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My father is a womaniser. I’m terrified I’ll become one, too

The dilemma I’m 22, single and very romantic, yet I can’t relate to women. I grew up with a womanising father and ever since I can remember he has made comments about women and sex. No man in my family has ever achieved true love and they have all had multiple sex partners and lovers, betraying the confidence of wives and long-term girlfriends.

My great grandfather, my grandfather, my uncle and my father share this and some of me thinks that I can’t fight it, that I will become the same. But I struggle. I just can’t talk to women, I can’t play charming around them even when I have a good relationship with them in spaces such as work or college. I have “female friends”, but I can’t break the confidence they have in me by playing the love card. So I’m often the friend of the women I like.

My entire romantic concept has been built by culture, by movies like Gone with the Wind or Doctor Zhivago, books like A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bells Tolls and long sessions of the Smiths or the Cure.

Mariella replies You’re The One For Me, Fatty! One of the greatest love songs ever written – or an example of Morrissey’s razor-sharp wit and withering irony? Either way, I wouldn’t rely on your present cultural influences to pave the path to true love. Well done, though, for recognising the dysfunctional trait in your family history (hard to miss, I daresay) and for attempting to break the tradition of centuries of womanising. Luckily, serial philandering is a choice and not genetically imprinted, so there’s every reason to be optimistic for your future.

You say that none of your forefathers have known true love, but it’s far more likely that they’ve known way too much of it. In my experience, the worst philanderers are the ones who are never out of love, moving from one passion to another with never a backward glance and certainly no sense of their own repetitive dysfunction.

I’m sure your father was head over heels with your mother until she unwittingly slid from the elevated heights he’d positioned her upon. A partner in close proximity is so much less adorable than their pedestal occupying, inanimate, one-dimensional counterpart. As the billionaire entrepreneur James Goldsmith once said: “Marrying your mistress creates a vacancy.” So, too, with a love addict whose inexhaustible appetite for heightened passion often prevents their liaisons from achieving maturity, intimacy or contentment until they’re old, jaded, or too ridiculous to find further fodder.

The diary of any serial adulterer would make for a tedious read, the literary equivalent of travelling London’s Circle Line on an endless loop. That’s why I’m worried about you. You think with your romantic streak and consumption of happily-ever-after or death-doth-divide narratives that you are a far cry from your family. As Roxy Music explained, love is a drug and serial users need a regular fix. A relationship with ups and downs, stresses and strains, where real life has to be negotiated and responsibilities lived up to, is the equivalent of cold turkey for the love addict. Once Rhett and Scarlett had stopped their volcanic emoting, can you imagine them settling for a pedestrian romance, deciding whose turn it was to do the dishes and what to get Uncle Fred for Christmas?

It’s actually in the minutiae of daily life, not popular culture, that you’ll learn how to make a crazy passion last a lifetime. Instead of Scarlett and Rhett think Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs, Bruce Springsteen’s supremely romantic If I Should Fall Behind, or Mardy Bum by Arctic Monkeys.

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Real love is something you invest in, not something that holds you in a vice-like grip and won’t let go. Once you stop venerating the ladies and trying to distance yourself from historical adulteries you’ll find it a lot easier to turn friendships into love affairs and beyond. Don’t “play charming” or patronise the women you like by thinking you’ll be “breaking their confidence” if you make a pass. You are 22 and you need to do a bit of research before you hit upon the person who’ll be worth sticking with in sickness and in health, forsaking all others.

So lighten up, dump the baggage of your ancestors and have some fun. Step out of your bedroom and forgo your diet of unrealistic romances for the rough and tumble of human interaction in all its splendid glory. We all want to be worshipped, but briefly and with restraint. After that it’s far more important to find yourself with someone you like so much you’d forgive them almost anything, because it’s highly likely that along the way you might have to do just that! Pedestals are for statues and you are not your father.


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