Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m 29 and have never had a date. On top of my shame, I’m also embarrassed about my lack of experience. If I ever do find a man to date, I’ll be embarrassed to date him because I have no experience with being physically intimate with anyone, not even with kissing. I have guy friends, but that’s all. I know I’m attracted to men; they just don’t seem to be attracted to me. I could stand to lose a few pounds (maybe 15 or so), but I see plenty of women more overweight than me who are married. This situation is really bothering me. I’m 29 and I want to have a family someday – yet when it comes to having experience with relationships I’m more like a teenager. Any idea as to why I’m having these problems? Is something wrong with me?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Two important ‘feeling states’ to consider understanding your question are the state of desiring a relationship and the state of feeling desirable. Try consciously putting yourself in the state of desiring a relationship. In your mind’s eye, see yourself in a close relationship, and pay close attention to any fleeting thoughts or feelings that arise. We all carry some degree of underlying fear regarding intimacy and commitment. This exercise may help you to bring to conscious awareness where some of your underlying fears may lie.
Given the nature of whatever your prior experiences are (both personally and vicariously), there are several common fears that could be influencing your ability to date. One common fear is safety. Intimacy, both physically and emotionally, requires the ability to feel safe being close and open with another. Prior exposure to abuse (emotional, physical or sexual), or to important relationships where you felt taken advantage of, controlled or ignored could leave you wary of closeness. Another question to ask yourself is if you feel safe allowing yourself to be seen as a sexual being. Closing down your sexuality (in an effort to feel safe) can send the message to others that you are not available for an intimate relationship. A subconscious fear of commitment may also be a factor here. In your mind’s eye when you see yourself in a committed relationship, does it feel freedom-enhancing or freedom-curtailing? Some people subconsciously see commitment as suffocating, as if it requires a relinquishing of their identity or of their freedom to pursue their personal needs or destiny. For woman, depending on their cultural or personal background, it can also be seen as a giving up of their personal power. Please know that a ‘right’ relationship supports and enhances your personal power and freedom.
The other feeling state that I mentioned is that of feeling desirable. It is important to know that we attract into our lives that which corresponds most closely with our emotional state (and the thoughts and beliefs that sustain it). Therefore, if you feel undesirable, you will experience others in your life as not desiring you. Conversely, when you feel desirable, you will be desired. It has to happen from the inside out. For success, you must first feel and live whatever you are desiring.
On a practical note, my suggestion is that you create an experience of yourself as desirable and as desired by men who have the looks and qualities that you find most appealing. Notice that I said you should create an experience. An experience involves your whole being, not just your mind. Do this by using your senses, your feelings and your ability to visualize. Develop an experience that you can consciously spend time with every day. Over time it will become easier and easier to step into this experience and live it as a reality. Remember to keep your heart open to this reality and see it as coming true!
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2013 Chaitanya Counseling Services