#263: I worry that I might not be able to have romantic feelings for people. Am I a robot?

Sean Young from BladerunnerHi, Captain:

I am a 23 years old girl who has never ever had “Romantic Feelings” for someone. I don’t mean it in a “one true love” way, but more like really kinda liking someone and having pantsfeelings and stuff. I haven’t even had a crush on anyone. Really. Not even when I was a teenager. I used to think that it was something that would come eventually, and I’ve gone on dates, and kissed people, and had sex, all with guys who were as awesome as my friends, but I never felt it. It was always like some sort of experiment, or some anticipation that I would maybe come to feel special about the person given time. (Also, no one’s ever fallen for me either).

I think I got close to it with a friend who asked me out, we had a couple of awkward but nice dates, but it lasted less than a week since he turned out to be an asshole (he had a crush on my best friend the whole time, and two days later started ignoring me to hit on her through text while I was with her. Aaaand that was how I learned we were `just friends`). So that pre-crush went down the drain pretty quickly, and I felt mostly disappointed.

Then last year, I met this awesome guy and asked him out. We had some nice dates, and even had sex (my first time), but I felt nothing, and it was mostly awkward and tense. He was the one who decided to end it, and he was nice about it, and I was nice in turn, and that was it. I did not even feel sad afterwards, which is actually kind of sad.

Now the actual questions: Is this normal? Am I maybe some kind of robot without feelings, or a bad person? Is there something I could do about it, to open myself up to feelings? Is it wrong to ask someone out even if  I`m not feeling it in the hopes that I eventually will, because they are nice and handsome and I like talking to them? Falling in love seems like it feels kind of amazing and frightening (reciprocity is something else entirely), and I want to some day have a real relationship (and sex) with someone I have all sorts of good feelings for and who also has good feelings for me. Maybe I was born incapable of love? Can people maybe sort of sense this and then they shy away from me? Am I just crazy? Am I overthinking it?

I am definitely not asexual, and if I say so myself, I am awesome, and I am mostly very happy with my awesome life. I am getting therapy, but for other issues, and my therapist didn’t help me much on this front. Hopefully you have some ideas.

(I’m sorry if my English sucks, I`m from Brazil and it is not my mother language).

Thanks in advance,

Loveless Robot

Dear Loveless Robot,

Your English is great.

You are overthinking it.

And there’s no need to administer the Voight-Kampff test. There’s nothing wrong with you.

Tiffany holiday ad of young, white, wealthy, heterosexual couple romantically kissing in a cafe.
“You too can be a thin white wealthy heterosexual couple kissing in a European cafe during the winter’s first snowfall. Step 1: Buy stuff. Step 2: Almost there! Keep buying stuff. Step 3: That didn’t work? Maybe you’d feel better if you bought some stuff!”

When I read your letter, it made me think about religious communities in the Middle Ages. It’s weird to sit in this time of “The Bachelor” and “Say Yes To The Dress” and “Your Wedding: Will It Be Expensive Enough?”-media* and think about a time where it was a fairly mainstream, common choice for people to choose to live in a commune and completely forgo the idea of sex and romantic love in favor of hard work, prayer & meditation, and maybe a shot at learning to read.

Do I think that a lot of the writing about experiencing the “ecstasy of the Divine during prayer” sounds suspiciously like “the day I discovered my clitoris/learned that Sister Agatha has magic hands made strong by pious labor?” Yes. Yes I do. People are people. In fact I wonder how many LGBT people who didn’t know how to label what they felt looked at the prospect of religious life and thought “Sign me up!”

I’m not saying “Get thee to a nunnery.”** I’m not saying that people never fell in love or felt those things or that those feelings aren’t real when we do have them, but the way the idea of romantic love is threaded so deeply into our cultural narratives is relatively new for humans. And since those narratives are so prevalent in media (and used so often to sell us things), that it’s not a surprise that you’d feel not-quite-normal if you didn’t experience what you’re being sold. It’s designed to make you abnormal and unsatisfied if you don’t conform, so that you’ll be motivated to buy stuff.***

So here’s my advice:

  • Date/sleep with people if you like them and want to. Enjoy yourself.
  • Be kind and respectful and the kind of partner you want other people to be for you.
  • Be open to the possibility of deeper feelings developing.
  • Be honest and don’t push yourself to feel stuff you don’t feel.
  • Probably at some point someone is going to have deeper feelings for you than you have for them. You’re going to wish you could return the feelings and feel weird and guilty that you can’t, but that’s not because you’re a robot. That happens all the time to everyone because even people who know that they can fall in love don’t do it in some magic, simultaneous, automatically-reciprocated way.
  • Since you have a therapist, talk this stuff over if you feel like it. They are good at providing reality checks and reminding you to be kind and gentle with yourself.

But my big piece of advice is this:

Keep right on being an awesome person with an awesome life. Focus on finding something you want to do with your life and becoming great at it. Pour your love into your family and friends. Travel. Read voraciously. Learn everything you can about the world. Make your body a source of pleasure and joy, whatever that means for you – eating delicious food, finding exercise you like, dancing, and touching other people when and if it makes you feel good. Pour love and care into yourself, and then pour it out around you into the world as you work to make it a better place.

I think that (probably)(eventually)(after many false-starts and disappointments and fun, sexy experiences) love will find you, and you’ll know it when you see it. But maybe it won’t, in which case, good thing you’ve got that awesome life going on.

*Is Brazilian media as obsessed with weddings as the US, I wonder? Because we are seriously drowning in it.
**Hamlet is probably using “nunnery” as an ironic substitution for “brothel.”  He’s bad at revenge, but great at irony.
***Book/film recommendation: Ways of Seeing, by John Berger.

48 thoughts on “#263: I worry that I might not be able to have romantic feelings for people. Am I a robot?

  1. LW, perhaps you may find it helpful to consider the label aromantic. I gather that a lot of aromantic people are also asexual, but not all. I’m not saying that is definitely what you are, but maybe finding out more about how some people experience aromanticity might help you clarify your thoughts?

    I know I’m most definitely not asexual, but I find asexual/aromantic thinking and critiques of sexual/romantic culture to be very helpful to me in defining my not-always-conventional approach to friendships and relationships.

  2. i always enjoyed kissing boys. it was cool. but i never got all the fuss and muss. then i met theLeon. THEN i understood all the fuss and muss. ymmv. the end.

  3. The Captain’s advice is great. Speaking as someone who’s in her late twenties and hasn’t found or felt romantic love, I feel confident in saying it doesn’t mean you’re broken or robotic. Maybe it means you’re selective! Or haven’t found that right combination of traits in someone that gets you going! Maybe you’re just going at your own pace which is a little slower than what is touted as ‘the norm’. Or maybe you’ve just got other things to focus on that are higher on the priority list. Whatever the case, you sound like a cool person, and I can only advise that you keep that up. More awesome things come to you when you’re knee-deep in doing the things that suit you best.

  4. This may come off wrong, but has LW considered the possibility that she is gay? If she’s focussed a lot on dating men and how she’s supposed to have romance feelings for them, she might not recognize romance feelings for women, because that’s not the ideal she’s looking for.

        1. If it helps, it’s not just you. I mostly came to the comment section to point out that being aromantic or demiromantic is a possibility even if LW’s not asexual, and that there’s nothing wrong with her if one of those turns out to be the case.

          1. There is certainly nothing wrong with being any or all of these things! ^_^

    1. I had the same thought (and hesitated to say it, for the same reason you mention). A friend of mine told me how, for the longest time, she thought she was somehow unable to fall in love, because she just never seemed to feel that way about boys. Then she realized that she’d been in love several times, but the feelings hadn’t registered as “being in love” because she’d always thought she was straight.

      This doesn’t mean it’s the same way for the LW, of course. In any case, everything the Captain said. Especially this: “There’s nothing wrong with you.”

      (And, okay, especially this *also*, because I love it: “Pour love and care into yourself, and then pour it out around you into the world as you work to make it a better place.”)

  5. Yes to all this! You might also want to be open to the possibility that you might be more inclined to feel romantic-y towards kinds of people people other than the kind of people you expect to feel romantic-y towards.

    I’d always just assumed I was a cold fish or picky or both until I realized oh hey, gay is not only a thing, but a thing that I personally could be.

    Also, some people are slow starters on romantic feelings – they need to really like someone a ton as friends, find them abstractly attractive, and let the possibility roll around a long time in their brains before it turns into actual feelings. It’s okay to not go around falling in love with people at the drop of a hat! Your feelings are allowed to work on their own timeline.

  6. LW, while you say you don’t identify as asexual, the terminology that I found really helpful from the asexual community was actually the romantic/aromantic distinction. I’ve started describing my current state as “heterosexual aromantic” because while I have pantsfeelings around men those haven’t been accompanied by heartfeelings.

    There are so many ways to be and feel and experience love and partnership and sexytimes. None of your experiences are wrong! They are how you feel, and as long as you’re happy, you are doing everything right. Also, people change–the me I was at 23 and the me I am now are two different people with different expectations of love and romance. You can spend the next ten, twenty, thirty years being an awesome person and having a great time, and then whether or not you also find romance and true love is a side issue that doesn’t stop you from being awesome.

    However, I do want to throw one thing out there, and that is if you’re truly unhappy with the way your body and brain are behaving and it’s not just a vague unease that you’re not living up to some ill-defined expectations of society, it might be worth talking to your doctor, because low libido is a potential symptom of other things. Not always, I emphasize! But if you are taking any kind of medication, that can change how your body and emotions work in regards to other people. I want to emphasize that I do NOT want to make it seem like “not feeling it” is a medical condition, because it is not! But a checkup might be able to set your mind at ease about some possible causes.

  7. I didn’t have sexual or romantic feelings that I
    recognized as such until I was 16, and I remember feeling incredibly weird about it. So many social activities with my female friends starting at probably 11 involved talking about crushes, and I either had to make something up, or feel left out.

    In retrospect, there were a few instances that felt something like a crush but I never would have thought to label them as such, because they were on women. I’m not gay, I’m bi and my first crush-turned-relationship was with a man.

    I have since figured out a number of things about myself. For one, I’m not prone to
    developing crushes on people I don’t know at all. There are two times in my memory where there have been very early sparks with people, but it’s a lot easier for me to develop feelings for someone who is already a friend. This isn’t that strange, but I do have both male and
    female friends that are constantly crushing on some new person, and that doesn’t happen to me. For two, when I do have strong physical attractions to people I don’t know, it’s more often women than men. Women turn my head on the street more, I guess. Which means that even if I do develop superficial, mild crushes on random people based mostly on physical attraction, they are more likely to be women.

    I say all that not because it applies to you, but to say that all sorts of things can make us feel
    not normal about romance/love/relationships/sex
    when they really shouldn’t. I had my ‘first love’
    at 16, and it was a very normative sort of relationship, but at the time I felt very weird/defective for not having any romantic experience at all by then. Now my romantic life is more atypical. I’m poly and I have both a boyfriend and a girlfriend, and the boyfriend started out as a FWB situation and still isn’t meant to be long term. And yet, I feel way my normal/ok about my romantic/sexual self now, because I’ve figured out what I actually like and what works for me.

    So… Sorry for the longwindedness.
    1) You aren’t ‘not normal’. You may not be average, but there isn’t anything wrong with you. And you haven’t missed out on a damn thing–teenage relationships can be fun, but they can also totally suck, and you are just as likely to come away from them with bad habits as you are to come away having learned something super valuable. And virtually no one ends up with people they met/dated very young.
    2. Don’t worry about normal. Figure out what you like and what makes you happy. And take your time–like the Captain said, don’t force anything. Because there is no rush.

    1. Woah, me too! I mean, me to re: being confused about being bi (I think? Still a little confused actually) and not getting crushes on people I don’t know, and being more frequently (but still rarely) attracted to people I don’t know when those people are women.

      High five!

      1. Augh augh augh the typo burns, it burns my eyes and I can’t fix it. Sorry guys.


  8. Whatever you do, don’t let people (family, friends, Hollywood movie characters) pressure you into something that doesn’t feel right to you. Don’t let them convince you that you’re not normal simply because you haven’t fallen in love, or to fake it or something. Love life, live well; as long as you’re not going around deliberately hurting people, you’re free to do whatever it is you’d like and feel what you feel. I’m saying this because in addition to general cultural messages about romantic love there are too many people out there who aren’t satisfied until they have you living (or mimicking) a version of what they feel is a “good normal life.”

  9. At 23, not knowing if you’re “normal” IS normal. What comes in the next decade, so far as I can tell, if you’re lucky, is figuring out what is right for you and what makes your life work for you. It’s figuring out your version of normal and not caring so much if it’s the “right” version of “normal.” When you know what you want, you can work on getting yourself there, and so few people know what they want when they are 23.

    Are you happy or content? If not, is it because you feel that you’re honestly missing something? Or is it because you aren’t doing what you feel you should be doing? Is your life not matching up to what you want or not matching up to what you see other people wanting? Because I can’t tell from your letter.

    If you’re awesome and you’re feeling your own awesomeness, frak what anyone else thinks.

    1. This, in addition to the captains advice, is so true and awesome. I think what the captain illustrates for the LW above is actually great life advice for everyone. Keep being your awesome self LW!

    2. Totally seconding this. The human brain is still actively developing up until the early 20s. Who you are and will be is not limited or defined by who you have been.

      When you say that you felt nothing, do you literally mean nothing at all, or do you mean “not what you expected to feel”? Both of those things are okay, but they’re pretty different. In either case, it’s worth talking over with your therapist — not because it’s an inherently wrong way to be, but because it’s making you unhappy. There are lots of ridiculous messages out there about what romantic love is. I’ve never experienced the hearts and flowers sudden realization, and I’ve been very happily married for 7 years. For me, it’s been more like “I really enjoy your company and also I’d like to make out with you.”

      The fact that you have a best friend says to me that you’re plenty capable of love. You feel what you feel, and there’s nothing wrong with you.

  10. LW, as the Captain said, there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re not broken. I want to reiterate that even if you never do feel “Romantic Feelings,” you would not be alone. Even though you say you’re not “asexual” I would encourage you to look at the AVENwiki or forums, if you haven’t, because there is a growing community of people who do not experience typical or frequent sexual attraction to other people, and that is where they hang out on the internet and come up with new words to describe what they do feel. One of the things you say here, about “asking someone out even if I`m not feeling it in the hopes that I eventually will, because they are nice and handsome and I like talking to them” is actually quite normal for a subset of the asexual community – people who feel this way sometimes choose to call themselves “demisexual”.

    But anyway – you are not broken, LW, or even all that strange, and maybe just haven’t met the right kind of person for you yet. Best of luck to you regardless!

  11. My brother and I were both asexual until into our twenties, and had very little interest in dating. Then we each met the right person for us, developed heartfeelings, and within a few months of dating developed pantsfeelings for the first time too. Your experience may or may not be similar – my point is that the way you feel about other people can change pretty drastically in your twenties, and sometimes things are dormant well past the age the media tells us is ‘normal’. And as others have said, being differently romantic is a-okay and not a bad way to live at all. I’m not at all sad that I skipped the whole teenage dating scene, and neither is my brother.

  12. LW, the Captain and the commenters above all offer excellent advice that I encourage you to take.

    You talk about worrying if you’re a robot because you haven’t had romantic love feelings, but you don’t mention your relationships with your family or friends. Now obviously I don’t know you, but I bet there’s someone (or several someones!) in your life that you love, albeit in a way that is not accompanied by pantsfeelings. Modern society has a really unfortunate tendency to put romantic love on a pedestal above any form of love, and it’s really a bummer. Loving friends is important. Loving your family (whether by birth or by choice) is important. Those are amazing sources of light and support and joy and connection in your life that I think we have a tendency to under-value in comparison to romantic love. Unless you feel like there’s some larger inability on your part to care about and connect with other people period that’s getting in the way your happiness, it might help you to just try and value and appreciate the relationships you have with people in a plantonic friend way.

    Also, I think popular movies and books and TV shows and all of that stuff can create some weird expectations of what ~being in love~ feels like, so it might be worth spending some time either with a journal or a trusted friend or your therapist unpacking what you think falling in love and being in love are supposed to feel like. Part of what you’re feeling might something you can help just be reframing the way you think about love and romantic relationships.

  13. Jumping in to join the queue of people going “you don’t have to be asexual to have a separate romantic orientation!” I actually am asexual, and it kind of frustrates me how this conflation happens or how the (very useful!) idea of separated romantic vs sexual orientations is sometimes taken to be something “just for asexual people”. If you find the concepts useful, use them! We will not hunt you down with pitchforks, promise.

    Honestly? Your letter kind of breaks my heart, because it’s so familiar and is something I’ve heard from a lot of people who don’t experience romantic feelings in the normative way. No, LW, not falling in love with people does not make you a robot or a bad person! Society is very prone to telling us that you have to experience romantic love in order to be a real human being and if you don’t you’re a robot/probably a serial killer/doomed to die alone eaten by cats, but that is wrong and a shitty nasty thing to promote and I insert a fistshake of rage here! You can be a happy, complete, fulfilled person and never “fall in love” or date or experience the desire to. And one of the quickest ways of making yourself miserable is trying to force yourself to experience emotions that aren’t there or want things you don’t really, or to spend life in a perpetual holding pattern waiting for “those feelings everyone experiences” to crop up. (I have… been here with sexuality, and would probably have been here with romance if I hadn’t got burned badly when it happened with sexuality, so I really feel for you. :()

    CA’s advice is awesome! I would also give you this advice: think about what it is you want in terms of relationships (and I don’t just mean romantic, here). Not what you’re supposed to want, not what everyone tells you you want, but what *you* want. Take the bits of things that add up to “romantic relationship” in your head and look at them and work out what works for you and what doesn’t. That can be very confusing, and might take you a long time to figure out, but if you do work something out it’ll be worth it. Maybe you *do* want an intimate relationship along those lines, but the “dating” framework doesn’t work for you and leaves you feeling alienated and cold. Maybe you actually don’t and are totally happy with friends + family except that you feel as though you have to want romance as well because [insert societal bullshit involving robots here]. Maybe something completely different! There are many, many ways of doing relationships out there. Some of them will work for you. Mainstream dating may not.

    On that note: Use “aromantic” if it’s useful for you! But you don’t have to. For instance, when working through the “what sort of relationships do I want?” question I figured out that the aromantic-vs-romantic distinction doesn’t work for me at all, because I just can’t work out where the line between romance and friendship is drawn – that way of categorising relationships just doesn’t work for me. Now I just ignore the whole question in favour of going “I want a relationship entailing XYZ” instead, and if anyone asks I have a romantic orientation of divide by cucumber.

    On the holding pattern thing: I am a great fan of working with you and your emotions and thoughts and wants where they are right now instead of waiting for future developments. Sure, maybe one day you’ll experience romantic love… but the important thing is that you’re not experiencing it *now*, so go with that and form the relationships you want *now*. It is so very easy to slip into “I’ll feel this any day now! I know it!” type thinking, especially because everyone and their mother will insist on pressuring you that way, but constantly waiting is no way to live – and it may mean that you miss opportunities to get what it is you want right now in favour of looking for the feelings that you’re “supposed” to feel.

    As a final note: seriously, again, even if you never, ever fall in love with anyone at all, you are not an unfeeling robot or a bad person or anything like that and fuck anyone who would ever claim otherwise.

  14. I didn’t find my sexuality until my early 20s because there’s a wide mismatch between who is “hot” and who is “handsome” to me. Once I found “hot” I discovered I could create some visual appreciation for him, and I could tune my sense of “handsome” a bit towards my real preference, although most of my turn-on is still in the tactile realm.

  15. Even if you are a robot, it’s okay! Robots are awesome people! And robots can have friends too!

    Also, that magical feeling that fills you up and tells you this is all you want in the world and you never think about anything else and are happy forever? Doesn’t exist (probably). See also: orgasm fireworks and rainbows (unless you hallucinate), and your one and only true love. Love seems to be friendship and pantsfeelings and lots and lots of hugs. Sometimes there’s a squishy feeling too, but that’s mostly warmfuzzies from the hug. (Then again, I’m 19 and really like hugs, so maybe there is more)

    So yeah, focus on being awesome, don’t expect magic, and be grateful you’ve never Firthed anyone in the name of love ><

  16. Maybe you’re a late bloomer like me, LW. Or maybe you fall in love more slowly, unlike me but like other people (as expressed above).

    It took me until, well, five months ago to know the difference between lusty crushes and actual feelings. Then it took me until three months ago to be able to really recognize when the feeling was there, and that it was not as hard to find as I thought — that is, there is no “One,” but actually a lot of “my people” out there. And I’m one of those lucky ones that knows almost immediately when someone is important to me, and that includes friends as well as potential romantic people, thanks to a tricky, hard-to-find feeling of “connection.”* At this rate, though, it’ll probably take me until the latter half of 22 to recognize that “nothing good gets away” and to STOP. OVER. THINKING. IT.

    *The best ways I can describe connection are (lists are awesome, as Captain Awkward shows):
    1. You can’t say the wrong thing to the right person. You feel safe in expressing yourself from everything to your taste in movies to insecurity in a relationship. A “When can we talk? I miss you!” is an expression of love, rather than resentment, and will be met in kind. Otherwise, that person is not right for you because they don’t care about your hurt feelings. You will move on.
    2. You feel better with them than you do alone. Why would you be with that someone otherwise?
    3. Even if the feelings feel unbalanced at first, if the other person (whether it’s you or them) is willing to try, that is important too. If they are not willing to try, then, it’ll be hard, but you will move on. People will tell you to move on, but I’ve found it can happen naturally anyway, like when you were crazy obsessed with Harry Potter and then one day you just weren’t because you had other things to do.

    That’s all I got. And to be honest, I’m still working on all of these. Good luck, LW, and thanks for your letter, because I learned from it too.

  17. LW, I predict many well-meaning people in your life making comments like “Are you seeing anyone?” or “Any new men in your life?” and I imagine that such questions may make you feel… awkward? uncomfortable? angry?

    I thought I’d give you a little bit of advice, courtesy of the ever awesome Miss Manners, on navigating such rude bears.
    Q: Are you seeing anyone?
    A: Oh yes [sly smile] many people (after all… you do see people every day? Friends, coworkers, waiters?)
    Q: Really?????? DETAILS PLEASE!
    A: Ohhhh… nothing serious, I’ll let you know when it’s worth talking about [giggle]

    1. Oh God yes, these well-meaning people (i.e. my family) can really get on my nerves… I mean, when it’s your close family asking this, what can you say? If I had a SO I’d certainly tell them, like I tell them about my friends!

      Some day, I should answer : “Oh, I’m sorry, I am actually seeing someone, for like 6 months now, I just forgot to tell you! It just skipped my mind, you know?”

      1. I promise you, tell your mom about one (made up) one night stand, all the gory details, and she will stop. (okay… tongue in cheek, but family doesn’t REALLY want all the details, being vague and mysterious will usually work, you’ll just have to repeat steps 3 & 4 several times with slightly different wording)

        1. Not sure I’d be able to keep lying after 3 or 4 times. After all, my family would really want to know if that one night stand developed into a relationship (isn’t it what always happens in the movies?). And I’m just not that good at lying.

  18. LW,
    As a general rule I kind of always (especially growing up) felt similarly to you. I didn’t like boys, didn’t want to be touched, didn’t like girls either, I thought the whole idea of sex was weird and pointless.

    I thought love was stupid, mostly because I never felt it. Really, as I found out later, I had very high standards for the kind of relationship I wanted. Along with a mix of family related abuse that played into my fear of intimacy. You say you came close with a friend. Maybe it is possible your problem with feeling “romance” lies in a comfort level standard. That perhaps for you/your brain to feel “romantic” or truly attracted to someone you have to first be very close with them.

    I usually only dated people because they liked me for the longest time. I never crushed on anyone ever, unless I was “faking it” in high school to show my friends that I could also draw hearts all over my books.

    It wasn’t until very, very, very recently that I felt that school crush feeling (I’m 25 now), that excitement of flirting, of worrying if a guy likes me or not. And that I actually enjoyed sex with someone and didn’t just lay there with a half smile on my face a la Amelie (the French movie). Needless to say there was a lot of faking up until now, and a lot of loving because I was loved. But not a lot of me having those feelings first. So I discovered my problem was the fact that I never met anyone I felt was worth it, or anyone who lived up to my ideals until now.

    It took some writing therapy for me to kind of figure out what I wanted. I just wrote, a lot, and the symbolism was kind of in the fiction. When others would look at my work they would tell me it sounded like there was this, this, and this kind of theme. And a lot of it had to do with being unsure of myself, unsure of others, had high standards, etc.

    So perhaps, as CA suggested therapy might be a useful tool for you.
    Good luck in figuring it out, and your english is really good actually…so no worries. 🙂

  19. Oh LW! This was seriously me less than a year ago. I was 24 and up until that point had NOTHING in terms of crushes/love/pantsfeelings and was seriously starting to consider if there was something wrong with me (am I too TERRIFINGLY AMAZING for people? Or am I simply incapable of having those feelings myself?). It bummed me out of course (why am I not NORMAL?!), but as the good Captain recommended I focused on myself and developing awesome friendships.

    I did eventually meet someone, however it wasn’t the grand LOVEFEELING…it was more of “Hey, you’re fun to hang out with…also, can I take your pants off?”

    Don’t worry about Commercial Love(TM), just focus on you and having fun! Pick up watercolors! Indulge yourself on Chinese food with a good friend! Things will happen eventually, so rather than agonize over it, have a blast with yourself and life.

  20. Seeing this letter made me realize I felt similarly until my mid twenties about relationships and sex; basically they left me cold. I never thought of this as a problem however, although sometimes I felt weird to not be all crush crush crush and loooooove like my friends.

    Honestly, my friends seemed kind of miserable and crazy when they were in love at those younger ages. I also didn’t see the point of trying to build a romantic relationship based on the idea that we’d be together forever at age 20. I’m all about the statistics and my mom reinforced the idea of not taking young love all too seriously so my family of orgin didn’t make it weird for me. Instead I worked really hard at school, occasionally dated romantics who pursued me and were crushed when I ruined our love by breaking up with them after a month (this did not make romance seem more attractive) and generally did my awesome.

    Honestly, I’ve only recently figured out how to lust after a body, and I still don’t respond that way very often. And I did fall in love once eventually (and hadn’t developed many emotional coping skills for that event, so I didn’t experience it as buuuuutterfliez and rainbows!). But it took about a year of a relationship with a dude I liked and regular sex. Speaking of sex? All those hormones and cuddling did help with romantic feelings. For me, I have to like you and sex you for a while before I feel romantic towards you.

    Again I’ve never even conceived of this as a thing or a problem. In fact, if I think of it all my usual tact is to think that i found a superior methodology! I think the cultural narrative that there is one way to fall in love and you do it fast and often and young is pretty monolithic. But I actually think the cultural Dating and Romance scripts kind of suck for all involved, so I’m happy not to participate in them “normally.”

    Give it time. Definitely ask out anyone you might have pre-feelings for and try out some different people and things and experiences, if it’s fun. Tell potential beaus if it gets to Emotional Talk time that you’d rather take it slow and be respectful the other persons needs. Don’t try to make Feelings occur. You’ll figure out how you work eventually so you should focus on having fun while doing it!

  21. LW, I agree with the Captain’s response and pretty much all the comments. I can’t take as much time as I would like to read the comments but, skimming them, I didn’t see this thought and I just wanted to add it on to everything else:

    In my experience, love and romance and sexuality and all that inter-related-but-not-the-same-stuff are like wild creatures. They’re shy and elusive and they only like to come out when you’re not paying attention. The more you want to see one in your life or the more you worry about why they’re not there, the less likely they’ll show. In fact I think that the more you want them to show up the more they rebel in their distinct absence. Or you–not “you” personally but “you” generally–get something that doesn’t work out well because you tried to shepherd into being something that wasn’t really a good fit for you.

    You can create good conditions for these creatures to appear–to continue the analogy, we could call it habitat; for example, if you meet people you are more likely to meet someone that you like; if you hide away it makes it hard for love to come into your life. But after doing so, you really have to just go about your business and forget about them to the best of your ability.

    It’s not always easy (and it’s kind of obnoxious advice, as when someone tells you “think about anything else, but don’t think about an elephant!”) but I think it really helps to just let go as much as one is able.

    And I think that is in large part why everyone recommends to just forget about it and focus on making your life awesome. It’s not just that it is good to be awesome (it is!) and that time will bring change (it will) and that getting older helps (oh god it does) but there’s something about turning your attention away from these things that actually gives them space or permission to come into your life.

    It’s possible you’re asexual or aromantic or gay or there’s something else that is getting in the way of things clicking for you. All of those things are totally fine and you will be okay no matter how it shakes out. I think giving it all space not only lets these things take root but also helps give them a way to take shape in an unexpected direction, and for you to see how life might be equally full if they don’t come to pass in the way you thought they might.

    Best wishes to you, LW!

  22. Hi LW!

    I see excellent advice from the Captain and commenters, as usual =) I wanted to add a couple of things.

    One of the things you asked was, “Is it wrong to ask someone out even if I`m not feeling it in the hopes that I eventually will, because they are nice and handsome and I like talking to them?” That question reminded me of the questions I was asking, constantly, when I was in my late teens/early twenties and somewhat desperately trying to figure out my sexuality. (I never really did, but later I stopped worrying about it so much.) I went to this Queer and Questioning drop-in counselling group at my university, and when I asked that question, the counsellor told me that the point of dating is to FIND OUT if you are attracted to someone and want to be in a relationship with that person. It is totally okay to date someone that you are unsure about, because that is how you make up your mind! And going on (a) date(s) does not create or infer any kind of obligation to feel or do actually ANYTHING AT ALL.

    What I am trying to say is, totally go on dates if you are curious about someone, and if you find out that you don’t want to be in a relationship or make out with that person, congratulations! The dating worked! Because you found out what you wanted to find out. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of your feelings, whatever they are.

    Another thing I thought about, which might be helpful to you, is an analogy based on this excellent opinion piece: http://thehairpin.com/2012/04/on-the-happiness-of-procreation

    The writer there is talking about how her feelings as a mother are different than the romanticised ideal of motherhood, and I think it can be extended to romance/pantsfeelings as well. Consumer culture has a lot invested in getting us all to believe that there’s only one way to be in love, which none of us can ever measure up to, so that we can be persuaded to buy stuff in an attempt to get closer to that impossible ideal.

    The salient point there is that NONE of us EVER measure up to that ideal. You don’t have to either =)

  23. I had boyfriends, but I didn’t get my first adult crush until I was 29. I used to call myself the destruct-o-bot, because my relationships all went cold and I got bored with the fellow, no matter how I tried to logic myself into loving him. I always did the dumping. I thought maybe I was asexual. Having a crush made an amazing difference, like seeing the world in color, and it really knocked me for a loop as I thought the object of my crush was unsuitable. Don’t be too hard on yourself right now. I think it’s a matter of a person being in the right place emotionally, combined with having a compatible person wander into their life. It’s worth waiting for. My best advice is to use this time to enrich yourself, and get in tune with your inner feelings. Listen to yourself.

    Had to wait a few years but I’m dating my crush now. It’s awesome. He’s awesome.

    1. I was like this as well. I would start relationships with people I thought were interesting but then go cold very quickly. I also always did the dumping, and I thought this meant that I was just not putting enough effort into the relationship. So in my mid 20s I had just started a new relationship and I decided that I was not going to walk away this time but stay and Make It Work. This was one of the reasons why I stayed in a relationship that was very bad for me for way too long (years!).

      Thanks to getting older, becoming happier with myself and to this blog I learnt that healthy relationships do not require superhuman amounts of effort. What I want to say to the letter writer is that sometimes you may not be at a point in your life where you have the energy for romantic feelings, you may not feel comfortable enough with yourself to have romantic feelings or you may not have met people that you can have romantic feelings for yet. All of that is totally fine! But please don’t force yourself to feel things, or force yourself into situations when you don’t really want to be there.

      1. Ha! I did exactly the same thing for very similar reasons and right around the same age with pretty much the same outcome. I was 27 and had been celibate for a couple of years and my hormones were crying out for sexytimes. I met someone, the sex was good, etc. Actually, having sex again was good but I conflated that with my partner was good at sex. I tried to break it off around 1 year later but the crying and puppy dog face and me deciding it was time for me to grow up and stop running away from commitment led to another 6 years.

        Definitely don’t go through with whatever when you’re just not feeling it. Ignore the rationales of I made a commitment, or love can overcome, or this is what I should be doing/experiencing at this age (because everyone else has), or whatever. Anyone can make a mistake, but insisting on seeing it through to the bitter, bitter end instead of changing your mind and getting out of it is ultimately a far worse and more damaging mistake that often goes unrecognized.

        1. “Anyone can make a mistake, but insisting on seeing it through to the bitter, bitter end instead of changing your mind and getting out of it is ultimately a far worse and more damaging mistake”

          I wish someone had told me this at the time! I thought I was being so sensible and rational.
          It’s actually really reassuring to know I’m not the only person to have fallen into this hole, although I’m sorry that it happened to you too.

          I also agree with you that ‘love can overcome anything’ can be a really damaging sentiment.

  24. I so know how you are feeling! I never thought I’d feel anything either, and I was 26. I am a writer and always wrote about relationships and stuff, but from the same perspective as someone writing about life as a Roman soldier or an alien colonist. Then I met Mr. T and everything just… clicked. I wrote about it on my blog. Here’s an excerpt of the conversation I had with him the first time I really felt:

    “In my stories, I’m… My characters are creative, outgoing, passionate individuals. But I’ve always been… dispassionate, introverted, fearful… And, and it is more than that. My mom, she’s passionate, but everyone else… you’ve met my grandma, she’s anti-passion. And my biological father was cold and my real dad messed himself up so much with drugs that who knows if he ever has emotions and even my brother, he’s passionate, but it is like flash paper, all spark, no substance… no longevity… and I was always afraid that I was going to be… that I was deluding myself and it was all fantasy and I was nothing like my stories and never would be… And then Friday happened and I felt, more strongly and passionately than I ever imagined I could and I just want to say… Thank you. Thank you for letting me experience that. For letting me learn that I could feel like that.”

  25. “Pour love and care into yourself, and then pour it out around you into the world as you work to make it a better place.”

    This, this, a thousand times this! I am way over on the romantic end of the spectrum, but not having found the right partner for a romantic relationship for a long time, there was a point where I wondered if I could have a fulfilling life without a serious romantic relationship. By essentially practicing what the Captain preaches in that quote, I have discovered that even for hopeless romantics like me life can be fulfilling and joyful and amazing without a romantic partner. Sure, I still wish I had romantic love in my life at the moment (and throw the occasional pity party about it), but my life is still fabulous, and I won’t let being single keep me from recognizing that.

    1. Isn’t that line great? I mean, I’m a married broad not looking for love, and just plucking that phrase out fills me with joy. WHY ARE WE NOT ALL DOING THIS? Who cares if you’re gay/straight/a-whatever, it don’t even matter. If everyone did this, how awesome would we all be, you know?

  26. Hey LW, I just wanted to reassure you, like others did before, that the absence of crushy feelings doesn’t make you a robot. I’ve had crushes last for way longer than what could be considered remotely healthy, and I felt weird about it. So, insecurities about dating : we all have them in your youth! (and when we’re older too, I guess, but I wouldn’t know that yet)

    Do go on dates with people you find awesome and whose company you enjoy. After all, dating is about finding out if you really like the other person! And if you don’t, it’s OK. Being single can be fantastic too! ( I remembered an essay by Greta Christina which you can find here : http://www.gretachristina.com/beingsingle.html . She explains why she liked being single, what were her doubts about it, and the shitloads of societal pressure for women not to remain single)

    BTW, I was raised in Brazil too! Rio de Janeiro, actually. And yes, Brazilian media is really terrible about weddings. We have all those football (sorry, soccer) players and soap opera actors and actresses to gossip about. And don’t get me started on the coverage of Kate/Williams wedding. (Though I guess it was annoying in pretty much all of the world)

  27. LW here!
    Thank you all very much for the amazing advice! I’ve read all the comments and wish I could respond to each and every one. I can’t begin to say how relieved this made me. When I read the Captain’s response and the comments, I laughed and cried at the same time (I was at work and wearing a lot of makeup, so yeah, thankfully people are really cool there!). I didn’t even know I felt SO bothered about it until I felt the relief. So THANKS!! You are all wonderful.
    To answer a few things specifically:
    I have considered the possibility of being gay, but I don’t really think that’s it. I’m not feeling it for women, too. It’s still a possibility, but I’m pretty sure I’m mostly straight…
    I guess part of what I’m feeling about this is because ALL ten or more of my closest friends are in relationships right now. GOOD relationships. And so I feel like I’m missing something. I’m really not hoping for “The One”, but really, as someone above described it: “Love seems to be friendship and pantsfeelings and lots and lots of hugs” – That’s mostly what I expect: Great company and makeouts and later maybe special feelings? Those things never seem to combine, though…
    I am still hopeful about it! Maybe I am a late bloomer, maybe it takes some time for my feelings to develop, maybe I just haven’t met anyone who felt right, but I guess I have no way of knowing until and if it happens. In any case, I believe I must have a great life for myself, and for that I don’t really need a relationship. I want to be independent and happy and kind and friendly even if no one ever shows up. But sometimes it gets lonely, and I start to wonder if there really is something wrong with me, since everyone seems so open and loving, and maybe I am doing something wrong, etc etc.So thank you Captain and Commenters for making me feel ok, and reminding me of what really is important and that love is not only about romance.
    I guess I’ll just live and see, and have a blast while doing it!

    Also, about brazilian media. I don’t really know. I think they might be less obsessed, but not by much. May was “bride month” here, but I don’t think it was a big deal (I don’t watch a lot of tv). Valentine’s day is coming up, though, and everyone seems very excited about it. Need to buy more stuff, right? 😀
    (for us “Valentine’s day” is on june 12, St. Anthony’s day, since he’s the saint patron of… marriages? I’m not catholic, so I’m not sure. All I know is that girls would put the saint’s figurine upside down and threaten -?- him until they found a husband. Maybe I should try that, seems fun!)

    1. Actually, Saint Anthony is usually the patron saint of missing or lost items. Maybe it’s a “Saint Anthony, help me find a husband” in place of the more common “Saint Anthony, help me find my keys.”

  28. It’s always nice to know that other people don’t fit the mold. Me, I turn 23 in a month, I haven’t had a relationship — at all — or sex — at all — yet. Kinda freaked me out for a while when I was a teenager, ’cause I was totally and robotically uninterested in relationships. Nowadays, I can’t say I mind. I know myself better these days, and am quite prepared to chill and be awesome and take what comes when it comes.

    (Hopefully what comes comes in a Joseph Gordon-Levitt -shaped package, though. Just saying.)

  29. Nope, prayers and clitorises give completely different ecstasies. They’re both fun, though.

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