23 y/o female's problems with relationships
August 9, 2010 1:37 AM   Subscribe

is there something wrong with me? never had a real relationship, drinking to socialize, infatuations with people on the internet...

i'm almost 24-years-old and have never had a genuinely close intimate relationship with a man (never been asked to be their gf either). any relationships i've had seem to just be about sex. this is my fault, too, as i think i use sex as a barrier so they can't really get to know me - and i know guys like sex, so if i act like a sexual freak then they'll fall in love with me or something and i'll have some semblance of control over the situation. the "relationship" inevitably fizzles out.

i'm also really shy in a lot of situations & probably have relied on the internet too much for social contact since i was a teenager. i finally transferred to a university last year, lived in the dorms, where it seems i've made no lasting relationships. i made no friends, met no romantic interests. mostly, i avoided my roommate and floormates and went on the computer a lot. i'd dread coming back to my room and having to converse with my roommate.

i'm lonely and currently infatuated with a guy i've never met before, in another country. our convos mostly consist of sexual talk, innuendo and humor - many times i feel kind of frustrated after these convos because they are so sex focused. i have been on actual dates, but i almost always drink to calm my nerves beforehand. i have one very close friend. our main activity this summer has been going out to drink (and sometimes other drugs) at bars and meet people. i haven't met anyone i've clicked with at all in person for nearly 2 yrs, and continue with my obsession of some fantasy guy on the internet.

i feel like i've come out of my shell a lot the past couple years (from being a complete shut-in as a teen), but i still am not comfortable with myself. i can't ever truly be myself with people, other than very close family members. i'll overanalyze what i want to say, stumble over my words and clam up. i'm not sure what to do or if i'm blowing my situation out of proportion. i might be developing some addiction problems. i've thrown up and gotten blackout drunk on numerous occasions. i don't want to be like this. i want to be confident, healthy. i want to experience real intimacy and love.

writing this out makes me feel like i have an even bigger problem than i'd like to admit to anyone, even myself. i've been to cognitive-behavioral therapy for 6 weeks or so last year, and it did help. i'm not sad all the time - i do experience joy in life. but i feel like i'm missing out on a lot. am i just overthinking my problems? or do i have genuine reason to be concerned? please advise and sorry for the length.
posted by achtland to Human Relations (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
am i just overthinking my problems? or do i have genuine reason to be concerned?

Sure, you have reason to be concerned. The reason to be concerned isn't that there's something horribly wrong with you. The reason to be concerned is simply that you're not happy (at least you sound that way). That's always a valid and good enough reason to want to think about your situation and change it.

Honestly, to me, you really just sound very shy and very introverted. There is nothing wrong with that at all, per se. It is also fun to crush on guys on the internet. But obviously all those things can affect your social life, and there are things you can do to make that better. What was your goal with CBT? Have you thought of doing CBT specifically for social anxiety, and/or speaking with a therapist specifically about social anxiety? Therapists can also help you develop social skills too, and learn how to make friends and proceed towards a romantic relationship. It sounds like you already know what you need to do. I just wanted to tell you you're not a freak, a lotttttttttt of people have these same issues, and I think if you work on them with a therapist you will solve them just fine.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:57 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter how you are. The real question is "Is this the way you want to be?"

If so, make no changes. If not, you are going to have to try something different.

FWIW, I have often found that the thing I don't want to do is the thing I should do. Growth is about going places you haven't been to a large degree.
posted by FauxScot at 3:22 AM on August 9, 2010 [5 favorites]

Sounds to me like you're gradually improving. It's a slow process; it takes years but you've clearly made some progress. You should try some more CBT. It should probably be a semi-regular thing to help you move from one level to the next. Your drinking sounds more worrying. Aren't there any nighttime entertainments you'd like that don't involve puking afterwards? Go to a concert. Go to the ballet. Go to the cinema. Go to a restaurant. Spend a night in with your friend and watch films and eat pizza...
posted by Deor at 4:50 AM on August 9, 2010

Hooboy, does this ever sound familiar.

I know how you feel, 100%. This could be about me a couple of years ago. It took me two years of semi-regular therapy and, yes, working hard to go against that impulse to sleep with someone right away as a way of keeping their interest. As FauxScot said, the thing you don't want to do is often the right thing to do. It's scary and hard to go against those impulses, and to convince yourself that anyone who is staying with you for the sex is not someone you want to be with, but you can do it. It sounds like you're halfway there, though, having recognized the pattern. You're doin' good :)

FWIW, I was where you are a couple of years ago and now I live happily with my amazing partner. It's hard work, but you will get there.
posted by torisaur at 5:15 AM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I expect lots of people here can say they were in the same boat and went on to find loving, strong relationships.

I don't have much specific advice but want to make the observation that some people have personalities that "suit" certain stages of life. Some people are are really popular and successful dating in high school or college, others not until later in life. Dating in your 20's can be sort of like musical chairs. It's not very conducive to achieving the sort of intimacy you're after. The next time you meet somebody, don't jump in the sack right away but do try to let our guard down and see where it takes you.
posted by bonobothegreat at 5:28 AM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

am i just overthinking my problems? or do i have genuine reason to be concerned?

I vote for the former. Not that you shouldn't think about your life the way you're doing, and even try and improve things, but rather than worry because you don't match some imagined way people ought to be--e.g. great relationships, not shy, always genuine with others--recognize that you're still young and in transition and there's still a lot awaiting you.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:49 AM on August 9, 2010

Your experience sounds well within the normal range of experiences of being a 20-something. If you recognize that you want to make some changes with your life, that's a huge first step- especially if you are unhappy with the way things are.

never had a real relationship, drinking to socialize, infatuations with people on the internet...

quite normal! nothing is wrong with you. (although if you are unhappy, it's good to take steps to improve).
posted by bearette at 9:29 AM on August 9, 2010

This reads a bit like computer/internet addiction.

Can be difficult to shake, but you have to try and get some activities going that are not computer related. Dance class? Writing class? Wine tasting class? Speech making, maybe?

You sound like a thoughtful and interesting girl, get out and just be with some people. Don't be discouraged, you have nothing to lose!

Best of luck.
posted by yoz420 at 12:16 PM on August 9, 2010

am i just overthinking my problems? or do i have genuine reason to be concerned?

I vote for the latter. Here's why:

* You are out of control: the sex, the substance usage, the lack of intimacy in your relationships
* You are totally isolated: Where are your parents in all this?!
* You have totally inappropriate boundaries: the sex, the fear of others, the use of alcohol/drugs
* Last but not least: you are miserable - you know you are lost.

Nthing therapy, but do you have older siblings/older friends/aunts or uncles you can turn to? You need help and a good support network. You sound like a lost child, and you need love and parenting.
posted by zia at 12:48 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Most people are very nervous when directly talking to The Prince On The White Horse: Instead of running directly towards the ball, try to run somewhere in the general direction of the ball, and then hope you catch it by accident. Instead of only dating The Prince, try e.g. to become friends with gays and use them to make connection to their hetero friends that are boyfriend material; it is much easier to make a connection with a friend of friends rather than an online guy from another country. (or join a sports club, etc)
posted by flif at 1:34 PM on August 9, 2010

Volunteering locally for a cause or project you believe in is a terrific way to form strong friendships with great people as well as get yourself out of your head and put your own problems in perspective.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:22 PM on August 9, 2010

I'm gonna have to COMPLETELY disagree w zia and everyone else reacting in an immediately alarmist way to your concern over the way your life is headed.

Frankly, at 23, all of the things you talk about are pretty common. especially at University. Isolation is nothing particularly new, however, if you want more out of life, it's up to you to take responsibility for going out and grabbing it, you have the ability to choose what you want out of life, and what that means for you, but I don't think you need to worry about it now unless you really want to.

Are you overthinking it? likely but this isn't an either or proposition. it's likely there is an underlying issue that's occuring here. you talk about social anxiety and not meeting quality people IRL, could that be because you're going to college town bars and getting hammered? likely, you're not going to find people who want to get to know you as a person while drunk with a bunch of other drunk college kids.

That said, if you're really unhappy, rather than taking the alarmist road and saying "OMFG UR AN ALKI AND YOU NEEDS HELPS RITE NAO!" maybe a good plan of action is to go to student life and talk to a counselor about what you're experiencing. it WILL be difficult, but, having the space to talk face to face about what's going on with you, and maybe get some appropriate feedback from a person you will eventually trust will be so worth the initial effort.
posted by fauncub at 1:48 PM on August 10, 2010

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