I am a 22 year old heterosexual guy. For context, I never had a sexual and/or romantic relationship, or any sexual experience of any kind. “Nevertheless” I still consider myself to be fairly sex-positive. Over the last few years I have come across a lot of sex-positivity related content and by now, I think I get most of it: comprehensive sex-education is fundamental, consent is key, I am not entitled to any sexual or romantic attention from anyone, the sex a woman is having has no bearing on her “respectability”, the sex a man has is not a testament to his worth or to the value of his character, and I should not care about other people’s romantic and sexual endeavors.
Yet it seems some part of my brain didn’t get the memo. Whenever I see a couple (whether fictional or real) displaying affection/intimacy, I can’t help but feel varying degrees of resentment and bitterness. It has gotten so strong that even my enjoyment of fiction has been affected: I skipped the Witcher (books, games and TV) series because I get annoyed at how much sexual and romantic attention the main protagonist gets. It may seem inconsequential, but it’s really becoming quite pervasive.
The strange part is, I think I might have had a healthier outlook on the subject in my teenage years, despite completely lacking the “theoretical” knowledge I have now (for example I only learned about consent around age 18, on the Internet). In high school I was attracted to one of my classmates and tried to “seduce” her (as much as socially incompetent and emotionally unintelligent teenager can). When she ended up hooking with someone else, sure I was jealous, but it was really a “the lucky bastard did what I wish I could do” jealousy rather than the bitterness and borderline-hateful envy 22 year-old me would have felt.
The goal would be to attain a mindset in which my lack of sexual and romantic relationships doesn’t taint my perception of others and sexuality in general. There are two options that I feel I should get out of the way first:
-buy the services of a sex-worker to “get it out of my system”. I live in a country where it is legal and could probably do it without too much hassle if I tried. On the other hand, I realize a sex-worker’s job is not to ride negative mindsets out of their clients (to paraphrase one of your videos), and that a x-minutes session of body-part contact probably won’t solve the issue.
-go to therapy. I mention it because with everything I said so far, one would be forgiven to think that I am an “incel”, but I doubt that that description suits me. Apart from what I said above, I would say I am “normal” (in the statistical sense, not the normal=good abnormal=bad sense) enough, with hobbies I (more or less) keep up with and an education that is (more or less) advancing. So I don’t really see what a therapist can do, and I don’t want to waste the time of a therapist who has more pressing patient to attend to. Plus therapy isn’t cheap.
So here comes my question: how does one get rid of such a mindset regarding sexuality and women, before it becomes a hindrance to other people’s well-being and my peace of mind?
Thank you for your answer and your work in general.
Trying to Stay Positive
I (27M) met this woman on Bumble a few months ago. We met each other in person for a low-key meeting to see if we vibe together, and we certainly did. We had similar interests, shared values (which is pretty rare in the rural southern place I live). There was one big problem: that meeting happened a few days before the COVID-19 lockdown. Obviously, we weren’t able to go on any real dates after that.
We kept texting throughout it, but it slowed down, because she works at a hospital lab, and she volunteered to process the COVID-19 tests, and we live in a state that was hit particularly hard. I figured “fine, these are unprecedented times, dating is definitely going to be different, that pre-relationship anxiety of ‘oh god, am I doing something wrong’ is going to be extended by default.” I’ve heard about how much stress medical workers go through, and the fact that she’s doing the tests means she’s definitely at risk of exposure to the virus, and she mentioned that she lives with her high-risk father.
So I figured that her being slow to reply to text messages was a pretty normal thing, since she was diligent in replying to text messages eventually, and she gave pretty substantial replies, and we would even have deep conversations sometimes. I would suggest FaceTiming/remotely watching a movie, she mentioned not having a lot of time. Once, we eventually talked on the phone, we talked for two hours, I was really happy, she sounded really happy. A bit later, she apologized about how she was dodging my invitations to talk or video call, and mentioned what I suspected, that she was really busy and stressed. I didn’t think much of it, until a couple of weeks later, my friends told me that I seem to be obsessing over this, that this is clearly causing me anxiety, that they think she’s unintentionally leading me on, not being upfront about what she wants.
And now this is making me think, is she? So how do I proceed?
On The Back Burner
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Hey Dr Nerdlove,
Brief context: I (28 F) have been in a 2.5 year relationship, 1.25 years of which has now been long distance (12+ hour flight, long distance). Currently coming out of a non-Covid rough patch, newly thrown for a loop.
Ever since I moved away, I have been encouraging him to cultivate friendships because all of his friends are here in the States. In combination with coaxing him into therapy for the past 2 years (which I would say has been moderately successful as he now has 4 consecutive months under his belt after scattershot attempts) I have tried to assist him as best I could in various personal matters (family dynamics, culture shock, opening up emotionally, etc).
While in general very willing to improve, he always found a way to avoid cultivating friendships. He has a mix of friends of both genders from college who he chats with, and we called 2 a day with video calls on weekends as well.
He’s a huge romantic and called me his best friend and that he didn’t need anyone besides me. As the complete opposite of him, I affirmed that I know he loves me and appreciate the sentiment but that all people need someone you can physically meet up with and be in the same time zone with and that no one person can be all things.
We’ve been meeting up for 2-3 weeks every 6 months and we hit a rough patch this January (ironically just before COVID dominated everywhere) While we were working things out (which involved some radio silence for a week or two while we cooled off) he magically gained a “squad” (his words) in February of a college acquaintance who moved to the country he lives in and a high school friend who also moved back.
The college friend is a girl. I’m very chill, but my boyfriend proceeded to tell me multiple times that he thinks she is into him. As he has the social flirting fluency of a statue and had so few friends to start with, I encouraged him to have an awkward conversation or just keep treating her as a friend.
Then he tells me they get drunk together at her place after he helped her run some errands (he is fluent in the local language) and she admits to feelings but she respects what we have.
Given that we were still hashing out our unrelated issues I honestly wondered why he was telling me this. Then he says he feels disconnected from me and our relationship and since he is talking to her for more than an hour everyday about things we used to talk about and meeting up 2-3 times a week, he wanted to know how our relationship is different than a friendship.
I was, needless to say, floored. I asked him if he is no longer in love with me or interested in marriage (aka one of our issues) and he says no. I ask if he has feelings for her and he says he doesn’t think so. I ask if he is attracted to her and he says he can find something attractive about anyone really.
He repeats that everything he used to talk about with me (which was everything under the sun and involved emotional vulnerability a great deal of the time and was apparently a first for him) he now talks about with her. I personally view that as a positive thing as he had a turbulent childhood and consequently great difficulty trusting people enough to converse like that. I’m also not apologetic about not fulfilling his conversational needs because 1) we were in a bad place and needed space 2) he should have people he trusts to talk to and 3) I’m in a COVID epicenter under lockdown—the highlight of my month is finally doing laundry.
Having been a longtime reader, I know you have covered that how men manage emotional intimacy in a relationships other than a romantic partner. Is that related to this or was he never really in love with me—was I just the first person he trusted and decided it was love?
-Lost and Confused