DEAR ABBY: I'm a 36-year-old food server with a 12-year-old son. I have been married four times. The first marriage lasted seven years, the second lasted nine months, the third lasted a year. When I married my fourth husband, I realized within the first two weeks that I had made another mistake, so I had the marriage annulled.
As you can guess from the number of times I have been married, I want to be married. But for some unexplained reason, I start arguments and sabotage my relationships. Since my last marriage, I find myself starting to sabotage as early as the third or fourth date.
Men usually like me and are puzzled by my arguments and sudden cold shoulder. When they ask me to explain what is wrong, because they can't figure out why I won't speak to them for days, I can't give them an answer.
Abby, I don't know why I do this. I feel terrible about it, but I can't seem to stop. I have noticed that with a couple of the men, the ones who didn't push for too much intimacy right away, I didn't start arguing or fighting quite so quickly. Perhaps I need my space, and when they encroach on it I unconsciously use arguments to regain my independence.
Have you any idea why I do this, and how I can stop driving nice men away? I do want a loving relationship. -- PAT IN POCATELLO
DEAR PAT: You are reacting the way you do because on some level you are afraid of letting a man get beyond your defenses. Why you put up a barrier is something that only you can answer.
The quickest way to get to the root of the problem is through professional counseling. You have already taken the first step by admitting that you have a problem; now, take the next step -- counseling.