advice: 27-year-old virgin with daddy issues

In ALL, DATING & MATING, STRAIGHT UP ADVICE by Stephanie Klein21 Comments

QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER: I am an absolute mess in the intimacy and confidence departments. I am now a 27-year-old virgin who has never been on a real date. I don’t have any major weight, looks or body odor problems – it’s all in my head, of course. I grew up with a very meek and gentle mother and brother and a very frightening, powerful and often absentee father. I yearned for his affection and praise but never got it, which led to psychiatric problems of anxiety and depression at about the age of 15, a few years after my parents divorced. I had one overdose in college on my meds but am now doing better with the anxiety. But I still have absolutely no idea how normal females interact with men their own age. Not surprisingly, the only males I can feel comfortable around are either gay or at least 30 years older than me. I finally got so sick of my dad screaming at me for the tiniest little infractions and playing second fiddle to his second wife that I cut him off over a year ago. I thought that would really help me, but it hasn’t. I’m still terrified of men and have no idea how to date or flirt. I don’t want to be a virgin forever, but at this point, I think I might be. I had about 10 years of psychiatric help, but honestly, I just don’t think it can help me. I just sit in the chair and cry, session after session, about how much my dad hurt me and how scared I am of everything, but mostly trust and intimacy. Do you see any way I could ever get over my daddy issues? I hate that he emotionally controls me in this way! I yearned for a caring father figure my whole life, not one who would berate and criticize me, and so I’m afraid that I will just go for a father figure one day and have no hope of being with my equal in a guy. What did I do to deserve this? Why do I torture myself this way???

straight up advice

As always, the floor is yours until I take. Please try to offer anything that might help out our 28-year-old virgin. Yes, 28. Because it might have taken me a year to respond to this. Sorry about that.

go ahead, ask




If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.


  1. I applaud you for getting help. Consider seeing a new therapist though…it doesn’t sound like this one is doing enough/much for you. I think this is something you can definitely overcome with the right therapist. Good luck to you.

  2. As horrible as it sounds, I think you need to desensitize yourself to men in a setting that IS NOT romantic.
    So first I suggest joining something coed in sports. If you are not athletic, bowling is a good choice. Particularly since you can bowl and drink – and drinking is a natural relaxer.
    Ask for help in your athletic pursuit. MEN LOVE TO HELP WOMEN. So this will create an interaction.

    Act. Pretend. Get into a role.
    We are what we project. And since that is true and we can choose to project anything we want – we can be whomever we want.
    At least for the period we are acting that way.

    When you go into the social setting with men, you think of yourself as confident, sexy, and interesting. If you can think of a woman who projects that already – either in real life or on TV, then act that way.
    ACT. With your whole body. Stand straighter, walk with purpose, look up at faces, not at feet, etc. As soon as you act that way, people react to you differently than they had before. And soon you are feeling more comfortable.

    Practice it at work a couple of times. Choose to act a certain way and see how you feel when you walk in the role.

    I give you this advise, because I use it and it works. Amazingly well. I put on the act for meetings, for social settings, for whatever. It helps you step away from all the phobias that belong to the broken person.

    You are already getting better. You ditched the toxic dad.

    1. Wow- this is really, really interesting and great advice! Never thought of it that way before.

  3. My Dear,

    You are in a tough predicament. I won’t tell you what to do, but I can tell you that I had major issues with dating in my mid 20’s and early thirties. I had “daddy” issues too – and therapy didn’t work for me. Like you, I did a lot of expensive crying but never saw any real results. Life coaching has been a lot better- simply because I’m learning to take actions vs. “telling my story.”

    I still deal with issues – primarily around being bullied (by women-oddly) but have learned to stand up for myself. Through all of this, I’ve learned to like myself and make lots of really nice supportive friends. I also married a great guy this year. I’m 37 so it took me a loooonnng time to find someone that I could trust. When I found him, I started focusing on moving forward vs. being frightened by my past. That being said, you still have time to make life and your love life a wonderful thing. You are still young.

    In my opinion I wouldn’t worry, initially, about being a virgin. I’d work on gaining confidence around men – even if it’s at a friendship level and then work on the love life. I’m a big believer of crawling before walking and of course before running!

    Best of luck!

    With kindest regards,

    Mrs. Simon

  4. No advice to give. Just wanted to say it’s pretty awesome of you to reach out about this. Awareness is such a huge step, and you’re aware of your “problem,” not just aware, able to verbalize it. Good for you!

  5. At this point, I hope it is a no problemo. I hope that you learned that you are worthwhile and that it wasnt your fault for what happened with your dad. i’m sorry for the past you have (not) had with him. That just gives you a better opportunity to find a better man, because you’ll know what to avoid, and therefore have a great home for your children.

    Intimacy is far more than sex, and it does start with trust. Trusting they are interested. how do you interact? get invovled, feel worthwhile in what YOU know that you are contributing to something. Often by giving back, we help create a better ‘us’ and therefore meet someone worthwhile. In turn, he’ll help you trust him.

    Just talk. Converse. and believe in you.

  6. Being a virgin is not such a tragedy. A lot of women are still trying to find themselves (sexually speaking) in their late twenties. What’s important is to find someone you are comfortable with and trust.

    I totally agree with above advice about making some guy friends and getting to know them. Overall I’d say that men are generally pretty simple creatures and can be quite fun to be around. Some of my best friends are guys.

    Acting is also great advice… we all do it. We watch so many movies that it’s almost hard not to. Pick a character that you think is closest to your own and pretend that that’s who you are for that night. Then you take what you liked about the experience and ditch the rest. Might sound a bit fake but it is a great way to get out of your comfort zone.. comfortably.

    Wishing you all the best!!

  7. Calling In “The One”

    read this book

    work with one of the trained coaches.

    it is very different work than therapy.

    you will be able to transform these issues and become empowered.

    and available to love and be loved.

    I promise if you do the work, it will help you. I would put my life on it, even.

    I am not kidding.

    1. I second this book, for anyone really. I never worked with the coaches, but each chapter really makes you think and, more importantly, act.

      I’ve made some amazing positive changes in my life over the past two years because of the exercises in the book, that even if I didn’t find a great guy a few months ago I would still be singing the praises of Katherine Woodward Thomas!

  8. Stephanie wrote something like this before (sorry for paraphrasing you SK): Belief follows behavior. If you behave like you’re happy, eventually your brain will catch up to that fake smile and actually believe it! And you’ll be happy.

  9. It might be a good idea to see a psychologist or psychiatrist with a different approach. For example, a behavioral psychologist will often come at things from a different angle. Not sure. I like Sara’s ideas of doing a sport and acting. I also like the idea of maybe trying to be friends with heterosexual guys. Maybe that’s naive. I would also say that maybe only a year since you stopped speaking to your dad may not be long enough to recover. I was probably very difficult. It’s hard to say more because I feel like I do not fully understand all of the facts. But good luck.

  10. Someone suggested a life coach, and I was going to suggest cognitive behavioral therapy where you can make goals with your therapist. But definitely ditch the couch you’re on – it ain’t working for you. I’m also not usually for self-help books, but “Calling in The One” sounds fantastic b/c it’s working on being the best YOU, not changing yourself to find someone.

    I also wanted to share that I was a virgin until I was 32. I dated but never had any real relationships, had daddy issues (although not as severe), had weight issues. But it was a choice that I made, and as I got older it didn’t make sense just to give it up since I was older. I ended up meeting my future husband who gets ALL of me, even the broken bits, and he was fine with my virginity and was patient.

    My point? It’s about finding the right person. The right person won’t condemn you for these things in your life. They will support you.

    Best of luck. You will come out the other side a stronger woman!

  11. Sweetie, I stronly suggest you spend a few weeks listening to Dr. Laura, as you will hear yourself there and therefore the quality answer she might give you. The first thing she would tell you is go get your money back from that therapist, second is to not date. You need to get your own life problems dealt with before you can possibly find Mr. Right. AND quit labeling yourself as a (blank) year old virgin. I met the love of my life at 27, he was my friend for years, then we started dating, I was married at 30 AND a virgin. No regrets, we have a beautiful daughter and marriage is a lot harder than it sounds. Thank you for saving yourself for the right man and right time. Enjoy where you are at, never mind screwed up “father”. Quit crying!

  12. OK, first I have to agree with the others that the therapist is not the right fit for you. Second, I think you have a lot of forgiveness work to do – you have to forgive your father, your mother, and even yourself. And when I say forgive, I do NOT mean that you should let that selfish, abusive bastard back into your life: forgiveness is something we give to allow ourselves to let go of the pain – it’s all about YOU moving forward in a place of peace. You say that you are still, ten years later, crying about how your dad hurt you…it’s time to forgive it and let it go – this pain and anger is not doing you any favors. I say all this because I was in a VERY similar situation and therapy did not help me either. Finally, a series of hypnosis sessions, where I literally learned to be the parent to my inner child and hug her and tell her how wonderful and beautiful and special she is, as well as forgiveness work (actually tossing away the pain visually and writing letters to the people who had hurt me telling them what they had done, that it hurt me, and that I was letting it go and sending them peace, and then burning the letters and watching the smoke rise) have brought me to a place of great peace. I wish that for you. Be well, and remember, you are full of love – that is of great value.

  13. I totally agree. I call this my ‘event mode’. It’s a very empowered ‘copy’ of myself.
    I’m a PR professional and when I’m at en event I’m this enthousiastic, smiling and confident girl.
    It’s a glove that fits me for other occasions as well (parties where I don’t know anyone, …) and I feel relaxed with it, because I’m really still myself.

    Good luck, you already took the great step to seek help.
    Maybe an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) coach could help you find your strong points.

  14. Try finding a quantum biofeedback practitioner. It works on an energetic level to clear things in your unconsciousness & free you. It has been very powerful for me.

  15. I had an absentee and yelling about nothing Father. I was a virgin until my early 30’s. I never thought of all the stuff you have. For me I just never met a guy I wanted to be that intimate with. When I was 14 I had met a boy my age through pen pal letter writing. We kept in touch on and off over the years. When I was thirty I went down to the US (from Ontario) to meet him in person. I was only there a few days but he said he was in love with me and felt sparks when he gave me a kiss on the last day. I wasn’t in love but I liked him, he was my best friend. I immigrated to the US and we got married there. I lost my virginity before we were married. He had come up here (Ontario) and we had a very loving, tender first time. I think it was especially erotic and sensual because I had waited and was with someone I was very comfortable with. You don’t have to stop being a virgin by some set date, we don’t come with expiry dates like that. Give yourself a break, relax and find a guy you want to be with for reasons other than someone to have sex with. The sex will come along without much effort once you find a person you enjoy doing things with and have stuff in common with.

  16. late comment, lol.

    male perspective… and I’ll try to be blunt b/c it’s a simple opinion.
    before you go following my advice (or any), check it with a girlfriend you trust, as I’m not a know it all. they might have another approach more empathetic to your point of view, at which point merge the positives from both angles, I’d say.

    you need to take control of your apprehension and treat men like things, not scary monsters or whatever. like a stock broker views stocks. I’m not saying become a cold-hearted bitch, but realize you are reacting to your projections and fears of what “we” are, not necessarily the actuality. at that point you can deal with men socially and be formal and polite, but leave as you entered, with no social engagements made.

    when you become unmoved by that scary image you have of men, try then to notice & reciprocate their kind gestures when they are offered. don’t ultimately forsake sex appeal for Mr. Nice Guy, but learn how to exchange heart-felt compliments or whatever. That’s the key to how men and women co-exist and interact. You should learn how to identify a nice guy, and value affection from those types, cuz that’s the kind of attention you seem to need.

    now it’s technically not as simple as that, only because you need to find your balance.

    flirting is another post, but suffice to say if you want to do it, don’t fear your sexual instincts, just be sure you’re not selling yourself out to no value.

    also agree with comments on “forgiving”. what that amounts to is “accepting”: accepting that it happened, accepting that this man was/is scum, and when you accept that it’s over, let it go. don’t bother hating, just remember the “lesson”, so to speak. see “the grudge”.

    far as the “therapist” thing goes, you need one that will challenge you to make therapeutic progress by advancing goals, that’s all.

    It’s worth it to remember, just b/c there’s one piece of shit in the bunch, it doesn’t mean the whole crop is rotten. ppl deal with assholes all the time, in your case you were raised by one, that was just your childhood though. it helped shaped you into who you are now, but there’s a compatible mate out there for your needs, as there is for probably anyone. hope my viewpoint helps. and believe it or not, your life isn’t over because of this.

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