Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

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Leo_3
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Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

I wrote this once and it got deleted for some reason, so I'll summarize this time:

- I am 15 and have very little experience with relationships.
- I know I'm sexually and romantically attracted to girls. I had an intense year-long crush last year that cemented this discovery about myself.

- I think I'm not sexually or romantically attracted to boys. I have had several "crushes" that didn't feel like the crushes I've had on girls, and that either went away really quickly or that I didn't want reciprocated.

- I got into my first relationship with an enby that accepts he/him pronouns and presents as mostly masculine soon after meeting them at HOCO.
- I thought I wasn't attracted to them when I felt an intense dread after we decided to date. Additionally, when we made physical contact (brushed hands) it felt "normal", while when I was crushing on a girl touching felt electric.
- So, I broke up with them the next time we met (soon after). They took it very well, and we spent hours enjoying each other's company after that. I felt relieved.

- Now I think I might be attracted to them (due to jealousy of their friends, a longing to spend time together, and a desire to be closer physically and emotionally), and wonder if my dread was not caused by a lack of romantic attraction, but by
1) bad experiences with a past close friend of mine that used he/they pronouns (They became very vocal about being suicidal and homicidal. I took the brunt of this because he was my best friend and he said talking to me helped. He would also hit me, poke me, and stuff like that. He also said some very uncomfortable things about me having a sexual relationship with another girl in her presence, when I had never shared my sexuality or suggested that I liked that girl in that way.)
2) a lack of positive male role-models in my household
3) fear of emotional vulnerability, not being enough, and being hurt by people I care about

-However, it's possible that the only reason I think I like them now is because
1) It's "safe", since we broke up, so I don't have to be attracted to him in reality
2) I'm lonely and insecure and have low self-worth
3) I want to be wanted and to be close to someone (but not necessarily romantically)
3) There's more distance, so what I'm imagining I feel might not hold up if I spent more time with them

All-in-all I'm having all these emotions, thoughts, attractions, and repulsions, and I can't figure out what's motivating them. I don't know what to do in this situation. I just need interpretation, advice, and frankly reassurance that there is an actual explanation for why I feel the way I do and when I feel it. Please, I'm eager for any and all thoughts on the matter.
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Latha
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Latha »

Hi there, Atacatris- welcome to the boards! (and oof, I'm sorry that your post got deleted)

You know, I understand why you're feeling confused- this is a complicated situation without an obvious answer. If it were simple, you wouldn't need our help. But rest assured, you won't always feel this way. It may take some time, but you can definitely figure this out.

You've suggested some plausible reasons for why you might be feeling this way. It is possible to develop negative associations from an absence of good role models and bad experiences like the one you described with your friend, and fearing emotional vulnerability and having low self-esteem could have contributed to your feelings of dread. Also, you don't have a lot of experience with relationships and this was a new person who I don't imagine you knew very well- that is a lot of unknowns, which could have contributed to those feelings. It is also true that your mind may have fixated on them now because they are a safe option and you are feeling lonely.

Understandably, you want to be wanted and you want to be close to someone. Intimacy is an important need. It is worth remembering that this is not your only opportunity to find a relationship, or your only opportunity to experience close connection with another person.

I think the word attraction can cover a lot of different feelings and ideas. For a moment, set aside any expectations of what a romantic/platonic relationship should look like. Ask yourself, what kinds of activities would you want to do with this person, based on what you know of them? In general, what kinds of relationships do you want in your life?

And if I may ask, why do you feel jealous of their friends?
Leo_3
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

Hi! Thank you for responding.

Actually, something happened today that really cleared things up for me. The guy I dated posted on their private Instagram story (I'm listed as one of their close friends) something along the lines of this: "WHEN WERE YOU GUYS GOING TO TELL ME THAT I'M CLEARLY GAY AND THE WHOLE GRADE KNOWS? BECAUSE I DIDN'T."

When I saw this, I only felt amused (I thought it was ironic that after all that emotional turmoil and worry, they were gay). I didn't feel any sort of loss or disappointment. I guess I didn't want to be in a romantic relationship with them after all.

They really do remind me of that friend I mentioned, but they seem kinder and more thoughtful. I do feel attracted to them, but it has nothing to do with romance, just with connection. Since they seem to enjoy my company too, I think I might try to get closer to them as a friend. I'm not sure how to, but I'll try to figure it out as I go.

For now, I think I'm just going to identify (in my head at least) as gay/lesbian. I know I don't technically need a label (especially since I don't plan to actively share this info), but it makes me feel more comfortable. Worst case, I can change it later. It's not like I plan to come out at all. I still feel weird about not being straight and about relationships in general. Wether I'm attracted to non-binary people probably won't be relevant in most situations, so I can figure that out later if I ever need to.

I believe I feel jealous just because of loneliness and insecurity. I have this awful underlying feeling that if someone chooses to be around other people instead of me, it means I'm not good enough for them. If they don't need me, it means I'm replaceable. And I'm afraid of losing someone or being tossed aside. I don't want to have such a strong negative response to a probably imagined scenario, but I don't know how to stop it.
Last edited by Leo_3 on Fri Dec 08, 2023 7:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Latha
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Latha »

Hi Atacatris,

Oh, that would make things clearer. I think trying to get closer to them as a friend is a good idea. If you'd like, we can help you brainstorm ideas on how to do that.
For now, I think I'm just going to identify (in my head at least) as gay/lesbian...
It is totally okay to use a provisional label, or one that is the best fit for now. You're right that you can always reevaluate later.
I believe I feel jealous just because of loneliness and insecurity...
Oof, that would make things difficult. I'm sure you understand this on some level, but let me tell you that none of this is true. I promise you can develop close relationships with people who appreciate you. Someone spending time with another person doesn't mean they are choosing them over you or that you are not good enough. You do not need to be useful to other people for them to care for you.

There isn't a simple way to stop such feelings, unfortunately, but that doesn't mean you'll always feel this way. Time, and the security of good friendships and relationships can make them less strong, by giving you actual evidence that your fears are not true.
Leo_3
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

Hello Latha,

Thank you, what you wrote really helped. I would love help coming up with ideas on how to get closer to them as a friend. They're a grade above me, and we don't share any classes or lunches, so we can only meet outside of school or interact over text/call. They haven't reached out much since our break-up thing, but it seems like they were busy figuring themselves out and with the end-of-semester rush.

Most of the things I mentioned (that make it hard for me to accept dating because I'd have to be vulnerable) also apply to friendships. And I'm very quiet in group settings, which can put people off. (I don't know how to get involved in ongoing conversations a lot of the time. I just don't have anything to say.)

I don't know how to get out of a "formal" sort of attitude. I don't want to embarrass myself or get too personal, so I end up coming off across as stiff. Recently, I've gotten much better at pretending I'm confident in social situations, which helps me relax and get involved a bit. But I often still feel lost.

Even though I think a lot about what I want to tell people and how I want to act, I end up being a lot milder or not doing it at all. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by frustration or helplessness, and I stop trying.

If I get into the wrong headspace, it feels easier and safer to retreat. I usually respond if someone else initiates communication, but I stop trying to do it myself. I think this is why I have been having trouble forming lasting friendships (in addition to not having as large of a social circle and not interacting on social media as often as most high schoolers). I'm also taking a lot of difficult classes, get tired in social situations easily, and don't mind being alone most of the time. It's been a while since I've had people I want to get closer to, and I'm unsure of what is appropriate and what would be off-putting.
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Sam W
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Sam W »

Hi Atacatris,

I'm glad Latha's input was helpful to you!

In terms of how to connect/ re-connect with this friend, are there shared interests you could use as a jumping-off point for meeting up, like a movie you both want to see or place you both like to spend time in? You could even invite them to meet for a specific food, like coffee or ice cream, and some time to catch up.

I will say that something that can help, especially if you're still learning how to even make plans with friends outside of school, is to say "I was thinking of seeing X movie on Y day and time. Do you want to come?" Being specific can help avoid the "we should hang out some time" "yeah we totally should" (and then they never hung out) problem that can sometimes happen.

A lot of what you're describing in terms of those struggles in interacting with other people is VERY similar to things I've experienced. I'm not the most naturally outgoing person, I'm socially anxious, and I used to be much more anxious about coming across as too weird too soon.

One big thing that helped me with all that is to shift how I was thinking about it. I very much believed that people were just naturally good or not good at socializing. But the truth is, learning how to interact with other people is just that: it's a thing that can be learned. And anything that can be learned can be practiced. That helped me view social interactions as places where I didn't have to somehow "ace" the interaction; I just had to be a part of it and learn from it. Does that make sense?

Another thing that helped me, and might help you, is not to get too hung up on following the "correct" progression of a conversation, and instead leaning into curiosity and wanting to know about the person I'm talking to. That helped me with the stiffness you talk about, and I think it helped me read as more open to conversation the next time the person saw me.
Leo_3
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

Hello Sam,

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you! I'll try applying those tips. Social anxiety really is one of the worst parts. On a logical level, I don't mind messing up at all. But emotionally, I'm very afraid. And the constant worry is so tiring that it usually doesn't seem worth the effort.

I guess I also have this other underlying fear that I'll find out I'm incapable of forming a real/secure relationship with someone I want to be friends with. I feel very different from my peers (even though I know a lot of teenagers feel the same). I don't understand a lot of references that they make to pop-culture, the world, or other people they know. And although I'm considered "smart" by a lot of people (my guess would be that it's because of my focus on academics, my way of talking, and how I was raised), I don't tend to react quickly or think of something to say immediately in conversation. I feel like all the people I know my age function at a different speed with different information, preferences, and way of communicating.

I actually invited the guy I kinda-sorta dated (and want to become closer friends with now) to go to a local theatre together, and told them that they were welcome to invite others. They read it an hour ago and haven't responded, so now I'm overthinking it. (This is why I don't like read receipts.)

There's not much I can do but wait.

Like I mentioned before, they haven't initiated communication with me since the day we "broke-up". I wonder if they're not interested in hanging out anymore. It didn't seem like it before, but could they have changed their mind? I don't want to make them uncomfortable, but I also want to prove to them that we could be good friends.

If things don't get better, I might send them a really long text trying to explain how I feel and what I want. Then, ask them if they could please tell me if they want the same thing and how they feel. I'd also want to make sure they know that I won't be offended, upset, or disapproving of anything they say. I just want to make myself clear and know their intentions so that I can act accordingly. Would this be a good idea or would it be overwhelming for someone my age?
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Leo_3
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

Update: They texted back. (I have no idea why they preferred to answer at almost midnight, but at least they responded?)

They thanked me for inviting them, and said that they're busy for a lot of December but will ask their parents if they can go. They said they'll get back to me on it.

I know that I'm definitely overthinking this (I should understand, I'm also very busy this month) but I can't stop this feeling that they just don't want to be around me, and are trying to get out of it. It's not the end of the world (I haven't known them that long), but it would still be incredibly disappointing if that's the case.

I also need to figure out how to ask them if I'm still invited to a game-night with their friends that they invited me to when we were getting to know each other. I understand that the situation has changed, and they might not feel comfortable with it anymore, so I want to give them a chance to take back the invitation. (I hope they don't, though. Their whole friend group seems really up my alley, kind, and close-knit. If I make a good impression, maybe they'll like me and invite me to more things.)
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Latha
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Latha »

Hi there,
On a logical level, I don't mind messing up at all. But emotionally, I'm very afraid.
Ah, it is one thing to understand something on a logical level, it is another thing to know and feel it to be true.
I feel very different from my peers
Let's try to reframe this- I don't think any of this is bad. You don't understand a lot of pop culture references, but that is okay. Plenty of people love to talk about their interests or things happening in their lives. Since you don't know a lot, there is so much they can share with you- there is a special joy in introducing someone to something you think is cool. You don't have to react quickly for people to like talking to you. People need someone to listen to them, and they can hear what you have to say when you've thought of it. I know it can seem like people are operating on a different set of instructions, but there is space for people like you. (I promise, I am speaking from personal experience.)

I think you've done the right thing by reaching out to this person with an invitation. What happens next is out of your hands- it might be said that the ball is in their court. If they respond, that's great. If they don't, that doesn't imply anything bad about you. People don't reply to such invitations for a number of reasons- maybe he hasn't checked, maybe he feels nervous, maybe he forgot... but you don't have to worry about those things.

I am going to try to explain a metaphor, let me know if this doesn't make sense. Say a gardener has some seeds. A single seed may or may not sprout, but if they plant multiple seeds, chances are that a few of them will. They can then care for the plants that are growing. The process of making new friendships is a lot like this. You do have to reach out to people often, and your efforts may not always bear fruit. If that happens, you shouldn't jump to thinking there is something wrong with you. What you can do is think about your strategy, in the same way that a gardener might think about the quality of their soil.

I know that this can be so difficult and tiring when you have anxiety. Give yourself time and reach out when you feel up to it.
Latha
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Latha »

Ah, I just saw your new post.

I'm not sure this is the route you'd prefer, but I've been told it can be good to be direct about such things. Saying something along the lines of 'Hey, I remember we talked about a game-night. I was wondering if that invitation is still open- it sounded fun, and your friends seem cool too. It is okay it isn't, though.' might work. So many people can relate to the experience of looking for friends, so there is nothing shameful about asking, in my opinion.
Leo_3
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

Yes, the gardening metaphor does makes sense. I think that's definitely becoming my experience. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't, and sometimes they could work at another time. It's important to not take it too personally.

I believe people generally like to be around those that make them feel comfortable, heard, understood, and excited. I'm not great at being exciting or humorous, but I can handle the others.

If I relax and show that I'm open and happy to be with others (through participation and body language), things should probably get better. I can't forcefully change who I am or my mannerisms, but I can figure out how to navigate socializing as I am. (In other words: focusing outwards, not inwards.)

The biggest challenge tends to be myself. I have difficulty keeping up in step with others. Hopefully, that just comes from lack of practice, and the more I try, the better I'll become at it. If I learn how to not beat myself up over every way I "mess up", I'll probably have more energy to socialize and less apprehension.


If they say that they can come to the theatre, I will probably talk to them about how they feel and what they want then. If not, I might wait until December is over.
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Leo_3
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

Update: I asked about the game-night. They said that yes, I am completely invited. They texted back that although circumstances have changed, they still want me there. Agh, I could just hug them so much!

One thing this experience is teaching me is that I'm a really affectionate person, but have difficulty expressing it because of anxiety. And all that pent up emotion actually just ramps up my anxiety and depression in a vicious cycle.

I'm going to try to act the way I want to act this time. If loving on people is "weird" to someone, then that's their opinion. But who cares, because I want people to know when I'm grateful for them and that I care about them. And that includes physical affection! Even if it feels awkward! Touch is important in a variety of relationships and to human happiness in general, so why should I deny myself (and/or others) the comfort of it? (If it's not clear, I mean all of this as long as it's consensual. I will not be touching someone if they ask me not to, express that they're uncomfortable, or try to avoid it.)
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Leo_3
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Leo_3 »

Hi!

I had a great time today at the game night.

I'm still confused about whether anyone there wants to be my friend (especially the guy I dated), but I'm trying to accept that I can't have all the answers right away.

Anyway, tonight got me thinking. Should feeling love/affection hurt? I don't mean rejection, which is the way Google keeps addressing it. I mean the emotion. I don't know these people very well, but sometimes I'm so overwhelmed with affection that it (physically) hurts my chest.

This isn't new to me. The last crush I had (maybe the only crush I've ever had?) was painful to experience.

Sometimes I feel afraid and like crying when I feel affection too. I'm not sure if that contributes to the pain partially, or if that emotion is presenting itself as pain and I'm not recognizing it.

I also wondered if I've just associated pain with affection. My family is pretty dysfunctional, and the last close friendship I had ended traumatically. So maybe my body is just trying to warn me that feeling love will eventually lead to pain?

Thank you for reading my posts and writing back to me. It has been very helpful and reassuring.

P.S. I don't think the guy I dated is gay like their Instagram story said. I think that they were either frustrated that people think they're gay or joking about it. Today someone joked that he's gay, and he very seriously responded that he isn't. It doesn't change much since I'm sure that I'm not romantically interested in them, but it may add some context.

I feel a lot of affection for him and would like to do everything couples do (with him) minus kissing and romantic/sexual touching. Which is very frustrating, since I don't think they would want to do that with their ex.
"We absolutely don't know what living is. Sometimes atoms arranged in a certain way just get very haunted. That's us. When an explosion explodes hard enough, dust wakes up and thinks about itself. And then writes about it." (cryptonature, reddit)
Latha
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Re: Confusion with Attraction and Sexuality within a Relationship and in General

Unread post by Latha »

Hi there, Leo
I had a great time today at the game night.
That's amazing! (Also, I've read your previous posts, and I think you were right about the conclusions you made there.)
Should feeling love/affection hurt? I don't mean rejection, which is the way Google keeps addressing it. I mean the emotion. I don't know these people very well, but sometimes I'm so overwhelmed with affection that it (physically) hurts my chest.
Should it hurt? No, I wouldn't say that, but it definitely can. I am speculating here, but I wonder if this is because those feelings of affection and love are wrapped up in some negative feelings that say things like: this won't last very long, they won't like you, they can't like you because of who you are, and so they'll leave. None of that is true, but whenever you feel these positive feelings, you're anticipating getting hurt as well.

This should tie into what you mentioned about some of the other close relationships in your life- you're associating the feelings of love and affection that you also felt there to the painful outcomes in those relationships.

Try to catch yourself if your mind starts giving you a list of things that you might have done wrong, or reasons why (for example) the people you met at game night couldn't really want to be your friend. Don't put yourself on trial and build a case against yourself. Give yourself the space to find evidence that is contrary to your instinctive conclusions.
I'm still confused about whether anyone there wants to be my friend (especially the guy I dated), but I'm trying to accept that I can't have all the answers right away.
I think this is a good way of thinking. If it is hard to believe in a positive idea (like that the people there enjoyed your company), you can settle for a more neutral position (you don't know the answers yet).
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