Tell Me About It: I’m a depressed virgin and I can’t get a girlfriend

I’m beginning to accept that I’ll just always be alone and I have contemplated hurting myself and ending my life

Illustration: lolon via Getty Images

Illustration: lolon via Getty Images

 

Q I’m a 26-year-old guy and I suffer with depression. I haven’t been happy with my life for a very long time because I’m very lonely all the time and cannot seem to meet a woman.

I’m not the most attractive guy in the world and I don’t have big muscles or a six-pack or anything but I’m told I’m funny and I’m also creative . The last time I had a girlfriend was when I was 19. I have also never had sex. My friends have had numerous girlfriends and they make me feel uncomfortable all the time. Any time I have been invited to anything, I have always been the one who no one is ever interested in and the odd one out who doesn’t have a girlfriend.

I graduated this year. Now I’m on the dole and I did night courses in acting. I’ve created online dating profiles but still have had no success meeting anybody. I’ve had conversations with women online and I do try my best to appear interesting. I tend to talk to a person online about similar interests, I compliment them and then after a few days I’d ask them out. For some reason I never hear from that person again.

There really isn’t anything happy going on in my life.

My mother has cancer. I help her into her wheelchair and her stairlift and I do my best to help around the house, but some days I just feel like “why me?” or“so this is my life now”. My dad works full-time, so he can help only when he comes home. I do my best to try and be quiet and not get upset when I feel very low, but sometimes I just can’t help it. My problems have always come first in the house, so that’s why I’ve tried to isolate myself sometimes so my younger brother can get support from our parents.

I’m beginning to accept that I’ll just always be alone and I have contemplated hurting myself and ending my life because I don’t seem to be able to get what I need.

A You have had some very tough experiences and yet you express that you have so much going for you. You are a caring son who looks after his mother, you have completed a course at third level as well as a course in acting, and you care about your younger brother enough to allow him take the bulk of the attention in the house. This means you are a person worth knowing and someone who is able to put substance behind their values, and you are still only 26.

You do not need to worry that when someone gets to know you they will be disappointed, as you have proven ambition, the ability to care and an interest in connecting. However, perhaps your critical focus on yourself is having a negative effect.

It seems your depression has had an effect on your life, and perhaps you have missed out on the ease with which people often meet partners while doing a course or casually socialising. The focus you have on yourself and on your perceived lack of skill or knowledge is getting in your way in that you are becoming more and more pessimistic. This is probably coming across to the women you meet.

It is a good idea to analyse what attraction is and what makes us attracted to other people. We are attracted to people who like being themselves, who have their attention turned outwards and who are interested and engaged in life. In other words, confidence is a very attractive quality. So how can we grow our confidence? We often talk about loss of confidence or finding more confidence, but this language can lead us astray.

All children are born confident, assuming they are the centre of the universe, and they gradually lose this sense of themselves as experience, fear and criticism block this natural characteristic. How we regain that sense of confidence is to let go of the blocks: the ideas about ourselves, the defensiveness and bad experiences.

When we manage that, we are more ourselves and are not trying to be anything other than ourselves. If you continue to do all that you are doing (internet dating, going out with friends, acting in local dramas and so on) and you stop trying so hard to impress or to be liked, you will find people you are attracted to and want to spend time with. If you focus your attention on what is interesting about the other person rather on yourself, you will be on a good track to connecting.

Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist

WE NEED YOUR HELP

If you have any advice or support for the person with the above problem, please email us at tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com and we will print a selection of the responses each week

READER’S ADVICE ABOUT LAST WEEK’S PROBLEM

Last week’s problem:

A reader sought advice about his mother-in-law who he said was causing problems in his marriage. He described his mother-in-law as a “self-centred snob”, and added that his wife had begun to be as dismissive of him as her mother was. The problem was further complicated by the fact that he and his wife had moved in with this woman. Also, since his business tanked in the recession, his mother-in-law has paid for many of the family bills. He said he was “angry and on edge and cannot see an end to the problem.”

Your advice:

  • Oh dear, what hell. I know from the sound of the mother-in-law that things will never change unless (a) she leaves or (b) he leaves. Either way his wife is letting him down. This man has been through utter misery already and his wife should be on his side. It’s time he made her aware of this. I wish him luck. Joan
  • Agree with everything your mother-in-law says. It will throw her completely off balance. She thrives on conflict, so remove the conflict and you deprive her of emotional oxygen. Another advantage of agreeing with her is that this will also ruin the dynamic of your wife siding with her mother. There won’t be any point, because your mother-in-law will no longer have you as her opponent and target. You are never going to win with this selfish mother-in-law, who doesn’t care about her daughter’s marriage. Be glad for a roof over your head and take up hobbies that keep you out of the house. Ann
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