I am twentysomething and I have never been kissed

I think I’m bisexual, but the thought of kissing either sex instils a desire as well as fear

PROBLEM: I am a twentysomething man and I’ve never been kissed. I was bullied severely in secondary school and plagued about my sexuality, and I feel like I am still scarred by this experience. Any girl I showed an interest in during my teens was not interested in me, and often broadcast the news for other people’s entertainment. I think I’m bisexual, which I accept, but the thought of kissing either sex instils a desire as well as a paranoid fear of being jeered at or being the butt-end of a joke, like I used to be.

It upset me that my friends in my teens were hitting the milestones of their first kiss. Now the vast majority of my friends are in steady relationships, sexually active and happy.

I am happy; I am ambitious and successful compared with most of my peers. I am social, comfortable both in my own skin and in my own company, but now I feel hollow without a significant other in my life.

I feel like I am in a position to be loved, but maybe I am too afraid to open up, too anxious to make the first move. Friends tell me that I’m good-looking and a catch, but they don’t understand my situation, which adds to my frustration. Ultimately, I question whether anyone I see in a romantic light will have the same feelings for me.

ADVICE: It sounds as though you have overcome many of your childhood difficulties in school (bullying and jeering), and this success should give you the faith in yourself to tackle the next barrier: intimacy.

The idea that you have been left behind in the romantic stakes will be familiar to lots of people, and this can drive us into inappropriate action with others, or otherwise to pull away from the possibility of connection.

This idea is untrue and needs to be tackled. It is positive that your friends have said that you are a catch. Very often our friends see us in a much clearer light than we see ourselves, and they are no doubt telling you the truth.

The issue, then, is to overcome your past experience and take the risk of engaging with someone you are attracted to rather than worrying endlessly about rejection.

Your bisexuality is the expression of your desire. Your knowledge of what you want in your life will grow when you have more experience to base your choices on. The current problem seems to be that your experience of desire is now linked to a “paranoid fear”, and this association is not a good one for you. Desire pushes you outwards beyond your own skin, whereas fear makes you retreat inwards. This must be very confusing for you, physically and emotionally.

In order to give desire a chance, you will need to overcome your fear. This will require courage and engagement with people you find attractive. Not letting fear run your relationships is a great goal to have, and if you are courageous and compassionate with yourself, it is very achievable.

The first step is to identify someone worth the effort of challenging your anxiety. This is important, as it will keep your motivation up. Then you will need to take the risk of asking that person out (initially for coffee, say, as this is less threatening). Your thinking might block this from happening, however, as your past experiences create defensiveness in you, but if you give your full attention to the attractive person, you will find there is less focus on your own negative thoughts.

Honesty is also very helpful in this situation, and the bonus is that it is also attractive. Speaking truthfully about your nervousness will create openness. If the other person appears to be considerate, you can move forward and be open about your lack of experience as the dating progresses.

Your confidence will grow as you become more open and more willing to trust your instincts regarding attraction.

Kissing is the first step towards intimacy. Your focus should be fully on your senses: the touch, taste and physical experience of the kiss. This means that your mind will not go to negative thinking such as fear of commentary or rejection. Instead you will experience the pleasure of connection. The pleasure of this kiss will then be the motivating factor for the next stage of intimacy, and with each successful step will come the courage to take the next one.

The problem is often that our minds go the full distance and shudder at possible pitfalls; quieten your mind and let your desire for love take the lead for a while.