Negative beliefs about men might be ruining my relationship.

I have a lot of negative beliefs of men and relationships in general. My father cheated, my brother in law beat my sister and my mother almost “trained” me to hate men. But I have never doubted my sexual attraction to them. I am straight and know that. I am therapy because I have been sabotaging a relationship with a man who absolutely amazing and understands love better than most women, but all of a sudden all these thoughts keep trying to ruin it with him. All of a sudden after a session of therapy about my negative beliefs of men, this thought keeps causing me anxiety and pain, saying that I’m a lesbian. I don’t think I am but it’s really bothering me. Especially considering how happy I have been with my current boyfriend. I feel almost afraid of him. I’m still not attracted to women. I notice their beauty but I don’t want to actually BE with them. I just have always felt it easier to open up to women than men. I have found a wonderful man and am afraid of ruining it because of…


Dear Kathleen,

It is really impressive that you know why you feel doubtful of men. The events you are describing are all things that both genders are capable of, which I’m sure you’re aware of. Both women and men cheat. Both mothers and fathers cheat. Women are capable of violence too. And I know some fathers do the same things when wives have left them. It is hard to see beyond what our parents say sometimes, but it is evident that you did, and do. It is also important that you know that your dad didn’t cheat on your mother because he was a man. And to know that your brother-in-law didn’t beat your sister because he was a man. I’m sure you already know these things, but it never hurts to have them confirmed. I’m sorry that your past is affecting you in this way.

What you’re scared of sounds more like it has to do with the fear of being hurt than it does with men in general. It sounds like you are taking every precaution to keep yourself from getting hurt. But there is such a thing as being overly protective, even of oneself. I’m glad you take care of yourself because that’s exactly what you should be doing. But it can get to a point where we’re neglecting very important aspects of ourselves too, by neglecting what it is we want, because of our fears of being hurt. There is risk in every choice we make. You certainly have seen and heard quite a few things, at quite a young age, to make you warier than most. It is normal to react the way you do after what you’ve heard and been through. And I’m glad you wrote in because I know a lot of people are living in the same fears you are right now.

Some of these feelings you harbor might be towards your past experiences – your father and brother-in-law, etc. (role models into the world of gender/relationships) and if you find a release you may feel like these fears were attached to those specific people. You might need to deal with the feelings towards those specific people instead of the entire concept that you’re afraid of. It is a process of asking and answering different questions, but with help from the right professionals, you can gain important insight about yourself from having asked them.

What I did want to address was whether you had the chance to heal from all the things you’ve mentioned you’ve witnessed and been around to live through. Though the abuse from the individuals you mentioned did happen to people around you, and not to you directly, you were affected too. Having learned what you did about the people in your life, which led to your fears, must have impacted you. It was your father. It was your brother-in-law. These things happened to your mother and your sister. You might not realize but these are heavy things to cope with when you’re young and dealing with it in your family. These were people close to you, who are supposed to be your source for a protective environment, and who were also your examples for different types of relationships. Have you dealt with any resentment, sadness, and/or anger? There were a lot of losses experienced and you shared in that too, losing your relationship structures and trust.

Trust is such a hard thing to gain back. We often want people to prove themselves to us because we don’t think we can handle another loss, another broken heart, or another shocking act of violence. But trust is something we also have to have faith in when we meet someone new. While not giving it all entirely, some levels of trust have to be mutually given in order to connect. Walking into every relationship with a man assuming they will hurt you, will not hold them at their best, or show you at your best as a partner. Having a fear of men, isn’t what makes a girl a lesbian. Lack of feeling intimate with one gender doesn’t mean you’re a lesbian either. It can feel really confusing being unsure. But fear of the opposite sex certainly isn’t what makes lesbians sure that they are lesbians. Most lesbians I know have really good relationships with men. Most people struggle with intimacy – lesbian women AND straight women. It can make things harder to figure out if this is about intimacy. There are more questions that will need to be asked, and it takes time to gain insights into ourselves, present and past, to find what makes the most sense to us.

YOU know what you need better than anyone else but you have to have confidence in yourself too. Be completely open with what you need from someone, and if you need reassurance it is not unreasonable to ask for it. And if it’s too much for your boyfriend, it is his place to let you know. You can also try couples therapy, or take time being friends before you put that level of pressure on yourselves. This way you can seek the information and help you need to make your confidence level in your relationships and in yourself better. You owe yourself answers. Your concerns are not burdens on anyone. And there are many resource sites to help give you insight on what it means to be a lesbian. Although, sexuality can be much more complicated than the label, and even the label doesn’t really incorporate every aspect of a person’s sexuality. Every lesbian asks herself whether she’s really a lesbian, BUT so do a lot of straight, bisexual, transgendered and other queer-defined people. It is healthy and natural to question our sexuality.

If you’re questioning your sexuality, there are resources to help you figure out whether your confusion is based on intimacy issues or if you are a lesbian. Being a lesbian can involve having emotional/romantic/sexual attractions, along with desires both mentally and physically. You say you’re pretty certain you’re straight so it wouldn’t be a conflict for you to trust in yourself, at least in that respect, unless you really feel conflicted because of some innate knowledge you may have about yourself concerning your own personal sexuality. I will include some links for additional information and support at the end of this message.

Relationships are complicated, and for that we owe it to ourselves to be ready to be in one, when the opportunity is right for us, and to feel complete with ourselves, before we look to someone else for that sort of confirmation. I truly believe you can have a successful relationship with the right kind of support and help. My hope is that you take care of yourself first. If that means staying in your relationship or not, it is entirely your decision. You can get help in therapy and get support as well, to help understand yourself and learn enough about the things that scare/scared you. There are ways you can learn to trust yourself, the people around you, and your decisions, in the future.

I hope this helped you to see things a little bit differently, and to know that it’s not something you brought onto yourself. Fears might not disappear completely but you can learn to manage them in ways that help you to maintain a healthier, and happier lifestyle. Take advantage of the tools you have at your disposal – being any counselors, gay/lesbian centers in your area, and therapists specializing in gay issues, if you’re still unsure.

Additionally, there are great resources for people who have witnessed abuse, been abused, or are concerned about abuse and abusers. Are there signs to help us potentially see if someone might be abusive? Unfortunately it’s not always so obvious since abusers don’t wear t-shirts that spell it out for us. However, there are signs that can let us know if the situation is dangerous or if it’s unhealthy for us.

Here is one resource with information you can check out:

For more information on sexuality check out:

You have a lot of strength. Take good care of yourself,