What to do if you don't have much experience in the relationship dept. (Image Credit: Unsplash/Chad Madden)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I would be really grateful for your advice. I'm 29, and I've never had a boyfriend. Ever.
I've had severe anxiety since I was 14, and this has stopped me from trusting people and really damaged my self-confidence. Over time, this has made me very embarrassed about how I am. It’s become a vicious cycle.
I feel too embarrassed at not having any experience to start, and then time is ticking on. I'm also overweight, but I'm trying to be more body positive.
Even if I did meet someone — which I find hard — I can't imagine having to tell them. It feels like a massive burden, and it makes me cringe to even think about it.
Please help me, Erin.
Okay, people come to relationships with various levels of experience. And that experience is not limited to time spent in previous relationships. You bring your experiences from life, as well.
You may not yet have had a boyfriend, but you are a human who has lived and felt things and cared for people in different ways. It’s going to be okay.
First, please know that you are not obliged to inform someone on the first date about parts of your life that you’re not super comfortable talking about. That said, I do believe that coming into a new relationship with a willingness to be open and honest, and yes, vulnerable, lays the foundation for a healthy partnership.
A good way to get comfortable with being open about who you are and what your experiences have been is to practice with your friends, both old and new. The stakes are not so high. These are people who already know and love you.
I know this all seems overwhelming. You mentioned that you have a history with severe anxiety? If you are not already, you need to get some professional help with this. That might include a combination of talk therapy and a psychiatrist who can evaluate whether or not medication would benefit you.
And, you should know that anxiety disorders are relatively common. Nearly 20% of Americans are dealing with some form of an anxiety disorder. You are not a burden or a freak.
ALL of us bring our emotional stuff (and for some, myself included, mental health issues) to the party.
Finding support will be extremely beneficial. The ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America) has a page on their site that can connect you to in-person and online support groups. Additionally, you can email me again and let me know what area you are in so that I can refer you to some local resources.
You mentioned that you feel embarrassed — by your lack of experience, your anxiety, and your body image. I believe that getting additional support through therapy and community groups will go a long way to help you not just understand but believe that you are not alone and that you are worthy of finding love.
I can also promise you this: what we are afraid to say is far scarier in our brains than when the words come out.
I spent much of my life acting out in destructive ways so that I didn't have to show people what I really felt or thought or what was going on inside of me. Being able to own it — who I am and what I have lived — is liberating.
If you have a question for me about relationships, breakups, friendship, boundaries, sex, Anyolite, reproductive issues, easy, yummy blueberry muffins, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. xoxo