‘Are they sensing my high degree of sexual repression?’

Distract us from the week. Send your own relationship question to [email protected] or use the form above.

I'm someone that, due to a combination of personality type, childhood experiences, and, I suppose, work, has had no sexual experience and little romantic experience at age 35. Perhaps I'm delusional about this, but I still think I'm a normal person. For the past several years, I've realized that even though I've put a huge amount of time and effort into maintaining relationships, my life is increasingly trending toward isolation. I can foresee a future in which I do not interact with people outside of work. I should say this issue is exacerbated by the pandemic, but was a clear problem for three to four years before. The fading of people from my life is largely due to friends and family having families and our society being one of couples and nuclear families being socially isolated themselves. I stay in contact with tons of people, but if I stopped contacting them, they would largely never talk to me again probably, unless they ran into me at some event.

This is a terrifying prospect to me, and I honestly don't know an approach to changing it other than dating. At this point I've given dating an honest effort probably three to four times in two different cities using dating apps. Over the course of that time, I've probably been on one to four dates with 30 or so women, which is not that small a sample (I'm a repressed but heterosexual man, by the way). There is a very clear pattern: women clearly like me a lot, but don't seem at all attracted to me. They are quite interested, but their interest very abruptly drops off almost always after two dates. Clearly it's a problem with me. Not sure exactly what it is. Probably they're sensing of my high degree of sexual repression? Based on what people I know tell me, you'll likely just say go to therapy and/or just keep playing the numbers game, but I figured I'd see what you and/or your readers would say.


I just want to start by saying that I'm sorry you're so isolated. Many people are lonely right now, and it doesn't help that pre-COVID, you were already feeling detached from your community.

I am going to recommend therapy. Because ... it's a good thing (most of the time). You do a lot of self-labeling – you've decided what you are and what it all means. It would be nice to learn how to stop that pattern. Because things can change so quickly. Therapy might also help you come up with ways to be confident about what happens after date two or three. For the record, if these women were not attracted to you at all, there would be no date two. You're good company, apparently. It's time to talk about how to be more confident about offering (and experiencing) more.

You're at a tough age for changing friendships. It's true; at 35, a lot of people are really busy with partners and kids, especially now. That's why I think it’s important for you to find friends who are single like you. Maybe they're taking online classes. Maybe they're playing games. Single people without children have a lot of time right now and are looking for each other's company. Instead of focusing so much on fixing the love problem, seek out new communities. There's power (and confidence) in numbers when you're single. I know meeting people is difficult during a pandemic, so set small goals. Maybe one activity a week that brings you into a new circle, even virtually. Also, let your longtime friends know that you appreciate when they do reach out.

I can understand why your inexperience haunts you. I just want you to remember that everyone goes into dating with some insecurity. Some newly divorced people might feel weird that their sexual experience has been limited to one person for a very long time. Other formerly coupled people have no experience being alone, whereas you're a pro. Trust me, being alone, without attention, is experience. Everyone brings different skills to the table. Learn to appreciate yours.

– Meredith

Readers? How do you become comfortable with a lack of experience? Is dating the only path out of this isolation?