The Sex Column: 'I can’t connect with my man'

At the end of my last relationship I got close to a colleague. Although I always knew my ex wasn’t ‘the one’ and would fantasise about a better relationship, our break-up was painful.

I got together with my colleague, now my boyfriend, but feel a lack of connection again. When we have issues, he’s uncompromising.

He forgot about my birthday and I was hurt. Although we are up and down, I don’t want to let him go yet.

What do you suggest?

There appears to be a disparity between your dreams and the reality of your experiences.

‘It sounds as if you hold particularly romantic ideals about relationships,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin.

‘Unfortunately, the truth rarely lives up to a fantasy and, to complicate matters further, we often choose partners who are far removed from our ideal in an unconscious bid to ensure reality never does merge with the fantasy.’

This avoidance is based on the fear that we may mess up the fairy tale should it materialise. But are you a damsel who needs saving or are you repeating patterns?

‘It sounds as if you are strongly drawn towards relationships that are destined to frustrate your need for intimacy and empathy, leaving you angry and lonely,’ says Rupert Smith.

‘Does this pattern go back further than these two men and into your early life?’

What we criticise in others is often what we fear in ourselves. Does the lack of connection you see in your boyfriend reflect your own lack of connection?

‘Is the coldness in him a coldness in you?’ asks James McConnachie. ‘Not noticing your birthday until the end of the day is crap but why didn’t you mention it? Were you setting him a test that you partly wanted him to fail?’

When we have high expectations of our partners we leave them feeling inadequate and eventually they stop trying to please us. Throw in issues with conflict resolution and you’ve got a vicious cycle of dissatisfaction.

‘Conflict in a relationship is natural if it blows over quickly,’ says Rudkin. ‘Arguments that simmer signal that you may not be in the right pairing.’

So think carefully about what is essential in a partner.

‘There are guys out there who fit realistic expectations but they may not be who you are initially attracted to,’ says Rudkin.

‘You don’t need to settle but you do need to be clear about what a partnership gives you such as companionship, a safe base and someone to have fun with.’

Do your best to move towards what is real.

‘Yes, it is flawed,’ says McConnachie. ‘But it’s warmer than the cold, perfect statues of the imagination.’

The experts

Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor

James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)

Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist

Got a sex and dating dilemma?

To get expert advice, send your problem to [email protected]

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