Having spent 15 years being cheated on, lied to and ghosted by unsuitable men, it’s fair to say Wendy Middlehurst knows what it is like to be unlucky in love.

Worst dates include the man who took her to watch his beloved Mercedes being valeted, another who only ever took her to loud gigs so he couldn’t hear her talk, and the tree surgeon who insisted on showing her photos of 500 tree species.

‘I became the standing joke at work,’ says Wendy, now 39. ‘I was a police welfare officer and every day they’d tease: “Which loser has Wendy picked up on the internet this week?” I laughed along but deep down it was soul-destroying.

Wendy Middlehurst, 39, (pictured) from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, shared advice for finding Mr Right

Wendy Middlehurst (pictured, 39) is a Newton Aycliffe resident, County Durham. She shared her advice on finding Mr Right 

‘Only when I hit rock bottom was I forced to rebuild my life and confidence. Only then did I find a man who loved and respected me.’

Wendy, now a mom-of-three, transformed so much that she is now happy and has also retrained as an emotional counsellor. She has also published a book to help other women avoid disasters in dating.

Wendy’s advice couldn’t be more timely as we approach Dating Sunday on January 2. Tinder and Match.com are busy on the first Sabbath in the new year. Tinder had 44 million matches within 24 hours in 2019, according to reports.

Wendy advises against dating in desperation. She says you must be in the right mindset to prevent repeating the mistakes.

‘Step away from the wine and chocolate, log off the dating apps, stop stalking your ex’s social media and take useful action,’ she advises.

Wendy, from Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, explains: ‘I repeatedly fell into the same traps with toxic men. These men gave me chances after opportunities. My fear of being single was so strong, I’d rather have dated a loser than be on my own.’

Wendy was 18 and working in an optician’s when her cycle of Mr Wrongs began. The abusive relationship she entered into was a one-year-long affair.

Wendy said it took years to learn how to be in a healthy relationship and not self-sabotage by accepting bad behaviour (file image)

Wendy stated that it took her years to figure out how to have a healthy relationship, and not be self-deprecating by accepting poor behaviour. (file image).

‘At first I misread his controlling behaviour as attentiveness,’ she says. ‘But it got so bad that he threatened to kill me and cut the brakes on my car. That’s what it took for me to know it was over.’

Next was a man who was often unfaithful: ‘I kept forgiving him until he finished with me after a year. An entry in his diary even read, “Must stop cheating on Wendy”.

She ended up spending ten years with a man she didn’t like and it was a bad relationship. She sought help from therapy after a panic attack and was able to start again dating. However, the unsuitable men kept coming.

These are five warning signs to watch out for in dating 

1 He will talk about sex as soon as he meets you. If you’re after something more, move on.

2Intermittent communication is another offence. At worst he’s married — one study found up to 18 per cent of dating app users were married. At best he’s not ready for a proper relationship. Ongoing inconsistency will drain the life out of you — not to mention, ignite suspicion.

3 Don’t be taken in by a man who is trying to get you on Snapchat, or any other photo-based social media platform. It is common for virtual flashing to be prevalent.

4 Leading the conversation straight to your vulnerabilities/past painful relationships means he’s either stuck in his own pain and hurt — in which case you’re not there to be a therapist — or he’s a possible abuser in the making who will use the information. These conversations should not be discussed until later in the relationship.

5A dating app asking you for your phone number or home address is a red flag. Safety must be your first priority.

‘One lied that he was moving house rather than admitting he was seeing someone else,’ she says. ‘There were one-night stands that made me feel worthless and I wasted time dating men I didn’t fancy.’

At the age of 30, 2012 was her turning point. Inspired by the therapy she’d had post-breakdown, she began a counselling diploma.

‘It helped me to see the reasons I would get attached to bad men so quickly — as well as understand my fury when things ended.

‘I began to realise my anger stemmed from how I felt towards my dad for leaving when I was eight. He left me without any explanation.

‘That father-daughter relationship is so integral to future relationships. I was convinced that my father would leave me if I didn’t love him.

‘Slowly I set about rebuilding my self-esteem. Although it took many years to master, I was able to live in healthy relationships and stop self-deprecating by accepting poor behavior.

‘Eventually I could spot the warning signs and I’d break things off after three bad dates instead of three bad years. I decided I wanted to be wowed with five romantic dates before going home with a man.’

Wendy met Peter Irvine (37), an engineer manager on a dating platform in 2015. He went above and beyond to impress her, unlike the rest.

‘Our first date was A Christmas Carol at the theatre, and on the fifth he took me stargazing at the Kielder Observatory in Northumberland.

‘I love astronomy and it was so personal and special. Seeing him trying hard to make me happy made me want to try harder, too.’

And, she adds, the success of the relationship wasn’t all down to Peter. ‘The key was me believing I was worth the effort. To break my patterns of self-sacrifice and people-pleasing, I had to take the time. It was my goal to never be hurt again.

‘When I shared this with clients, they said I should write a book to pass on my advice. So I did.’

Here, Wendy reveals how you can make 2022 the year you find Mr Right — and stop being fooled by Mr Wrong for ever . . .


Wendy advises women to make happiness and health a priority before focusing on dating, while reminding them self-acceptance isn't dependent on relationship status (file image)

Wendy encourages women to prioritize happiness and their health before they focus on dating. However, Wendy reminds them that self acceptance is not dependent upon a relationship.

When self-esteem is high, whether you are dating or not doesn’t matter as your self-acceptance isn’t dependent on your relationship status. Women should make their happiness and well-being a top priority prior to focusing on the pursuit of romance.

It’s better to be by yourself than to settle for Mr Wrong. One client was so anxious and depressed after years of toxic relationships that she wasn’t able to perform simple daily tasks. The client was extremely critical of her own self.

She had a bad relationship with herself, and she was too envious of the men. It was fueling her anxiety. She felt a man would ‘fix’ her. She was wrong.

We worked together for several months to establish healthy boundaries and set standards for her future.

At the end of it all, she was happy every day. She would soon be moving in with a new boyfriend.


Wendy said if you get into a relationship when already drowning emotionally, you’ll see the new man as a life jacket (file image)

Wendy said if you get into a relationship when already drowning emotionally, you’ll see the new man as a life jacket (file image) 

When you’re drowning and someone throws you a life jacket, you don’t stop to inspect it, you just grab it and hope for the best.

That’s why if you get into a relationship when already drowning emotionally — perhaps due to bereavement or previous heartbreak — you’ll see the new man as a life jacket. This dependency may cause you to lose your self-esteem.

One client wanted to quit a relationship but didn’t think she could cope alone. Her partner had ‘saved’ her when she was bereaved.

As soon as she felt herself back on her feet, I was able help her see that it was okay to take off the life jacket. She wasn’t indebted, and had no reason to feel guilty.


Wendy recommends writing down all the questions you’re torturing yourself with and answering them as best you can (file image)

Wendy recommends writing down all the questions you’re torturing yourself with and answering them as best you can (file image)

I know only too well that asking the painful questions, ‘What did I do wrong?’ and ‘What could I have done differently?’ can be sheer torture.

But you’re not alone in doing this — your brain is just trying to make sense of what’s happened, so let it do that.

Write down all the questions you’re torturing yourself with and answer them as best you can.

This is important to remember. If someone cheated, it’s not about you. It’s about them. Cheating is an option. It’s a decision someone makes to consciously hurt their partner.

Some people are good. All relationships won’t end in this way.


Wendy claims keeping a 'love journal' helped to transform her life, while putting herself at the top of the priority list (file image)

Wendy says that keeping a love journal helped her transform her life and put herself first on the priority list. File image 

Keeping a ‘love journal’ helped transform my life, and it can help you, too. Your future self will be the one who has restored her self-esteem and prioritized quality relationships.

Write daily diary entries as if you’re already that woman. It’s called ‘writing your reality’ and helps you focus on what you want.

You might want to include statements such as ‘What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find love?’ Or ‘If I wasn’t this fat and ugly they wouldn’t treat me this way…’

Here’s what you should write instead: ‘Thank God I spent time on myself, making my happiness a priority, as I love my life now. I am focused, confident and strong. I know what I want and don’t want. I can spot a loser a mile off and they have no place in my life.’

Does it feel different? Although I felt the difference in energy when I started to write like this every day, it was not until later that I reached my second entry.


In my work with clients, we create scripts to help with difficult dating scenarios — like how to turn down a second date or how to ask for what you really want.

Wendy said it's vital that women know their non-negotiables and communicate them early on (file image)

Wendy said it’s vital that women know their non-negotiables and communicate them early on (file image)

It might sound easy, but I found it hard to reject someone if they wanted to see me again, even when I hadn’t enjoyed the first date.

Be honest. Don’t lead someone on and give them false hope. It’s kinder than going through with a pity date. Don’t apologise — you don’t have to say sorry for your feelings! Be brief. Something like: ‘Thank you so much for asking. You seemed really nice but I didn’t feel that there was any chemistry between us.’


My clients should tell me what kind of partner they are looking for.

Do you prefer to wine and dine or go on your first Costa date? Are there any non-negotiables? What would you like them to do? Text you throughout the day or meet up with you in person?

It’s vital that women know their non-negotiables and communicate them early on.

In a healthy relationship all of us should be constantly evaluating our happiness — and that of our partner.

There are no magic wands, but if you set high standards, you’re more likely to attain them.

  • Find Wendy at facebook.com/wendymiddlehurstcounsellor.

How To Stop Dating D***heads by Wendy Middlehurst is available on Amazon.

Michelle Morgan Davies