Welcome to Relationship Rehab, a weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred. This week, news.com.au's resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie tackles a man who can't get a girlfriend, a woman who doesn't ever have sex and a mum who's concerned about consent.
I'M A GOOD BLOKE SO WHY CAN'T I GET A GIRLFRIEND?
QUESTION: I'm a nice guy with a well paid job and I'm not too bad looking but I can't seem to get a girlfriend. I'm 35 years old and I've never had a proper relationship.
When I try to approach women in bars they ignore me or brush me off before even getting to know me. People often say getting a girlfriend is "all about being confident" but I am confident and no one wants me.
I think women think I just want to have a fling and move on but I really don't – I'd love to settle down. I often hear women complaining that they can't find a "good bloke" and it enrages me because I am a nice bloke.
What can I do to make women like me? I'm sick of approaching women and being knocked back. What do they want?
ANSWER: This is a complicated question.
I know men face pressure to "make the first move" and are often subject to rejection. I hear men's experiences of dating and relationships every day and I genuinely have empathy for the challenges you face.
I also know well the "mixed" experiences women have interacting with men.
While you might see yourself as a "nice guy", many men aren't always as nice as they say they are. That's really for the women you're interacting with to decide.
If you're 35 and have never had a proper relationship, I'm also going to guess that it isn't just "women" who are the problem – there's something you bring to this as well.
If you're being ignored or brushed off by women regularly, there's likely a reason for it. For every man that has ever said this to me (as a woman and as a therapist), there's always been a reason women aren't connecting with him.
I hear some possible reasons coming through in your question. I'm also drawing on my experience exploring this more thoroughly with men in therapy here.
I know this might be difficult to hear, but, if you're "enraged" at women saying "they can't find a nice bloke", it tells me there's some unprocessed anger for women right below the surface for you.
Instead of being able to hear women's experience and have empathy, you're making this about you. There's somewhat of a sense of entitlement that many men have that women "should" talk to them or take time to get to know them better. You're angry when they don't do this.
If you're not getting past initial introductions with women regularly, you might want to consider whether there's something in your energy (really a combination of body language and behaviour) or the way you're approaching them that is off putting.
Attracting the right relationship isn't about having all the external things like looks and a well paying job. Confidence also isn't the only thing that's required. It's also about how you interact with people.
Reflect on how you really feel about women and the way you're interacting with them. Consider educating yourself on the experiences of women in regard to dating and misogyny. Practice having conversations with women on dating apps or as friends with no expectations.
The relationships we have with our early caregivers impact the relationships we have later in life. What is your parents' relationship like? What is your relationship with your mother like? This also gives us clues to some of the underlying patterns and beliefs we have.
Consider reaching out to a therapist (I suggest a female therapist) who can help you explore your underlying beliefs about relationships and women. They can also give you practical tools for better communication.
IS A LIFE WITHOUT SEX OK?
QUESTION: I'm a 47-year-old single woman who hasn't been sexually active for 20 years. My friends are always saying I should "get out there" and play the field but I'm not interested. I'm happy and content in my own life without a partner. Is there any downside to not having sex regularly?
ANSWER: It's possible to be genuinely happy without a partner – or sex.
If that's you – great! However, sometimes saying "I don't want something" or "I'm happy without it" is a protective mechanism. We don't want to risk trying to get something in case we get hurt.
Check in with yourself to find what the answer is for you. Trust yourself and what you want. You don't need to listen to your friends.
While sex and relationships have benefits, they shouldn't be the reasons you choose to engage with someone. That should come from a genuine desire for connection.
I'M TERRIFIED MY TEEN WON'T ASK FOR CONSENT
QUESTION: I'm a mum of a teenage boy and I'm terrified about him becoming sexually active. There are so many stories about young boys not asking for consent and girls feeling like they've been taken advantage of.
Are there any resources I can send him so that he understands what consent is and how he needs to make sure he has it?
ANSWER: I hear you. This can feel like such a challenging area to navigate and our young people certainly need more education on this.
I think something really important to consider here, is that it isn't just asking for consent in the moments before sexual activity that is important. There's a broader context.
That context includes how men view women, the ways we socialise men and women around sex and the consequences that exist for women when they speak up and say no.
All of this (and more) contributes to challenging dynamics where women don't feel empowered to say no and can feel taken advantage of and where young men, like your son, don't have the skills to navigate that conversation well.
There's a brilliant cartoon, "Tea Consent" that explains consent clearly (I recommend everyone watch it), but don't let your conversation be limited to this. Be there to have conversations with your son and support him as he navigates this. Educate him on the broader experiences of women and educate him on healthy communication.