I am a single, 26 y/o, white, middle-class, very smart, attractive guy. Most of my life is filled with success, except for one HUGE gap. I have never had a girlfriend, or a relationship that has gone beyond two dates (usually my decision or something weird happens). I never went to a school dance or prom (even though my parents were not happy about it). I think that I have three problems:
#1 – I cannot build up enough energy to go out and meet women. Internet dating has not gone very well for me. I am not shy in normal social situations, but just going up to a woman and talking to her is not a skill of mine. If I do, I act like a dork.
#2 – I am in the “nice guys finish last” club. I am too nice, and not aggressive in making things happen. I am not the type to sweep a woman off her feet.
#3 – I have a fear of intimacy. I have never kissed a woman, or really put myself in a situation where I could kiss someone. This may stem from the fact that I even have trouble hugging people, and saying “I love you” to family members. I am much more comfortable not expressing intimacy to anyone.
Lately I have become depressed about all of this. I would consider myself over 10 years “behind the curve” and I really feel like a loser. If I go out with someone my own age, I am going to be light-years behind in experience. Dating someone 18 and inexperienced like me is also quickly becoming, if not already, not possible. Help! If I end up becoming a “40 Year Old Virgin” I will probably end my life because at that point I will have lost my window of opportunity to have a normal family life. No point in living anymore.
P.S. I tend to be a “glass is half empty” type of person.
- ‘Anne’ is the pseudonym for the individual who writes this relationship advice column.
- ‘Anne’ bases her responses on her personal experiences and not on professional training or study. She does not represent herself to be a psychologist, therapist, counselor or professional helper of any sort. Her responses are offered from the perspective of a friend or mentor only.
- Anne intends her responses to provide general information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
- Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
- No correspondence takes place.
- No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by ‘Anne’ to people submitting questions.
- ‘Anne’, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. ‘Anne’ and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
- Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.
When you say that you are a nice guy, I wonder if what you mean is that you are a passive guy. And a fearful guy perhaps too. I note that you’ve been on dates but have bailed out of the process after the second date, perhaps because you “fear intimacy” as it were (the second date being the beginning of the period when the formation of a relationship becomes a possibility). There is a passive vibe to your letter, and an undercurrent of fear, and together these two things seem to be making it difficult for you to ask for dates and to build a relationship. That fear and that passivity will have to be addressed and looked square in the eye if you are to solve this problem of yours.
You say you can’t build up enough energy to date, but the message that is really communicated is that you feel too much like a “dork” to date. You’re worried that the women you would date would think you are a loser. You also are saying here that you don’t know how to act around women. Really – you act around them like you would if you weren’t trying to get them into bed, except that you act just a little nicer, and you take them to a nicer place. The conversation you have isn’t otherwise all that different than what you might have with a female friend. There isn’t anything special you have to do, and to the extent that you try to be someone you aren’t you’ll likely turn women off because you won’t be at ease.
The fact that you’re worried about how to act suggest to me that your brain is more focused on what the woman might want from you rather than what you might want from the woman. And if I have stated it correctly there, I think that is part of the problem because that is exactly backwards from how it should be. You want your dating partners to like you, obviously, but you don’t need to think badly about yourself if they don’t. Even if they reject you outright, who really cares? You never have to see them again, and there are like a billion other women you could date in their place. Try asking yourself the question, “What do I want from this woman?” again and again the next time you are in a dating situation and see if it doesn’t help. You need to develop your own perspective – what you want – and avoid allowing the perspective of other people to colonize your head.
You worry that you need to sweep a woman off her feet, and that you aren’t aggressive enough. Again, you are judging yourself from the woman’s perspective rather than your own, and finding yourself failing before you begin. You know what? Some women will look at you as a loser if they learn that you are inexperienced. Some women just want to be pursued, and if you won’t do that they won’t like it. But you don’t have to date those women again, much less sleep with them. There are all kinds of personalities out there. There are plenty of women who will seriously dig a more passive guy because they want to take the lead. There are also women who will look upon your virgin status with delight because they will feel honored to initiate you. In other words, don’t let what one potential partner thinks of you rule you. Find another if one doesn’t work out.
You fear intimacy. Learning what exactly you are afraid of when you say this seems important to me. Are you afraid of being dependent on someone? Are you afraid of being physically touched, or having someone invade your personal space? What exactly do you mean? I think this is worth talking about with a therapist, actually, because if you can’t figure it out, you won’t have the motivation to make changes. A therapist is also a good idea because the two of you could talk about learning how to take your own perspective, rather than other people’s perspective. You can’t assert yourself when you are worried about keeping other people from rejecting you!
Anyway, I think there is a lot of hope for you and I think your difficulty can be overcome if you are willing to become active and face your fears. You could go a long way towards solving your problem by 1) dating (internet dating is easiest), 2) working with a therapist on your anxiety, fear of rejection and tendency to view yourself through other’s eyes rather than your own. There is no substitute for practice, but having a supportive person to talk over fears with can help a lot.