Sleeping around: Men afraid of commitment

'In a room packed full of men, I'll sniffout the emotionally unavailable one...'

Catherine Townsend
Saturday 13 September 2008 00:00 BST
(Jonathan Evans)

My friends used to tell me teasingly that I was like a heat-seeking missile when it came to attracting men afraid of commitment.

I'd always laughed this off, but lately I've come to realise that I needed to get to the bottom of my self-destructive pattern.

I don't go for the obvious bad boys, the band members with multiple womens' names tattooed on their chests and substance abuse problems. (I grew out of that phase circa 2000.) No, my problem is much more subtle: if you give me a room packed with 100 eligible men, I will sniff out the emotionally unavailable one.

My latest on-off boyfriend Charles is no exception. After a year of his ardently pursuing me, I finally gave in. Two months into our relationship, he started calling me less, spending unexplained weekends away and tuning me out in favour of televised golf.

I knew from the beginning that he was 44 and had never married, and that all of his girlfriends seemed to expire before the dairy products in his fridge. Yet, somehow, I thought that I could be the one to change him.

When he texted, I had an urge to come running. But instead of getting into bed with him, I spent some time lying on a therapist's couch instead.

"Can you think of another situation where you tried desperately to get the attention of someone who wasn't available to you and to stop them leaving?" she asked. I knew that she was referring to my dad, and to my parents' divorce when I was 13.

I hated to admit that I could be so cliche'd. But maybe my pull toward these men wasn't because they were "soulmates", but was down to familiar feelings that I was reliving from my childhood.

As women, we discuss traits such as pheromones, symmetrical faces, height, personality traits and even the contraceptive pill when determining the science of attraction.

But I have realised recently that, much as I hate to admit it, I am unconsciously attracted to men like my dad. And though one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, I'm finding this attraction harder and harder to fight.

This isn't some Shakespearean tragedy. My dad had lots of great qualities. He's a handsome, smart, successful man, and those are all qualities that I want in my Mr Right.

But he was also very distant, and I had to work very hard in order to gain his affection.

According to my therapist, the dance between people who display traits of love addicts (people who were abandoned in childhood) and love avoidants (those who go into a relationship intensely, but back away) is one of the most common relationship patterns in modern life.

As a child, I was always drawn to the tortured rogues like Heathcliff in literature, even though he was cruel to animals, beat his wife and wound up miserable and dead. Despite the fact that I was a confident, independent woman who has succeeded in many facets of life, in the past I have been emotionally immature when it comes to relationships.

Now, however, I am changing my tactics.

When Charles called to tell me that he "needed some space", instead of beating myself up over what I had done wrong or trying to be more perfect so that he would stay, I kissed him goodbye. For now at least.

I'll miss him, but for a serious relationship I know that I can't cling to whatever crumbs of emotion a man is willing to throw my way whenever he decides to turn off his BlackBerry.

I'm probably always going to be attracted to successful alpha men. I'll just have to remember to pick one who wants to stay. And who prefers a lap dance from me over golf on TV.

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