If you want to talk to someone about your dating difficulties and other situations in your life, support groups may be a good place. Meeting a group of people who have been through similar struggles can help you feel less alone. In a good support group, people listen without judging, and give you ideas for how to handle your situation. Peer support groups can be in-person or online, and are free or low-cost to join.
Online Support Forums
As you may know, online peer support for “involuntary celibacy” started in 1997, and morphed into many incel forums. Unfortunately most of these promote misogyny and misinformation, even while providing some emotional support to the men who participate. We don’t have the resources to moderate a healthy online forum. If you find a good online forum about dating difficulties and sexual inexperience, please comment or contact us!
There are some existing online peer support forums about related issues. Relationships and Communication is one of the dozens of popular forums at PsychCentral where you might find a friendly listener. Over at SupportGroups there are active forums about anxiety, depression, autism & Aspergers, body dysmorphia, shyness, and an entire alphabet of other issues you may be struggling with. If you try discussing your dating difficulties on any of these online forums, please comment to share your experiences. Some of the anti-stigma tips below may apply on internet forums.
In-Person Support Groups
We have not yet heard of any formal in-person support groups for adults inexperienced with dating – please comment if you find one! You might find some long-time singles in your city and start an informal group – again, please share your experiences so more people can try this.
There are in-person support groups for many other situations and conditions that you might have, related to your dating difficulties. For example, the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (in Canada) offers a regular calendar of support groups about depression, anxiety and more. You can do a web search for “support groups location” where “location” is your city, state/province or country. Larger cities will have more support groups, and availability will also depend on the local culture.
There might be lots of single people in some support groups, such as for autism or shyness. Other topics might bring in mostly people with relationship experience, so they might not give you the feeling of “everybody here understands what I’m going through”.
Because of the stigma on singles and inexperienced people, there is some risk that group members will be judgemental or clueless about your dating difficulties. You can do a few things to avoid that stigma, and ensure your support-group meetings are positive:
- Contact the organizer in advance, to ask if the group gets many people who are long-time single or inexperienced with dating. Test whether they will respond helpfully to your dating difficulties.
- At your first meeting, you should have the option to mostly just listen. You’ll find out if dating and relationships are a common topic for the group, and hear their general attitudes. You don’t have to disclose everything about yourself, and you can leave anytime you want.
- When you start talking about your dating issues, you can mention the stigma on singles or virginity, which could signal people to think before they say something judgemental.
- It’s probably best to not describe yourself as “incel”. That word now often refers to a man who is violently angry at women, so people could get scared of you. Try more neutral words to describe your situation.
- You can ask people to listen without giving advice. This may be useful if people are likely to give simplistic advice that doesn’t work for you.
- When you are ready to ask for advice, give some detail that shows you have tried the obvious solution, or why you can’t, so people know to consider alternative approaches.
In-person support groups may be led by mental health professionals, other people with facilitation training, or peers (people with the condition or situation, but not trained professionals). Some cities have multiple support groups for similar issues. So if you don’t feel comfortable at one group, try a different one.
I have attended and facilitated a peer support group in the LGBTQ community, It can be a lovely space to share my experiences and meet people with similar feelings – and to learn about the unique ways each person approaches their situation. Best of luck, and please share your story!