‘I’m in my 40s and like smart, attractive men, but that pool keeps getting smaller’

‘For the last 10 years I’ve had short dating episodes with a divorced local man’

PROBLEM: I’m a 49-year-old woman who seems to have learned nothing about how to have a relationship that works. I’m single and have no children. Having children was never a huge drive, though being a granny would be nice as I do like children. My longest relationship was for three years. I had moved in with him in my mid-30s, but after six months he wasn’t planning more and had a pretty big porn interest so we split.

I’ve always had men along the way, but just brief relationships. Men find me attractive, but as I get older there are fewer opportunities which I find sad. I constantly go for the emotionally unavailable men. I like smart, attractive men and they like me, but that pool keeps getting smaller especially as I live down the country. For the last 10 years I’ve had short dating episodes with a local man who is divorced and has a grown child. There is a really huge sexual draw with us and it never changes. He draws me in and we sleep together or date a bit. I look for more time and he gets overwhelmed and he runs.

It happened again recently. We had hot-texted for days during the snow lock-in. He told me he was on/off dating a divorced woman, but only after sleeping with me did he say he was committed to it and it was not off. They had had a short break at Christmas and he wanted to stay in it.

Two weeks later he texted me again and came to my work to drive away with him and we pretty much had sex in his car. He came to my house that night, at my request, and again afterwards said he was in a relationship. I feel he loves me, but is terrified of the feeling and runs. I have blocked him on my phone, as I really can’t carry on waiting. I told him I wanted a chance to date properly and see if this attraction is just sex as it feels so emotional when together; just seeing him brings it all back in the draw we have. I feel he may stay with this woman now as it’s easy and safe for him. He can’t handle intensity. I think it floods him. I always had little doubts about how we would be in day-to-day relationship, as he doesn’t seem to ever just chill and sit, and is on edge all the time. He is kind and gentle by nature but this behaviour is so self-centred.

I feel I really am lost in how a relationship works. I’m really independent, but think I must be needy with men. I just want a normal relationship. Sexual attraction is important for me. My parents divorced late in life and rows and silence were a big part of my teenage years, which probably formed part of me. My siblings all have partners though.

ADVICE: You have spent 10 years in an on/off relationship with a man who has potential, but this has never been realised. He has sex with you, but tells you he is in a relationship with another woman and shockingly then comes looking for more sex, and you still have hope?

The fact that you intuit that he is fearful of the intensity between you and so keeps his distance is really of little use to you as you cannot, and have not, gotten him to take responsibility for this. It seems that this man knows of your vulnerabilities (desire for security, love and intimacy) and he uses this to have a commitment-free sexual relationship with you. Perhaps the uncertainty keeps the sexual side of the relationship on edge, but the price you are paying for this is very high. My guess is that your own upbringing, where rows and silence were normalised, allows you to endure such a dis-satisfying relationship but even as a child you must have known that this is not what a good and enduring relationship should be.

You describe yourself as needy. Yet this capacity to depend on, and lean on, another special human being is at the core of good relationships. Your need is exposed because there is no safety in this relationship and the answer is not to put more time into it but to look elsewhere for deep and satisfying connection. Your desire for romance and security is a fundamental one and you should not be ashamed of this – rather it is a drive that should be honoured and followed so it can bring you love and happiness.

You once left a three-year relationship because your partner would not commit. This same self-preservation is required again so that you treat yourself with the dignity that you deserve. You are a woman who likes sex and relationships and this bodes well for any future relationship. As you like children, you might well find a situation where your new partner is separated and has children and instead of being frightened of this, you might enjoy the extended family and possibility of grandchildren that this might bring.

Believe in your right to happiness, let go the current less-than-satisfactory relationship and seek life and connection elsewhere.