Share via Email I am a man in my late 20s. I have a great job, a wide circle of friends and life is good. However, I have never been able to interact with women on anything more than a level of friendship. I have never had a girlfriend or been on a date, and I remain a virgin. I have many women friends, who consider me great company and tell me I would make "ideal" boyfriend or husband material. Since adolescence, I have always been regarded as the life and soul of the party and have had no problems interacting with the opposite sex on nights out and so on.
However, when I am around women to whom I am attracted, I become clumsy, stressed and apprehensive. At a recent wedding, as soon as a woman there indicated that she wanted to spend the night with me, I made a series of clumsy excuses to part company with her, despite finding her attractive.
I am concerned that even if I do work past all this and meet someone with whom I can form a relationship, my emotional and sexual immaturity will prove a real stumbling block - I do not even know if I would be able to explain this to anyone.
I feel completely ill-equipped to form any such relationship for fear of messing up or highlighting my woeful inexperience. I want to take things further with a woman before I collect my pension.
Sexual experience isn't everything Like you, I had no relationship experience until I was well into my 20s. I also found that my self-confidence in other parts of my life was not easily transferable to romance.
What seemed insurmountable to me appeared to come easily to everyone else I knew. As a man, I felt under pressure to take the initiative in relationships with women and to be experienced in bed; I also found it difficult to tell when a woman was attracted to me.
Although I knew at some level that I was being irrational, I found it very difficult to overcome my fear of rejection, so I never dared to take the risk of asking someone out. It doesn't sound as if you are emotionally immature and it's very likely that you will be capable of sexual intimacy with the right person. Your ability to pursue strong female friendships is a huge advantage. Many people lack confidence in this way, even those who appear to have successful relationships.
Previous experience, sexual or otherwise, is no substitute for being open with a new partner and willing to learn about her. When I met my girlfriend, she was intimidated by the experience she assumed I must have had, but being honest with her reassured her and we learned to love together. Remain patient and be willing to risk disappointment by approaching women you are interested in. AL, Oxford Internet dating worked for me A few years ago, I was also paralysed by the fear of "messing up", but I'm now married with a young family.
You may have to acknowledge that you have missed your chance to play the field, but time is still on your side. When men are in their early 20s, it seems that every eligible woman has her pick of partners, who in turn appear more experienced and confident than you. Yet 10 years later, the same women are bemoaning the lack of decent single men prepared to commit to serious relationships, something you seem ready to do.
You worry that your inexperience is so great that it will ruin any relationship you try to start, but by your age almost everyone has acquired some kind of emotional baggage; this just happens to be yours. Perhaps the first woman to whom you reveal the truth may find it difficult to deal with, but whose loss will that really be?
It's just as likely, when you find someone who sees in you all the other qualities she is looking for, that she will take all this in her stride.
If you already know how to be a good friend, you're well on the way to being a good partner. For me, internet dating provided the ideal route to finding a partner, as I knew anyone I contacted this way would be single and looking for a relationship too.
There was also the opportunity to build relationships by email before meeting anyone in person. You may also consider counselling - I never did, but I still wonder whether the simple act of unburdening myself to someone would have helped me move on a lot sooner. T, via email You're a woman's dream Please don't be disheartened: As a woman in her 20s, I can honestly say that my female friends and I would not find your situation a problem at all; on the contrary in fact.
If you speak about it as eloquently as you do in your letter, with a mixture of sweet bewilderment and candid humour, then any woman would understand and empathise. Despite popular belief among some young men, women do not necessarily want their men to be experienced; in fact, you are in a perfect position to learn what makes a woman tick. We all love to give advice - even in bed!
As for being embarrassed when you talk to someone you find attractive, again this is not unusual, and any woman who didn't find it a lovely and refreshing change from confident and arrogant come-ons isn't worth your time anyway.
Name and address withheld Take it in small steps You are not alone - I did not have a sexual relationship until my late 30s. I am happily married to the woman who was my second serious girlfriend now, but I know how difficult it can be to make the transition from getting on well with women, to actually being someone's boyfriend. I believe it may help to break down the process of forming an intimate relationship with a woman into smaller steps.
First, you must go on dates, even if this feels uncomfortable at first. Eventually, you will be able to enjoy spending time with women who are potential girlfriends and once you have established a strong relationship with someone you care about, having sex will seem much more of a natural progression than it does now.
Starting to form sexual relationships at a more mature age may actually mean that you have a greater potential for developing stronger, more honest partnerships. JG, Herts What the expert thinks: Linda Blair Your problem is based on a misunderstanding rather than on a lack of actual experience - or as you put it, on emotional and sexual immaturity.
The number of sexual encounters you have had is in fact totally unimportant. What really matters, and what you need to re-examine, is how you view yourself and what you believe makes sex enjoyable and fulfilling. Let's start by looking at the interpersonal skills you already possess. You say you have never interacted with women on "anything more" than the level of friendship. Why do you dismiss friendship so lightly?
It takes far more sensitivity, empathy and emotional awareness to establish a good friendship than it takes to have a sexual encounter. You might remember the film Tootsie, in which Dustin Hoffman impersonates a woman in his desire to get close to Jessica Lange.
When he reveals his true self and asks her to begin a romance with him, he justifies his request by saying, "Listen. We were already best friends. I hope you will no longer undervalue your ability to make and maintain friendships, as this is a vital asset. You also have a flair for helping other people to enjoy themselves. This shows that you have a sense of fun and that you're sensitive and responsive to the needs of those around you.
So you've demonstrated the skills you need to form and maintain a good relationship. What, then, is holding you back? The only other failing you can come up with is your "sexual immaturity". This isn't the stumbling block you seem to imagine.
Some sexually experienced individuals have a wider repertoire of well-practised sexual techniques than the sexually inexperienced. But each of us is unique, and what gives one person pleasure may not please another.
In that sense everyone is sexually inexperienced when they first make love with a new partner, because that partner will be unlike anyone they have ever been with before. An important aspect of the pleasure from a sexual encounter - perhaps the most important aspect - is discovering what delights your partner.
Because you're already so sensitive to what other people need and want, you're actually exceptionally well prepared to learn what will give your chosen partner the most pleasure.
Finally, let's examine your concept of a relationship. A good relationship doesn't progress in rigid, discrete stages. It ebbs and flows, and deepens with care and sensitivity. Sex, an important - but by no means essential - part of a good relationship, develops in exactly the same way. Try to abandon phrases such as "sexual immaturity" and start thinking about discovering ways to give pleasure to someone you care for.
Never be afraid to ask your chosen partner what will please her - saying "I want to make you happy. Teach me how," would be a real turn-on for most people! Having good sex isn't an accomplishment to tick off a list of life goals. It's a natural extension of caring deeply for another individual. Heartbroken in my twilight years I was lobbying parliament, demanding better state pensions, when I was approached by a handsome man who bought a paper from me and asked for my address.
Shortly afterwards, I received a letter from him inviting me to meet him again, which I did. A loving friendship was forged between us. He told me he was in his late 60s, and although I did not disclose my age at first, after corresponding for several months, I told him I was in my early 80s. He said it made no difference - but I knew that it did. We spent more than a decade in constant contact, visiting friends and going on holidays together.
After the first flush of love, he never spoke of love again but I hope I may be forgiven for thinking that love still bound us. He liked women and they liked him but I really didn't mind this, because I was the one he visited, called or accompanied on trips away.
In recent years, I have grown less mobile, but he was patient and our daily contact continued. Until last week, when I didn't hear from him. He eventually came to see me and told me he had "met somebody". I have never felt more devastated than I do now. If anyone had told me that a woman in her 90s could feel this depth of loss, I wouldn't have believed them. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried to sustain a younger man's interest for so long. How do I recover from a broken heart?
You are invited to respond to next week's problem. If you would like fellow readers and Linda Blair to answer a dilemma of yours, send us an outline of the situation of around words. For advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns. All correspondence should reach us by Tuesday morning: