30 second therapist

Why do I date unattainable men?

Aug. 23, 2013 at 9:09 AM ET

This week, one reader says she always dates unattainable men and has a fear of marriage while another is upset by her husband's relationship with his ex-wife. Relationship expert Dr. Gilda Carle cuts through the fluff with her love advice in TODAY.com's "30-second therapist" series.

Q: I'm sincerely trying to figure out why I date unattainable men. They're either married or long distance or in some other way unattainable. I can't figure out why. My childhood was one of chaos: my parents constantly fought, my mother would neglect my younger sister and I for days on end while she would go through one of her depression episodes, and our dad would just turn a blind eye to it all. My sister and I would have to take care of ourselves, which we did pretty well. We now own a house and went to college, but are still co-dependent with each other, even though we're in our 30s. My relationships have all been rocky, and the last one I finally ended had been going on for 10 plus years with a married older man. I'm scared of marriage because my parents' marriage was horrific. I want to grow and lead a productive life with a man, but I am wary of relationships. —Afraid to Love

Dear Afraid to Love,

Your parents were “constantly” fighting, your mom was depressed, and your father wussed out in managing the chaos. Since you assessed men as weak, unreliable and “unattainable,” this is the type to whom you naturally gravitate.

However, you and your sister “did pretty well” in bonding and protecting each other to evolve to strong female survivors! Girl, count those blessings and list all your alpha traits. Take that list to a therapist, and from this day forward, focus only on those assets. Also surround yourself with people in healthy relationships, so you see how enriching love can be. When you deliberately build positive templates, you’ll conceive and receive the love you want. —Dr. Gilda

Q: My husband and I have been married for 16 years, and for the most part, we've always gotten along. My issue is that he has his ex-wife on his Facebook, and he messages her, texts her, and speaks to her on the phone. They have no kids together and I feel the past should be in the past. He doesn't have me or any of our communal family on his Facebook. He says he wants to keep his life private. I am angry and hurt that he even speaks with her, and I feel that having a relationship with his ex-wife is emotional cheating. I want to tell him to stop talking with her, and remove her from his Facebook and his life. It doesn't help that I am bipolar and already very insecure. Am I wrong to ask this of him? —Feeling Betrayed

Dear Feeling Betrayed,

Any woman would resent attention her husband diverts from her to another woman. While you “want to tell him to stop talking” with his ex-wife, you know you can’t legislate anyone’s behavior. Making you less confident are your insecurity and your extreme bipolar reactions. Health.com reports the highest rates of bipolar disorder (4.4 percent) in the U.S., so medical practitioners know how to help you.

You also need assertiveness training. While you sign off as “Feeling Betrayed,” you’re really betraying yourself! Become empowered. Then determine if you want to sustain this marriage. Hubby’s excuse that “he wants to keep his life private” just doesn’t cut it!! But this Gilda-Gramexplains, “To get the love you want, want to love yourself more than anyone else.” So girlfriend, you’ve got work to do! —Dr. Gilda

Want Dr. Gilda to answer your relationship questions? Send them in!

Dr. Gilda Carle is the relationship expert to the stars. She is a professor emerita, has written 15 books, and her latest is “Don’t Bet on the Prince!”—Second Edition. She provides advice and coaching via Skype, email and phone.

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