Attachment Issues
April 22, 2009 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for ideas on how to make progress on my attachment issues. Any suggestions?

I was wondering if anyone else has had experience with forming attachments too quickly and how they have made progress?

I have been a "loner" and separated from my peers every since I can remember -- since I was five I taken in and out of different schools and was never one place for more than two years. I've never really struggled with being unattactive to the opposite sex, so I've always been able to form fast attachments to male peers based on being the "new girl" and fairly attractive. The closest attachment I've ever formed to a man (my father) ended with his death when I was 18.

At this point in my life (I'm 30) I am having attachment problems.

I tend to be scared of being too attached to people and yet I form attachments very quickly. For example, if I go on a date with someone that I'm super-interested in -- I almost immediately"attach" to them emotionally -- meaning I will begin to imagine/plan the logistics of moving in together, all that "crazy shit" etc. I've compensated for this by having sex with other people in order to keep myself detached and "stay cool".

Also, I have a crazy difficult time in getting to know women. They scare me, I feel that I don't know how to understand them or make conversation with them, so I don't have any female friends and the last friendship I tried to make with a women I screwed up within a week.

What irritates me is that these problems affects so many other areas of my life as well, such as my ability to live alone, work alone, etc. I DO see a therapist and the issue is regularly discussed, so that advice is not necessary in this situation. I was just wondering if anyone has made progress on this sort of issue in their own life. Thanks!
posted by alice_curiouse to Human Relations (39 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Do you feel like you like yourself, respect yourself, appreciate yourself on the whole, feel that you are a worthy person?
posted by so_gracefully at 10:31 AM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: I don't know. I am in the midst of switching from a job that I hate and do poorly to a job that will probably pay less then half of what I make (and am not sure that I can afford) in order to get a job that I can do well and that will help me feel better about myself...but I didn't think that this will solve the issue entirely.
posted by alice_curiouse at 10:38 AM on April 22, 2009

Can you elucidate on what's scary? Have you ever had a friend where your attractiveness wasn't part of the equation?
posted by kldickson at 10:46 AM on April 22, 2009

How did you screw up with this last friendship?
posted by kldickson at 10:47 AM on April 22, 2009

There are a lot of things in your post that stand out to me, and IANYourTherapist, but I'm wondering what makes you say these are "attachment problems" specifically? Did your therapist say that, did you read about it, etc.?
posted by so_gracefully at 10:54 AM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: I don't know exactly how to elucidate what I find scary about women. I tend to talk with men about rather personal topics and when I try to do this with women, I start to get extremely nervous. Yes, I've considered the possibility that I'm gay since I know that forming deep attachments with women might make me nervous if I am only able to form attachments in a romantic way -- but I've "tried that route" so-so-speak. While I am attracted to women's beauty, I don't fantasize about the sexually.

I think, to be honest, even though forming very fast attachments to men is not terribly acceptable societally speaking, forming a rapid attachment with a straight woman is even less acceptable. It's even more "creepy."

The girl who I turned off completely had invited me to a casual gathering at her house, and I simply didn't show up -- I freaked out just as I was getting ready to go...a group full of people who I have never met before it NOT something I know how to handle. Then she was kind enough to invite me to meet her for dinner some evening. My response was not to reply for a week. Then I got an email from her stating, "You know what? Never mind." I have sent her several apologetic emails since, but.

I've even cried about it. I really liked her.
posted by alice_curiouse at 10:56 AM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: No, thankfully, my therapist is not the "labeling" sort.

I use the phrase "attachment problems" because it seems like a handy category for the series of social problems that I have. I have problems being alone because I just fall asleep. I just kind of blank out and fall asleep. And then the issue I mentioned. It just seemed like a good heading.
posted by alice_curiouse at 10:58 AM on April 22, 2009

Man, stop fussing about society.

Find a fun activity. Something you enjoy doing. Talk to the people in that setting.

You sound as if you're really oversexualizing your interactions with people.
posted by kldickson at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: You sound like you have a good grasp on what your issues are and that's a great first step in this process. So please give yourself some kudos for that, first of all.

Secondly, the next time you're faced with the prospect of a female friendship, don't let your past misstep impact the next one. That is, don't beat yourself up over the way you acted previously because that's only going to fluster you. You might be pleasantly surprised how people respond when you're up front with them about your troubles. So the next time a potential female friend asks you to a gathering, simply explain that you are working through some anxiety issues (a comfortable term) and that although you'd like to go, groups are difficult for you right now but it's something you're working on. It doesn't need to be a dramatic explanation, merely a little blurb that conveys your interest but inability at this time.

Also, if you are more comfortable doing so, do the inviting yourself. Invite Potential New Female Friend to dinner at your place, if possible, so you're in your home comfort zone to alleviate a little of the stress. If that's not possible, would it ease your mind to pick the restaurant, etc.?

Additionally, I'd encourage you to find a way to base your friendships on something other than dating. Is there an interest you enjoy that could put you in touch with a group of both males and females simultaneously? For example, if you joined a running training group or took a photography class or something along those lines, you could connect with both genders simultaneously which is a good funnel toward outings with both genders present, plus you'd have a non-stressful topic to discuss (e.g., the hobby that brought you together). I say this because at this stage it sounds as if the pressure of dating is compounding your troubles. So maybe make it a lighter situation like a hobby.

Now, the sexual aspect is gonna take a little work on your part in that you're going to have to find the stamina to keep it in your pants. Make a commitment to said pants that they will not touch the floor with the new people you might meet in the aforementioned situations. This is just gonna have to involve a little tough(non)love on your part. Basically, you're going to have to force yourself on this component, but you sound like you're well aware of the problem and that's the first step in overcoming it.

And keep on keepin' on with the counseling.
posted by December at 11:32 AM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: December: I like your answers. I am going to try to do these things. I wish they were as simple as they *seem* they *should* be. At this point I can't really imagine myself asking a girl out to dinner or joining a hobby group. Also, I don't know about the sex part -- I use sex to detach, I don't have sex with people I fear being attached to. Rather, I am afraid of having sex with them.
posted by alice_curiouse at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2009

Stop using sex to detach. Thaaaaat's where you're screwing up.
posted by kldickson at 11:45 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I too have problems making friends with girls, or keeping them as long-term friends anyway. But I'm getting better at it, looking forward to seeing more replies to this part of the question.

My tips for making conversation with girls and making them into friends is to go shallow - hair, nails, clothes, find something you like about them and flatter them (wow, that :insert subject here: looks amazing on you! Where did you get it (done)?), that's a good way to get them to warm up to you. Find out what their hobbies are and be positive, even if you don't share their interests... I personally don't get scrapbooking, but a lot of girls do it. It's just about finding something they're willing to talk about.

I've also had problems with getting over-attached to new guys pretty quickly but I don't have many tips for you there. Not saying this is a great approach, but my longest relationships have been with guys I knew were good men but wasn't terribly interested in at first - they had to work to get me interested.

Good luck, with your eagerness to do something about it I'm sure you will overcome this anxiety soon. Part of it is mustering up the courage to be outgoing and put yourself out there, but the more you try, the easier it gets.
posted by lizbunny at 11:52 AM on April 22, 2009

Well, I think there might need to be some "fake it till you make it" involved here, too. Forming friendships is going to be uncomfortable because you haven't really done it much before; it'll be awkward. But I think you'll see it's easier than you fear. So if you join said group you're automatically placing yourself in an environment that's conducive to inviting others out to dinner, etc.

How did you meet the female friend who invited you to dinner?

Re the sex thang: I understand where you're, uh, coming from with using it as a detachment device, but I really think the booty needs to be taken out of the equation for a while until you can sort out your feelings. I think it's important to confront what you're actually feeling and not use sex as an escape hatch to avoid addressing emotions. That's a tough one, I know. At some point, you will be faced with the prospect of having sex with someone to whom you fear becoming attached. That will be a frightening thing but I'd recommend not compounding the problem by taking on other bed buddies. That creates another level of confusion and emotional displacement, as you've experienced.

Good luck. I know this won't be easy.
posted by December at 11:56 AM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: There are other ways of detaching.

You are in control of your actions; I don't know whether your views about self-control might have been affected by the fact that you were forced to move around a lot. However, your latest answer really sheds some light on your other ones - I get the impression that you're afraid to be around some people because you don't know if you could control yourself. Are these people that you can simply not spend time around, or are these coworkers or close friends?

How do you think people with deep attachments ought to act? Do people with deep attachments necessarily have to be sexual?
posted by kldickson at 11:59 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

lizbunny - shallow doesn't really work with everyone. Maybe, instead, point out some interesting feature in the background.

We're not all girly.

I'm just mildly nitpicky about this. :D
posted by kldickson at 12:01 PM on April 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Definitely join an activity group or a book club or something. The more people you meet, the more you will learn how to appropriately become attached to either gender.

My personal examples:
I started taking belly dance classes just for the fun of it. I've been doing this for almost five years, and some of these girls are my good friends. It took me a while, though. I was so in awe of some of them--they're sooooo good and sooooo pretty and I was totally scared to be friends with them. I'm over that now. Now they're individuals to me, who are fun and have funky senses of humor or to-die-for shoe collections or great taste in hookah bars but lousy taste in boyfriends or whatever. But that only came from repeated, long-term exposure to a large group of women (there are about 30 of them, I'd say I'm good friends with four).

I also joined a book club that's half female/half male. I've been going to that for almost two years, and we're all sort of awkward nerdy people (it's a sci fi book club). But at some point I realized that I'm comfortable with any of these people one-on-one, and I don't feel pressured or uncomfortable around them. I also met my boyfriend there.

Broaden your horizons to meet people in low-pressure-outcome situations (if I decided the belly dance thing wasn't working, or I didn't like the other people at the book club, I could have quit either one with no repercussions--unlike at work, where a failed friendship could be as awkward as a failed romance). Get more experience meeting lots of different people, and you won't be as intimidated by individuals. And stop sleeping with people to "detach" from someone else. It's a shitty way to treat the person you're sleeping with, and you're missing out on some possible fun relationships.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:15 PM on April 22, 2009

Best answer: Hmm. Let me suggest something, here. The whole freaking out about being invited to a gathering and deciding not to go -- that doesn't sound like an attachment issue to me. It sounds like social anxiety. The sort that doctors prescribe talk therapy for, and Xanax if it's an occasional thing, Zoloft if it's chronic and daily. (IANAD, btw.)

It seems like women are triggering this anxiety for you. Okay, I'm going to speculate here about why this would be, but let me premise it with the explicit admission that this is speculation without any grounds, since all I know about you are these few brief lines you've shared with us.

Working on the hypothesis that this is anxiety that's preventing you from making healthy attachments, maybe the reason you don't have as much of a problem befriending men is because you believe, at some level (conscious or subconscious) that you don't need to "impress" them so much because they already want something from you (sex). After all, you describe even your friendships with men as premised on the fact that you're the "pretty" girl. With women, relationships are trickier, because ostensibly they want nothing from you except, maybe, friendship, if they decide you're cool enough to be friends with. Which gives you more room to fuck up right off the bat. (Note: I don't intent to imply that this is a healthy way of thinking, just that it makes sense, so to speak.)

This also explains why, when you start seeing a guy, you immediately jump to long-term fantasies: moving in together, etc. You are fantasizing about the time after which the first revelations and the "Now I know you better, are we really going to get serious" decisions are over. In short, you're fantasizing about the time in which you feel completely comfortable around the guy, and completely accepted by him. This, also, points to the issue of anxiety rather than a difficulty in forming attachments too quickly.

The good news is, anxiety is pretty common; if that's what this is, there are ways to deal with it, and doctors can help. The better news is: if a woman really likes you, she's not going to mind if you try to "[form] a rapid attachment" with her. It may strike her as a little odd, but if she likes you, she'll roll with it. I speak from experience: during my Year of Great and Deliberate Anti-Social Behavior, my now closest friend in the world waged an active campaign to drag me out of the dark and recruit me to friendship. I made some good efforts to blow her off, but she was aggressive. I mean, "Drag a stranger to lunch with you, call her the next day, email her jokes" aggressive. It was sort of amazing to be liked so much. (Also sort of amazing to meet someone who did not feel that her pride was on the line when she went out of her way to befriend someone. So often people's friendliness is hampered by a fear of rejection. I wonder if maybe the fact that she isn't American has to do with it, but that's another story.)

She now likes to refer to that long-ago time as her "courtship" of me, and it's a pretty damned accurate assessment. (To speak to your fears, let me add, we're both straight, we both live with men, they find our friendship strange and charming and enviable.) I guess what I'm trying to say is this: if you are, indeed, someone who attaches with ferocious intensity, people who don't attach so intensively can benefit from your intensity. I have benefited in so many ways from my friendship with the attachment-mad BFF. She's one of the loveliest parts of my life.
posted by artemisia at 1:12 PM on April 22, 2009 [5 favorites]

I have a bit similar background as you, moved around a ton as a child/teenager, and got into the pattern of assuming I would keep moving since that was my 'normal'. I had the added issue of having a really emotionally (and often, geographically) distant father.

I too have struggled with making female friends throughout my life but now, in my early 30s, I feel like I've become comfortable with that aspect of my life. Part of what helped was therapy (and sometimes medication) for social anxiety -- I just plain didn't know how to approach people and had all these effed up notions about what women were like based on some bad experiences in junior high and high school (ok, the catty cheerleaders were mean to me). The other part was just forcing myself out of my comfort zone by joining clubs, taking classes where I might meet women, and joining a discussion forum that happened to have some women my age with some of my interests, and going out on a limb to ask to meet up with them in real life.

I just kept trying, and a lot of times failed. I have totally been there with being invited to a function by another woman and bailing out at the last minute, then feeling terrible about it. I figure forming and maintaining friendships will be to some degree something I have to struggle with for most of my life, since I am just patterned to be a loner, and in a lot of ways really like my loner-ness. But happily, I have succeeded more than I've failed. I have gotten past that weird, awkward point when you're first trying out friendship with someone with several women (a lot of times this is surpassed very easily by a night of drinking with a possible new friend) and now have some great friends.

Still struggling with the guy side of the equation, but for different reasons. Anyway, good luck!
posted by medeine at 1:33 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Artemisia --

I have thought about contacting the girl who is not really speaking to me (via email). I did not meet her at any social event, rather she liked something I had posted online and tried to strike up a friendship.

I have thought about sending her a funny stuffed animal in a balloon or something (I know her address because the gathering I was going to come to was at her place), but when I think about sending gifts to a girl that I've never met who is not talking to me, I just get horribly scared. I once tried to send gifts to someone else and when I told them about it they said, "uh, don't do that." I don't know -- everyone takes these things differently. I am betting that the girl who "courted" you sensed that she could break down your reservations with persistence -- I have sensed certain types of things in other people...I am sure that people are good at sniffing this sort of thing out. However, since the GF2B, we'll call her, has not responded to three or four of my emails, I feel my heart drop inside of me like a large rock that I don't know how to lift. I feel barren of hope. I don't know.

But perhaps I will somehow be able to try again and do something different than an email.

What scares me most, yes, is what I imagine happening if I am able to have a real girlfriend. It is the reoccurring fantasy that I have in my head that I cannot quite allow myself to be okay with. I just imagine being able to lie down and hold GF2B beside me and cry. And then fall asleep.
posted by alice_curiouse at 1:39 PM on April 22, 2009

kldickson, I know not all women are girly - I'm an engineer, I know plenty of non-girly women. It's not a black and white statement though, girly can be in shades of grey. I doubt many women would take offense to being complimented on something about themselves, which is my point.

The shallow, easy choices for compliments, as an ice-breaker for starting off on the right foot with someone, work just fine - especially if you're feeling anxious. It obviously doesn't have to be the hair/nails/clothing and gushing about how gorgeous it is, geez. You can ask about a book they're holding or the neat bag they have. Often times there's something unique about the person, like a tattoo or a strange accessory/piece of clothing, easy targets for striking up a conversation. The objective is to get them talking and open up to you.

If you're witty enough to pull off some remark about the background and actually strike up conversation from that, then I doubt you have problems talking with and relating to people. I can manage that quite well, occasionally. But when I've got no other clue and am left hanging for words, this is what I turn to.
posted by lizbunny at 1:51 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: I'm not sure this is keeping with what I said earlier, but I give "elevator" compliments all the time. Purses, toenail polish colors, jackets, hair color or highlights. I ask questions about the books that women are reading. I comment to women about all sorts of things. I look for the opportunity to do it and I do it easily and with an amount of panache and humor. But it hasn't lead to any friendships. Just brief smiles.
posted by alice_curiouse at 1:54 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Actually, I've been known to compliment women on their beauty flat-out, and it often seems to send women into gales of giggles and nervous reciprocation. It's quite a riot, actually. But yeah, these are woman that I talk to in passing.
posted by alice_curiouse at 1:56 PM on April 22, 2009

Then you're partway there, I think - not nearly as socially backwards as you made yourself out to be :P Maybe some of these women that you can strike up casual conversation with on a regular basis could be the ones that you should invite out. Seems to be the way a lot of my female friendships have finally worked out: "hey, we always talk and chat during the day, we've been sort-of friends for X long, we should go out some time! You busy this weekend?" Invite them out to go shopping ("you have such great taste in clothes, would you take me with you next time you go shopping? I have to see these stores you go to!"), for a coffee, for lunch during the week (if they work near you), go for martinis or something, some social event (like a charity event in the park or whatever).

But yeah, then you're where I am for female friends. It's hard to be aggressive and make friends with girls, we're such an aloof bunch sometimes - guys are easier, rather straightforward in my experience (no second-guessing their intentions for the most part). I tend to be the kind of person who 'gives what I get' so if someone is calling me all the time to do stuff then I feel comfortable calling them right back and reaching out more. But I like what artemisia said, we might as well be more aggressive in our approach, go out on a limb and invite our casual women acquaintances to do things, keep trying until we're successful. Maybe if we're lucky we'll get some more friends out of the deal.
posted by lizbunny at 2:26 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Uh, I don't know. I hate to argue, but I don't feel that my giving women compliments brings me any closer to have a real relationship with a woman. I don't enjoy discussing weather, clothes, hair, shopping, any of that. I overhear those kinds of conversations between women and I don't wish I were a part of them. If I were to ask a women to go shopping with me, I would probably cancel on that at the last minute, too. :(

I guess the fear I mentioned earlier, about wanting to be "scarily close" to a woman is still what I'm afraid of. If I meet a woman whose company I would really enjoy...I am afraid of "falling apart" in a way that seems unacceptable.

I can lie next to a man and cry and fall asleep, but a woman?! I guess I kind of dare anyone to tell me that would be acceptable -- and that's exactly what I'm afraid I would do.
posted by alice_curiouse at 2:55 PM on April 22, 2009

I'm a bit confused as to what kind of relationship you are looking for with a woman. I know you said that you're not sexually interested in women, but your subsequent posts sound like you really are... Females who are merely friends generally don't cuddle and go to sleep together as far as I know... but maybe that's just the relationships I've had (I'm not a straight woman, so cuddling and crying with a woman would indicate a more-than-platonic relationship, most likely.)
posted by Lullen at 3:40 PM on April 22, 2009

You seem to be pretty big on this crying and falling asleep thing.

What is it you want from those people?
posted by kldickson at 4:16 PM on April 22, 2009

And what do you mean by 'scarily close'?
posted by kldickson at 4:17 PM on April 22, 2009

How would you 'fall apart', either?
posted by kldickson at 4:18 PM on April 22, 2009

Well I'm in danger of moving things into the direction of chatfilter on this, but I'd be glad to mefimail with you on this further on if you like.

Like Lullen said, you keep coming back to the idea that you are afraid of exploring your sexuality with women here. Is it just that you feel like you have to have everything with a person you're close to? (emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, and friendship all in one, every time?) Because I don't see the problem with experimenting to see if you're a closet bisexual, but in the end it's just sex, and you'll have the same problems with women as men. Have you ever had a (guy) friend without sex being involved, i.e. being friends with an ex (if need be)? Have you ever managed to date for any length of time longer than, say, a month?

And what about your family, like your mother, any siblings, or extended family (aunts, cousins)? Are you close to any of them? Are you saying you have zero people you are close to in any shape/form? Just wondering if this is a problem with making friends or a serious lack of experience in regular, continuous interpersonal relationships in general.

Ok, here's a point for getting past the super-attachment phase of dating... without running off to sleep with other people. I tend to need to see my boyfriend regularly, like every day, for me to become and stay attached to him - i like the overwhelming sense of attachment and falling head-over-heels, it's part of the fun. But he's an introverted guy, so for the longest time I didn't get to see him each and every day - I'd see him for a day or two in a row, then he'd need a break for a day or two. That squished my normally overwhelming sense of falling in love and attachment, like a bug. Each time. I actually missed out on the falling-in-love stage of the relationship, and had to tell him if I don't see him every day, for a few hours at least, I will care less and less about him until I don't care at all anymore and would want to break up. He's complied, and so we're still together.

So.... when you are dating a new guy and feel the extreme attachment building up, don't wait for it to come to a peak then run off to sleep with someone (not a good thing if you want an actual relationship to develop), just make it an even, spaced out kind of courtship. See him one day, don't see him the next, see him the day after, and so on. This is a very weird feeling, but where I didn't like this, you might very well benefit.
posted by lizbunny at 4:33 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Okay, well certainly, I am probably bisexual. I am pretty sure of it, but I don't think I know what to do about it. I've already completely dumped the devout Christian religion I was raised to accept and my mother already is afraid for me. She has struggled to accept it and has been as supportive as possible, and I am so proud of her. I know my entire extended family worries about me. And I dream about them, my cousins, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, almost every night. I don't know how I am supposed to pursue romantic relationships with women knowing that it would bring even more stress into my family situation.

My one women friend is my sister--and I am even nervous around her often enough. Does this mean that I am also sexually attracted to my sister, too?

I don't know how to deal with all of this.

Lizbunny -- The kind of attachment that you speak of with your boyfriend is unique from my experiences. I don't have trouble maintaining a romantic attachment to a man even if I don't see him every day. But I appreciate the advice.
posted by alice_curiouse at 5:12 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Also, regarding my family, no, I am not close to them. I was quite close to my father before he died. And now my sister is my best friend. But my mother has a lot of difficulty understanding me and not, flat out, saying that I am weird. And as for my extended family, as I mentioned dreaming about them almost every night, they are very important to me -- even though I see them only once a year nowadays. (They live in the midwest and I'm in L.A.) They are all Christians and...I know they know I'm no longer a Christian. But I've never really known how to relate to them. I get nervous around them, too, quite often. Periodically I am not nervous around them, but that's when I'm pretty heavily medicated.
posted by alice_curiouse at 5:16 PM on April 22, 2009

Regarding the relatives issue -

I'm an atheist. Most of my family isn't. My parents, who are pretty liberal about their beliefs, are accepting; my mother's family isn't but I don't give a crap as I don't talk to them, and my father's family is because my father's brother gets treated pretty well too and he's also an atheist.

Your first priority is being you, and I can't stress this enough, you have to not care what these people think. You absolutely have to not care, for the sake of your own mental health. Emotionally detach some if you have to. Make civil conversation if you absolutely HAVE to see them, look up web resources specifically tailored towards we atheists, and develop a bit of strength and the ability to put up some clear boundaries between you and these people. (I am suspecting you may have some boundary issues, too.)
posted by kldickson at 6:50 PM on April 22, 2009

And if your family doesn't like the fact that some of whichever people you sleep with may be women, well tough shit.
posted by kldickson at 7:00 PM on April 22, 2009

Tough shit for them, rather.
posted by kldickson at 7:01 PM on April 22, 2009

doesn't sound like your nervousness around your sister is a sexual thing, just seems you don't know how to relate to your family anymore. It's kind of confusing to understand your conflict with your familial situation, when you're several states over and only see them once a year, you say you aren't close to them, and yet you think about them continuously. Why do you behave as though they're standing over your shoulder?

The benefit of a relationship you'd have with a woman is that, unless you were incredibly prone to PDA (or she was incredibly butch), no one would really be able to tell if you're more than just friends. Really this is how you can let your family know you have a friend in your life, without her necessarily being a girlfriend. So you found a close female friend, that's 'normal' right? :P Unless you have great difficulty keeping secrets from your family like that. Sometimes it's just a matter of not sharing the whole truth, not at least until you're 100% comfortable with it...
posted by lizbunny at 7:51 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Well, I choose to not ignore or avoid my family just because I don't make sense to them, even though I am nervous around them. I am not going to "not give a crap" what they think -- that is never going to happen.

Of course I am going to have to develop very tough skin to not mind their fear (fear for me, not of me) -- but I cannot develop a "non-caring" attitude just overnight. I do care about them and I will always care about how they feel about me, and I may struggle my whole life to be closer to them, but if that's what I die trying to do, so be it.

It is not that I believe my family is standing over my shoulder, it is the fact that they are important to me that I dream about them every night. Yes, I only seem them once a year, but they are still very important to me.

Even if I have a "girlfriend" at some point, the only reason I would want to take her home with me is because I would want her to meet my family. And I would want to try to have them accept her, or accept us -- even if it is difficult. I would not want to pretend that she is a friend.

I guess because I "care" about what they think, I am opting be unhappy right now, in order to hopefully feel more fulfilled later. I don't know that for sure, but that's what it feels like. And I guess that's my choice. I have a lot of emptiness inside of me because there are a lot of people that I care about that I am not close to, but I will probably always care about that. I don't know how to not.
posted by alice_curiouse at 11:37 AM on April 23, 2009

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that there is a much deeper issue at hand here. The emphasis on *not* being sexually attracted to women and then the admission that you are bisexual; the repeated statements about dreaming of your family every night (which I, personally, wouldn't consider a big deal, but it apparently is to you). The emptiness...

The relationship you initially said you're looking for with a woman sounds almost like you're looking for a maternal figure (the laying next to a woman part and crying to sleep was a red flag there...). But now with the bi aspect, it's a whole different story. Do you even know what you're looking for? Is it really just that you want/need female friends, or is this about being sexual with a woman? Forgive my ignorance, but I'm totally confused.
posted by Lullen at 5:57 PM on April 23, 2009

Response by poster: No, I don't really want to be sexual with a woman. I guess it is just the "romantic" aspect of the maternal figure that I am thinking of.

Yes, I am certainly confused, too. :)
posted by alice_curiouse at 3:03 PM on April 24, 2009

Best answer: I have a lot of emptiness inside of me because there are a lot of people that I care about that I am not close to, but I will probably always care about that. I don't know how to not.

Could it be that you are feeling sad and confused because, since your dad died (and perhaps since giving up your religion), it feels as if there is no one close in your life caring for you? I know that feeling.

Female friendships are often deeply emotional and caring relationships that encourage vulnerability, empathy and acceptance; in other words, love. A desire to be close and vulnerable (lying together, hugging, crying to sleep) with a woman may be a yearning to be loved and nurtured rather than a sexual identity signpost.

You need to feel loved and cared for as the person you are not the person others want you to be. This is hard but it is easier to do by embracing not rejecting your family. They love you but their perceptions of your well-being are coloured by their religious beliefs. You can love and be close to your family while not buying into their fear for you by not feeling responsible for it, or needing to alleviate their fear.

Keep seeking friends, and don't flake out on them. It is rude and it will make you feel worse than the anxiety of going to a social event.

As a side note, I think being attractive can have its downside. Women can get competitive, especially if shyness comes off as aloofness, and men can be blind to the person underneath the pretty.
posted by Kerasia at 6:26 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

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