Fear of Being Hurt and Shifting Your Focus
"Single File" - February 2023 Issue
by Susan Deitz
I met a wonderful woman a few months ago. She is genuine, warm and honest. She recently announced she had to stop seeing me because if she let herself go, she would fall in love with me; at this time (three years divorced), she wants only a casual relationship. We’ve talked about this before, and I’ve been patient but persistent. We agreed to see each other exclusively. I think most of her problem is fear of being hurt. She says she doesn’t want to hurt me if she never decides to make it permanent, but I think it’s my responsibility, not hers. How do I handle her fears? —From the "Single File" blog
By leaving the scene. Sounds drastic, I know, not what you wanted to hear. But people have to deal with their fear in their own way. And interlopers, no matter how well-intentioned, are a prime target for the confused person. So my best advice in this unclear situation is to back off. Not forever—and certainly not totally (phone calls from time to time are fine) -- but in the main, your role is to stay away. Yes, it’s a tough call, demanding gobs of self-control, but it’s a gamble worth taking. This is a thinking-over stage, and she’ll either realize her strong feelings for you or be glad of your absence. Tough call, I admit. But you deserve a clear message from her, and it may take this draw-back strategy to get it into focus.
I often hear that the best way for a single person to find someone who might be a good match is to seek out clubs, organizations and activities that are of interest to her. But I feel this advice is biased toward those singles without children -- and with a lot of free time to actively pursue dating. As you can guess, I’m a single mother of a small child, unable to run out and join that pottery class or go to activities that interest me, where children are unwelcome. After nearly five years of sitting in parks and child-centered activities, I have yet to meet an unmarried father -- or, for that matter, another single mother to befriend. I know I’m not the only single parent in this town, but sometimes it feels as if I am. —From the "Single File" blog
It’s not simple or easy (I know because I’ve been there), but the focus of your life needs to be shifted. Not wholly, of course, but enough to fill your child’s needs—without skimping on your own. Yes, there is a middle road between obsessive parenting and neglect. And as your child is out of the infant stage, where the mother is the moon and the sun, you’re entitled to start thinking about your own life and ways to spark it up. After all, a bored/lonely mom isn’t fun company—for her child or herself.
You need to get yourself a steady, reliable babysitter, perhaps a grandmotherly type who takes a real interest in you and your child. And then what? Show up at a weeknight meeting of the local Parents Without Partners. Yes, you read me correctly. Instead of dashing off to an exciting pottery class (yawn), go to a place where other single moms and dads commune and enrich their lives -- while sharing interesting activities with their and other people’s children. Look them up for a local phone number, and just go! PWP insists on parenthood for membership, so you can be sure that nice man sitting near you in the meeting is a single dad. (That much I can guarantee. The rest of the evening is up to the two of you.) But it’s a start, a way of meeting your child’s needs without skimping on your own. This new chapter begins with a reliable sitter. At 5, your child needs to widen his world, too.
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