My parents were extremely conservative when I was growing up. I internalized a lot of their nonsense about sexuality being bad, and I compounded that by interpreting a lot of the social conversation about objectification and feminism as meaning that it was wrong and harmful for me to approach women romantically. I’ve never had much success in life, as my professional life has suffered from a similar problem, believing that I was somehow flawed and offensive and that other people deserved to succeed more than I did. Although I have an advanced degree, I’m still terrified to actually enter the field that I studied for, so I’m stuck in a low paying job that I hate, which means that I don’t have much money or status, which further compounds my sense of inadequacy.
As a result, I have a deep and unshakable sense that I have nothing to offer in a relationship, and that it’s wrong for me to present myself as worthwhile. This kept me locked in a paralyzing fear of asking women out or expressing interest. Some months ago I entered therapy for both the professional problem and the romantic problem. My therapist, after some time, was able to change my mindset a little and I was able to sort of trick myself into being able to ask women out. Because of my deep feelings of inadequacy I tend to isolate a lot, and I’ve been doing it for a very long time, so I don’t have much in the way of social hobbies, and I’m usually afraid to start them. As a result, my peer group is mostly my co-workers, and I ended up asking several women out at work (allowed by policy) and getting rejected. The rejections were mostly gentle, and I’m still friends with all but one of the women I asked out, but it really reinforced my sense that I’m somehow a deeply objectionable and unworthy impostor. I often feel like there’s something obviously horribly wrong with me and that everyone is just not telling me about it because they don’t want to hurt my feelings.
I met a woman at my father’s house at his Christmas party and she expressed interest in spending time with me, so we talked a little and I asked her out. We went on a date and I thought it was fantastic. We talked a lot and I felt like we connected. She said she wanted to go out with me again, but when I asked her on a second date a few days later she made up a bunch of excuses. She said she was emotionally unavailable because of a recent breakup, so I backed off and just tried to be a friend to her for a while. I made the mistake of mentioning that I liked her (That’s really all I did. Seriously.) and she yelled at me, so I stopped talking to her.
A couple months later, on a particularly awful day, I found a website where prostitutes were advertising, and I decided to go see one. I had sex once during high school, but not since then. I thought that I would be able to pretend that someone wanted me. Meeting with the prostitute was really nice, except that I had a difficult time performing, but she was very nice to me and told me the things I wanted to hear, and well… There was sex. I moved on to seeing many prostitutes, until I ran out of money and racked up a bunch of debt. During this time, I met a couple of them who said they loved me and wanted to spend time with me. They were extremely convincing, and I suppose I wanted to believe what they were saying. One of them just slowly milked me for favors and loans. Eventually I realized this and refused to give her a loan and she cussed me out and told me that if I really cared about her I’d give her money, so I broke contact with her. The other one I think is actually sincere about liking me. She actually doesn’t like me to spend money on her, and several times she’s asked me to come over and “visit” for free. We went on a really nice date, but she’s a very unstable person and I don’t think I could handle the emotional burden of being in a relationship with an active prostitute.
My therapist was so thrown by my actions that he started lecturing me about his religiously based moral nonsense instead of trying to help me, so I fired him. All he wanted to do was convince me that it was my parents’ fault anyway. It wasn’t helping anymore.
What really got me to stop seeing these women was that when I started to recognize the emotional games they were playing, I also started to play some of the same kinds of games. I would take some of the romantic things that I had said or done sincerely with one woman and repeating them with another woman in order to gain favor. When I realized what I was doing I hated myself, and I decided to stop.
So now I’m sitting here looking at my life again, after a month or so of distraction, and I’m assessing what’s happened and what it means. I’ve benefited in some ways from the prostitutes, because I’ve learned a lot about physical intimacy, and I’m much less afraid of being playful or touching women in a friendly manner. I’m also much less afraid to approach women, and it’s become a lot easier for me to express interest and flirt, etc.
I’ve sorted out that I shouldn’t ask out women at work. Even though it’s allowed by the company, and we even have couples who have married and had kids while working for the company, the women I’ve asked out all say that they don’t want to date co-workers. They’re probably telling the truth – they’re good people – but I always just feel like they’re just not interested in me (which is fine) and they have that convenient excuse.
So my problem is that I don’t know where to go from here. Some people have suggested dating apps to me, and I tried one, but I sent out around 100 conversation requests and I got one response, which was, “What do you want?”
I posted photos of myself on a reddit asking if I was unattractive and I was told that I look attractive and like a nice person. I have a lot of female friends at work, and they’ll actually seek me out to converse and spend time with me. I’m in excellent physical shape. I’m polite and considerate. I’m highly intelligent and extremely well educated. I try to present myself well, and I seem to be able to make friends quickly, and my flirting generally garners very positive responses, even from women who I find intimidatingly attractive. I’ve learned that I’m a capable lover (some things can’t be faked). Friends from all aspects of my life have told me that I have “a lot to offer” in a relationship. They all use that phrase for some reason. Many of my female co-workers (including most of the ones I asked out) have told me that I’m “a real catch”.
But it’s not working. I’m alone. I’m dying.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to find a woman who it’s okay for me to ask out. I can’t shake the feeling that women really like me as a friend, but are entirely disgusted by the idea of being romantic with me. I have all kinds of very “manly” qualities, but I don’t feel manly at all. I feel like I can put up a good facade for a minute, but as soon as someone gets to know me they just quarantine me into a mental category as someone un-dateable. I know that this is all in my head. I don’t know what to do.
I look at stuff on meetup.com and think maybe I can learn to cook or do things like that, but then I also see a billion “women only” groups which are obviously set up because women don’t want to be hit on, and then I feel like if I sign up for one of these other groups and hope to meet women then that makes me a kid of predator. I’m losing my fucking mind here.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to be alone. I want to love someone and be loved by them. I want someone to actually want me around romantically. I’m not trying to hurt anyone or trick anyone. That’s not what I want. I just don’t get what the fuck I’m supposed to do. I don’t drink, so bars and clubs are out. Where the hell am I supposed to go? I don’t want to die alone.