Getting help to overcome shyness, introversion, or other barriers to intimacy can be harder than you might think. While parents or friends will be sympathetic, they may not be in a position to offer advice on issues such as sexual intimacy problems. Even when well-meaning parents or friends try to help by introducing their children to potential partners, there can still be conflict since they often don't share the same taste in potential mates.
Ultimately, how successful we are at attracting a mate depends on how much exposure we have to potential partners. Though there are certainly opportunities for meeting people, whether through social "mixers", singles events, or other social settings, people with poor social skills or who lack the self-confidence to flirt effectively may not fare that well. While we are expected to learn these kind of social skills through regular social contact with children of both sexes throughout early adolescence, young people may find themselves at a disadvantage if they are considered physically unattractive, “gawky”, naturally shy, or just slower to mature than other young people their age.
Though many “late-bloomers” may succeed in overcoming their adolescent social problems and develop into early adulthood with few problems, this isn’t always the case. Not getting the proper social experience as young adults may help reinforce self-image problems and lead to a long-term pattern of social isolation.
Another issue that Apostolou discusses in his article (link is external) refers to two separate mechanisms that are equally important in forming intimate relationships. The first of these is the Mate Attraction Mechanism which focuses on the social skills needed to attract potential mates in the first place. This includes skills such as flirting, “small talk”, and being able to “screen” potential mates to decide who is most acceptable.
Then there is the Mate Retention Mechanism which includes all of the relationship skills needed to maintain a long-term intimate relationship. Since it involves different skills than mate attraction, there may be conflicts for people who are able to attract mates but who lack the necessary skills to keep this relationship for long. People who have trouble forming long-term relationships may find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of short-term relationships which can reinforce their poor self-esteem and make them unable to break out of this cycle.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.