It is hardly surprising that you have this level of anxiety over relationships when you consider what you have gone through. If you look around you, you'll see that while some relationships are, frankly awful, the majority are actually good - that means that statistics are on your side! I think there are two things that you can do here to move on. First is to build up your own self esteem and assertiveness so that you don't fall for some guy who is out to exploit you. A good way to do that is to use this tool. This Bill of Rights was one of the tools used by Virginia Satir, a well-known family therapist. Containing some really basic psychological rights belonging to every person, it really helps to identify and deal with areas in which we have problems.
Read the statements. Note down any immediate thoughts or feelings that come to you and analyse them later.
Look at yourself in a mirror and read it out loud to yourself. Listen to your voice grow in strength and volume so that you can really start to feel it inside. In the beginning, you may feel silly or embarrassed. You may hear the inner voice say, "That's not the truth". Just hang in there and keep doing it - you'll notice the change within six weeks, if you do it regularly.
1. I do not have to feel guilty just because someone else does not like what I
do, say, think or feel.
2. It is OK for me to feel angry and to express it in responsible ways.
3. I do not have to assume full responsibility for making decisions, particularly where others share responsibility for making the decisions.
4. I have the right to say "I don't understand" without feeling stupid or guilty.
5. I have the right to say NO.
6. I have the right to say No without feeling guilty.
7. I do not have to apologize or give reasons when I say NO.
8. I have the right to refuse requests which others make of me.
9. I have the right to tell others when I think they are manipulating, conning, or treating me unfairly.
10. I have the right to refuse additional responsibilities without feeling guilty.
11. I have a right to tell others when their behaviour annoys me.
12. I do not have to compromise my personal integrity.
13. I have a right to make mistakes and be responsible for them. I have a right to be wrong.
14. I do not have to be liked, admired, or respected by everyone for everything I do.
Secondly, I’m going to suggest that you would benefit from some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Again , it’s hardly surprising, given your history, that much of your anxiety around relationships is the result of negative thinking about what MIGHT happen in the future.
CBT is based on the fact that what we think in any given situation generates beliefs about, and reactions to that situation, and also causes the behaviour and feelings which flow from those beliefs and reactions.
These ‘automatic thoughts’ are so fast that generally, we are unaware that we have even had them. We call them ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) for short.
If the pattern of thinking we use, or our beliefs about our situation are even slightly distorted,
the resulting emotions and actions that flow from them can be extremely negative and unhelpful. The object of CBT is to identify these ‘automatic thoughts’ then to re-adjust our thoughts and beliefs so that they are entirely realistic and correspond to the realities of our lives, and that therefore, the resulting emotions, feelings and actions we have will be more useful and helpful.
Cognitive therapists do not usually interpret or seek for unconscious motivations but bring cognitions and beliefs into the current focus of attention and through guided discovery encourage clients to gently re-evaluate their thinking.
Therapy is not seen as something “done to” the client. CBT is not about trying to prove a client wrong and the therapist right, or getting into unhelpful debates. Through collaboration, questioning and re-evaluating their views, clients come to see for themselves that there are alternatives and that they can change.
Clients try things out in between therapy sessions, putting what has been learned into practice, learning how therapy translates into real life improvement.
Please visit this website for much more detailed information on CBT:
If you cannot afford to see a therapist, there are good free CBT based self-help resources here:
Also, there is a book called ”Feeling good - the new mood therapy” by Dr. David Burns. It has a hand book which gives you practical exercises to work through and further instructions on how to better use CBT. I really do recommend it.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Workbook for Dummies By Rhena Branch, Rob Willson is also pretty good.
Best wishes, NormanM
YES--I know you are right. WHile I was getting counseling years ago I did go through a CBT 6-8 week group class. The proble mwas I was still married and in that ABUSIVE marriage and was pondering when and if I should divorce--so I was NOT fully able or ready to apply the CBT stuff I was learning. As a teacher---I now know we can NOT learn when we are under severe duress/emotional stress.My mind was still overloaded with being sexually abused at that time. My abuser was living with me (and abusing me)after being separated for 18 months. I know I did not cause him to abuse me, but I did chooose him and that part of my responsibility has been so humiliating for me to accept. ANd I do not want to make the same mistake again---so I have been hiding from the world. I want to feel confident that I am smarter- but I allowed him to abuse me for soooo long ---even after we divorced he still would NOT move out of our house for 9 more months. It was horrible. I called the police and they said they could not help me. I begged and begged him to GETOUt -but he would not. FInally he got a new girlfriend and left because he had her. My kids watched all of this the whole time and it it still humiliating. What else can I do besides CBTto heal myself from all of this shame? ANd I want to be able to help my 3 daughter who are now 19, 22, and 25 to have healthy relationships.