Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“I Never Feel a Connection with Anyone”

Guest columnists and contributors are generously sharing their talents and insights while I’m taking some time to care for my new baby. Today’s letter is answered by freelance writer, Rachel East, AKA ReginaRey.

I have a problem that I have no idea how to even BEGIN to fix. The story is always the same: I meet a guy, I start seeing him, then after a short while I decide I don’t want to date him and end up cutting things short. This happens no matter how sweet, attentive, attractive, etc. the guy is. I just never feel a real connection to any of them. I’ve had boyfriends before, and those relationships lasted a very long time and were extremely meaningful (even though I don’t think I’ve ever really felt that deep connection with them either), but getting into a relationship in the first place is something I really struggle with. I’m not sure if it’s me not wanting to commit, having unrealistic expectations, or just being more interested in developing myself as a person than putting effort into a relationship.

Truthfully, I yearn to find that person that I’m meant to be with. I know I am capable of falling in love, very deeply so, as well. About a year ago, I fell in love with one of my best friends, but he had a LOT of baggage and emotional issues that eventually tore us apart in a matter of a few months. He doesn’t even speak to me anymore. I’ve never felt like that about anyone before and haven’t since.

So, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get excited about dating a new guy like all these other women are? Why is it I just don’t feel that connection with any of these men I go out with? I am worried I’ll be destined to be alone if I can’t fix this weird behavior. All I want is to be normal and feel okay about dating someone new. — Commitaphobe

Telling you what’s wrong is practically impossible because I don’t know your life’s history. There are countless possible reasons why you repeat this pattern, and without more information I’m just as lost as you are. But like most wannabe therapists, I’m pretty good at making a lot of assumptions and formulating theories using very little information. So let’s start conjecturing, shall we?

It’s telling to me that you aren’t interested in men who are “sweet, attentive, and attractive,” while the one person who you’ve loved the most in your lifetime came with “a LOT” of baggage and emotional issues. What does this mean? Well, it could mean that you gravitate toward “projects.” You know, the kind of guys who need nurturing and who will be wonderful partners as soon as they get a job, find direction and work through their abandonment issues?

Or maybe you’re not interested in the “nice” guys because they’re actually paying attention to you. Perhaps you aren’t confident or secure, and you’re turned off by men who like about you what you fail to like about yourself. After all, “The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you you love, well, that’s just fabulous.” (Random Sex & The City quote FTW! Don’t hate me!)

But seriously, Carrie Bradshaw had a point there. If you aren’t happy with yourself, if your life is leaving you unfulfilled, then you’re never going to find the kind of serious, meaningful, healthy, long-term relationship that you so badly want. If you both don’t love YOU, then you’re lacking a pretty important common denominator, and setting yourself up for perpetual relationship imbalance.

Or maybe you didn’t have the best childhood. Maybe your parents didn’t make you feel worthwhile and confident, and that led you to feel unworthy of a deep, meaningful relationship. Maybe your parents got divorced while you were young and it scared you so much that you actively avoid any sort of relationship that has lasting potential.

And maybe the problem is simply that you haven’t found the right guy yet. The point of dating is to test compatibility, to determine if you have the kind of chemistry and connection to begin a long-term relationship. Just because dudes are sweet, attentive and good-looking doesn’t mean you’re going to click with them. Maybe the problem is that you keep looking for dudes in the wrong place. Maybe you need to cast your net in different directions! Maybe you’re so focused on finding any guy to connect with that you’re forgetting to concentrate on what makes a good partner for you.

I have an endless amount of theories, but I have no idea if any of them will resonate with you. But what I am sure of? You don’t know why you keep repeating this pattern, and as long as you’re in the dark, it will keep happening.

I suggest that if you’re interested in breaking the pattern, sit down with a real therapist, not a poser like me. While you’re there, realize that this isn’t really about “fixing” your issue with relationships; it’s about learning to understand yourself as a whole person. Along the way, you’ll probably figure out why you repeat this frustrating pattern, but more importantly, you’re going to learn a lot about yourself. And once you’ve figured YOU out, the relationships will follow suit.

*ReginaRey (Real Name: Rachel East) is a full-time Events & Promotions Coordinator and a part-time freelance writer focusing on dating and relationships. One day, after tackling grad school, she plans to be your Marriage and Family Therapist…because the only thing better than talking about relationships all day is getting paid to talk about relationships all day. You can check out her weekly column here and follow her on Twitter @MissRachelEast.

42 comments… add one
  • Addie Pray November 10, 2011, 6:34 am

    Wow, I think I *am* the LW. Only I don’t remember writing into Wendy about this…. but holy shit, I’m just like this LW. So, I look forward to reading everyone’s comments, for selfish reasons. RR, I always enjoy reading your advice. And see, Bittergaymark? RR’s last theory is maybe the LW hasn’t found the right guy — it’s not *always* the single LW’s fault. (Thinking about the discussion from yesterday’s post.) But even if that is the case, LW, going through the steps of understanding yourself as a whole person will only make you even better.

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    • ReginaRey November 10, 2011, 8:34 am

      I thought of you while I was writing this BIG TIME!:-)

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    • Magnet November 10, 2011, 8:44 am

      Yeah, I was just thinking the exact same thing…did I write this letter in my sleep and send it off to Wendy? Despite not being in any way close to a real answer to this problem for myself, it is at least somewhat comforting that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

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    • Amy November 10, 2011, 9:08 am

      Same here!!!!

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      • atraditionalist November 10, 2011, 9:35 am

        This letter could have been me a couple months ago. But now I’ve fallen for a guy who is sweet and attentive etc. I used to think just like you LW – that there must be something wrong with me because I didn’t like these “nice” guys back. But when I sat down and thought about it I realized I wasn’t attracted to dating them because I’m very attracted to traditional (surprise suprise) mature (not necessarily in age but in attitude) men who display a quality of being able to take care of himself and his family.

        Think of how a man would approach this though: they would not get all hung up about not liking a girl back – no matter how many threw themselves at them. They would enjoy their single status. Just don’t worry about it so much and DON’T settle for a guy with emotional baggage ever (even if you feel something for him).

        So sit down and figure out what it was about these nice guys that turned you off and figure out if that is a reasonable deal breaker. For me the mature, traditional thing was a reasonable deal breaker-I feel attractive when I get to be the feminine younger one

      • silver_dragon_girl November 10, 2011, 9:54 am

        Totally agree with your last paragraph 🙂
        I’m not sure it’s possible to find anyone with zero emotional baggage, though. Everybody has at least a little. The trick is to find someone who is capable of handling their baggage on their own.

      • atraditionalist November 10, 2011, 4:13 pm

        Yeah I agree with that-someone who doesn’t dump their emotional baggage on you is a better way to say what i meant

      • Amy November 11, 2011, 11:28 am

        Wow – did you just pull that out of my head before I even figured out that it was there???? I think THAT is EXACTLY what I’m missing in the men that I’ve been meeting that lack sparkle. Sigh – now just to find out where exactly these traditional and mature (and tall) men that are not married in my small town are hiding out….

  • cporoski November 10, 2011, 7:04 am

    Something else might be that you are dating the guys you think you should rather than ones you want. Sweet guys might not be you thing, maybe you need a man. There is a difference between confident and cocky. Finally, Have any of these guys rocked your world in bed. maybe it has to do with it?

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    • atraditionalist November 10, 2011, 9:37 am

      YES exactly. don’t go for cocky though. Make sure he is a man not some childish player posing as one

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      • cporoski November 10, 2011, 5:10 pm

        totally agree. But I don’t think a player is a Man. I find there are lack of men out there. There are a ton of guys that are fighting growing up.

    • TheOtherMe November 10, 2011, 9:46 am

      …”you are dating the guys you think you should rather than ones you want”…

      I agree, just because a man is intelligent, attractive & sweet doesn’t mean you ‘have to’ date him & SHOULD have a connection with him. For me, the connection has always started before the dating, meaning, I never really dated if there wasn’t some sort of connection. Most times I got to know person better before starting to date them. Some people will say that the connection might only happen later for them & that’s possible but I think that once you enter ‘dating” phase, you feel more pressure to feel that connection & forcing will just backfire.

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      • cporoski November 10, 2011, 5:12 pm

        I once met a guy who said he didn’t believe in love at first sight but love at first conversation. If you aren’t clicking in your head you aren’t clicking in your heart.

  • DDL November 10, 2011, 7:38 am

    At least the LW has identified the problem and isn’t blaming it on, for example, her looks. She doesn’t know if she wants to commit to any relationship where she doesn’t feel a connection, but she managed to fall in love with her best friend – maybe that’s what the LW needs first before she can develop that romantic connection with men: a friend. Maybe this isn’t about her liking guys with baggage and not liking guys without; I think it has to do with how well she knows them before starting a solid relationship.

    Or, she’s so distraught over losing her friend that it’s affecting her ability to connect with other people, in which case (retail) therapy would be a good option.

    Or, if it’s (c) none of the above, maybe she just hasn’t found the right person.

    However, it’s obvious that the LW comes with her own emotional baggage, and that’s something she needs to sort out before she should develop anything serious. Also, LW, you need to start thinking on the good side of life – you are not destined to be alone. But you need to focus on something that makes you happy and change this mind-set. You should be excited about dating new people, until you find the right one.

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    • Carolynasaurus November 10, 2011, 8:58 am

      I concur. This letter was actually very refreshing because the LW seems to understand that breaking this behavior starts with her, not everyone else around her. If all LW were this self-aware, we’d all wouldn’t have to spend 80% of our advice and comments trying to slap some sense into them and could really get down to the issues (and assume they might listen, too.)

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    • callmehobo November 10, 2011, 10:05 am

      That was LITERALLY my first thought when I read the letter.

      We come from a very herteronormative society, so maybe it just hasn’t occurred to the LW that she might be interested in women.

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      • callmehobo November 10, 2011, 10:06 am

        oops! I meant to reply to KerryContrary! (Morning brain!)

  • Kerrycontrary November 10, 2011, 8:22 am

    I feel like the LW has the opposite dating pattern of most women. As far as I’ve witnessed and experienced, a lot of times when we’re younger we may date someone because they are attractive, dangerous, sexy, charismatic, popular, etc…As we get older women may realize they don’t want the bad boy who keeps them waiting by the phone. They want a nice (not boring) man whom with they can build a strong relationship. And then who they are attracted to changes slowly over time. Fortunately for the LW she’s always chosen men who treated her well, but she hasn’t felt a spark with them. I agree with RR that the LW may gravitate towards projects or men she wants to fix because they are more interesting. She needs to figure that out before she tries to continue dating.

    Or, she just likes girls and hasn’t figured it out yet.

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    • Addie Pray November 10, 2011, 9:10 am

      “Or, she just likes girls and hasn’t figured it out yet.” <—- That's a possibility. I would assume there would be some signs, though, right? Not necessarily outward signs, but signs to the LW that she could not ignore. (And maybe there are; we don't know much from her letter.) Like what does she think about when she's getting off? I would assume if she likes girls, that "girls" would be on her mind, no? And if that's the case, that's a pretty significant thing. If she truly wants to get to the bottom of what's "wrong" with her, I'd hope she would be honest with herself and acknowledge those feelings and come to terms with the fact that the only thing that may be "wrong" with her is she's trying to force a heterosexual relationship.

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      • MissDre November 10, 2011, 9:27 am

        “Or, she just likes girls and hasn’t figured it out yet.”

        This happened to a girl I knew. She told me once that she was never really attracted to any of the guys she dated. She dated lots, had boyfriends that she really liked, but she said she was never physically attracted to any of them.

        Then one day she tells me she has a girlfriend. I was like wait, what?? Ok… So I guess she just figured out that she liked girls. Who knows if this is the case here but anything is possible!

  • blueskies November 10, 2011, 8:33 am

    I feel like I can completely relate with what the LW wrote. I also went on a crazy number of dates, and couldn’t seem to meet someone I was truly interested in (even if on paper, these men were all pretty great).
    Then five months ago, I met someone who seemed to shake me out of the zombie-like emotional state I was in. I fell so hard for this guy. And last week he broke up with me, and I actually feel broken.
    So…personal story aside…I think that it’s so much easier to stay on guard, and not fall for anyone. To tell yourself lies and excuses. To not take a risk. Because who really wants to put themselves out there, when you can end up feeling pretty bitter, broken, and crushed?

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    • Amy November 10, 2011, 9:15 am

      I’m so sorry you are feeling so hurt. This happened to me recently – but two months post break up I feel more healthy about myself and relationships in general than I have in a long time. Broken hearts can heal more quickly than you think. You learn something from every experience – and it’s OK if some of them are hard. Of course you don’t realize that they were good for you until you quit feeling so sad. I hope you have some good friends to go shopping with and to listen to you as go through this. Hopefully in a few months you come through this stronger and happier than you were before you met this guy (maybe not as happy as when you were with him – but you’ll be in a position to be happy with someone else again at that point). Big hugs to you!

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      • blueskies November 10, 2011, 9:35 am

        Thank you for the kind words. It really means a lot. 🙂

    • MJ November 10, 2011, 10:04 am

      Yeah, it’s hard. I put myself out there, dated someone completely different than who I’d ever thought I’d be with, and then he moved away and I was heartbroken.

      But it’s been about 4 months since then, and I swear it gets better. I mean, there are still things that trigger the sad, but they are much less and I don’t feel like I’m going to go insane. I’m even a little bit excited about the dates I’m going on in the next few days. So hold on. I wish I could take you out and distract you with fun!

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  • moonflowers November 10, 2011, 8:39 am

    Maybe the LW is confusing drama and the uncertainty from an unstable relationship for passion and love? The more people pull away, the stronger the urge to give chase, even if the person pulling away wasn’t all that compelling in the first place.

    The other thing may be that the LW needs a lot of time and low-pressure interactions to really get to know someone and let her guard down. Perhaps she fell for her friend because she was able to do that with him gradually, whereas there’s a lot of pressure to decide how you feel about a guy within the first few dates. And people are far too complex to get a complete sense of after only a few months.

    And maybe she’s just going on dates with people she’s not all that into. I know I always second-guess myself after I’ve rejected yet another potential boyfriend, especially when I’m feeling lonely – I have to keep reminding myself why guy X was incompatible with me and wouldn’t have worked out at all.

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    • SweetPea November 10, 2011, 9:01 am

      “I have to keep reminding myself why guy X was incompatible with me and wouldn’t have worked out at all.”

      Yes. When I was single (for a LONG time), I used to have to give myself a pep talk about how it was OKAY that I didn’t fall for guy X. Especially when I was doing the internet dating thing. It felt like I was going out with a new guy once a week… and so rarely felt a connection. I thought there was something wrong with me.

      I don’t know the full details of the LW’s life. But, I do know that she fell for someone (her friend), so it isn’t impossible for her to make a connection. I think that those of you that said she may just need a friend’s first situation may be on the right track.

      LW, I would take things SLOW with the next guy you meet. Tell yourself that it is okay if he doesn’t turn out to be “the one”. Take the pressure off. And since you seem to be struggling a lot… take RR’s advice and see a therapist. You’ll probably learn some stuff about yourself you never knew!

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  • bethany November 10, 2011, 9:17 am

    I think her issue is way more simple than she’s making it out to be. You don’t have a “connection” with every guy you meet or go on a date with! She did feel that once and it didn’t work out. It takes some people 30+ years of dating to find someone they have a true connection with, and that’s ok. Yeah, it might not be ideal, but life itsn’t ideal.

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      leilani November 10, 2011, 9:59 am

      I agree. Its very rare that I actually find a guy that I feel a real connection with and passion for. It’s even rarer that it works out with these guys in the way I had hoped. I’ve dated a lot, but there’s only been one guy that I’ve ever loved, or even really came close to loving. I don’t expect to find that kind of connection often; there are too many variables at play.

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  • Allison November 10, 2011, 9:30 am

    Maybe having been in love with a friend has made other connections seem more superficial? I feel like I have a similar situation as the LW. I haven’t been super into dating lately, and the guys I have seen, briefly, have not really held my attention well. I find myself interested in doing other things, even more mundane things, instead of hanging out with them. Anyway, I tend to have crushes on guy friends, and then when I try to date someone I don’t know that well, I feel like there’s no connection, because they’re so new to me.

    It’s hard to tell whether the LW is just not meeting the right guys or there’s something else going on. If she previously has had serious relationships, I’d say that it’s just not the right guy yet. Compounded with the fact that when you’re getting over someone, it sometimes makes you pickier because you want to find someone you like as much as them.

    Therapy might be a good choice if you’re really feeling like something more is going on. I saw someone briefly, but she wouldn’t talk to me about my issues with guys unless I was actually dating someone, in order to give her something tangible to talk about. Kind of defeated the purpose, I think.

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      leilani November 10, 2011, 10:07 am

      I can relate to what you’re saying about not feeling connections with guys who are new to you. When I meet a guy through mutual friends and see him around a lot, I can develop a crush on him, and want to date him. If I meet a guy more randomly, however, I find it very hard to drum up any kind of interest. Of all the guys I’ve ever met in bars and thought were really cool and interesting at the time, I’ve only ever actually agreed to meet up with one on a later date. Usually I just can’t feel anything besides apprehension for someone that I don’t know a lot about.

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  • silver_dragon_girl November 10, 2011, 9:31 am

    Stop taking the third date exit! 🙂

    Sorry, I know the video is total crap but it was the only one I could find. The point is, sometimes you can benefit from staying with a “sweet, attentive, attractive, etc.” guy, even if you don’t immediately feel that deep connection. Sometimes that connection may not show up for six months or a year.

    I used to have this problem…I would go out with guys, and if there wasn’t an instantaneous spark I would let them go, sometimes after just one date, no matter how nice, sweet, funny, etc. they were. So you know what I did? After I got my heart broken by a complex, baggage-laden guy, I stayed with the next “nice guy” I met, even though I didn’t feel that connection. And guess what? It developed. It took longer than usual, and yeah, the relationship did end eventually, but I learned something from it. I learned that you don’t always feel that ultra-deep connection right away. Sometimes you have to give it time to grow.

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    • atraditionalist November 10, 2011, 9:41 am

      I agree with this as well. I often continue dating guys I did not originally have a connection with – but the relationships usually end up fizzling after less than a year.

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  • Fabelle November 10, 2011, 9:56 am

    I feel for the LW because it’s frustrating & sad to really WANT a connection with someone, but not be able to find one. However, the LW’s problem is preferable to constantly thinking “he’s the one!” after only 2 dates– I think she’s probably just being more discerning than most, which will ultimately work out better in the long run.

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  • Avatar photo November 10, 2011, 10:06 am

    This was a good read. The LW was true to herself. It can be exhausting to go out on countless dates and feel that they are never going anywhere. I’ve been on quite a few dates over the last couple of years and none of them were bad, we just didn’t have that connection together. Sometimes I would be head over heels and they wouldn’t and vice versa. As exhausting as it may be at times, you just have to keep pressing forward for what you truly want.

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    FireStar November 10, 2011, 10:32 am

    Maybe it is a style thing – some people date extensively successfully and some don’t. My best friend would jump from relationship to relationship, essentially giving everyone a shot. I was the opposite – I would rather be single for long stretches of time until I found someone I actually wanted to get to know. I’d get a lot of grief for it but I don’t think there is anything wrong with discernment – even extensive discernment as long as you ultimately know who will work best for you. If you don’t know that then I agree, therapy can help you uncover what truly will work for you in partner. You said you have only felt true interest in your best friend and no one else. Maybe you aren’t fully over him or maybe you need to focus on what was it about him that was so compelling. If you had said you have never felt interest in anyone I would find that more troubling but the fact that you did once means you can again – and hopefully with someone without all the baggage.

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    • Fabelle November 10, 2011, 4:08 pm

      “I would rather be single for long stretches of time until I found someone I actually wanted to get to know” <– agree, I'm the same way. I always thought of it as enjoying my singledom, rather than wasting it by going on strings of dates just hoping to make a connection with somebody. However, I know there ARE people who like dating many different people & are successful in finding someone that way. Maybe the whole concept of "dating" feels empty & manufactored to the LW? (or maybe I'm projecting!)

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  • lk November 10, 2011, 12:55 pm

    If you’ve experienced love & healthy relationships, & now are in a place where you really want to find a life partner…….relax – you only have to find it one time; 99.9% of the people you meet aren’t the person you are looking for & don’t rush to make judgements about the people you meet, because you have no idea what that one person will look like or act like.

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    Budj November 10, 2011, 4:00 pm

    I have the same issues….I have chalked it up to I know exactly what I’m looking for and… I also get really attached…which seems you do too (deeply so)… so I try to not get too involved with anyone if they aren’t exactly what I’m looking for (not a list – just general personality traits combined with their interests and background, etc). Whether this is the right case for you or not? You’ll have to answer that.

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  • Mary November 10, 2011, 7:23 pm

    I also felt like the LW does about 2 years ago. I’d been dating this guy who I thought was great on paper but for some reason I didn’t really feel it. When we eventually stopped seeing each other, I felt something like “If I couldn’t make it with this guy who seemed so great, I won’t be able to feel it with anyone”. After a few weeks I got over it and decided I would have a more happy approach to dating, not stressing about if every guy I met was going to be so great. A few months later, at a friend’s birthday party (that I forced myself to go thinking, I kid you not, that it would be a great chance to meet guys because I didn’t know many people there and I would be forced to mingle). I actually met a great guy there, we talked for most of the night, laughed and made out a bit. We exchanged emails and I remember leaving the party thinkink, well I can still feel something for someone! That was not the only guy who “got” me! I was so happy to have enjoyed myself with someone, I didn’t really care if I saw him again. Well, we did see each other again and we have been together ever since.
    So really my advice would be, don’t stress over it, it may really be that you just haven’t met the right person. If you are available and open to love and to meeting new people, it will eventually happen. And also, follow your gut, because the guy I mentioned early on that I didn’t feel a connection with, was really an ass who was cheating on his somewhat gf with me (and other girls apparently).

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  • Caris November 10, 2011, 9:59 pm

    I posted part of your advice on my facebook 😀

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    DudeInChicago November 11, 2011, 11:16 am

    Dear commitaphobe, allow me to answer your questions a bit more directly – so sass, I promise.

    So, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get excited about dating a new guy like all these other women are?
    – because you are not the other women. Love isn’t a contest or a conquest – this is a sign you probably do not know what love is, because LOVE is everywhere. Allow yourself to feel it.

    Why is it I just don’t feel that connection with any of these men I go out with?
    – the common denominator here in the faux connections you’ve had is YOU. Question, are you the type who can semi-throw some caution to the wind and let the chips fall where they may? Perhaps that’s what’s missing – remain honest with yourself and give breathing room for relationships to flourish.

    I am worried I’ll be destined to be alone if I can’t fix this weird behavior. All I want is to be normal and feel okay about dating someone new.
    – well, good luck. Dating should be fun and it appears you aren’t having fun. Maybe it’s time for a timeout on dating?

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  • Toni July 6, 2020, 11:17 am

    9 years later, people might call this demisexuality.

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