Sex ad­vice with Mrs Sal­is­bury

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - ADVICE - Robyn Sal­is­bury is a clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist. Email ques­tions to MrsSal­is­[email protected]­ther­apy.co.nz.

I’m 20 years old, and male. Ev­ery time I get close to a girl some­thing goes wrong, but over the years I’ve no­ticed that most of the time it’s my own do­ing. I get cold feet and freak out, jus­ti­fy­ing it by say­ing that I don’t want any drama near ex­ams, or I’m not sure I’m 100 per cent into her. I’ve never even kissed a girl and I know that it is be­cause of my ten­dency to avoid any kind of com­mit­ment – which is ironic, given that back­ing off ac­tu­ally hurts peo­ple, in­clud­ing my­self. What can I do to stop ru­in­ing some­thing po­ten­tially good with my own com­mit­ment is­sues?

This sounds very much like anx­i­ety. Do you ex­pe­ri­ence it at other times? I won­der if you’ve learned to con­trol your life in­tensely as your way to man­age anx­i­ety and the prospect of let­ting some­one else get close threat­ens your sense of con­trol. It’s true that be­ing in a re­la­tion­ship means there is some­one else’s needs to con­sider. It’s also true that if you love, you risk be­ing hurt.

What has your ex­pe­ri­ence of love been since the be­gin­ning of your life? Was there con­sis­tent, nur­tur­ing love avail­able for you as you grew up or have you learned what it feels like to have that dis­ap­pear or be with­drawn? Have you had a girl­friend – how­ever briefly – and been hurt? And what have those close to you as you grew up mod­elled for you about com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ships? If that has been neg­a­tive or miss­ing, then of course it will not only be hard to be­lieve that mu­tual com­mit­ment is pos­si­ble and can be a source of great joy, but also to have the skills to go about achiev­ing it.

The ex­act path for­ward de­pends on your an­swers to these ques­tions. If you’re study­ing, your in­sti­tu­tion should have a stu­dent coun­selling ser­vice where you could seek pro­fes­sional help to learn how to cope with anx­i­ety, or learn the skills of lov­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing in close re­la­tion­ships.

You’ve been mak­ing ex­cuses for your choices, but now you sound ready to face your­self, which is great. It may be un­com­fort­able at times, but that’s only a tem­po­rary stop on the way to chang­ing and grow­ing to be­come all you can be.

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