Tearing your hair out over a man? It’s time to regain control


DEAR VEXED: I met a guy at a Christmas party and we’ve seen each other a few times. I really like him but he’s playing it cool. Now I can’t stop thinking about him. When I get like this, I really struggle to concentrate on anything else – and have been making some blunders this week back at work. How can I claw back my concentration? This is driving me crazy.
Suzie, 30, solicitor

CERTAIN religions argue that any touch before marriage – from hug to kiss to more fulsome embrace – ruins your judgement and self-respect. Now, clearly that’s a bit extreme, but the fact is, particularly for women, “seeing” someone includes not just touch but the promise of development, and possibly even love, so your judgement can be really very violently challenged. Women – I hate to admit – tend to go intellectually crazy when faced with these possibilities, whether the man deserves it or not.

I sympathise. It’s an irksomely ambiguous state of affairs, bound to obsess you for its loose ends and mixed messages. But here’s the harsh truth: there are two outcomes to “seeing” a man. One: it’s a matter of time before you go off him and have to begin the awkward extrication process. Two: you’re going to get hurt, sometimes very badly. You seem to be in camp two unless you quickly and urgently claw back some power and selfhood – in your brain, to begin with. See, if you like a guy, but it doesn’t evolve beyond “seeing” because he’s playing it cool, you get what feels like an ever-growing spanner in your head. It’s one of the inequalities of the genders that men seem better able to dissociate their brain-space from their romantic escapades.

Here’s what you must do. Reframe this guy as an obsessional construct of your brain – I’d wager that you have a bit of a compulsive turn of thought in general – rather than an amazing Adonis who would make you the happiest woman alive if only he’d recognise how wonderful you are. Every time you realise you’ve been spacing out thinking about him, picture your neurons firing in “stuck” mode, however that would look to you.

Secondly, cease talking about him to your friends instantly. You’ll only make him a bigger deal that way and they’re bound either to give you false hope or depress you. If you have the willpower, try meditating (focusing on your breathing for five minutes) several times a day, which is a classic way of stilling the mind. Only read/watch gripping books/movies, as less gripping ones will send you into reveries. And stop contacting him immediately – use his silence to your advantage, as time to rebuild yourself. Let him grow more distant since – to be frank – it sounds like that’s what he wants. Should he suddenly get in touch and want to see you, reclaim some power by saying you’re not free for a while, and when you are, it’s basically at the pub right next to your work.

Good luck. None of this is easy when you’ve got the itch. But I promise you, nothing – not even a hunky man’s warm embrace – feels as good as getting your power back.