Hello Dr. NerdLove:
I’m a man in my early thirties. Growing up throughout my adolescence and, until I was around 25, I didn’t had any kind of sexual or even a casual relationship with any woman. I didn’t go to parties or any kind of social events, my job was menial and going nowhere and I didn’t have many friends. At that point I had just given up and had decided that sex, relationships and love was not for me. However, around that time I met a woman which basically did all the heavy lifting involved at the beginning (flirting with me, asking me out, inviting me to her house, go for the kiss, etc). We started dating not long after and it was with her that I started becoming a grown man (losing my virginity, learning to plan things, learning to drive and move through the city, go to parties, etc).
I never thought of my girlfriend as ugly, but I didn’t find her very attractive either. Everything was so new at the beginning that I didn’t think much of her looks. As time passed I started noticing other girls and me being a more mature, social and responsible man, girls started noticing me too. I’ve never stopped loving my girlfriend but the physical attraction was eventually gone and my desire to be with other women was increasing, so eventually we had an amicable break up.
Over this past few years I’ve been attending therapy and working on several aspects of myself that need improving both mentally and physically. Even though I can’t say I am a fulfilled man, I can really see a difference from the man I was when I was 25 years old, but the issue I have now is that I don’t really know how to establish a connection with women I am attracted to. When the person is very attractive, I don’t really behave like myself but I pretend to be different. Fortunately, this is I problem I have identified by now, but I don’t know how to resolve it. Being myself around attractive women makes me very nervous and anxious, even if my real self tends to be very likeable by other people.
Over the past few years I have only been with a handful of women, and with all of them at most I felt some mild attraction. The problem is I can’t really build any kind of relationship with these women because I am unable to have sex with them. This is in part because I don’t find them very attractive and partly because I masturbate a lot just to unload all this sexual desire that I have in me.
I know that part of the solution is to stop masturbating so that I have enough of libido to have sex with real people, but since the only people that like me are not very attractive I can’t really find the motivation to stop.
As I final note I want to say that I’m really desperate at this moment and I really would like to find a woman to have a relationship with, which unfortunately is something that some women are able notice and obviously drives them off. I know this part would be resolved by working on some personal or professional goals but unfortunately I’m really apathetic towards life in general, I don’t like anything and I don’t care about anything, I haven’t given up but I don’t expect to find the answer soon and I would like to not be alone until I do.
So my questions are:
How can build a connection with people I do find attractive?
How can I look past physical attractiveness and have a relationship with a woman I don’t find very good looking but is funny and kind?
How can I stop being so desperate about having a relationship?
How can I stop masturbating if I am not having sex either?
Lustful, Lonely and Lost
Alright, Triple L, you are in one the rare position of having actually zeroed in on the problem you’re having, but you have completely overshot the mark where it comes to why you have this problem.
Here’s a hint: it’s not because you’re masturbating too much.
Masturbation is one of those topics that keeps coming up (er… as it were) as the cause of — and solution to — all of men’s problems. Jerking the turkey gets a bad rap primarily from sex-negative scolds, folks who drastically misunderstand the human endocrine system, and people who mostly want to exploit folks who buy into the myths the first two pump out. Trying to blame masturbation (and porn — the two go together like hand in… glove) for all of men’s woes, from depression to a lack of motivation and ambition to not being able to form relationships is honestly not that far off from blaming ptomaine poisoning on ghosts and telling you to do cocaine about it. And yet, people keep insisting that bashing the bishop is somehow at the root of all evils of modern society.
It’s not. There’re precisely three ways where masturbation is a problem: if you have an idiosyncratic masturbatory technique (aka The Death Grip) that makes it difficult for you to ejaculate during sex with a partner; if you are masturbating so often that you’re causing physical damage to your genitals; and you rub one out either at times and places where it’s inappropriate or in front of folks who didn’t already agree to see you jerk it. Masturbation is healthy, it’s fun, and more people should see it as something other than something shameful that you do when you’re between sex partners.
While masturbation can lower your libido temporarily or the satiate immediate need to have sex, jerking off too often isn’t the cause of your problems. You’re not unable to have sex with these women because you jerk it too often to be horny for them; you’re masturbating because you’d rather do that than sleep with these women. If you were to suddenly go No Contact with your junk, your issues wouldn’t go away, because the problem isn’t that you need your balls drained, your problem is that you’re not attracted to the women you’re dating. At best, all that would happen is that you’d be horny enough to say “enh, I guess you’ll do”, have sex that would likely not be that pleasurable and make you feel bad or unsatisfied in the aftermath. The refractory period would become a period of reflection where you try to figure out how you can slip out and go home because you are just not into the people you’re dating.
The issue isn’t whether you’re masturbating too much, nor is it that you’re being shallow and not appreciating the women you’re dating for more than their looks. While it’s noble to want to see past the physical, the issue isn’t about shallowness or just wanting a hot girlfriend. The problem is that that you’re pursuing women you aren’t into, rather than ones you are attracted to, because you see those women as “getable”. They’re ones you feel like are somehow on “your level”, rather than being who you’re actually into.
(And before anyone asks: yes, personality, interests, etc. make a huge difference, as does getting to know someone as a person. The more you get to know somebody, the more attractive they tend to become to you, and men find as wide a range of women attractive as women do with men. But all that requires seeing them as a person you want to get to know, not “this is someone I should date because they aren’t ‘above’ me” and then backfilling why you should be attracted to them after the fact.)
You may have come a long, long way since your first girlfriend and made progress towards being a grown-ass man in terms of being able to handle life as an adult. But there’s a part of you that very clearly thinks that you haven’t grown or changed at all.
And that’s an issue.
You kind of trip over the problem when you say that you pretend to be someone else when you’re around women you’re into and that being yourself around women you’re attracted to makes you nervous and anxious. The problem is that, at your core, you don’t think that you’re “worthy” of dating someone that you find attractive. You feel that their attractiveness gives them value or status that you don’t have and that your attraction to them is somehow an inconvenience or affront to them. As a result: you try to fake being someone you’re not with people you’re into — which is off putting at best — and pursue women you don’t find desirable because you feel like they’re the ones who’ll accept you.
Now it doesn’t exactly take a genius to point out that this almost certainly started with your first girlfriend. While I don’t doubt that this was a meaningful and fulfilling relationship for you, and I don’t want to take away from that, it seems pretty clear that there’s a part of you that is still stuck on “but she wasn’t that hot to me.” This seems to have set the tone for you and what you think you deserve or are worth; it set a ceiling for you that honestly should have been a floor. I know we all want to believe we’re enlightened beings and that the mind and soul are more important than the body. I know we live in a world that has commodified a specific standard of beauty, especially for women, and that people all too easily focus on conventional looks instead of compatibility and connection. But we aren’t just beings of pure spirit and intellect, we’re sacks of meat and chemicals being piloted by horny ghosts, with all that entails. Sex is a big deal, and people should treat it like one. You may love someone for their mind, but you want them for their ass.
If you’re going to have a romantic relationship that also entails a sexual connection, then you need that core of attraction and desire for the relationship to work at all. Not prioritizing desire and sexual compatibility doesn’t make you a more evolved person, it just drastically cuts the lifespan of the relationship and increases the emotional pain for everyone involved.
And I do mean everyone. You should be in a relationship with someone you desire and who desires you… and so should the women you’re dating. Dating women you’re not into isn’t fair to them, either; it’s keeping them from being with someone who does want them and who gets harder than Russian differential calculus at the thought of them.
Now, the solution here isn’t to just stop jerking it until you’re horny enough to use someone as a human-shaped Fleshlight, it’s to learn how to see and internalize the value in yourself. You’re pretending to be someone else around people you’re attracted to because you think they’re better than you somehow. You’re trying to impress them with this fake version of you… and that’s a mistake.
First and foremost: they can tell you’re faking being someone else. Trust me: been there, done that, watched a shitload of folks literally drive themselves crazy in the process.
Second: when you’re trying to impress someone, you’re treating her like your opponent, not a potential partner. Women are your collaborators in a relationship; you’re both working together to build something that’s greater than the sum of its parts… even if that something greater is just some squishy noises and creaky bed springs. Treating her like she’s above you or that you need to win approval, especially to just be in her presence, gets in the way of all of that.
Third: you’re not even trying to connect with her, you’re trying to connect with your idea of her. Treating someone as having more value, more importance or more status than you because you think they’re attractive means that you’re not seeing the actual person. You’re performing for an imaginary person in your head, not the person who’s actually right in front of you. And no, putting a woman on a pedestal isn’t a compliment, it’s an insult. It’s literally dehumanizing, and it’s all about what you think, not about who she actually is. She’s a person, like everyone else. She farts, picks at her zits, snorts when she laughs, stubs her toes and stumbles over her words, the same as you and everybody else does.
Fourth: you’re not only responding to an imaginary version of her, you’re denying her the chance to get to know you. You have already decided — on the basis of no evidence — that she couldn’t possibly like you, and therefore you put on this act that you think she would like instead. You haven’t just pre-rejected yourself, you’ve denied her the chance to meet someone awesome, someone she very well may have been looking for.
So here’s what you need to do.
You need to drop the wishy-washiness about who you date. “Not really attracted to” or “kind of attracted to” isn’t doing you or your dates any favors. It’s a waste of everybody’s time. It’s time — for now — for a “fuck yes or fuck no” mindset. Are you hot for them? Are they your exact flavor of yum, the kind that makes you go “fuck yes”? If so, those are the women you should be trying to date. If the answer is no, then it’s “fuck no”, and don’t date them. Treat them well, be friends with them… but don’t insult them by dating them when you aren’t into them.
The next thing is that you need to stop treating women you are attracted to as anything other than people. There’re a lot of ways of doing this — most of which will probably have to wait until you’re vaccinated and the lockdown is over — but for now, you can start by taking dating off the table. The hot women you encounter aren’t potential dates; they’re just people you’re going to have conversations with. Your job is to get to know them, have a good conversation and find out something fascinating about them. This could be anything: they may be a great soccer player, they may be a molecular biologist or they’re the only person who can actually sing “Ghost Love Score” at karaoke. By taking the possibility of sex and dating off the table, you no longer have to worry about impressing them. You’re just two people talking. The more comfortable you can get with this dynamic, the more you can realize that the women you think are hot are just people. It means you’ll worry less about trying to “prove” yourself and be able to put more emphasis on whether they are right for you.
And finally: talk to your therapist, TripleL. This lack of self-worth and the feeling that you aren’t “good enough” is the sort of thing that they can help you unpack and work through. You’ve put a lot of work in and you’ve come really far; don’t let all of that effort go to waste because you still have these self-limiting beliefs buried inside. The first person who needs to treat you like you’re worth a damn is you. Know your own worth so you can go out and get what you’re worth my dude. This will make you happier, it’ll help you find stronger, more fulfilling relationships, and it means you won’t be beating yourself up over beating off.
I’m finding that, throughout the pandemic, a lot of long-term couples have broken up – including a few mixed-orientation ones where I’ve known the woman for a while, but never imagined having the opportunity to ask out.
With the end of the pandemic (hopefully) near, and thinking they’re attractive and would make a good partner, what tips/suggestions would you offer someone thinking about approaching another person they’ve only ever known to be taken, and who’s likely never viewed them as someone they’d date?
– From Friends to More
This is the sort of question that tends to engender a lot of strong feelings in folks, FFM, because a lot of folks have had people — mostly, but not exclusively men — who rolled up on them as soon as they broke up like the dude thought he’d just found the golden ticket while they were still reeling from dumping or having been dumped. It’s a really shitty feeling, especially when it’s coming from someone they had thought of as a friend.
But let’s start with the assumption of good faith. You haven’t just been waiting around for your chance to get with the Newly Single and that there are new and previously unexpected feels. a
There’re a couple questions that need to be answered first.
First: how long ago did they break up? If someone just left a long-term relationship, especially under trying circumstances like, say, a global pandemic, they’ve probably got some shit to work through first. While there’re plenty of times where people have gotten over their relationship while they were still in it, the odds are good that a fresh break up means that they’re going to be in mourning for what was and what might have been. Ending a long-term relationship often means being deep in your feels while you try to figure out who you are now and what you want to do next. Having someone roll up on them right away because the proverbial window is open can feel kind of insulting. It’s like that person was just waiting for their opportunity, rather than considering the needs and feelings of the person who just ended a relationship.
While there’s no hard and fast timeline for when someone will be ready to date again, the closer they are to the break-up, the less likely they are to appreciate being asked out on a date. However, they are the ultimate arbiters of whether they’re ready to date again or not… and they may well discover that they aren’t. Or they may be ready to go a little wild, but not want to date. They’re the ones who’ll have to take the lead in terms of what, precisely, they’re up for at that moment.
Second: is there actual, mutual chemistry between the two of you? One of the keys to moving from platonic friends to something more is that there needs to be attraction that’s goes both ways. If you and they haven’t had a flirty thing beforehand, then you should make sure that there’s some actual interest. Very light flirting can serve as a means of pinging for interest; if they flirt back, then the odds are better that they might be more receptive to an actual date. If not… well, probably best to let things be. Flirting also can serve as a low-stakes way of signaling that you’re interested, but without putting them in the awkward position of having to acknowledge it directly. If you’re just a little flirty and they’re not interested, they have the option of ignoring it or pretending they didn’t pick up on the vibe you were putting out there. That way, you can save face (she didn’t pick up on it) while she doesn’t have to deal with the awkwardness of having to say “thanks but no”, and the two of you can have the silent agreement to shove that moment down the memory hole and act like it never happened.
Third: if they are ready to date and you’re pretty sure you’re picking up mutual interest, invite the “no”. If you ask them out on a date, make it clear in advance that you’re cool if they aren’t feeling it. You want to say something along the lines of “Hey, I want to ask you something and it’s totally cool to tell me no. You’re an awesome person and I really value our friendship, but I like you as more than a friend and I’d like to take you out on an actual date.” Inviting the no helps defuse the awkwardness because you’re letting them know that you realize it’s a bit of an ask and that they may feel weird about having to turn you down. It can serve as a pressure release valve of sorts, so they don’t feel like they have to give you a soft no or to stall for time and then turn you down later on… which would end up being even more awkward in the long term.
Giving them that out and letting them know you’re ok with them taking it means that, even if they do say no, you may not get the date, but you will be able to keep your friendship.
And, incidentally, there’s one more thing to consider: part of why making the leap from friends to lovers can be difficult is because a lot of times, your friend has only seen you as a friend. If you haven’t expressed interest and the two of you haven’t had chemistry before, your asking her out will likely feel like it’s coming out of the clear blue sky and forcing her to reconsider and recontextualize how she sees you and the nature of your friendship. It’s a little easier if you can hit that cosmic reset button that causes her to see you in a different light — a long time apart, a major change, and so on. Otherwise, the inertia of friendship can be difficult to overcome, even if she feels like she should be attracted to you… but isn’t.