Ask Fiona: Why can't me or any of my mates seem to get a date?
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a young man who is struggling to meet women, and a couple considering adoption
YOU may think this is a joke, but I can assure you it isn't. I used to date girls when I was in my teens but, since I hit my mid-20s, I've not had a date once.
All of my social life revolves around my mates, who, like me, are in their late-20s.
In a way, I'm writing on behalf of us all, as we're all in the same boat. We're a group of five, all of whom were at school together and go out together most of the time. I really don't know what's wrong with us. We're clean, we dress fairly smartly, none of us are awful looking, but in spite of going out most weekends to pubs and clubs and things, none of us has had a date in ages.
We're all reached the stage now that we're reluctant to chat up women because of numerous setbacks and failures over the past few years. These have really dented our self-confidence and none of really know how to make the first move without getting rejected.
When we go out, we tend to stand around on the edge of the action with a drink in our hands. By the end of the night, we've probably had too much to drink and we leave the place together. It's not helping that, in most of the places we go, there seems to be more men than women. On top of that, I suppose we've all got suspicious, so that even if we do get talking to women, we suspect their motives for talking to us and wonder if they're just wasting our time.
We all laugh about it but it's really not a joke. I don't know about all of the others, but I for one would love to find someone to settle down with. How do we get ourselves out of this mess?
FIONA SAYS:However good looking you all are, by going around in a gang all the time, you might look pretty intimidating to most girls. On top of that, the fact that you admit to being suspicious of anyone you talk to will show, and it really isn't going to make you a top prospect.
I find it hard to believe that, in this day and age, with dating apps and all kinds of other ways of meeting people, none of you have branched out alone to try and meet someone. I can understand that you are wary of getting hurt, but I think it's time for you to break away from the pack and start finding ways to meet prospective dates on your own.
If you immediately act suspicious whenever a new woman starts talking to you, it's not surprising that nothing ever comes of it. You need to accept that all relationships carry some element of risk. Everyone had been hurt by a partner at some point or another – it's part of life, hopefully you learn from it and move on. If you don't learn from it, you end up repeating the same mistakes, and by going out with the gang every weekend, it certainly sounds as if that's what you're doing now. You are repeating the same, unsuccessful behaviour, over and over again.
Aside from dating apps – which I'd really encourage you to try – consider going somewhere on your own. As I've said, a tightly-knit bunch of blokes drinking together looks more than a bit intimidating, so I think it's time to split up. And I don't just mean going on your own to pubs and clubs which, by your own admission, have not been a resounding success so far.
Why not try to develop new interests and socialise in different ways? Go and learn to dance, for example - there are usually more women than men at dance classes. Join an amateur theatre group - you don't have to be able to act, there are all kinds of technical skills needed too. Take up a course of some kind – perhaps an evening class.
It really doesn't matter what you do, as long as it gives you the opportunity to meet new people and make changes to your life. Don't be put off if the people you meet are not the women of your dreams - they may have daughters, granddaughters, sisters. You can make this change to your life; all you need is to want it badly enough.
WHY IS IT TAKING ME SO LONG TO CONCEIVE?
My husband and I conceived our son quite easily when we decided we were ready to start a family. He's three now and, for the past year, we've been trying for another without success. Do you think we've got a problem – could I now be infertile? I don't understand why it should now be taking so long. I am 27 and my husband is 31.
FIONA SAYS: I'm afraid this is a question you really need to address to a doctor to be certain, so do make an appointment to discuss this with your G.P.
I will say though that, unless there's been a serious illness or an accident to either you since you last conceived, then it's unlikely that either of you has become infertile. It can take up to two years for even young, healthy, sexually active, fertile couples to conceive, regardless of whether they've had children before. So please try not to get in a panic about this. Continue to make love regularly and try to relax, because being stressed will almost certainly make things harder.
IS IT EASIER TO ADOPT A CHILD FROM ABROAD?
Our marriage is a second one for both of us and we were both sterilised in our previous marriages. However, as we both agree that as we'd really like a child, we feel the best thing for us would be to adopt. I recently learned that it might be possible to adopt a baby from abroad, but don't have the first idea of how to go about this. Is it any easier than adopting in the UK?
FIONA SAYS: When a couple finally adjusts to infertility and start thinking about their needs, adoption is often the next response. However, it is important to understand that adoption focuses on the needs of the child - and this is as it should be.
Adopting a child is never as simple as it appears in fiction - there's no popping along to an orphanage and picking one you like. It's a long and complicated process, involving assessment of you as potential adopters and your lifestyle.
Also, if you are pursuing overseas adoption there are additional costs to consider too, as you'd need to cover the assessment process costs yourselves.
I would strongly recommend you visit the website of the Intercountry Adoption Centre (icacentre.org.uk), where you will find all the information you need. If you decide to go ahead then this is the organisation that can help you. You will also find a lot of helpful information on the Government website gov.uk/child-adoption.
WHY ARE FAMILY MEAL TIMES SO STRESSFUL?
I was reading about how families who sit and eat meals together bond better, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's been a complete disaster – the kids grumble about missing their favourite programmes, my husband and I have been arguing about money, and everyone is snappy. It has, on the other hand, made food preparation and clearing up so much easier for me. I really want to make it all work, but what am I doing wrong?
FIONA SAYS: Sitting together and enjoying a meal is a good way of getting people to talk to one another – but it doesn't always work, and compromise is often necessary. It sounds like you've gone from never having done this before to expecting it to work every single day, and it seems as if your family isn't willing to make the adjustment so quickly. Why not try and make it work one night a week – or perhaps a Sunday lunch to start with? I'd suggest you also set some ground rules - like avoiding topics (like money issues) which can cause a fight. You say it has made your life easier in terms of food preparation and clearing up but I would also suggest you get everyone else involved with this; even the little ones can help lay the table. And of course, everyone can also help with clearing up afterwards too.
Try and have conversations that everyone can participate in and use the opportunity to ask your children about their ideas and their opinions. If they feel they can actively participate, they are less likely to want to leave. Once you've got once a week running smoothly, try adding another day or time but please don't try and do it all yourself.
The more your children help and participate in the process, the more willing they are likely to be to share it - and the more they will be able to cope when they eventually leave home.
:: If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.