“I’m a 40 year old virgin. Is there still hope?” – Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Viewpoint

Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

I’m not going to tell anyone to take up a hobby, embrace their freedom or go for couple’s counseling. Treating the symptoms of a problem is not going to cure it.

I’m male, in my mid-40s, with a responsible job and rewarding creative opportunities, but I’ve never had a relationship and remain a virgin.

I was a shy, lanky, arty, non-sporty spotty teenager, bullied, with no contact with girls. I hoped to meet someone at college, then work, but although I met nice girls, I had no confidence.

Eventually, I gave up trying to meet someone when it became clear I was never going to earn enough money even to rent my own place.

And, with  the death of my father,  I did not want to leave my mother in the lurch.

A few years ago, some bad health made me realise I should try, and I decided to give internet dating a go.

I’ve met some lovely women, but after a few years there’s not been a ‘click’. I do wonder if I’m somehow revealing my inexperience in a way I’m unaware of, because so far nothing’s progressed beyond a date or two. I can’t pretend to be what I’m not, I can only be myself.

In any case, I was aware that my living arrangements would be a bit of a letdown for women expecting some degree of independence at my age. But, thankfully, this hasn’t been the case with every lady I’ve met.

My real fear is that if I’m lucky enough to meet someone special, when it comes to sex, my complete lack of any real-life experience will prove to be an even bigger turn-off. I guess I’d like to hear that I’m worrying unnecessarily.

Some will doubtless say I should have visited a prostitute long ago, but risking an STD just for sex would be no substitute for true affection.

If someone doesn’t truly care for me as I am, what would be the point? There are other ways to direct your passions, and it’s not as if I don’t  have friends.

As an optimist, I can’t accept it’s too late for me, but as a realist I  wonder occasionally if I’m wasting my time and setting up false hopes.

My reply:



You start off by giving your age and talking about your ‘responsible job’ and ‘rewarding creative opportunities.’  It sounds as though you immediately need to defend yourself, before you even begin, against the accusation of being a loser, as though that’s what you expect women to think of you.  You then state that you haven’t had a relationship with a woman and remain ‘a virgin’.  It’s interesting that you choose these particular words instead of saying that you’ve never yet had sex or never managed to be close to anyone. Virgin is a word with myriad connotations, not least that of purity. The noun also suggests that you actually ARE that thing, that you inhabit it – you are a virgin. In reality it is a description of an act not yet performed, but to you it seems to engulf and define you. Your defensive introduction suggests that you feel your situation to be rather unfair given your qualities and the ways in which you are otherwise very grown up. I would immediately say two things – one is that your defensiveness and description of sex (or lack of) suggests to me that a large part of you has not, in fact, grown up yet. It also seems that you view virginity in itself as the problem, rather than the fact that you have not allowed yourself to develop fully enough to enter intimate relationships. You do go on to describe why this might be.

You clearly blame yourself for the lack of physical and emotional contact with women in early life. You say you were unattractive (giving quite a brutal description of what sounds like an ordinary developing young man) and that you lacked confidence. I hear a very critical voice, almost certainly female given the problem, telling you how ugly you were and how hopeless with girls. Again, your first line about your good job suggests that you expect quite nasty criticism from women. You continue to say that you gave up when you realised you wouldn’t be able to afford your own house. So, women in your mind have very high expectations that you are unable to meet – they want property, confidence and looks and you feel you lack these. I sense the presence of a very critical mother who made you feel like a little boy who would never be a man and have the things that real men have (an erect penis, in essence). Clearly, this is conjecture, but your defensiveness and the assumptions you seem to make about women’s views in general do point to this.

Then your father dies and you say you didn’t want to leave your mother in the lurch. Or would she perhaps not let you go? Could you not let her go? It sounds as though the Oedipal issues were never resolved for you and you were always half invited to step into the father’s shoes but then felt, or were made to feel, inadequate. You go on from this to your own illness. It seems unsurprising that upon Oedipal triumph you became ill – you now have your mother to yourself as you might once have longed to as a little boy. However, you are now a man and know this isn’t what you want or need. To her you remain a somewhat dominated little boy, not enough for her. How then could you form a sexual relationship of your own?

You worry that your living arrangements and inexperience will be a turn off but you say that, to your surprise, that has not always been the case. It is interesting that you describe your situation as ‘living arrangements’ and your problem as the fact that you are ‘a virgin’. You could have written; ‘I live with my mother at 40 and am unable to free myself from her to form an independent life and relationship.’ But you want to push that aside and let the women you meet take responsibility for accepting you as you are. And, to your astonishment, they do.

But you have not felt ‘a click’, which means that you can’t really blame the women for not being willing to take you on as you are – inexperienced, living with mother and defensive. You are not allowing yourself to accept them, not the other way round. I suggest that this is because you feel you would be betraying your mother. As you say, some of the ladies have been ‘lovely’ but you rejected them.

You say your real fear is that if you do ‘click’ and find someone you can accept just as she is (for it turns out to be that way round) that you will disappoint her in the bedroom. And yet the all the hostile judgment is in your own mind (or that of your mother) and, as you have found, not in the mind of the women you meet. Your real fear, I think, is that your mother’s wrath will annihilate you. This is a childhood fantasy, of course, but its tendrils are still very strongly wrapped around your mind.

You then say that you have considered engaging a prostitute but are worried about STDs and lack of intimacy. You find it hard to admit that you have thought about this yourself (though you obviously have as you’ve come up with a counter argument) and have to put the suggestion in the mouth of others. Again, I think what you really fear here is the stigma and your mother’s imagined judgment, not STDs.

You have a fantasy of a perfect relationship with ideal intimacy and perfect sex and anything less will disappoint you (though you put the imagined disappointment in the mind of the woman). In adult reality, of course, sex does sometimes go badly, relationships are not always perfectly intimate with absolute acceptance of each other. These things need to be tried out, accepted for their imperfections, worked with over time. The woman you hope for, with whom there is an immediate and perfect ‘click’, who accepts you fully and adores sex with you whatever the circumstances does not exist so it is not very surprising that you haven’t yet met her.  Real life is messier than that.

You say you are optimistic, but what you are waiting for is a magical fantasy so, yes, you are setting up false hopes. You need to look at what you are doing, why you are really doing it and what is stopping you from experimenting with non-perfect situations and partners and accepting their imperfections as you hope they will accept yours.

Proper advice via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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