Canít Attract the Opposite Sex?
Help for Everyone Who Feels Unloved
Help for Christian Singles
ďGod wants me, but no human does.Ē Iíve felt that way for decades.|
As exquisitely wonderful and supremely significant as it is to be loved by the most exciting and important Person in the universe, the insane torment of craving physical touch still rages within me. And no matter how loved of God I am, Iím still stuck in a world of humans who have great difficulty seeing past the superficialities that make some people popular, and of loving in the unbiased purity with which God does.
Recently, a friend told me she had a dream in which she felt physically attracted to a stranger. That ďstrangerĒ turned out to be me, but in that part of the dream she didnít realize it. She was so captivated by me that she decided to try to engineer a date by ďaccidentallyĒ leaving behind something of value with her phone number on it. The plan was that when I phoned her to let her know I had the item, she would say she wanted to thank me for my kindness by taking me out to dinner.
After hearing of the dream it struck me that if she had been a stranger, no matter how desirable she was and how much she longed for me and how agonizing my loneliness, it would never have entered my head that the offer could have been because she wanted to date me. I would have simply said that a reward was unnecessary and had no more contact with her. And the more I felt attracted to her, the more certain Iíd have been that she could not possibly be attracted to me. For over forty years, since first being attracted to girls, Iíve been convinced that all women would prefer almost every man on the planet to me. It is true that after many years I had eventually raised my self-esteem to the point where I came to concede that if a woman felt she was so undesirable that she believed no one wanted her, she might possibly get so desperate as to consider going out with me as a last resort. Nevertheless, I remained sure that no woman who felt she had the choice of another man would choose me.
For many years I was so desperate that I would have gladly accepted any available Christian woman as a girlfriend, no matter how unattracted I was to her physically or romantically. In time, however, it became increasingly important to me that a woman be highly attractive. This made a romance quite impossible because I would never dare approach any attractive woman, since I was sure that anyone with a choice would instantly reject me. I used to hate myself for my emphasis on physical appearance. It was so shamefully shallow, and unlike God, and so hypocritical of me since I was sure I was unattractive. Nevertheless, I couldnít extract myself from my fixation on physical attractiveness. I now realize that this was because if a plain woman actually seemed to like me I could never believe it was genuine. Iíd feel forever sure that she was merely settling for me as a last resort because she had convinced herself that no other man would have her.
Recently, a single woman approaching middle age told me her counselor believes she has Aspergerís syndrome (like a mild form of autism). The woman was shocked. She had never before considered this possibility. Suddenly, her isolation from people made sense to her. It seems that for all her life Aspergerís had made it difficult for her to relate to people because she has been unable to pick up social cues that the rest of us detect. Could my strong conviction that I am romantically undesirable have had a somewhat similar, more limited, effect upon me? Could my mindset have consistently blinded me to cues that woman are interested in me?
I wracked my brain for past missed cues and could think of no possibilities, even though I was forced to admit to myself that my interminably long years of loneliness have, on rare occasions, been broken by a brief friendship Ė okay, one friendship could not be called brief. My conviction that women find me unattractive is so strong, however, that none of these friendships seems to have made the slightest dent in my conviction that women find me unattractive and undesirable.
Regardless of what the scales say, painfully skinny anorexics are dead certain they are fat. Like anorexics, could our perception of how other people see us be more out of whack than we dare hope?
An additional factor keeping me trapped in this toxic mindset is that I have been scared to break free for fear that if I didnít think lowly of myself I could end up letting God down by falling into pride. Fear of pride is itself another bondage that grips me tighter than logic. For insight, let me adapt what I have written elsewhere:
I correctly understood that if I thought I could achieve anything of lasting value without Godís help, then humbling myself involved lowering my opinion of myself. My mistake was in wrongly concluding from this truth that the basic ingredient of humility is having a low opinion of oneself.
Godly humility flows not from thinking lowly of oneself but from seeing things through Godís eyes. Pride is having the audacity to disagree with God. It is saying I know more than the God of the universe; that my puny intellect knows better than the Almighty; that the God of truth is wrong and I am right.
Since the God of love sees all of us as lovable, and true humility involves taking Godís assessment of everything as gospel, humility requires us to see ourselves as lovable. If God sees us through eyes of love, how dare we see ourselves in a different light, as if our perspective is right and our Creator and Savior is wrong?
Letís make God our God by agreeing with him. He says we are valuable and lovable. Dare we exalt ourselves above God by disagreeing with him? Letís stop wounding ourselves by squandering our faith on a lie, thus robbing God of faith that should be invested in him. Letís refuse the sinful, pride-filled path that deceptively seems humble but is actually implying that we know better than the Almighty. Letís set ourselves free by embracing Godís truth about ourselves.
With the Lord graciously granting me a ministry that has touched large numbers of hurting people, very many abuse survivors have honored me by pouring out their hearts to me in intimate detail. Over and over I have discovered that one of the most tragic, long term consequences of suffering child abuse is crushed self-esteem. During their most impressionable years they were each repeatedly and forcefully told by someone a little child would trust as an authoritative source of information that they are bad or good for nothing but sex or that no one would ever want them. The devastating result is like the most powerful imaginable brainwashing. They grow up to be utterly convinced that they are unlovable. (Something almost as powerful can also happen to an adult who has an abusive partner.)
With tragic predictability they end up marrying an abuser because they are sure that they deserve no one better. In fact, if someone is kind to them, treating them with honor and respect, they usually reject that person as fake, since their smashed self-esteem convinces them that no one would really feel they are worthy of such treatment.
Even the few who end up marrying someone gentle who truly loves them, usually sabotage their marriage because no matter how genuine, kind and expressive of love their marriage partners are, they remain convinced through their previous brainwashing that they are unlovable. This typically eats away at them throughout their marriage until they think it inevitable that their partners will eventually see them for the person they ďreallyĒ are and cease the charade by rejecting them.
Their torment of believing themselves unlovable and therefore doomed to having their partners leave them is so horrific that, despite having a love-filled marriage, they feel pressured to end their agony by terminating the relationship or hastening the ďinevitableĒ rejection by acting nastily toward the person they love. Not surprisingly, many confirm their worst expectations of their marriage ending disastrously by eventually succeeding in driving their loving partners away. Tragically, many victims of such a mindset likewise keep disbelieving the genuineness of Godís love for them.
So believing the lie that one is unlovable does more than make a person feel miserable. It frequently keeps people from the love that they would otherwise enjoy.
We need to seriously seek God, asking him to expose every lie we have accepted that is needlessly tormenting us. Seeing through the lies, however, is just the beginning.
Whether the fear be of failure, heights, confined spaces, public speaking, spiders, or whatever, most people have at least one phobia Ė an irrational fear that keeps them from doing all that they are capable of. Phobias are amazingly powerful and resistant to logic. For example, if someone is terrified of spiders, being convinced by an expert that a particular spider is harmless will not cause his fear to magically vanish. So it is with the fear of rejection, or the wrong belief that members of the opposite sex find us less desirable than they actually do. Becoming aware that we have been believing a lie does not cause its devastating power over us to magically vanish.
People think me stupid or unspiritual for having the hang-ups I suffer, but breaking free from a long-held misconception can almost be like trying to break out of a prison by tunneling through a brick wall with our bare hands. Too many Christians are like self-proclaimed sportsí experts criticizing elite players for losing a game when they themselves couldnít qualify for the minor league.
We can break free, but doing so is far harder than can ever be imagined by those who have never faced this challenge.
Letís bring together things we are discovering and see the implications for our love life.
We used phobias as an example of how, in at least one area of life, almost every human is trapped by an addiction to a lie. There are many other less common but well known examples of lies that ensnare people. We mentioned anorexia nervosa, but another is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Ė an affliction that can take many forms, such as believing a lie about cleanliness that results in repeated washing of hands, or believing the lie that one is unforgivable.
Anorexia nervosa is just one form of believing a lie about oneís physical appearance. Actually, almost all of us have, to some degree, a body image that does not entirely match reality. In extreme cases, called Body Dysmorphic Disorder, people of normal appearance fall for the lie that they are grotesquely ugly.
So regardless of whether the particular lie that fools us is common or unusual, it is the norm for us humans to be addicted to at least one lie. Of particular interest to the focus of this webpage is that a number of lies that ensnare people can directly impact on oneís loneliness and romantic opportunities. People who are mistakenly convinced they are ugly, for example, will almost inevitably shy away from people, but they are so duped by the lie about their looks that they do not realize that what is keeping them from romance is just a lie Ė a cruel trick of the mind. There are others, however, who realize that what is holding them back is a lie, but they still find themselves trapped. An example of this is agoraphobia (haunted by the lie that it is unsafe to leave oneís house). Agoraphobics usually know their restriction is based on a lie but that knowledge does not magically release anyone.
We have also seen that feeling unlovable or undesirable predisposes us to misread cues that people give us. This not only robs us of chances to escape our loneliness, it seems to confirm our mistaken self-image, thus digging our lonely grave even deeper.
Even people with partners who are madly in love with them can be so dominated by the fear that they will be rejected that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We can feel so unattractive that we see no point in bothering to care for our bodies or to groom and dress well, and so we end up looking much less attractive than we otherwise would.
People force themselves to smile for photos because a broad smile and bubbly personality makes anyone more attractive, but feeling down about oneís chances of acceptance robs a person of this sparkle.
We find ourselves caught in a vicious circle that seems almost impossible to escape. First, we need to see through the lies that have been keeping us in bondage, but that is not enough. Lies we have accepted for years end up feeling more comfortable and believable than the truth. They have become our habitual way of thinking. Like battling a powerful addition, we have to keep forcing ourselves to resist the lies, or we will slide back into the mud of our deluded thinking.
Rather than just defensively battling the negative, however, we need to go on the attack, strengthening ourselves by continually affirming the truth to ourselves. I find this exceedingly difficult, due to an inordinate fear of pride. It feels too egotistical to me and yet, as explained in the link below about how to change your self-image, it is supremely important.
Letís put all this into perspective, however. We were born for love. The majestic King of kings, the supreme Lord of the universe, will love us passionately for all eternity. But we are not on this planet for romantic highs or fairy tales or sexual thrills.
We were born to be heroes who, like our divine Hero, would in love sacrifice all, for the sake of eternal glory. We should steel our resolve and instead of lusting after the soft life, ď. . . fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame . . .Ē (Hebrews 12:2). As spiritual warriors destined for heavenís victory parade, we have a very different mentality to the godless.
We need to free ourselves not only from lies that are needlessly restricting and tormenting us. We need to free ourselves from ungodly values. We truly are pathetic if we long for people to lust after us, or want popularity rather than laying our lives down for the One who died for us. We need to take seriously Jesusí sobering pronouncements:
Luke 6:26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
© 2008, Grantley Morris. May be freely copied in whole or in part provided: it is not altered; this entire paragraph is included; readers are not charged and it is not used in a webpage. Many more compassionate, inspiring, sometimes hilarious writings available free online at www.net-burst.net Freely you have received, freely give. For use outside these limits, consult the author.
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