Am I not attracted or just not comfortable?
Heather Corinna replies:So I'm in high school and I've been having a "thing" with this really sweet guy for the past two months. It makes me really uncomfortable that everyone seems to be so involved in our relationship! They all want to know about our dates, our hookups, if we've talked yet that day.... EVERYTHING! Even though I like the guy, I feel pressured by others to move forwards with the relationship faster than I would go by myself. All my friends have had sex and have been in/are in serious relationships, but because this is my first relationship, I want to move really slowly. They treat kissing in an incredibly casual manner, but it's kind of scary to me still! All this is making me want to distance myself from the guy, even though he's very kind and understanding. I don't know how to make myself more comfortable with being intimate with him, and tune my friends out. Help!
I'm so sorry to hear that your friends' behavior has got you feeling this way, Liv. From the sound of things, even if they're not doing it on purpose, they're souring what otherwise sounds like something that's been pretty nice for you and is also obviously a formative life experience. A first dating relationship is a big deal!
You're not the first person I've had talk to me about this kind of situation; my sympathies that you've found yourself in it. It really sucks, especially if you're also already struggling some to figure out what you want — and are and aren't yet comfortable with — for yourself. It's so much harder to find and hear your own voice amidst the din of others.
Since it sounds like you otherwise feel good about both this relationship and this guy, and are otherwise enjoying both, I'd start by addressing the issue with your friends. Nothing you say here sounds like you're not into him, but if you change that up and still feel pressured, or have a desire to back away, or just feel meh about the whole thing, then you can know this is about more than feeling pressure from your friends. But I'd try and change things with your friends, first. It'd sure stink to ditch something and someone that you do want and do like for no good reason, especially since it could be something good in your life.
I have a couple things to toss at you for consideration:
I strongly suggest you tell your friends to back off. Tell them kindly, sure, but also clearly and strongly. Tell them the way they're acting is making you super uncomfortable and is making you feel pressured, when you're with someone who isn't pressuring you at all. Tell them you're in a different spot than some of them are and you aren't yet ready for, and don't yet want, the same things they are. (Alternately, since that isn't actually their business, if you don't want to tell them any of that, you can just tell them your sexual life isn't their business and you don't want it to be.)
See if you can't ask them to stop or limit very specific things they are doing that have you feeling uncomfortable. For example, tell a friend who keeps asking if you've had sex yet to not ask about that, and tell them that if and when you want to share anything around that with them, you will. The more clear you can be in what you're asking for, the more likely you'll be to get what you're asking for, especially if your friends don't realize what they've been doing, which is very possible.
You can always also just ask them to let you tell them things — when you want to — instead of asking you questions. You might feel more inclined to share some things with some of them if you didn't feel like you were being interrogated, or like you weren't being allowed any privacy.
If any of your friends get pissy or otherwise crummy about these asks, I'd say you'll want to consider keeping those people as friends. Healthy friendships need to have and allow for healthy boundaries, just like other kinds of healthy relationships.
You might be pretty busy with this new relationship, but if you have a little time here and there, you could look into exploring some new friendships, maybe with people who are more where you're at in this area of life. You probably would like someone to talk to whom you know would be supportive of your pace, and also whom you can squee at about the good stuff with this first-time relationship without worrying they'll make things bigger than they are. (In the event that's not logistically possible or likely, know you can always get some extra support and a place for pressure-free squee-sharing at our message boards.)
Please know you don't have to — as you say — "make" yourself be more comfortable being intimate with someone in the first place. You get to let this run its course, and let things play out only at a pace that feels right for you, no matter what kind of intimacy you're talking about, be it sexual, emotional or both. It's okay for you to be EXACTLY wherever you are in all this. It also sounds like you're dating someone who is on board with that, so it appears it's just you who needs convincing about your right to your own pace. I get that because it sounds like most or all of your close friends are having certain kinds of sex, and because of the way they are talking with you, you might feel like there's something wrong with your pace, but there's not.
You say you want to go really slowly. You get to go really slowly, including if that means not having any kind of sex at all. Exactly where you are, what you want and don't want, is right so long as it's right for you. And you and anyone else you're actually doing those things with, if anything, are the only people for whom it matters that it's right.
You mention some things feeling scary for you. If you are doing anything that feels scary for you in a bad way — like, scary-scary, not exciting-and-awesome-but-also-a-little-scary — I'd encourage you to step back, and remind you that you get to do that.
You — and me, and everyone else — should only do what you feel comfortable with when it comes to sex and other kinds of intimacy, and what you don't feel scared by. For sure, sometimes things can feel a little scary just because they're new, and in this case, also because we take emotional risks with any kind of intimacy. But if you feel at all unsafe, if things just feel like they are moving too fast, or if you just feel plain old scared, I'd pull the reins back, let this guy know you need to do that, and then be clear about what you do feel good about doing right now and also want to do.
You say he's being understanding, but just so we're clear, there's probably nothing for him to be understanding about when it comes to all this.
I may be stating the obvious to you, but in case I'm not: We don't owe anyone anything sexual just because they're dating us or just because they want it from us. Not doing anything sexual we don't want with someone else isn't something someone else needs to forgive us for. Just because some of your peers are having sex doesn't mean this guy is being amazing because he isn't expecting it of you. And no one is doing us any big favors, or being extra-awesome, by accepting that instead of insisting otherwise.
I'm not saying this guy isn't a good guy and might not be amazing in any number of ways! I'm just saying that this isn't one of them. Ground zero for any of us just not being jerks with this stuff is all of us being clear we aren't entitled to sex with anyone, so of course we're going to be cool when someone doesn't want something sexual with us, okay?
If you need some help slowing things down, this piece may come in handy: Whoa, There! How to Slow Down When You're Moving Too Fast. If you need help figuring out what you want and don't right now when it comes to any kind of sex or other kinds of physical intimacy, this is one good tool for that: Yes, No, Maybe So: A Sexual Inventory Stocklist.
I hope you can work things out with your friends and also sort out what you want for yourself right now. Please know it's okay if either takes a little time, and if you need time to sort either out. I also particularly want to wish you a fantastic and fun voyage with this relationship, wherever it takes you, and whatever you decide with it along the way. May any and all of your firsts be wonderful and only what — and when — you want. :)