QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Men

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I am a 39 year old single male, never married, but always been very shy around women. In fact, I have never had the courage to ask a woman out on a date much less to actually have gone out on a date. It has been very difficult for me to initiate a conversation with a lady so I have virtually no contact with members of the opposite sex. There are many ladies in my organization, so the opportunities are there. I had always thought that eventually I would feel more comfortable around women and would grow out of the state that I have been in all of my life. I would say that in the past 10-12 years that I have completely given up on the idea that someday I would be able to have a relationship with a lady. It has been very frustrating for me as I would very much like to enjoy the friendship and companionship in a loving relationship. I would very much like to put my struggles of the past 39 years behind me and try to overcome my shyness with women.

Answer

It seems you have built up a conviction about women in general that inhibits even the most everyday social contact. Every young man experiences a transitional apprehension about the opposite sex; that very term highlights the differences, but we actually have more in common than otherwise.

First, remember that women are first and foremost human; they're not another species. So they generally share your concerns about work, the economy, the state of the nation ... all sorts of gender-free issues. If you perceive women as requiring some sort of special communication, you will be searching for some secret, a key to unlock the mystery of women. This is a myth in the main.

Doubtless, women have a perspective on life that biology and culture determine and will be differently focused to your own. But such generalizations are of little help; there are more differences between the extremes of either sex, than there are between the majority of people, regardless of sex.

Quite simply, though the worlds of drama, fiction and films are full of powerful, suave heroic types, irresistible to women and envied by their peers, most men are just guys making out day to day. They relate to women as people.

Your problem is certainly perplexing, and I believe you could benefit from expert help from a therapist to explore the origins of your difficulties. A female counsellor could assist you to practice conversation, perhaps practicing role play exercises in a non-threatening environment, giving you feedback to help you hone your social skills. However, I realize that initially even this suggestion requires you to take a possibly threatening step.

You might like to consider asking a trusted married couple to help you, by discussing your fears and concerns over a meal. Perhaps you have a sister-in-law, or a coworker, who you could take into your confidence.

Be assured, most men don't approach every woman they speak to as a prospective long-term partner. If such a relationship should arise, it will have its own momentum. At some point, you'll need to face your fears to overcome the resistance that you have constructed. If you take this one step at a time, you are likely to find a way to achieve the relationships you seek.

3/5/98

Trevor Harvey, M.Ed combines lecturing in the School of Health at the University of East Anglia, with writing and counselling, and is based in Norwich, England. After a 12 year naval career, including the Falklands War, he became editorial board member/series advisor with The British Journal of Health Care Management and founder of the men's group AMICUS. He focused on health-related men's issues, particularly the way men negotiate personal transition through relationship crises, and is currently studying the management of information overload. Whenever possible, he combines his passion for photography with hill walking, and piloting his boat on the local lakes and rivers of eastern England.

 

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