Dear Neil: I am 38, very shy, virgin, and I have never been in a romantic relationship. I am also very afraid of having a sexual experience. Is there any hope for me? If so, what are some steps that I could take? I have never seen my problem addressed before.
Feeling Hopeless in Colorado
Dear Feeling Hopeless: You can start by exploring what you are afraid of. What do you fear might happen if you were to be in a relationship? Most people who avoid relationships do so because of a deep fear, usually of being rejected, abandoned, betrayed or abused.
I’d then recommend you explore how you avoid connecting with other people. What do you do—and what have you done in the past—to keep yourself isolated, removed or unavailable from others?
Challenge that the way you’ve been behaving is the way you must behave, and experiment with other ways of keeping yourself safe while also being available to connect and feel close with someone else.
You then have to put yourself in social situations where you are likely to meet someone single and available, and force yourself to be social, engaged and willing to reveal yourself—as well as ask about others—even when you feel like running away and hiding.
Face why you are so self-protective and afraid of letting anyone close to you. Practice and improve your people skills in relating to others personally. Then, go after finding romance. If you create a romance first, becoming sexual will become easier and less fearful. I’d recommend you find an older trusted woman, or a psychotherapist, who will guide you through this process.
Dear Neil: My boyfriend and I have been friends and golf partners for twenty plus years. Last year we went from platonic friends to madly in love. He said I was perfect, that I treated him better than anyone had, and that he would be crazy not to marry me. Two days later, he ended our relationship.
He then immediately called my best friend to ask her out. Any decent person knows that this is despicable. I thought I knew him so well. I have never trusted anyone as much. He is 49 and I am 51. Is there any explanation for this? What is this dynamic about?
Wounded In Tucson
Dear Wounded: I have three guesses as to what may have happened, from the most obvious to the least obvious: 1. He wasn’t as taken with you as he had led you to believe. He was feeding you a line he thought you wanted to hear. 2. He is commitment phobic, and perhaps had a panic reaction to the thought of being “tied down.” 3. He is angry at and fearful of women.
Either way, the guy lacks honor and integrity big time. I’m sure this has been extraordinarily painful for you. Lick your wounds and heal from this, and then go out and try again. Don’t let this one bad experience ruin your spirit and keep you from a happy future.