Dear Maura: How do I let my guard down?

Solve your life dilemmas with expert advice from Maura O’Neill

Discussing past hurt helps to move on.

Sunday World

Dear Maura: My boyfriend says I don’t know how to be in a relationship — and he’s right. A lot of the time, I prefer my own company or I do stuff and don’t say anything to him.

He’s annoyed because I went to a friend to borrow money, and he didn’t get a chance to help. That sort of thing. I want to be better at this but in my twenties I was treated really badly by a guy, and two of my best friends lied to me and went on holiday even though we were supposed to go together.

So I have a place where I feel safe and it’s only for me — I block everyone else out. Sounds dramatic, but I’m 32 now and it’s worked. Because there are no surprises in my life, I can control everything.

The problem is now I’m in a relationship, I can’t keep locking myself away. He’s a lovely person and I’m sure I could talk to him, but I don’t know where to start. I think if I’m to break out of this safe place, my boyfriend is the person who can help me. I worry that I’m making this situation more serious than it is. What do you think?

Answer: The wound that’s inflicted when trust is broken stays with you for a long time. You don’t go into detail about your boyfriend from your twenties but that experience has stayed with you until now.

You were betrayed by a friendship you thought was real. All of this has influenced you and if you’re feeling uncomfortable, that’s something you need to talk about. I think your boyfriend has made you feel that now is the time to break this cycle.

All you need to do is explain what happened and how that has made you so protective of yourself. Your experiences are a very powerful way of helping him to understand your past and how that has influenced you.

Why won’t my fiancée take my name?

Dear Maura: My future wife doesn’t want to take my name when we get married. We know one other couple where she’s kept her own name and the children have his. But it’s messy and I don’t see the point. Some of my friends are slagging me and asking why — I can’t give them an answer. She says she just likes her name and doesn’t want to lose it. Me, I prefer everything straightforward and normal. Answer: I really don’t see what the issue is here: she likes the name she’s had since birth and wants to hang on to it. More and more women are doing the same, so it’s certainly not unusual. You’re just a bit self-conscious because your pals are having a dig. They’re only joking. Do you think your fiancée’s decision is diluting your masculinity, or am I being a bit over the top? Maybe you just need to stand back and see the bigger picture. You’re in a loving relationship and your focus needs to be on what’s important. If your future wife wants to do this, agree with all your heart — that’s what marriage is all about. Look out for each other, prioritise what’s important and you’ll have a wonderful life together.

Email your problems to Dr Angela Brokmann Maura O’Neill All pictures are posed by models

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