Advice

Miss Information: I’m developing a fear of intimacy, and I don’t know how to stop it.

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I'm developing a fear of intimacy, and I don't know how to stop it.

Have a question? Email missinfo@nerve.com. Letters may be edited for length, content, and clarity.

Dear Miss Information,

I haven't dated for three years now. While many find college the time to party, mess around, and generally have the "best time of their life," I enrolled in a private Christian college and focused on school work and spiritual growth. I was still a social butterfly, meeting new people left and right. Many were girls that I would have liked to date. Notice that I said "would have," because I never got with any of them — and probably have dragged myself into the "friendship zone" with most. I don't know why, but I've somehow become afraid of being in a relationship.
 
I work as a bartender/cocktail waiter at the moment, since, after all, I enjoy being a "people" person. A few nights ago, a customer asked if I was "interested" in guys, and, being a Christian and slightly homophobic, I should have answered straight away without hesitation. Instead, I stood there frozen, and many thoughts ran through my mind, including one that basically screamed at me: "Admit it, you're gay."
 
Ever since then, I've been wracking my brain as to why I am having these problems, but so far I haven't figured it out. So I decided to write to you, hoping that I can get some advice or even just an idea as to where to start. I am quite certain of my own sexuality, as I believe God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. But why am I starting to fear growing attached to people, either romantically or just as friends? I haven't talked to anybody about this, and it's gotten bottled up. This is the first time I've put it to paper.

Neither Adam Nor Steve

Dear Neither Adam,

Religion is at its best when it helps people make sense of a darkly absurd world. It's at its worst when it creates judgment and intensifies divisions. Your offhanded comment, "I'm a Christian, therefore I am homophobic," is so backwards that God created me a headache. Here's a shocking fact: plenty of good Christians are gay. Even more are open and loving toward all of their peers, regardless of their sexualities. And those people of any faith who aren't open and loving? They're not doing it right.

I grew up Southern enough to know that I'm not going to sway your beliefs. It's also not my place. I'm fine with you believing a Kraft Single created the Earth and will teleport the Believers into Patrick Duffy's living room, if that's your thing. But I get less tolerant when your faith prevents you from being loving toward other people or kind to yourself. It seems like, here, the religious environments you're in are creating some strictures.

I surmise that, if you're dropping the catchphrase "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" into casual conversation, you're probably not in a sex-positive environment. That may be part of the problem. Keep your faith, but be discerning about who you let influence it. Even the most conservative of religions will have a few renegades who preach love, not punishment. Seek out those people, or even consider sampling input from other denominations. Opening up your definition of sexuality is a great start, but to get to the bottom of your intimacy issues, a therapist or counselor can do wonders. Above all, bear in mind that questioning your sexuality does not mean that you're weak. It just means that you're more aware.

In short, Neither Adam, you're allowed to kiss boys, you're allowed to kiss girls, but you're not allowed to scorn other people for whom they kiss. If you believe in a loving God, make yourself in his image.

Dear Miss Info,

I am a female who likes her male friend. We've been friends for about eight years; we're now in our twenties. I never had feelings like this until the last couple of years. When we were younger he liked me as more than a friend, but I just wasn't seeing it. We now live in different states, but about three years ago we spent three weekends in a row hanging out at his place. We were obviously both into each other, but it stayed platonic.

That's when I started liking him, and he stopped liking me as far as I can tell. This guy is very school-focused, and I've never even known him to have a girlfriend. He is always traveling to different places and keeping very busy, but he sends me letters often and keeps up with what I'm doing. Normally, I would say, "Oh, this person really likes me." But when we make plans to hang out — usually him asking me — he flakes! Every time. I haven't seen him in over a year now, because we can't seem to get a solid plan and stick to it. And all this time I'm just sitting here, liking him more and more.

Gobsmacked

Dear Gobsmacked,

Because I believe spite fuels the creative process, I found myself, at 2 a.m., watching Sex and the City, a show I've always hated. In it, the whiny one is agonizing over the "mixed signals" a guy is sending her, and while her friendettes applaud her, the shrill one's boyfriend winces, "With guys, there are no mixed signals." His point is, "If he likes you, he'll put in the work." The ladies all make incredulous faces at each other, and I look down at my half-eaten box of Teddy Grahams and wonder where I went wrong.

My low point is your gain, Gobsmacked, because that poorly scripted dude has a point. I want to modify it a bit, though. There are no mixed signals when somebody knows what they want. When someone is ambivalent, they mix up a storm.

This guy may very well be into you — after all, nobody stays in touch with someone they don't like — but he's not willing to make you a priority. That's the part worth paying attention to, because it makes him an unworthy subject on which to pin your hopes. In a battle royale between hiking the Andes and meeting you for coffee, he chooses hiking the Andes — which is absolutely his right, but unfair if he promises you otherwise. So, while he's out skydiving and painting portraits with fresh guavas, reconsider the place he has in your life. If he doesn't put the effort into you, don't put so much stock into him.