October 19, 2011 11:01 AM   Subscribe

Would therapy fix me? If so, what kind of therapy? Or are there other recommendations for things that I can/could do? Another "I can't find love post" and I don't know what else I can do, please hope me ask metafilter.

Okay, I read a lot of the "can't find love" or "make a relationship work" type posts, and I identify with parts of these posts (here and here). I'm actually in between the 2 of those. But here is the surprising part: I'm even older than these people. I've never had a relationship beyond a few months (and the people that I had a relationship with ...not much interest other than finding an exit hatch).

There have been a few times in my life when I have had intense crushes/etc. (did not date those people) and I just follow the person around like a puppy for ...months to years. I want something more but I don't have the tools.

I also ask myself if I am broken at some level. For my early years (high school/college), I was not interested in most people at all. Later in life, I did learn to really value at least a few friends and now I would not give this up. But at most times of my life, I did not care if I was not in a relationship or not (because unless I get to know someone, I am completely indifferent).

What has changed now? I've had a recent/several year very close friendship with a person of the gender that I'm attracted to and it was triggered the "I want more." (Not going to work for reasons that I can't go into, but the net result is I need to work on myself).

I've finally decided that I at least want to try to change something (and this may still end up with me being alone for the rest of my life, but I will have tried). So for those of you who were late bloomers and beyond:
• Can therapy work? What kind? How long? How did it help?
• Is there a type of social training that is appropriate? How to interact (I'm on the extreme end of shyness/introversion -- it has always dictated my entire life). I can read a flirting guide, but it does not help me feel comfortable to actually do any of it.
• I think that I may have problems with intimacy. It takes a long time to feel comfortable with someone, let alone physically.
• I really go between cycles of not being interested in people/wanting to seek people out. I'm a bit concerned that this could be a flaw and none of these things would work. (I'm guessing there is no treatment for this).
• Are there other suggestions? I've seen the book title "Intimate Connections" and plan to buy it, read it, etc.
• Is there anything else a person could read or should do? (This sounds silly but I've made other aspects of my life work and beaten odds terms of wanting and getting job X, getting an education in Z, r ....a lot of this was by a lot reading,listening,asking, reading,reflecting -- I'm not sure why I can't find an easier solution to this part of my life. So the delusional part of myself wonders if I find a few books to read--
• Have you ever know someone later in life who took these steps (therapy, etc.) and it worked out well for them/improved their lives?

Although there is a username attached to this, I don't plan to answer questions (too painful as it is/if I say too much any chance of being anonymous will be destroyed).

It is there in case someone wants to share information, but not with the entire ask metafilter world.
posted by Lord of the Sock Puppets to Human Relations (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Therapy doesn't fix you. It's not like getting an appliance repaired or a car tuned up. A therapist is less like a mechanic and more like a sherpa. They know the territory, but they can only help you scale a mountain; they're not going to carry you on their backs.

Not to be flip, but therapy takes as long as it takes. Every brain is different and every person puts more or less of themselves into it. Nobody can (honestly) tell you something like "if you try really hard, it will take a year." There's no Countdown To Normal. You go to therapy, and if you work at it things get better at a certain pace. And while you can get a feel for the pace once you start, nothing can be determined at the outset. Our brains are too complicated and therapy too inexact a science for those sorts of numbers.

CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) has helped many people I know. Unlike analysis -- which is closer to the stereotypical lie-back-and-tell-me-about-your-mother sort of affair, (admittedly, that's being very glib about it) -- CBT treatment doesn't care about your past. Rather, it looks at how you interact with the world and gives you strategies on how to interact better. You don't make peace with who you were, you just make a better who you are.
posted by griphus at 11:10 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Yes, therapy! As I answered in one of those threads, I'd had exactly one romantic relationship and was in my thirties when I finally sought therapy because I felt like my inability to date made me "broken". I tried CBT and it wasn't for me, it felt like a band-aid (breath deeply!) when what I needed was surgery (let's poke around in your brain and figure out why you are incapable of dating).

I did therapy for a total of about five years, usually once a week. I think it was psychodynamic? Eclectic? I don't even remember exactly what type of therapy it was called, it was what my GP recommended after I came back angry about the unhelpfulness of the CBT. We got in to why I didn't Want to need people or love, and how my current mindsets and preconceptions were preventing me from living the life I'd been denying I wanted.

I've said this before on metafilter: therapy helped me get a better job, have better relationships with family and friends, buy my first condo, get more financially secure, be more fit, and be happily partnered. Therapy's not easy, it's not a straight line to Fixed. Many times I wanted to quit because it sucked to think about the ways in which I'd been a barrier to my own happiness, because my therapist was a meanie for making me work through all that crap. But I stuck it out, and I can't even express how glad I am.

It's true, I'm not Fixed - I'm not perfect, that's not humanly possible, and I wasn't broken before. But I sure am a happier, healthier person for therapy.
posted by ldthomps at 11:38 AM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Oh! And I just saw that your title is "broken". I empathize, per my comment above, and I hadn't even seen that. It's a horrible feeling. You're not broken. You're a good person who deserves to feel better, enjoy human relations, be intimate with another good person, and realize that they deserve all that happiness and healthiness.

Go advocate for that. Go find a professional that can help you get there. I read some books first to try to "fix" myself, and they may have helped a little, but not a ton. Therapists have years of training and can give us the one-on-one help based on our individual quirks. That made all the difference for me, and I think it could for you, too.
posted by ldthomps at 11:59 AM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

• Can therapy work? What kind? How long? How did it help?

Yes, it can. it really worked for me. You do have to be willing to work at it, but it sounds like you have the first qualification: you've decided you're ready to change, and you've realized you don't have all the information or resources you'll need to effect the change yourself. For me, it helped because it gave me a neutral but totally supportive third party who was knowledgeable about patterns in human relationships, the kinds of causes that result in difficulty with relationships, and ways of locating and defusing the power of those long-ago causes. Once those processes were under way, I grew at a pretty fast rate and was able to achieve a much happier self-concept and much greater confidence pursuing the relationships I wanted.

I won't even answer all your other questions, because those are great ones to write down and bring with you to the therapist's office. I think you'll find your concerns are more normal and common than you realize, and that you actually can make positive change in your life - and pretty fast, too.

Good luck!
posted by Miko at 12:54 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

I really go between cycles of not being interested in people/wanting to seek people out. I'm a bit concerned that this could be a flaw and none of these things would work. (I'm guessing there is no treatment for this).

I do this, too, especially with respect to dating, and even more especially where seeking people out for dating is concerned. There are months-long stretches where I have little to no interest in dating, particularly where meeting new people is concerned. I've even have occasional phases where I don't really make an effort to see my friends -- I'll see them incidentally at parties or hang out if they get in touch with me, but I don't put out the effort for one-to-one or small group time. I generally chalk it up to a combination of stress and introversion. When I'm feeling taxed, I just don't have the energy to push myself to connect with people. But this is something that you could explore with a therapist, particularly if you feel like it's an extreme cycle, or just something you want to explore changing.

Is there a type of social training that is appropriate? How to interact (I'm on the extreme end of shyness/introversion -- it has always dictated my entire life). I can read a flirting guide, but it does not help me feel comfortable to actually do any of it.

I wouldn't even call myself an extreme introvert, and there are no guides to flirting (or networking) that will make me feel confident about doing it. For me, developing any kind of comfort level with flirting was a matter of figuring out what I feel okay with and pushing (gently) past my tendency toward introspection and self-criticism. For me, much of this came with getting older and developing more confidence, but I think a good therapist can more thoughtfully and actively assist you in getting to where you want to be.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:21 PM on October 19, 2011

• Can therapy work? What kind? How long? How did it help?

it did not work for me b/c my problem is a problem with the way the outside world is set up and my position in it, and not simply how i was reacting to it. all a therapist can do is try to change the way you think, they can't make anyone want to date you, and it's entirely possible you can't either. just keep that in mind.
posted by cupcake1337 at 3:31 PM on October 19, 2011

cupcake1337's post is bad advice, but that's his prerogative. You actually seem like you're on the right track already. I went through therapy last summer because of relationship problems and the way I dealt with other people; it felt like a waste of money at the time, but in the end I'm clearly better off than I was before I went through it.

Also, keep in mind that you don't "need" romance if you don't want it. There's a lot of pressure in our society to be partnered up regardless of whether you want that kind of love. Don't worry about those times when you don't want someone else -- those are the best times to work on yourself and creating the person you want to be.

On the other hand, when you do want someone, just go for it. It doesn't get any easier if they reject you after you've been pining for them for years.
posted by modernserf at 3:51 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you possibly have Asperger's and if you do, understanding that could be critical to the success of therapy and future dating issues. Any therapy should start with a complete evaluation including for that and for depression and for other serious conditions that can interfere with relationships and require specific help. If you do therapy, make sure it's aimed at the particular goal of building relationship skills and if you don't feel like it's working, don't feel like you have to stick with it.

If you have a particular condition, read up on the research on it and learn what approaches are best and find someone who you connect with who uses that approach. Social skills classes and support groups may also be helpful— but if you find that you have a specific condition that comes with particular predispositions, that itself may help dramatically with dating as you might want to find similar partners.

If the problem is depression, cognitive behavioral and interpersonal therapy both have good evidence for them. For Asperger's there's not that much research in adults but there are therapists and groups who do specialize in helping people with it.
posted by Maias at 4:32 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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