I Would Love to Have a Romantic Relationship — Women are Attracted to Me But I Sabotage My Chances

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Reader’s Question

I believe I have a serious inability to form romantic relationships. I am 20 years old and have not had a romantic relationship in several years.

When I was a toddler, I was psychologically traumatized by other infants at my nursery school. I was also bullied quite badly throughout my school years and have consequently grown up battling low self-confidence and self-esteem, and a poor self-image.

When I go out to clubs with friends, I find that there are women who seem attracted to me. However, I often sabotage my chances with women, probably because deep down I don’t feel like I’m worthy and deserving of love.

I am quite an affectionate and sensitive person and would love to have a romantic bond where I can spend time with a girl and get to know her intimately. Can you advise me?

Psychologist’s Reply

We are social beings by nature. The desire and ability to form intimate connections with others is the basis of what makes us human. Therefore, it makes sense that your struggle to form truly intimate, romantic, relationships bothers you on the deepest level. Although you yearn for these relationships, you find yourself unable to form connections with women. The good news is that you want these relationships — some people, particularly those with schizoid characteristics, have little need for them — it is just that your fears prevent you from developing the meaningful romantic relationship you seem to want.

Your obvious first step would be to find a therapist you can trust, who can help you sort through the issues that keep you stuck. A therapist with experience treating relationship problems and intimacy issues would be most likely to help you. Additionally, since you seem to have specific problems forming relationships with women, it might be therapeutic to find a female therapist with whom you could hopefully learn to be vulnerable and form a trusting bond over time. A healing, therapeutic relationship with a female therapist could then serve as a springboard to forming meaningful connections with women outside of therapy.

The therapist could help you determine the nature of your fears that keep you from developing close romantic relationships. It would seem that the root of your problem derives from your childhood experience with being bullied. A good therapist can help you navigate through your anxieties so that you figure out exactly what it is that scares you so much. Why are you most scared about female romantic relationships? Are you afraid of commitment? Are you afraid of being rejected? Shamed? Are you worried about being abused or controlled? Your fears may be multi-layered and complex. As a first step, the therapist will help you identify and clarify what it is that frightens you about romantic relationships.

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After helping you identify your fears, the therapist can then help you overcome them. This process might include various therapeutic modalities. Emotional processing of your childhood bullying experiences might help you release some of the pain you have held onto for all of these years. Additionally, you may need to process through old wounds related to your prior romantic relationships. Cognitive behavioral techniques like relaxation training and progressive muscle relaxation can teach you to monitor and lower your body’s tension level when meeting a potential dating partner. Behavioral training involving ‘acting the opposite’ of your fear can also help build your confidence in meeting potential dating partners and help you generate real, meaningful connections with women. Finally, therapy can also help you change your underling beliefs that have you fearing romantic relationships. You can overcome the emotional barriers that prevent you from developing meaningful romantic relationships. Once you find a qualified therapist with whom you can connect and whom you trust, you will have taken the first crucial step toward healing yourself and developing future loving relationships.

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