Dear Mariella: I am convinced that my new relationship will end soon. How can I stop feeling this sense of doom?

She’s met someone she likes, but is terrified it’s all going to end before it’s even started. Mariella Frostrup tells a single woman to tackle her irrational fears

The dilemma Like many of your readers, I’ve never written to an agony aunt, but I read your column and often think you get it spot on. You offer a sound and unbiased perspective and, at the age of 31, I’m at a bit of a loss with myself and could do with your advice. I have a good job, close friends and family, my own flat and an active social life. I am single, which I’d much rather than be in a relationship for the sake of it. The problem seems to be whenever I start “seeing” someone I feel attracted to and like being with – and we could still be at the texting and dinner stage – I have the overwhelming feeling it’s all going to go wrong. I become convinced it’s just a matter of time before it ends. It becomes sheer hell waiting for the next contact as deep down I’m convinced there won’t be one. I have met a lovely guy, we’ve been on four dates and there’s a spark both intellectually and physically. I should be enjoying this time and desperately want to, but I’m wracked with fear that it’s just a matter of time before it ends. How can I stop feeling like this? I want to be happy!

Mariella replies I’m a sucker for a compliment. Normally someone scuppering their dating chances because of their insecurities might struggle to fully engage my sympathy, but you’ve put your case so very nicely! Also, there’s a universality to your problem that I’m sure will chime with many people – and not just on the romantic front. Who doesn’t have an area in their lives where lack of confidence is the greatest impediment to achieving success? So often we cower at the vastness of mountains that exist mainly in our imaginations. Basically, we’re talking about the F-word here, aren’t we?

Fear is the great immobiliser in all our lives, whether it’s preventing us from making small changes or holding us back from embracing huge ones, jeopardising good relationships or keeping us trapped in bad ones. Being afraid holds more of us hostage than almost any other human emotion – apart, perhaps, from love. Both can be devastatingly destructive.

The first step, as in so many other situations that exist mainly in our own heads, is to identify what you’re actually afraid of. Mourning the potential loss of something you don’t even know you want is clearly not a rational way of approaching things. I know you know that, hence your letter, but I think it might serve you well to really digest it. It says so much for the power of the human imagination that despite all the evidence to the contrary, having been reared on a diet of romantic fairy tales and happy-ever-afters, we continue to judge our relationships on the longevity of their endurance rather than the quality of the interaction.

So few relationships will last a lifetime that it is a continual cause for bafflement that we haven’t adjusted the goalposts. As a species we often excel at making ourselves appear successful by lowering the expectation of what we can achieve. Yet when it comes to relationships we stick steadfastly to unrealisable dreams.

You’re in an enviable situation in so many ways – solvent, settled, working and enjoying life – that, I suppose, it’s out of the question for you to just sit back and revel in your good fortune. Yet you must admit that laid out like that it’s exactly what you should be doing! A long-term union on top of all your other blessings is just icing on the cake and in your situation I’d be tempted to adopt a much more laissez-faire attitude. It’s not as if you are desperate for a relationship, and an enjoyable dinner is as important for your emotional health as a decade with the wrong person.

So how about you start to look upon your relationship adventures as exactly that, forays into unpredictable terrain where one day you’ll find a den. In the interim, fun and quality human engagement should be your goal. You can’t magic up a good liaison on your own. Many pieces need to come together to create a dazzling union and only some of those are in your possession. It’s why a degree of fatalism is no bad thing, since so much of what will come, will come, no matter how hard we try to dodge it. Trying to be an auteur in our own lives is as frustrating, thankless and ultimately as doomed a venture as trying to stay young.

If you really want quality relationships it’s not the ebb and flow of text messages you should be focusing on but this irrational dread of losing what you haven’t got. Once you have banished fear, your dreams will invariably take flight.

If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to To have your say on this week’s column, go to Follow Mariella on Twitter @mariellaf1 © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds



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