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What Is Love-Shyness?

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Love-shyness is a chronic shyness in which a person becomes extremely anxious and unable to function normally when confronted with any type of interaction with the gender to which he or she is attracted. The anxiety is so severe that it inhibits normal social interaction, and some even go as far as to say that it is a type of social phobia. Love-shyness can happen to both genders and all sexualities, but is most predominant with heterosexual males. There are several factors that psychologists believe contribute to this shyness.

The term “love-shyness” was coined by Brian G. Gilmartin who was the first psychologist to study the phenomenon fully, and as of 2011, he is still the dominating expert on the subject. He describes love-shyness as the incapability for a man to interact with those of the opposite gender for any reason, while still being able to function normally in other aspects of his life. Gilmartin notes that although love-shyness can affect anyone, it is most predominant within heterosexual males. Psychologists believe this may be because of the assertive gender role that men are expected to undertake.

Men who suffer from love-shyness typically have similar backgrounds and personalities. According to Gilmartin’s research, love shy men are usually predisposed to shyness due to biological temperaments in combination with particular nurture and environmental learning experiences. They tend to have had close relationships with their nuclear family, but their relationships with peers were usually stressful and sometimes traumatic.

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Most of these men have had at least one memorable experience with a female at a very young age. Some men remember a good experience with a girl, but the situation did not develop as fully as it could have. Usually, this experience happened in an embarrassing social setting. Almost all of these men have low self-esteem and emotional insecurity due to these experiences.

Gilmartin estimates that 1.5% of the male population in America suffers from love-shyness. He also believes the majority of this group will main recluse for the remainder of their lives. Other psychologists, however, believe that this estimation is overly generous. It is impossible to know how many people are love shy, mainly because it is not something regularly diagnosed by professionals, and most men are not likely to openly admit their shyness. In fact, many psychologists believe love-shyness should not have its own label outside of social anxiety, because it reinforces negative thinking in these men and infers that the condition cannot be managed or cured.

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anon991121
Post 21

I am an 18 year old virgin who used to be love shy but not anymore. I had to learn myself how to be confident and now I can talk to women without a problem. I am no longer desperate since I pleasure myself daily and now I know there is someone waiting for me.

Earbash
Post 19

I am a 69 year old, love shy man who has never had sex or even a girlfriend. Is there any hope left for me or will I die a virgin. I can't even pleasure myself as I am on strong antidepressants. Is there anyone out there of a similar age with the same problem. Sometimes the frustration churns me up. Thanks -- Roy.

anon947030
Post 18

Love-shyness. I have this. I knew of girls who liked me but I could not ask them out because it was frightening to think I could be rejected. I saw a girl at the end of ninth grade and I called her in tenth grade and talked to her, but I was so embarrassed I did that, that I called back the next day to say I was sorry. Well, she pursued me for the next three years as I looked on in fear. I had a fear of losing her when I actually had won her heart. She inspired me. And after 15 years and many failed attempts I finally asked a girl out. So I was a virgin at 33, but now I am married with children. But if I were single again, I might end up alone again because the fear is still there.

anon339769
Post 17

Love-shyness is a tragic condition. I've just turned 40, never had a girlfriend or ever asked anyone out for a date. It hurts every day.

I did once fall for a friend in a big way at university, but stumbled around getting to our first and last kiss, despite her huge efforts to make it easy for me. Just after that, I went all in and suggested that we should be more than friends, which frightened her off and left me with a broken heart and a pain that has lasted 25 years. I didn't get at the time that being ugly and not professionally/genetically up to the standards that she was actually looking for, I didn't actually ever

have a chance with her. Perhaps she was just honing her skills on me, in readiness for a suitable gene and money provider.

I've been asked out numerous times, but I'm so frightened of being judged, I stayed in my comfort zone. One minute I was 15, I thought don't try too hard, give it a month and it'll happen with the right girl. I blinked and now I'm 40. It feels like 25 years has rushed by in a year. I'm still the same person, but now I'm too old.

If I could describe the feeling I get when confronted with talking or walking by a stranger or any women, it would be this: Trying to maintain eye contact and talk, while having a high pressure fire hose sprayed in your face. That is the exact feeling I experience. It is an actual physical sensation which forces your eyes and body to avoid female contact, so you have to fight to force your eyes toward theirs.

Now imagine if you had to be who you are while being sprayed in your face -- not so easy. I also get really self conscious, which tenses up my face, then comes the redness and twitching, because I'm trying to force my face to relax, which is useless. If there is one cure that I have found, that is having no thoughts. Force yourself to be blank, because every issue or problem only exists with some kind of thought. Have no thoughts at all and it is totally impossible for you to have a problem. The trick is to train your mind not to keep returning to old thought patterns.

I'm getting better, but an intelligent mind is sometimes a handicap. Intensive work is a good method of forcing you to forget that you are love-shy. Despite that, I know that I could never make the first move or relax enough, to give a signal to a girl, to let her know that I was worth talking to some more. That being so, every girl I meet talks to a guy who is a stranger to us both.

anon311563
Post 15

I think I'm a love-shyness man. I'm almost 24 and I've never had a girlfriend. It seems I barely have female friends and I don't know how to interact with them.

nony
Post 14

@MrMoody - I think that we live in a society that fosters an unrealistic expectation upon men, as it does upon women. Unfortunately while we hear a lot about unrealistic expectations of women – that they always be slim, youthful, always affectionate, good mothers, good cooks, etc., we hear nothing of the unrealistic expectations foisted upon men.

Maybe that’s because we still live in a patriarchal culture, I don’t know. But its society’s expectations that men ought to “man up” that makes some more men love shy, in my opinion.

The so called sensitive male is afraid to express himself, and so he withdraws. However, I don’t expect our social mores to change anytime soon. They are too often reinforced by movies, pop culture and so forth.

MrMoody
Post 13

So what ultimately happens to love shy men? Do they overcome it – or do some of them decide to forge romantic relationships with other males instead? I realize that this is a controversial proposition, but I’ve heard it raised by others.

Personally I think that anyone with a social anxiety disorder should confront it as soon as possible and learn to overcome it. The reason is that if you don’t, you’ll find it difficult to relate to the opposite gender even in non romantic settings.

Worse, you may interpret friendliness by the opposite sex as a show of romantic interest, when no such intention is really implied. In other words, you’ll be passive.

starrynight
Post 12

I find it very interesting that more men than women have this disorder. I know men are traditionally expected to be more assertive during most phases of a romance. However, it's the 21st century and a lot of things have changed!

These days, a lot of women aren't afraid to ask men out and don't always expect men to make the first move. If this disorder is really caused by the expectation to be more assertive, I bet in the next 20 or so years more women will start displaying symptoms too.

SZapper
Post 11

@JessicaLynn - I think you're right. I know from when I took psychology people with phobias often benefit from behavioral therapy. It helps them change their feelings and the way they react to whatever it is they are afraid of.

One thing I don't think would help these people are so called "confidence classes" for men. A lot of these classes are ran by people in the very disturbing "pick up artist" culture.

They teach men that they deserve to be with very attractive women and then teach tactics to "pick up" women. The emphasis in these programs is usually on sex, not on finding a lasting relationship. I think it really does the men who take the classes more harm than good.

JessicaLynn
Post 10

@truman12 - I agree with the psychologists who think that love-shyness shouldn't be separated from social anxiety. It sounds like an anxiety disorder to me, which can be treated with anti-anxiety medicine and behavioral therapy.

I bet if psychologists offered the same treatment to so called "love-shy" individuals that they offer to people with social anxiety, it would be just as effective. I definitely think it probably makes these individuals feel even worse to be described as "love-shy" rather than socially anxious.

burcinc
Post 9

@turkay1-- There are classes for building self-confidence. I also think that taking up new hobbies which would also be interesting to women is a great way for love-shy males to get over some of that anxiety and shyness.

Aside from this though, I think love-shy individuals also have some traumatic experiences in their life which might have never been resolved. My older brother, for example, is love-shy partly because he was bullied excessively in school and made fun of, especially by girls.

So some psychological therapy or counseling sessions would help too.

candyquilt
Post 8

I feel like love-shyness can be very difficult to get out of. Some of the guys I know who have this condition feel like they are stuck where they are at and despite doing the best they can to overcome it, they are not able to.

I have one friend who is well in his thirties right now. He has never had a girlfriend or a date in his life. He actually has the courage to speak to girls and ask them out. But he is so awkward while he does it that it doesn't work. And when more and more girls reject him, the less self-confidence and esteem he has to ask another girl out.

I try

to give him tips and tell him to relax and act more cool but it's not really working.

What do you think he should do? Is there like a confidence or dating tips class for guys who are dealing with this problem?

fify
Post 7

@John57-- I think you're right. Love-shyness is probably due to the combination of personality as well as life experiences.

Many siblings go through the same or similar experiences during childhood since they grow up in the same home, go to the same schools and so forth. But no two siblings are the same in terms of personality.

I'm also a very shy person and I have social-anxiety. I feel very uncomfortable when I'm among new people or if I have to do something like a presentation in front of people. I basically have difficulty with all social interactions.

My brother, on the other hand, is so out-going and at ease around people. Most of his friends are shocked when they meet me. They can't believe that we grew up in the same home because we're so different personality wise.

golf07
Post 6

@John57 - I agree with you that this is a very complex issue. I think that every situation would be different, and that many times there is a combination of inherited traits and life experiences.

I am sure there are some success stories out there, but it seems like most of the people I know who are shy and introverted struggle with this for most of their life.

When I read through this article, I immediately thought of my nephew who seems to fit the love-shyness description.

I am not close enough with him to know if there were some experiences when he was younger that attributed to this or not. He is close with his family, but

doesn't seem to have any special friendships outside of that.

He seems content to go to work and come home. This seems like a very lonely life to me, but I don't think he would easily open up about this or talk about it.

John57
Post 5

@truman12 - I don't think there is a specific cure for someone with love-shyness. What I wonder is if someone is this way because of traits they were born with, or because of life experiences?

I imagine this is such a complex issue and there is no easy answer to this. It seems like many people who are quiet or shy by nature, may struggle more when it comes to interacting with others.

I see these kind of differences in my own kids who have been raised the same way. My son is very outgoing and easily interacts with other people. He has always had a lot of male and female friends.

He has had not problem at

all establishing and keeping relationships with females. On the other hand, my daughter has always been quiet and shy since she was born.

I would not describe her as love-shy, but she does have to work a lot harder at interacting with people and developing close relationships.

bagley79
Post 4

@SarahSon - I have a cousin who has a very similar situation to what you described. The good news is this does not have to be the way they live the rest of their life.

Even though I think my cousin may always struggle more than most people with love-shyness, he has really made great strides to overcome this.

Once he moved out of the house and was able to acknowledge what was going on, he started to make changes. Going to counseling was the first step for him.

This takes a lot of courage for someone to do, but he really wanted to work through this. He is still somewhat shy by nature, but by gaining a

strong sense of who he is, he was able to make some changes in the way he interacted with people.

What I find very interesting is his girlfriend of 2 years is also somewhat of a loner and shy. The two of them understand each other and I think this is why this relationship has lasted so long.

SarahSon
Post 3

I have known a few men who are love-shy, but never realized there was an actual term for them.

Since I am interested in psychology and why people behave the way they do, I am always curious why some men have a hard time establishing a close relationship with someone.

I know that this term can be used to describe females as well, but the people I am familiar with are all men.

Only one of them I knew well enough to gain a good understanding of why they acted this way. In his case, I think it was because his mom was so over protective and over bearing.

He was often criticized and felt like

he could never do anything the right way. The few times he tried to develop a relationship with someone, his mom was constantly telling him what to do.

I think he just got tired of trying, and this has affected many areas of his life. Not only does he have a hard time establishing a relationship with someone, but he has very low self esteem and has a hard time in most every social situation.

truman12
Post 2

So what is the cure for love shyness? I can't imagine that it would be a prescription pill so it must be some kind of talking cure. I can't imagine that's easy from the therapist's perspective.

Sex love and desire are some of the most complicated feelings that the mind can produce. They speak to elemental parts of our being. If there something off about a persons psyche it is not easily corrected.

gravois
Post 1

I worry sometimes that my younger brother suffers from love shyness. he had a few girlfriends when he was younger but not in a very long time. When I ask him about it he is very dismissive but I think there is something more going on.

My brother is kind of an eccentric and a homebody of the grandest sort. He does two things, work and occupy his house. He seems to make no effort at all to meet people. He is almost 30 and he is charting out a solitary life for himself. If that is what he wants I don't want to interfere but how can that be what he wants?

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