I am 35 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend. I think I’m ok looking, I go to the gym, dress neatly and I have friends – but for some reason, this part of life has never happened.
The older I get, the harder it becomes to know how to meet someone. I work in a male-dominated office and the gym I go to is mostly guys too. My friends are all married with kids. I’ve tried internet dating but I send out a lot of messages and get practically no responses. I’ve had two dates in the last year and both led nowhere. I have friends who tell me to go do salsa or something, but it seems so cheesy and I feel like my desperation and awkwardness would be obvious.
I am very awkward around women. I worry that my attention or attraction is unwanted and comes off as sleazy. I am scared of approaching them in case it’s not welcome and also I don’t know what I would say. I feel like a loser a lot of the time and it’s getting me down. I had counselling about it and my counsellor thought my problems started with my mother who never said anything good about men. I know that my mother’s messages weren’t helpful but I also don’t seem to be able to get past them. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life celibate and single. The thought is unbearable.
Nicola Foster, sex and relationship therapist at realrelating.com, says:
Internet dating is really tough. There are so many people competing, it can feel soul-destroying when you’re putting in a lot of effort and not seeing much of a return. And there is rarely any feedback as to why you may have been passed over. It creates a situation ripe for internal messages about self-worth or image that can really dent your confidence.
But the truth is many men find it hard to feel confident and relaxed with intimate meetings like dates. You’re certainly not alone in this, and it’s important to hold on to the idea that you are fine just as you are – you are not broken, nothing needs fixing.
It’s great to hear that you’ve invested time and energy in counselling. Looking at ways that the messages you were given in the past might be affecting your present is a valuable part of the journey to relationship, and will be a good foundation as you go forward. I think it’s time to have some more experiential learning now. I’d recommend starting with some men’s work, as the messages you received from your mother may have given you doubts or fears around expressing your own masculinity – however that looks. Something like the Mankind Project could help you with this – it’s great for role-modeling healthy masculinity, something that you might not see in the competitive environment at work or in the gym. It can be profoundly transformational for men.
I would also highly recommend going along to a conscious relationship workshop such as those run by Togetherness or a dating day called Meetings Without Masks. There are many workshops like this that focus on authentic relating, and they can be invaluable in giving you the confidence to simply be yourself when it comes to meeting people. There is no substitute for getting some real life practice in a contained space to overcome those initial nerves.
Your friend’s suggestion to try dancing might not be a bad one – or at least, in principle. Finding something that interests you and allows you to meet people in a less pressured environment can be a great way to practice new skills. A shared interest can often be the start of many relationships, and won’t feel like a waste of time if you enjoy it.
Local meetings advertised on the site MeetUp are also a great way to meet new people in your local area with common interests.
When people really figure out the most important things to them in a relationship, it usually isn’t good looks or the ability to “talk the talk”, it’s kindness and authenticity. There are lots of people in the dating pool, looking for someone to share their life’s ups and downs, warts and all. I have no doubt from the thoughtful way that you’ve written this letter that you would have a great deal to offer a potential partner and it does mean trying a few different ways of meeting new people – you may well have to meet a few people before finding the one but building your own confidence and self-belief will help you immensely.
As told to Marianne Power