love to act on it. During the last two years of our affair she became cold & unloving, and I had to leave to survive.It’s been a year since I have seen her, so the affair is over. I saw a therapist and gained a lot of insight into why I would remain with a married woman for 10 years. I do not blame my former lover for being who she is, and I have accepted the fact that I allowed myself to stay in the affair when I should have left.I want to move on and find someone who is willing to share a whole relationship. But when I approach women, I don’t feel confident. I start conversations, but I feel self-conscious, sometimes uninteresting and ugly. I haven’t always felt this way.Nevertheless, I suck it up and still attempt to meet women. So far, all strike outs. I’m starting to feel sad & wonder:’What’s wrong with me?’ Of course I want to believe I’m just not attractive. I think I’m smart enough, I read, cook, have a great career, I’m in prime athletic shape.Could it be that I’m not really over the relationship and that I’m putting out an ‘unavailable’ or ‘wounded’ vibe? If so, what do I do to stop that? I truly feel I deserve a good relationship with a good person. Even if they don’t pan out, what could be in the way of simply getting a few dates? Thank you.
What an insightful question! I understand that you want to develop a whole relationship.The problem is the voice in your head. It is critical and self-attacking and, believe it or not, people pick up on what we think and feel about ourselves. So, basically, the voice in your head is ‘skunking’ women away from you!You’ve asked me to give you behavioral suggestions for how to meet eligible women, but this really isn’t the answer for you. You are obviously a very bright man and you know all the ways to meet women. What you do need is a way to master the voices in your head, so they stop tearing you down and ruining your chances with women.So, let’s work on this. To get technical for a moment. You are suffering from what’s called a toxic introject. The toxic introject is the voice of a parent who was toxic to you. The tricky thing with introjects is that it is very easy for you to be fooled and think that the voice putting you down in your head is actually your own voice, when it isn’t .I had a patient who had such a harsh toxic introject that she actually tried to kill herself to get away from the constant attack. For some time I asked her who was speaking in her head and she insisted that it was she, herself. It took months until she realized that while the voice sounded like hers the words were never words that she would say to anyone else and this is what made her realize that the voice wasn’t hers!So, your first step is to recognize who is speaking to you. Think back to how your mom and dad spoke and see who the voice in your head sounds like. Maybe it’s mom sometimes and dad another time. In any case, each time you hear a self-attack going on in your head, stop dead in your tracks and say, ‘Hi, mom (or dad). There you go putting me down again.’It is very important that you don’t try to shut the voice up. If you try to shut it down it will shout louder and you will soon find yourself in a bigger emotional mess! Just identify who is talking to you and that’s all. This simple technique is so powerful and so healing that you will find that, in time, the critical voices will disappear all by themselves. Here’s why.The simple fact of stepping back and observing who’s talking to you creates a separation between your self and the voices in your head. This separation gradually drives a wedge between you and the poisonous voices and eventually your true self will emerge from the rubble. When you do emerge, women will see how appealing the real you is.I already know how appealing you are, since I saw the real you. I’m just a little ahead of the rest of the women out there!Let me know how you do.