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aprilsimnel's avatar

I'm afraid of relationships and men. How do I get over this?

Asked by aprilsimnel (30622 points ) May 26th, 2009

I just got off the phone with my (married) sister in Florida, who I went to see last week. During our talk today and when I was there, she lamented how I’m “so pretty,” but I don’t wear make-up or figure-hugging clothes or do anything to go out of my way to attract men. I like men, but I’m scared of them. I give men a lot of power, both the ones I’m interested in and the ones I’d rather avoid.

On dates, I’ve always gone dutch, and am uncomfortable with men paying. I don’t want to have any guy do something for me because I’m scared the quid pro quo will be sex, and once he’s gotten it, he’s off to the next woman. And if the guy is decent, I think that I’m going to be judged by my background and current financial status (which is bad). I assume that I’ll be judged by men in the same way I see women judge men, you know? Logically, I know this stuff is untrue, but I can’t seem to shake the fear that it is true. I don’t know how to handle male sexual attention, how to fend off the attention I don’t want, how to let men I like know I’m interested, how to feel confident that I’m worthy of the men I’m interested in or how to be in an mature relationship.

I never allowed the guys at school talk to me, even if I was attracted to them, I was ashamed of my poverty and family background. I’d flee into the library if I saw them coming. I didn’t feel good enough for them. I’d also feel guilty about putting off the guys in my neighborhood who, to me, didn’t seem to be going anywhere with their lives, but then again, maybe I was being a stuck-up bitch who thought I was better than other people. The men I actually dated in college I should’ve stayed away from. I let them bully me into dating them and they were awful experiences. Some of the men who approached me I could’ve gotten to know, but again, I felt I was unworthy of them and shied away.

Does anyone know what I’m talking about? What’s the truth about this stuff? I don’t want the next part of my life clouded by this fear of men. Right now, I’m more focused on getting a job in my field and figuring out a way to live in London, but this issue is going to rear its head again soon enough. Besides therapy, what to do?

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41 Answers

oratio's avatar

I feel that only making it possible for “aggressive” men to date you, taints and makes up your view on a relationship and how it would be to date anyone. I have a somewhat similar problem with being very shy of women I like.

blaksquid's avatar

I think that you shouldn’t be ashamed of where you came from, i.e., poverty and all that. Thats just the way it was for you growing up and the fact that you gone to school and am moving on with your life speaks volumes about your perserverance. So kudos on that. When it comes to dating, there are nice guys out there and yeah you had bad experiences in college with guys who were aggressive but not all guys are like that. All ways go with your gutt when you meet a guy. If you feel like he’s different in a good way then sooner or later you will have to lower your walls and see what happens. That right person will like you for you and will understand your concerns. Take your time and don’t rush it. Like you said, at this moment you are just trying to focus on getting a job. Everything will fall into place for you when the time is right. good luck.

Zaku's avatar

I would try to drop all of the judging people (you or them) and their suitability for a relationship based on money and career ideas.

I’d also try to befriend an intelligent and trustworthy woman who seems has wisdom and healthy relationships with men, and ask her for advice and coaching. If you can’t trust your own choices, a good coach can help you choose more wisely, IF you agree with her philosophy. Of course, being coached by someone whose philosophy doesn’t work for you, could be problematic.

Lots of guys are just out for sex, and will be deceptive and so on. Some others are more honest and well-intentioned. Some women have pretty good perceptions about men; and many don’t.

If you are sure you are interested in someone, and don’t know how to let them know, direct communication works on almost all men. And, just going and talking to them and smiling at them also tends to work, sooner or later.

Oh and as for what to do with unwanted aggressive men, maybe try a women’s self-defense course.

PupnTaco's avatar

Why not therapy?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

You’re holding on to an awful lot of anxiety by the sound of things.
Why not try just being friends with some men first? There’s no rule that says you have to move quickly. If a man wants to move too quickly for you, he’s probably just in it for sex.

Judi's avatar

I wouldn’t usually suggest this but you seem like a great candidate for hypnosis.

oratio's avatar

@Zaku Hmm. Feel you are a bit archaic in your view on men there. A touch of Valerie Solana.

Zaku's avatar

@oratio Maybe so. Maybe I just came off that way.

Kiev749's avatar

Realize this. If they don’t like you for who you are they aren’t good people. I mean, its the same as making friends. If they can’t respect where you come from, your family, your friends, then you wouldn’t make them a friend. It’ll be ok! Trust me! Not everyone has a thousand dollars in their bank account with thousands invested in stocks and bonds before their 25. Men who want to date and just have sex are keeping you away from the truly good men out there. They are hard to find, but trust me. we are out here. You have a beautiful mind and if you can build off of that and become a strong, confident woman, you won’t be dealing with this fear for very long.

fedupwitcaddys's avatar

i can honestly relate with you i am going thru a similar situation. i put up this shield and sometimes fend men off consiously and unconsiously. i too myself are very pretty and not into trying to attract men with mybody and make-up, but have had alot of guys come on to me. friends say im scary when it comes to men but it seems I just dont know how to handle them. ive been in bad situations with picking the wrong men too. and the ones that really see something in me, I shun off because i have my guards up from previous hurt or bad past relationships. believe me i dont wanna do that and i wanna one day meet a nice guy that’ll like me for me but its hard because of trust issues and self esteem. sometimes i feel like im not good enough for men that have alot going for themselves, I too came up in an impoverished society, so i felt that hindered me. i’d feel i didnt fit into his world and i wasnt intellegent enough. I would also pay for myself when it came to dinner and movies because I didnt want no one to feel I was needy, until one day i met this nice guy. and i was standing at the bus stop with my children in the rain coming from the pediatrician, and he wanted to offer me a ride out the rain and i was hesitant because i had my kids with me and i just dont hop in the car with strangers,
i didnt have a bad feeling about him so i took a chance and he turned out to be really nice. i talked to him on the phone a few times and with a few weeks we were at the car lot picking me out a new car. a cadillac to be exact. i never had to sleep with him or anything, he said he never wanted to see me on the bus again and i needed to let men be men (the right men) and treat a woman like a woman should be treated and do for me and pay for my dinner etc. and thats when i realized you can deny yourself love or a meaningful relation ship if you NEVER let your guards down and take a chance ONCE IN A WHILE. people thought i was a stuck up little BITCH too but i am far from it. i just felt like men were on BULLSHIT and if i was gonna be gaffled, it would be under MY OWN DISCRESSION! so i just wanna let you know from experience, dont be soo hard on yourself and every man is not ’ the bad guy ’ and allow yourself a chance to experience a real man. but by all means KEEP YOUR SCANNER ON, and you’ll know when its real, cause he’s not gonna give up on you.

hope i could help

oratio's avatar

@fedupwitcaddys Can very much relate to that.
Paying for a woman and letting a woman be a woman is something culture specific and quite alien in my country though. But I guess the intent is what matters.

ninjacolin's avatar

maybe try going on tour?
date men simply for the purpose of learning how they will react to getting to know you.
date them to see what they are like, not to keep them.

jackfright's avatar

you sound like a beautiful person, i just hope the guy you end up with deserves you.

girls usually pick 1 of 2 main roles when they look for a man, they either look for an equal, or they look for a provider/protector. which are you looking for? it sounds like the latter when you say you give the man a lot of power, but perhaps you should try looking for an equal instead this time ‘round. there is less fear involved, and if you give the man less power, he wont be able to abuse it.

i know it doesn’t help much, but i’m a little curious, you have an older sister that doesn’t seem to share the same problems (or to a lesser extent). why dont you ask her for tips?

Clair's avatar

therapy could help but you really can do this on your own. you sound like a wonderful person and i know how you feel. i was also really intimidated by men, and sometimes still am, but not like i was. you just have to realize at some point that YOU are in control and YOU should be treated like the lady you are. and The_Compassionate_Heretic brought up an excellent point, why move so quickly? be friends first. a long time if you want, until you’re perfectly comfortable.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I forgot, some of you don’t know: I’m almost 40. I feel about as young as I look in my Twitter picture. And I still look that young, too. I haven’t been on more than 2 or 3 one-off dates in 9 years. See? Pretty immature, my mindset, then, right?

I’ve had problems asserting myself, defining boundaries, treating myself and my desires/goals as though they matter and expressing my wants in general throughout my life. I know where this all comes from, I am in counseling, and I am also in career counseling. I guess I’m just frustrated with my sister telling me that regardless of my current career, emotional and financial situations, I should just go out and get a dude! I feel my current situation does matter, and I’d rather deal with those things first. It’s not like all I have to do is slap on some makeup and a tight dress and, voilà! problems solved!

She’s been married for 30 years to a guy who loves her dearly. And that’s wonderful. But when they met, they were both at the same place in their lives and the same maturity level, financially able to take care of themselves, etc. I am not. I wouldn’t want a guy who’s as insecure and broke as I am right now, I’d want someone healthy and functioning, and I think a decent man wants the same.

Thanks for all your answers so far. I feel ridiculous that I’m this old and still scared of these types of things, but ::shrugs:: there it is.

westy81585's avatar

Just be yourself. If a guy can’t accept your social back ground then you don’t need him. I would NEVER look down on a girl for her not having as much money or anything like that. Just be yourself and do what makes you happy/comfortable.

If you want to attract guys self confidence is one of the best ways to do it. Clothes and stuff like that help attract people, but that will draw them in with physical attraction (which may not be a bad thing, but don’t use JUST physical “bait” to bring guys in or you’ll regret it). Considering potential “mates” as a friend first would be a good way to screen them. That way you can avoid too much nervousness about a relationship.

You sound like a really nice person (heck if I didn’t have my own complicated situation I’d offer to take you on a date myself… and I always insist on paying cuz it’s just the chivalrous thing to do :) ) ...... But just put yourself out there and you’ll do well.

fedupwitcaddys's avatar

dont feel bad, im going on 35 and i dont wanna be alone from the rest of my life. guess i still got some time to find THE ONE.

elchoopanebre's avatar

Damn, everything in this thread is tl;dr.

Clair's avatar

@aprilsimnel well then that makes you that much more accomplished. a woman of 40 (which is most certainly not old) has most likely accomplished quite a few things in life. where as a man of 40 has just grown up really. i’m sorry to offend any men but it is true. you’re not ridiculous. i think the key here is that you need to become comfortable with yourself before you can be comfortable with a man. and you’re obviously not comfortable with either. embrace everyday and love yourself. he will come and you will be ready. there’s nothing wrong with you and you are most certainly not old. and slapping on a tight dress should not attract the man you’re looking for to be your companion. don’t see yourself as some loon who is unsecure and goes to 5 shrinks. you’re a bright woman, expanding her horizons.

rooeytoo's avatar

I hate that women feel they have to embellish themselves to attract men. Why should you be expected to wear alluring clothes if you are comfortable in what you have. I hated the shallowness of tarting myself up. And it is something I couldn’t maintain on a day to day basis, so why create an expectation I can’t fulfill. I always figured take me as I am or forget it.

But so much of what you say sounds like real phobias, I think I would opt for some counseling. Perhaps you could find a male counselor you feel comfortable with and start from there.

The other thing to consider is that living alone but having good friends is not a bad thing, I sometimes think it is much preferable to being in a relationship.

FreddieMack's avatar

Maybe you’re a lesbian

aprilsimnel's avatar

@FreddieMack – Nope. Not sexually attracted to women. I don’t think lesbians get super self-conscious around men they’re attracted to like I do.

dannyc's avatar

Try to find men who are not aggressive and a bit more sensitive. Take a risk, don’t pre-judge It is a bit of a numbers game too,

phoenyx's avatar

What about group dates or other group activities? They could be more casual way to get to know guys (without the pressure or expectations).

augustlan's avatar

Oh, honey… I just want to scoop you up and hug you even though I’m only a year older than you! You’re working on all the things you need to right now. You’ll tackle them all, one step at a time. I know a little bit about your upbringing, and that’s a lot to overcome. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and one day you’ll find that you’re comfortable in your own skin. That should be your ultimate goal, and will be your ultimate reward. If you find a man – your equal – and you can love and cherish one another, that’s just the icing on the cake.

Clair's avatar

@augustlan hells yea! girls rule, boys drool.

SeventhSense's avatar

@Zaku
If you are sure you are interested in someone, and don’t know how to let them know, direct communication works on almost all men.
Brilliant and this is an excellent method with men. The problem is when men try to extend this logic to women who do not respond as well to this type of forthright behavior.

So @aprilsimnel, I would suggest just being straightforward. He might be a little taken aback at first but I imagine most men would be flattered. But it sounds like you may have some other underlying baggage that may need attending first. Getting the man is only the first part. If you attract a man and then find yourself in a relationship which is causing you distress and anxiety this won’t be fun. I would talk to a caring therapist or psychoanalyst to see what some of your underlying fears are and how best to work through some of them. Peace and thanks for a brave question. :)

lady4life's avatar

In counseling try to Understand your worth and value..self esteem..love self first and foremost..allow yourself to be loved as well have a personal relationship with God or higher power to give you courage and belief in self..cast fear to the side and LIVE you are entitled..life is to short

Disc2021's avatar

I’m going to respond to a complicated question with a simple answer: Sweetheart, you need to loosen up =D.

Don’t be so ashamed of your financial status. If it’s evident enough to your sister says you’re good-looking, you’ve got something going for you! What you need to do is find is a guy that isn’t going to judge you for the size of your bank account. Someone willing to look past that and take you for all you’re worth, holistically as a person. So live a little – go out, flirt, have fun, play the field! The world is your playground and the borders are limitless.

You dont have to “give yourself up” to someone right away or be a “ho”. You dont have to immediately submit yourself to some man and relinquish your individuality – taking it slow works even better. Eventually you’ll become comfortable enough with someone that things like this wont even matter.

I know what I’m advising may sound easier said than done, but I at least hope it helps. There is no reason why you should feel afraid – be strong and let yourself shine, no matter your status. The world does and will always have a place for you. Finding it is the challenge.

Da_Wolfman's avatar

Girls,girls…..why all of the complicated scenarios? Dating is like trying on a new pair of shoes, if they don’t feel good, don’t buy them. Find someone who shares your values and background…...it aint rocket science. Good luck, get out there and make some noise.

Arooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

ellesee's avatar

I’m sorry it sounds like you are so cornered. Thing is, ideally, you want to date a friend anyway. ie, When Harry Met Sally. my boyfriend and I were just friends while we started to hang out more and more and eventually feelings grew. he is good looking tho i wasn’t attracted to him when we were just hanging out as friends. But feelings can grow if you feel comfortable and you feel you can trust the other person. Goodluck!

augustlan's avatar

@ellesee Welcome to Fluther!

deepdivercwa55m's avatar

Most men want sex. But men also like CONFIDENCE do you know what is that????

gottamakeart's avatar

I’ve experienced social awkwardness and was a virgin well into my 20’s because of it.
I’d go with the “friends first” option, no pressure there. A kiss in the hallway led to a walk down the aisle for me. :)

bunnygrl's avatar

Definitely aim for friends first. Then even if things don’t lead to romance, you’ve made a new friend and it will help build your confidence too. Hubby and I started off as friends, and have just celebrated our 25th aniversary. You do sound like such a lovely person. Be more sure of yourself sweetheart, I’ll bet others think you’re lovely too and maybe you’re just missing seeing it.
hugs xx

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@aprilsimnel I came across your question in late December, 2009.
You were offered some good advice. I don’t know if you tried following any of it or how you are doing. If you are still interested in discussing your concerns, feel free to contact me. I have not ulterior motives, but if you still need some support on this, message me privately.

plethora's avatar

@Zaku is right on this…. “direct communication works on almost all men. And, just going and talking to them and smiling at them also tends to work, sooner or later”.

I’m a man and I have also read your answers, which have divulged some of the problems that you dealt with growing up. I truly admire the way you endured and overcame them and your ability to express yourself now. You have a lot to offer and I wish you the best. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Liora's avatar

I’ve got the same problem but I think the term is “fear of intimacy”... and fear of being dominated by someone.

My own mom was abused by her father, brother and ex-husband and abandoned by my dad… and since I grew up without a dad the only feedback I got about men growing up were my mom’s horror stories… so trust can be a problem.

I haven’t actually gotten over my own problems with men so I’m not sure what to advise you except maybe to try to get to know men a little better and understand more in depth you own feelings about the whole thing, why you give them power, etc’

TheOnlyException's avatar

I think you are afraid of intimacy. This is a common problem for most. It can spring from a lot of underlying issues. Did your parents have a good relationship, were they together? Because growing up we learn how relationships work by watching our parents mostly (little bits from television and film/books as well but mainly parents.) if they didnt, this could be a cause as you dont know how to act in those situations, you are scared and dont know what to do. it could also be self-esteem due to your ‘poverty’.
embrace life love, you will look back on these days and think how silly you were. some people often do have a real problem, but what i think you need to do is love yourself and who you are before you can even think about loving anyone else.

ajules86's avatar

@aprilsimnel Thank you for sharing your personal insight with me April. I don’t really have any advice that others haven’t already said, but there’s a girl I’m very much interested in who is afraid to get involved with anyone and now I have a little better understanding why.

A few people have suggested counciling to you, and that is something everyone could benefit from. I just started going to counciling in August; I still have a lot of things I need to work on, but it certainly helps! Counciling doesn’t mean your “crazy” or “weak”. There isn’t a single human being who is perfect and doesn’t have something about themselves that they could work on. It actually takes a lot of guts to own up to your own problems and seek help in changing them.

Not all guys are out for strictly physical relationships; there are still a few good, honest, sensitive guys out there. I’ve often wondered why so many girls are often attracted to assholes, but I suppose it’s the assholes’ confidence and self-esteem that draws their interest. I’m one of those guys who would actually prefer a commited, long-term relationship over sex if I had to choose between the two, but I’m a little introverted and don’t have great self-esteem, so I tend to get passed over.

I guess the best advice I can give you is to work on your self-acceptance/self-esteem, don’t settle for someone who treats you like shit because you deserve SO much better, and don’t be afraid to take a risk and put yourself out there for the right guy. Thank you again for sharing so much about yourself and your fears with us. You’ve helped me better understand the girl I’m interested in. I’m not going to give up on her.

meenuji2's avatar

believing in goodness of people and growing in oneself to handle one’s own fears is going to bring better turns of events.instead of worrying over limitations, its always better to adjust oneself to the present and act for the good of self and others by your own self reflaction. it takes infinite factors to be tackled to come out of one’s negative shell.

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