Constantly attracted to Peter Pan Men

A client, let’s call her Anna, in her 40’s complained to me the other day,

“The only men that are out there are the Peter Pan guys. The ones that don’t want to grow up, get married, settle down, have kids.”

(This topic of the Peter Pan or prince of princess complex in men (and women) is a fascianting one to explore in another blog post but for now, back to Anna. )

Anna would spend all her time, relentlessly  trying to “UN-PETER PAN” her partners. How exhausting that must have been!!

Yes, there’s a lot of these “Peter Pan” types out there but Anna wasn’t noticing all the more mature and honest men out there because she was so busy being swept up in another relationship with a Peter Pan and falling in love with their potential rather than accepting who they really were today.

Anna  wanted to know what she could do because she was truly starting to despair. It was impacting her sleep, work- everything. My heart went out to Anna.

Anna was intuitive enough to know a few months into dating these men that something was wrong but would then spend her energy trying to ‘fix’ them. She thought if only she could get them to “see the light” they’d awaken and start treating her how she should be treated and mature and grow up.  Kind’ve like trying to stop the rain falling out of the sky or making a fish walk on land.

Anna was investing all her energy into the wrong people, the ones that were happy being Peter Pans. They don’t need to get married or have kids, they’re happy as they are. Sure they’re possibly emotionally immature but that’s their choice.  Anna would wind up wasting some much time and energy trying to change them. Why should they change? They love living a party lifestyle at the age of 45. They certainly weren’t interested in changing for anyone or in settling down. They’re ruled by their boy-psyche and it’s rather impossible to have a mature relationship with someone like this.
Sure, these men have problems but that’s not the point of this post. Anna was so preoccupied with their problems and how she could fix them she’d forgotten to look inwardly at her own problems and rescue herself.
You cannot have a relationship with someone who isn’t who you thought they were or have a relationship with someone based upon what you hope they will become. You can’t get blood out of a rock and you can’t force someone to become conscious. This a choice someone makes for themselves.
Anna was trying to change them to want the same things she wanted and kept ending up wasting years and years in futile relationships that went nowhere. She was putting her power into someone elses hands and that rested on the crumbling future possibility that maybe one day in the future, not based on any hard evidence, they might change-maybe.
Her issue was HOW she was selecting partners and why was she trying to force them to change or ignore who they were. She’s continually attracted to the unavailable ones and had been repeating this cycle over and over again.
Anna might see a red flag early on but ignore it. Then she might see a combination of red flags but ignore them. Her friends and family might be concerned about this person she’s dating and try to talk to her about it but she’d block them out because she’d be embarrassed.
Why did Anna keep dating people who she knew were cheaters and liars? Why did she think they’d be different with her even though she knew they’d cheated on their exes or refused to commit to any of their previous partners?
Love rules our mind and seems to control the logical and rational part of our mind. The same part of our mind that controls addiction also controls our feelings of love.
There are so many opportunities out there for this woman that she wasn’t noticing. She wasn’t noticing the men that were in touch with their mature masculine sides and were genuinely interested in a committed relationship.
                                                       INTERVENTION TIME.
We started with some gentle art therapy and meditation exercises to help Anna get  some perspective and look at her relationships with a birds eye view.

Then we started together to help her to open up and really start to look within herself openly and honestly.
During this self review process I got Anna to ask herself these questions; “What am I afraid of? How worthwhile do I think I am? Do I think I’m not worth more and have to settle for these people? “
Anna wasn’t in touch with her own ‘shadow’ and so kept being unconsciously attracted to the shadow in others. Getting in touch with her own dark side helped this pull. Anna also couldn’t see her own self worth.
Anna would go on dates saying, “I hope that they like me.”
Instead she should be saying, “I hope I like them..” And spend that date assessing that person to see if they’re right for her.
Anna thought she should put out everything there that she was looking for in a first person. Sadly there are so not so ethical people out there who will pretend to be that person she’s looking for just for their own short term gains and pleasure.

Instead I encouraged Anna to ask open questions on dates and really find out slowly what someone was like and not rush into anything in a blaze of emotions.

Part of our therapy was relationship education. We discussed healthy relationships versus unhealthy relationships. We talked about what she thought she deserved and worked on identifying her needs. Anna had grown up witnessing her parents violent relationships so wasn’t even sure what a healthy relationship was. Sadly our schools don’t give us much education about this either.

Now Anna has to be really honest with herself about what’s she is looking for and pay attention to red flags appearing in a relationship every single day. She doesn’t cut out her friends and isolate herself if ever they show concern about a partner.  As we worked together to help her see her strengths and build her self esteem she gained the courage to leave relationships if she felt she wasn’t being treated well whereas in the past she might stay there for years and years of abuse.

Reeva Steenkamp texts to Oscar Pistorius teach us about emotional abuse


Here are texts Reeva sent to her boyfriend three weeks before she was killed.

I’m not posting this to make a comment about the legal side of the case but rather to help us learn how to spot the signs of emotional abuse in a relationship.
In particular notice her comment, “I’m scared of you sometimes and how you snap at me and of how you will react to me. ” 

This is very important.

If you are frightened of your partner and how they might react to you then you are in an abusive relationship.

This is intimidation and is one of the main aspects of an emotionally violent relationship. 

Emotional abuse is an attack on your personality and your character in order to control you. It can be really confusing if you are in a relationship with an abuser and you might keep trying to make things work.  If you change your behaviour because you are scared of how your partner will react you are being abused.



Here’s another text from Reeva to Oscar…

“I didn’t think you would criticize me for doing that especially not so loudly that others could hear. I might joke around and be all Tom boyish at times but I regards myself as a lady and I didn’t feel like one tonight after the way you treated me when we left. I’m a person too … I am trying my best to make you happy and I feel as thought you sometimes never are, no matter the effort I put in. I can’t be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you — the one person I deserve protection from.”

Reeva talks of how she is trying so hard to make Oscar happy even though nothing she seems to do works. Classic signs of someone being abused are when they are trying to appease the abuser and always monitoring their own behaviour. Reeva is trying to reassure and placate her abuser. This is symptomatic of an abused partner tip toeing on eggshells and trying not to make their partner mad and keep the peace.

This is not a healthy relationship. 


Oscar was mean to his girlfriend, picks on her, puts her down -especially in front of other people. Reeva feels, “picked on … incessantly… I get snapped at and told my accents and voices are annoying … Stop chewing gum. Do this don’t do that…”

Oscar critisizes how she speaks, belittles her and tries to control her actions..

Control is the hallmark of an abuser. It is meant to make you question your own thoughts and feelings. These comments undermine her sense of self and also serve to isolate her from her friends. By creating scenes when she goes out with her friends he has started the process of isolation.

Many abusers publicly humiliate their partners, it’s a way of reducing their partners self esteem by making them feel small and humiliated. This is verbal abuse and you do not have to put up with it. This is an early red flag if you are dating an abuser. They might be charming most of the time until the mask slips down for a moment and they put you down in front of friends of family. Pay attention to this! This is the beginning of a slippery slope! If they publicly humiliate you this will not get better over time!

You might start to believe these put downs about yourself as your self esteem is gradually attacked and eroded more and more over time…  Consistent criticism from someone you love and admire might make you start working super hard to try and “improve yourself” for your partners approval as you internalise their criticism and start to blame yourself. This is a no win situation.

Sure, self improvement is important in a healthy  relationship of flexible give and take with a partner who is your EQUAL but trying to “fix” your supposedly terribly flawed self for the never ending lofty expectations of an abuser is a unbalanced game you can never win.

You will never be good enough for a person who chooses to abuse and you will lose yourself in the process of trying.

In a loving and healthy relationship your partner will want to boost you up not drag you down and put you down about petty things. If you feel pressured to fix yourself  to meet your partner’s high standards then you are not in a healthy relationship.

This is a very typical statement from an abused partner…. “But perhaps it says a lot about what’s going on here. Today was one of my best friend’s engagements and I wanted to stay longer. I was enjoying myself but it’s over now.” Reeva starts out by explaining her needs but then backs down and says it’s too late now. She’s not standing her ground or standing in her power because emotional abuse tears down that power and disempowers you. You lose the anchor of your selfhood and are left floundering.

Reeva also says that Oscar always talks about his various women he’s been with but if she mentions one long term boyfriend he gets very angry with her. She then mentions his tantrums. This double standard, possessiveness and jealousy is classic text book abusive relationship.

You can see that Oscar is very jealous and deals with that by controlling his girlfriends actions. It’s normal for people to feel a little bit jealous in a relationship however it is not normal to make their partner manage and hold up their jealousy and change their actions to deal it. If you’ve never done anything to make your partner suspect your devotion to them, never lied about seeing someone or cheated on them- then them dumping all this suspicious jealousy onto you, shaming your behaviour or attachments with friends is a big red flag for abuse.

I want to include examples now of how an abuser uses jealousy, possessiveness and isolation in an abusive relationship from the standard counselling text books to illustrate my point.

Controlling or manipulating her by controlling what she does, who she sees & talks to, what she reads, where she goes, limiting her outside involvement. 

Using jealousy to justify actions, using jealousy as a sign of love instead of insecurity. Unfounded accusations of cheating, unfaithfulness, infidelity.

Abuser treats her as if he owns her; he doesn’t want her to share her time/attention with anyone else.  Isolating the victim – controlling her schedule, limiting her involvement in activities, limiting access to telephone/internet, limiting access to enroll in certain classes, controlling her access to resources (e.g., health care, medications, car, friends, school, job, etc.).

Abuser seeks to destroy her social support system-not allowing her to spend time with family or friends, criticizing her friends, so she won’t spend time with
them, discouraging her from being close with anyone else.

Isolation is intended to make the abuser the center of the victim’s universe, as well as to limit purposefully the victim’s access to others who might attempt to help her/him escape.

(As females statistically are more likely to be victims of dating violence, these items are addressed toward female victims. Please note males can be victims of dating violence as well.)

You can forget that these texts are anything to do with Reeva or Oscar Pistorius for a minute. I’m a psychotherapist not a legal expert!

This story is all about the language that underpins emotional abuse in an intimate relationship.

Recently, I read these texts to a client who recognised the words as if they were her own.

If you have a friend who is being critisized so much by their partner that their self esteem is disappearing then please reach out for help.

If you are in a situation where someone is making you feel small, controlled, worthless and like you can’t do anything right and they critisize you for small, petty things like how you dress, housework, how you talk, how loud you laugh or you feel trapped, afraid and powerless then please get in touch.

There is a way out.




Relationships are not products and love cannot be caught.

Relationships are not products.
What online dating apps, pick artists books and commitment trap programmes are doing to dating..

“We turn wimps and geeks into supercharged macho studs!!!”
Pick up artist products lure men through promising multitudes of sexual partners and the “‘cost-benefit’ analysis of casual sexual hook ups without the supposed “hassles” of relationships or commitment.
Relationships are depicted as games of instant gratification and women as exploitable commodities.

Women are sold equally gender stereotyped products guaranteeing; You Really Can Capture His Heart And Make Him Love You Forever!” … This sells women the idea that men are naturally scared of relationships and need to be manipulated into a relationship!

However this promise to “capture love” sells a flawed premise.
You can’t capture love and you sure as hell can’t force anyone to love you. True love is freely given without games or manipulation. It is a gift not an obligation.

Online hook up apps can give the illusion that there’s a perfect person out there for us– when in reality a relationship is two imperfect people coming together to create a sanctuary of love in this rollercoaster world we live in.

Our culture has unreasonable expectations that the “perfect love” happens without work or effort and our true “soul mate” will naturally fulfil all our desires.

Think of all the work and effort that it takes to perfect the playing of a musical instrument.. Relationships are the same. We don’t just naturally wake up and know how to play the violin! We have to practice and practice and learn and grow and perfect our skills until we get better and better! At first when we pick up that violin it might sound like a cat scratching a tin roof!  We benefit from the help of a music teacher, just like how I help my couples and single clients improve their relationship skills and over time we get better.  We definitely don’t just find the perfect violin in a shop that means we don’t have to have lessons, read music or even practice anymore!

So much choice so why settle down?

Apps can bombard us with so much choice it can feel like a sacrifice to give up options and settle with just one. You know when you’re at the salad bar and there’s so many delicious options you worry that your choice isn’t right and perhaps you preferred the others? Or you keep browsing and taste testing, hoping to find the perfect one in a perpetual cycle of dissatisfaction? I’ve done this before!  You’ll send yourself bananas on the eternal quest to find the perfect meal or the perfect partner.
Choice doesn’t necessarily equal good! Commitment phobic types can stay in this state for a very long time. Never settling down as soon as they notice their partner has flaws. Some of these types can put their partner up so high on a pedestal that they just can’t cope when they realise  that this idealised vision is just a human with warts and all. But more about this type of love later.

“Consumer dating” encourages us to look at potential partners as disposable products. People are not products.

Mature love involves commitment, true intimacy and meeting anothers emotional, mental and physical needs. Those terrified of true intimacy can perpetually hide in the world of “hook ups” that can act as a protective defensive mechanism to being hurt.

My Partner Isn’t Perfect!

People can become so highly critical of their partners that they will never ever be satisfied. 
Sometimes once we know our partner is committed to us (the idealised honeymoon phase) we can start trying to change them into our version of the “perfect partner” who is better suited to our own selfish needs. 
This is the “power struggle” and second phase of the relationship, where you might obsess over all your differences with your partner whereas before you mainly noticed the similarities.

Rather than obsessing on everything that is wrong with your partner, try focussing on how you can improve yourself and what you bring to the relationship. A relationship is the combined work of two people together. It’s not a passive process of ordering what you want from a menu, scrutinising it for flaws and returning it for a replacement when flaws are detected or boredom sets in.

I see clients who begin relationships preoccupied with; “What can I do for my lover?” which transforms over time into: “What am I getting out of this person and this relationship?”
 Remember to accept difference, embrace compromise and work on unconditionally loving your partner as a complete package-flaws and all.

This article appeared in CIAO magazine and was designed for people in non abusive relationships. If you are worried you are in an abusive relationship then please get in touch..

New Year Sex and Relationship Resolutions

Happy New Year! Here’s my column that appeared in Ciao magazine…

Celebrate and respect that initial sexual attraction you both first felt when you met.

This is what first drew you together and should not be forgotten. It can be very destructive to a relationship if the times between sexual contact are too long. No matter how fast paced and busy our lives are or how familiar our partner might become to us; it is crucial we never stop seeing them as our lover first and foremost. I see so many clients who have put sex and intimacy on the back burner and this creates a myriad of problems.

Lots of good sex with our partner is beneficial for our health, our blood pressure, our hearts and the health of the relationship! ­ This leads to my next resolution…

Prioritise sex and make time for it.

Schedule in sex dates. If you are too busy and don’t have time to have sex with your partner then it’s time to sit down and re-schedule! If you can start saying no to that party or function that is road blocking your desires and spend time with no one but your partner. Have a night in (or outside if that’s what you like!) with your skin pressing against theirs.

If you’re single, prioritise your self loving practice. Explore your body and new ways of pleasure! Think of your sexuality like a plant that needs watering and attention to grow, flower and thrive. It doesn’t grow on its own if you don’t nurture it. Working on your own sexuality will open you up to greater pleasure and creativity.

For singles looking for a partner or wanting to stop meeting the same types of people all the time; book in a session with me to discover how you are blocking your own happiness and changing the patterns that are keeping you back.




Resolve to “fight fair” for 2015.

9d8fd7accf094a12361a59f9b1cb8a8bArguments will happen but try to stay calm, truly listen to your partner and notice the pain that is prompting their words. My clients have transformed their relationship by learning how to communicate, listen and resolve conflict in a relationship more effectively.

Masterful business communicators can crumble and struggle with communicating in an intimate relationship because the stakes are so much higher and the rules can be a lot less clear.

Resolve to stop doing these things with your partner that are not conducive to a healthy relationship; stonewall (silent treatment), storm out, hanging up, go to bed angry, slam doors or lash out with cruel and personal attacks.

Don’t be a “kitchen sink fighter” and throw in every past blunder your partner has ever made! This will inflame the situation and build resentment. Keep things relevant and specific and try to be assertive not passive, aggressive or passive aggressive.

Book in a therapy session with me if you’d like to learn good relationship communication skills and transform how you relate with your lover.

Broaden your definition of sex for 2015.

Photo Manipulations by Alexandria ThompsonLet’s embrace our sexuality and the many different ways we can have “sex.”
Sex is not just about actual intercourse but about any erotic activity that involves some sort of touch. Some could say touch isn’t even needed- (why look at tantra and breath orgasms­) but it’s about being present and in your body!

Put down your mobile, get out of your head and connect with your lover! Explore different ways of giving and receiving pleasure that don’t focus on performance and goal orientations! And of course above all ­have fun! Joke, play and laugh. Sex with the right person is good for you!



Here’s to a lush and pleasure ­filled 2015!

Catherine O Dowd

Having the courage to keep your heart open

We are powerful beyond measure, and so deeply vulnerable at the same time. This may seem like a dichotomy, but it isn’t. We have misunderstood real power. It has been something assertive, non-surrendering, pushing on through. This is not real power. This is simply willfulness. Real power is something else- receptivity, openness, the courage to keep your heart open on the darkest of days, the strength to feel it all even when the odds are stacked against you. Real power is showing up with your heart on your sleeve and absolutely refusing to waste one moment of your life hidden behind edginess and armor. -Jeff Brown

This quote really spoke to me because I speak to so many people who are jaded and bitter about love. I see so much heartbreak and a “closing in” of emotions. I see people going through the motions with sex and dating, or even pulling back and not dating anyone, because they don’t want to feel and they don’t want to hurt.  I’ve experienced this in my own life, so I can truly understand. I can understand the pain of heartbreak and not wanting to open yourself up to someone like that again, just to feel the pain of disappointment or betrayal again, but we can’t stay in this stagnant No Mans Land forever. We have to move forward and embrace growth and change.

A lot of us have very strong defenses up to keep this pain away. We can be too busy all the time, as a way of making sure someone can’t sneak through the cracks of our emotional fort. We can have “fuck buddies” and move on as soon as emotions start getting involved, we can serial date, or have serial relationships or we can close down emotionally. We can have sexual relations with others but be so closed down that our emotions are turned off and we don’t experience sex and intimacy to its fullest potential.

Get in touch today if you would like to break down those walls, open your heart, own your own power and experience love and intimacy without the armour and walls.  Let’s embrace our power and our vulnerability.

I don’t deserve great sex, intimacy or connection. What are you telling yourself?

Rather than telling yourself, “I can’t do this. I am weak etc etc” try telling yourself these things instead. “I am important. I am lovable. I deserve good things.  Everything will work out. Things will get better. I am strong. I can do this. I can be who I truly am. “

Why do I keep stressing our internal dialogues as a sex therapist you ask? The things we tell ourselves repetitively are the things that we believe. We literally convince ourselves. This translates into our relationships and our sex lives. Changing this internal dialogue with ourselves is an important step in becoming empowered, owning our personal power, improving our sexual self esteem and transforming our sex lives and our relationships.

If we keep telling ourselves that we don’t deserve any better, that we are ugly and unattractive, that we deserve to be treated badly, that we won’t find anyone better, that no one will love us, that we are stupid, bad and unlovable and our happiness depends on other people– then how do you think this will influence our intimate relationships and choice of partner or lover?
If you’d like to explore this further and get your sexual self esteem back on track, book a session with me today. Let’s extend that compassion that we can feel so strongly for other people, towards ourselves. I would love to hear from you!

Science proves that if a man acts hard to get, it increases a woman’s interest.

What a fascinating study.. Science has actually backed up the “playing hard to get” phrase. Now I’m not advocating you play any games when dating, but this study does reveal that if a man holds back his true feelings a little at the beginning then a woman is bound to be more interested.

A recent study found that women were actually more attracted to men if they didn’t know for sure if the men liked them best than men who they knew liked them the most.  Who would’ve thought that keeping someone guessing about your feelings for them might actaully make them think more about you?

Researchers said this came down to the fact that salient information is what massively influences our way of reading our feelings.  Salient information is things you think about all the time, you know, that whole  “I just can’t get him out of my head” thing.  The uncertainty about whether the man was interested or not kept the women guessing about if the man liked them a lot or not. We interpret these frequent thoughts as an indication that we must like him a lot.   Uncertainty interests us because we can’t adapt to it and we don’t know what the outcome will be.

Here’s a quote from Psychology today that explains how the Uncertainty Principle works so well with us humans,

“Prior studies have shown that uncertainty about a positive event often can produce more positive feelings than if the positive event was certain. When the positive event is certain, we experience strong positive feelings, but then we adapt to it. However, when the event is uncertain we spend more time thinking about if the event will occur, trying to interpret it and understand it. The result is that we are unable to adapt to the event because the outcome is undetermined. This could be another reason why uncertainty makes us more interested in something or someone.”

So there you have it guys! Science has just proved that when you first start to date someone, not showing all of your feelings at the very beginning, and thus creating a tad of uncertainty about how much you like her, will make her think more about you.  This means she will like you more.

Please keep in mind that this study only focusses on the very beginning of a relationship, when a man and a woman first meet. There’s no proof saying that playing hard to get throughout a relationship works or helps!