Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: 'I keep having sex with almost every man I go out with'

Dear Virginia, I'm 25 and my problem is that I keep having sex with almost every man I go out with, often on the first date. I don't really enjoy it, but I keep thinking each one might come to something and then I'm so unhappy when the man doesn't contact me. Sometimes the affair lasts longer, but the moment a man falls for me, I turn on him and can't bear to see him. I don't know how I'll ever have a proper relationship. What's wrong with me? Best wishes, Viola

There is a prayer that runs: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

Now, I don't think you can change the way you feel about men when they fall for you in a big way – at least not overnight – but you can change your pattern of behaviour when you agree to sex every time a man asks you on a date. If it comes to sex on the first night, simply say: "I'd love to see you again but I'd rather not get too involved this early." Or, "Wait a minute – we hardly know each other", or any other phrase that you feel would be suitable. To be honest, it's not tremendously complimentary for anyone to have someone fall into their arms within five minutes of meeting, as it were. It doesn't look as if you think they're the bees knees; it just looks as if you're a desperate case.

It'll be an effort to start with, but I suspect that once you try out this behaviour and see the reaction it has – most men won't run a mile but, rather, become more interested – your own feelings will change inside. You will feel more powerful, more in charge of yourself and, possibly as a result, less horrified if a man does fall in love with you.

To use an old and hackneyed term, you will have set up boundaries – boundaries that can protect you from too much involvement too soon and also boundaries that can stop you feeling overwhelmed by a man's love when he does start sending you romantic poetry and flowers.

In the long term, however, I really do think you'd benefit from some kind of counselling. (Be very choosy who you pick, though. Make sure it's someone clever, kind and sympathetic). It sounds as if you're longing for love – which is why you have sex so quickly with a kind of desperation, it sounds – and yet you're also terrified of getting overwhelmed by it. It's like having one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake all at the same time. The result is that you're going nowhere.

It could be that the sort of love you experienced as a child from your mother or father had hidden dangers attached to it – because most people find love from another person something wonderful, something to be longed for, not repulsed and horror-struck by. Perhaps you experienced love as a kind of suffocation of your very self.

Or perhaps you felt that in some emotional way you were being used when you were loved. Or perhaps you associate extreme closeness with someone as simply emptiness, the disappointment of unfilled yearning, something too painful to bear to experience again.

Whatever, you've made a great start. You've spotted a pattern in yourself. And once you observe a destructive pattern in yourself, it's amazing how difficult it is to continue to follow it.

Respect yourself

At the risk of sounding rather old-fashioned, your desire to put out in order to catch the man who will stay with you is the one strategy that will put off the person who is truly interested in you.

The tradition of not going to bed on the first date is a sound one. In fact, I wouldn't go to bed with the person for quite a while. It separates the truly interested from the temporarily randy and means that the person who does then get close to you has some respect for you, or at worst is tenacious in achieving his goal (which at least means that he thinks that you are worth it). Your having some real self-respect will engender respect for you in others.

Cole Davis, London SE4

Take it slowly

I think what you need is time alone without all these men to try and see if you can get to the root of your problem and why you feel the need to sleep with these men so quickly.

Has something happened in your past that's making you do this? If so then I would recommend seeing a counsellor to try and help you figure out why you do this. If nothing has happened in your past then you need to look at it like this. If a man gets a woman into bed on a first date he is not really after anything other than sex. It can turn men off if they think the woman is that easy.

You need to get to know a man for a while first, find out if he's really interested in you or just after sex. You'll soon work out which ones really like you and which ones don't.

Then take things slowly, don't live in each other's pockets early on. Just get to know each other, go on dates etc, but still have time for a social life with your friends. I think once you've found that special someone you'll know and stop pushing them away.

Sharon Gregoy, Blackpool, Lancashire

It's time to get help

Your self-esteem is so low, and you trust people so little you "don't want to belong to a group that would have you as a member". Having casual encounters with people, whose subsequent negligence reinforces your sense of worthlessness, allows you to keep true intimacy at bay.

I don't know what your childhood was like, but it is likely to be the source of your troubles. You may wish to speak to your GP and be referred for therapy to help you understand your behaviour and break the cycle of desperation, abandonment and isolation.

Christina Burton, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, Two months ago, over Sunday lunch, my son-in-law suddenly blurted out all a whole lot of home truths about me and my husband, which he said he'd been storing up for ages. We were so upset and my husband's been barely able to sleep, particularly considering that we've lent money to him and our daughter and always been helpful to them. My husband is adamant that until our son-in-law apologises he's not going to speak to him again. But although I know my son-in-law now regrets what he said – or, rather, the way he said it – he won't apologise. What can we do?

Yours sincerely, Barbie

What would you advise Barbie to do? Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk, or go to independent.co.uk/dilemmas. Anyone whose advice is quoted will receive a Belgian Chocolate Selection by Amelie Chocolat (www.ameliechocolat.co.uk)

Suggested Topics
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

    £60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

    Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

    £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

    AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

    £600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

    E-Commerce Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice