Dear Charlene: “I’m Not Interested”
Every month, comic and writer Charlene deGuzman answers your questions about love, loss, and loneliness.
Hi everyone! I’m Charlene deGuzman!
I’ve teamed up with FLOOD to offer you all advice, support, and hope! Every month I’ll be answering any of your heart’s questions on life, love, happiness, and any of the deepest places in between.
Let me introduce myself. I was depressed at age eleven. I never thought I could ever feel happy or lovable. I spent my whole life trying to escape the pain. My life was a mess until I got fed up and did something about it. And now, as a recovered sex and love addict, I am the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.
I’m here to listen and help. Ask me anything at email@example.com. Your identity will remain anonymous.
I don’t know if you can help me. I think my situation is probably very different from what you’re used to getting letters about. I’m not a love addict or a sex addict. I’m actually the opposite—I have no interest in sex or love. I haven’t had a girlfriend since high school. There’s one girl who I used to hang out with every now and then. She liked me, but I told her I’m not looking for anything serious. The last time I saw her, she told me I needed help. She said that being like this isn’t healthy. I thought she was just needy. But now I can’t stop thinking about it. Is it unhealthy even though I’m comfortable? Isn’t it OK to not want what everyone else wants? I’m kind of afraid of what you’re going to say, but I thought I’d ask.
Hey, you’re not alone! I know a lot of people just like you. Believe it or not, insistently avoiding sex and love isn’t that different from abusing it. They’re two sides on the same coin—they’re both a result of a fear of intimacy. Sometimes, this is referenced as love avoidance, or sex and love anorexia. This type of anorexia is the compulsive avoidance of giving and receiving emotional or sexual nourishment.
Here are a few signs you may be experiencing sex and love anorexia:
• You have never been in a romantic relationship, or haven’t been in one in years.
• You withhold from or go long periods without sex, or tend to rely on porn, masturbation, anonymous sex, or fantasy.
• You are in a relationship, but have never experienced intimacy, sexuality, romance, or friendship.
• You are unfulfilled in a relationship, but can’t leave.
• You are “too busy” to be in a relationship, or are maybe a workaholic.
• You tend to isolate.
• It’s difficult for you to develop friendships at work, school, or social situations.
• It’s exhausting to be around other people.
• You push people away if they get too close.
• You withdraw from emotions and are cold or timid.
• You’re more open to strangers, people you can’t be sexual with, or only one gender.
• You tend to be attracted to unavailable people.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with things like spending time alone, focusing on your career, or not desiring a relationship. But if it ever feels destructive, compulsive, or isolating, if it has ever ruined relationships, if you constantly feel empty and unfulfilled, it may be something to take a look at.
Only you can abandon yourself.
When I first went into recovery for sex and love addiction, I found it was easy for me to fall into habits of sex and love anorexia. I thought that all I had to do was refrain from having sex and engaging with men. Little did I know how important it was to replace my old behavior with loving and nurturing behavior. While addiction had me living in excess, anorexia had me living in deprivation. The goal is to reach that healthy place in between—not too much, not too little.
As you discover more about yourself, focus on your self-care. Are you eating when you’re hungry? Are you sleeping when you’re tired? Or could you be doing either too much?
What are your thoughts about yourself like? Are you negative? Critical? Are you a bully?
Do you do nice things for yourself? Do you take care of your body? Can you receive compliments?
Do you spend positive time with yourself? Do you spend time with others? Are they good people who support you?
I know, I know—this is a lot. It can be overwhelming once we check in with ourselves. When I finally saw how badly I treated myself, it was painful to see that the reason I did so was because I felt like I deserved it. I thought by staying away from people and keeping my walls up, I was protecting myself and couldn’t get hurt. Little did I know that I was only hurting myself by keeping myself from receiving good things and people.
Sometimes we have been hurt so much in the past that there’s no way we would ever open our heart to anyone again. We decide we could never trust anyone, and that’s that. But the truth is, it’s not about trusting other people. It’s about trusting yourself. It’s the knowing that as long as you love yourself, as long as you take care of yourself, you are always safe. And the more you love and take care of yourself, the more likely you will attract people and situations that reflect that. No one can abandon you. Only you can abandon yourself.
Once you knock down those walls, face your fears, and get vulnerable, there are so many beautiful rewards to be had. You deserve the opportunity to at least see for yourself. There is so much happiness and joy waiting for you, but only you can give this to yourself, or keep this from yourself. Only you get to decide.
Intimacy with others is what helps us grow. But it starts with intimacy with yourself. And being honest with yourself is the first intimate thing you can do. FL