Why Is My Friend Repulsed By The Notion Of Sex?
I really need your help! I am at a loose end with one of my best friends who I’ve known for five or six years since I moved down to London for work. He is a 32-year-old virgin who is very desperate for a girlfriend, however the (what I believe to be) harsh, fundamentalist Christian upbringing he has had means he has absolutely no intention of partaking in any intimate behaviour with a woman, saying it is against his beliefs. He says that he finds masturbation repulsive and forces himself not to include himself in any sexual discussions with anyone. However, he is so desperate for female attention that he has trawled many internet dating sites for up to eight hours solidly, and even been banned for repeatedly messaging women. When he has gone on a date, and the lady has shown any interest whatsoever, he tends to make an excuse and run away before blocking their number and deleting all their messages. When we have asked why, he claims he is repulsed by the notion of sex and he wants to be alone. before the cycle begins again. Our mutual friends and I have tried really hard to help him, but I think he is making himself ill with anxiety. We even asked him if he was gay and reassured him that it wasn’t a problem if it was, but his response was flatly denying this in a highly homophobic manner. Do you have any idea what could be the problem or how we can help him a we are really lost? Many thanks Simon
Our Resident Real Fairy Godmother Michelle Zelli says:
Oh my goodness, you’re a good friend. It sounds as though your pal has a chronic case of Reactive Attachment Disorder. He is not alone, it’s thought that around 20% of us suffer with this little talked about issue. Humans yearn for intimacy and connection but many also fear vulnerability, and the potential shame, of being exposed as ‘not good enough and undeserving of love’.
Beliefs given to us as children are not easy to shift, particularly if they’re shame based. When a deep neural association is formed at a young age we have a tendency to re-enforce over and over again throughout our formative and adult years. Eventually it becomes our own truth, no longer something we were told and so deeply embedded in our subconscious that we no longer question.
If your friend is associating sex with repulsion and extending this to his own self pleasure, and a fear of intimacy, it would be helpful for him to read up and understand his dating dance. Yearning for love and togetherness, being scared at the deepest subconscious level, make for a lonely life. By using dating sites he is getting the thrill of the chase, alongside a hit of the feelgood chemical Dopamine, with each screen connection. Research shows that around a third of people on dating sites never actually go on a date.
His behaviour is extreme and could get him into serious trouble if it’s not brought into check. Compulsive behaviour has already resulted in him being thrown off dating sites and could escalate. The intensity created by his actions is designed to fill the desolate and empty hole deep within, protecting him from his pain, despair and alone-ness which is often too much to bear.
We can’t change other people, no matter how hard we try. This particular issue is likely to require specialist therapy as it’s very hard to shift embedded patterns of this magnitude. As a friend you may be able to illuminate his patterns as we can’t see our own blind spots. I would be cautious, as he needs to want to change and to take his own actions – you could find he soon resents your well meaning intentions.
There is good news though! I can confirm I have seen many people’s lives changed by educating themselves and seeking help. RAD is often termed as ‘Avoidant’ or ‘Love Avoidant’ …. Pia Mellody is a world authority, I would recommend gifting your friend her book Fear of Intimacy, to get him started on his journey of self discovery and healing.
It’s unlikely he will be able to stop his current dating app frenzy. Encourage him to talk and to go along to his local SLA (Sex and Love Addiction) Meeting. Each Group is unique and has a different vibe, he should check out a few to find which most resonates. By attending Meetings he would see there is nothing to be ashamed of, this is a common condition and he will also receive support from likeminded people who understand and have been working the program.