Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] I feel guarded after escaping a bad relationship. Is it just anxiety?

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer
[Two Pronged] I feel guarded after escaping a bad relationship. Is it just anxiety?
'While bad breakups can leave an indelible mark, they also serve as useful guides for the future'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer:

Something bothered me all night and  I want to get your thoughts on it.

There’s a guy. A Bumble guy. About a year ago I got out of a very bad relationship and now I am open again to meet people. So last night, I was reflecting and realized how guarded I am, so now I am always asking myself why and all.

So my question is: how do I know that the fear in my tummy is anxiety talking and not my intuition?



Dear Irena,

Thank you for your email.

Your account suggests that even though you are beginning to move on from your very bad relationship, you are still burdened by its aftermath, and it would be very helpful therefore if you were to seek therapy to process whatever outstanding issues remain. This would perhaps enable you inter alia to distinguish more clearly between the fallout from past events and intuition.

That said, your attitude to any new relationship will inevitably be colored by your past experiences with previous partners. You will have learned what to look for and what to avoid, though of course this knowledge is not all-encompassing, each and every relationship being unique with its challenges and opportunities. Caution is no bad thing, whether your past has been rocky or not, and of course any inability to decide whether your concerns arise from previous experiences or intuition is no reason to ignore such fears as you may have. 

While bad breakups can leave an indelible mark, they also serve as useful guides for the future. We are all the sum of our experiences and they serve to inform us as we venture forth into what are hopefully successful new relationships. We should all want to learn from our successes and our mistakes.

I would therefore suggest that you keep moving on, monitoring your feelings carefully as you do so, while at the same time getting therapy to resolve any remaining issues.

Best wishes,
JAF Baer


Dear Irena:

Thank you very much for your letter. 

Don’t try to second guess yourself too much. Depending on how successful you have been with your intuition in the past, I would say, GO! if you feel comfortable enough to go out with this guy again (even if there are no guarantees).  Especially if you know that should worse come to worst and your fear (mere fear as opposed to real trauma) is that the worst that could happen is that you have a boring time (as opposed to his maiming you for life), then go out with him if he seems like fun.

It doesn’t have to mean true love forever. Besides, relationships like that have a more easygoing start. You like his shirt-or hate it-and it’s good that you can laugh about this (no “should’s” in either relationship) and be honest up to that point. A really good relationship would, of course, need more honesty than that, but we are just talking beginnings here.

Because it is always best to start with the here and now. And this is exactly where you are. At a crossroads, wondering whether the lack of spontaneity when meeting new guys is due to anxiety borne out of your past relationship (in which case, should you listen to it and drop the relationship and stop seeing him entirely) or is it (merely) kutob (a strong gut feel), in which case, depending on how super strong the kutob is AND how many times you are accurate about the things you are kutob-ie about, you can decide to go ahead anyway and give this relationship a chance.


Because in the broader perspective of what else could happen to you as you get older, this is not life or death stuff.  UNLESS, of course, your very strong kutob is it could be, AND you’re usually right about these. 

You do not want to give yourself excuses not to reach out towards new relationship landscapes you’ve never enjoyed before simply because of a reasonable anxiety based on your most recent past. People learn from their mistakes, and it is human nature to be “once bitten, twice shy.” However, it is also human nature for the more adventurous and more open among us to try and figure out why and what we are “twice shy” about?

Take note, dearest Irena, that I do not strongly suggest to people to take a chance the way I have asked you to. I do not believe in the saying, “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger.”

What a load of crap. 

Because what you choose to go through, despite an option to not do so, can make you bitter, so frightened you won’t ever venture out on your own, or be forever dependent on other people to make decisions for you.

But you are a “Bumble” girl/aficionado and thus adventurous, open, and forward thinking enough to try new things that you feel can keep you safe enough.

In other words: “How do you know that the fear in your tummy is anxiety talking and not your intuition?”

It doesn’t really matter if you feel confident enough to continue with the relationship. Only time, further experiences with him, and yes, even kutobs that may spiring forth based on the former, will tell so go for it if you feel you can handle it. Give it your best shot.

If it works, halleluia!  If it doesn’t and if I have an accurate feel of who you are, then, when you are ready, try with another fellow and hope it works out better next time.  

All the very best, dearest Irena,
MG Holmes


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