Dear Trish: It seems you overthink romantic situations and perhaps are trying too hard to impress
PROBLEM: This is a very difficult letter to write. On paper I appear to have it all, I am 28-year-old male with a very well-paid job which I really enjoy doing. Three years ago I managed to buy my own home – it was a bit of a wreck but I have done it up to a very high standard.
I am, however, very lonely and isolated. I spend most evenings looking through online dating sites attempting to make contact with females. I have discussed this with friends and I think I probably get more swipes than most and I often end up chatting to different women. I have been on loads of first dates. Some have led to kissing, but nothing more and never once has anyone agreed to a second date.
The themes of the online comments following dates are usually mixed and confusing “A fab guy, but zero chemistry” or “Hot but no spark”. I don’t understand why this keeps happening. I have done loads of research on finding love and have read many books and articles on the subject. I am what you could call a theoretical expert but a novice practitioner.
I am, in fact, a virgin. This is something I have never spoken openly about. It is something that I don’t know how I could possibly explain this to a potential partner.
I am also afraid that when the time comes to eventually having sex I will not be able to perform. In the last few months I have experienced some erectile difficulties when trying to masturbate. I think constantly about sex and when I’m not thinking about sex I’m thinking about relationships.
ADVICE: The first thing to tackle is the loneliness and isolation. You believe that the answer to this is a romantic and intimate relationship and while this is true, there may need to be a few steps before this happens. Obviously, you are successful and capable, and have the courage to initiate contact with strangers, so the difficulty seems to be in the area of maintaining and deepening contact.
Your body is retreating from any exposure to sex or intimacy – hence erectile dysfunction
From the comments you get it also seems that you need to work on your inner sense of sensuality and attractiveness. However, at the moment your body is retreating from any exposure to sex or intimacy – hence erectile dysfunction. It seems that you overthink romantic situations and perhaps you are trying too hard to impress when you meet someone. Romance or intimacy require taking some level of risk, as we let the other person know that we interested in them. But if we are too fearful of the other person discovering our naivety or lack of experience we may block any chance of them actually knowing us. The fear that your body may let you down adds to this situation and instead of desire pushing you to connect with the other person, your energy goes into protecting you from the judgment you fear.
You have friends that you are close enough with to ask them about your dating issues, so you already know what intimacy is like to some extent: it is letting someone into your inner life and also you having the privilege of knowing what is going on for them. So, ultimately intimacy for you will involve being open about your virginity but this is not something you will do without trusting the other person not to ridicule you. If you are going to risk closeness with someone, you will need to choose someone who is worthy of this trust and it will take time to discover if this is valid. This means getting to know someone beyond the first date and, of course, this is where you find you get stuck.
There are some options for you: you could try being more honest in the first date. For example, tell your date that you are inexperienced, and you’d like a chance to find out more about dating and where it can lead; or you could get to know possible partners more in a less threatening way. Meet-up groups, clubs or sports allow you to meet other people of similar age and can allow a more gradual connection to happen; indeed, you might be the one who is sought after. However once this happens, you will need to take a gradual and honest approach to intimacy. Most potential partners will respond positively to requests for help with sensuality and understand the honoured position it gives them in your life – all you have to do is reverse the situation and see how you would feel if someone asked you something similar.
You are far from alone in being sexually inexperienced at your age and the qualities you will need to exercise in order to meet this situation are ones that will enhance and improve your life. You will need courage to be more honest; you will need to exercise good judgment in choosing someone worthy of your trust; you will need to take your loneliness seriously and finally you will need to work with your body in ensuring it deserves pleasure.
These needs are worth giving time and attention to and the outcome will be a happier and more confident self.