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Love-shyness is a proto-disorder characterized by an extreme fear of romantic interactions with the opposite sex. It can range from fear of intimacy, to fear of initiation, to a complete paralysis and inability to communicate with those who the love-shy individual is infatuated with. Though all people may have suffered some of the characteristics that describe love-shys from time to time, it does not impede their overall romantic life. For a love-shy, however, these problems lead to a severe, protracted dateless situation that comprises the near, if not whole, entirety of their past and current life.

The sociologist Brian G. Gilmartin coined the term Love-shyness and created its theoretical framework. Gilmartin performed several scientific studies of chronically dateless men in the early 1980s, and discovered several patterns among them. He collated and explained the theory in the seminal book Shyness and Love.



Though no single factor has been proven to lead to an individual becoming severely inhibited and love-shy, several theories have been advanced by both Gilmartin and other scholars. However, a childhood path that is largely divergent from that of most same-age peers appears largely contribute to its development. This phenomenon, known as the wishbone effect, occurs when a child who is excluded from a group of children due to intrinsic differences becomes increasingly isolated, causing him to diverge even further from the norm. This effect is a form of positive feedback, where the behavior is self-reinforcing and becomes increasingly difficult to correct with age.

The intrinsic differences that cause the child to be excluded from peer groups can themselves have diverse origins. In Shyness and Love, Gilmartin elaborates at great length describing how harmful household environments, particularly ones where the mother is extremely controlling, can have an adverse effect on a boy's sense of self. Other factors, such as how tolerant peer groups are, can have a major effect as well, as being completely excluded causes atrophy that makes the child increasingly worse off with time relative to his same-age peers. Intrinsic temperament is a contributing, but not deciding, factor. A boy who is already of a quiet temperament, has a weak physical build, suffers developmental issues due to diseases like Asperger's syndrome, and is physically unattractive will be more likely to fall into the love-shy trap. Indeed, many of the men Gilmartin studied suffered from these problems.


Love-shyness places a heavy psychological burden upon those who suffer it. While love-shys may strive to lead normal lives, they are often adversely affected by the stress the lack of companionship and social inclusion places them under. Those who are not lacking in romantic companionship and friendship have a much greater tolerance for negative life events, or even simple daily stress than the average love-shy. This is because of the greater psychological buffering and intimate emotional support that love-shys lack.

Often, those who do not suffer from love-shyness minimize the problems the love-shies experiencing, trivializing the problems if they do not reject them outright as unimportant issues. Often they will blame the love-shy for his suffering. This plays out on a societal level, with many people who suffer from the issues described being afraid to speak about them, as they fear ridicule. Often, family members and those who would otherwise be considered close are surprisingly dismissive of the struggles a love-shy must endure, greatly inflaming the suffering.[1]

Ultimately, the struggles that love-shys must endure are a cost to society, as love-shy men tend to be underemployed for their education level. The personal burden and resentment that a love-shy will eventually come to harbor for society will not likely allow him to be a highly productive citizen. The effects of love-shyness are far reaching, even if only a small percentage of men suffer from it.


Several remedies to curing or at least easing the stress love-shys must endure have been proposed. In Shyness and Love, Gilmartin describes in detail a practice dating session that he performed with several love-shy men and volunteer women. The therapy, which involved acclimatizing a love-shy to dating by using volunteers to explain and practice the dating, had an extraordinarily high success rate. Gilmartin has attempted to restart practice dating elsewhere but has faced funding difficulties.

Other remedies include prostitution, cognitive behavioral therapy[2], antidepressant and anxiolytic medication, meditation, hobbies, music, joining groups[3], exercise[4], sensory isolation, internet dating[5], adult dating[6], succesfully dating by chance, and resigning from finding a partner. These activities have varying therapeutic effects and their success depends on the individual's psychological and physiological makeup.

Status as a disorder

Several problems stand in the way of recognizing love-shyness as a disorder. Though outside sources point to the pseudoscientific speculations that Gilmartin indulges in Shyness and Love, among other problems as discrediting the topic, those who suffer from the problem have their own disagreements with the term. There is ongoing debate as to whether love-shyness is a condition of its own merit or is simply a meta-condition comprising Avoidant Personality Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and other mental health disorders. Those who detract from the term claim the problems love-shys suffer from can easily be described as a collection of these disorders. Defenders of the term counter that the psychological community has so far failed to remedy the problems that love-shys suffer from, and cite disappointing experiences with counselors and a general lack of understanding of the problems love-shys suffer from in the psychological community.

Another position viewed by some who suffer the problems associated with love-shyness is that love-shyness is not a disorder, but simply a consequence of circumstance, and can be used as a handy label to describe the collection of problems that one suffers as a chronically shy dateless individual.

Love-shyness itself is not listed as a psychiatric disorder in the DSM-IV, and is not likely to be included in the DSM-V, due out in 2013.

See also


  1. This is a problem with involuntary celibacy and datelessness in general, and not only love-shyness. See Societal reactions to love-shyness and involuntary celibacy.
  2. Lengthy first hand account of CBT/exposure therapy. This is a link to a resource. ( link with core excerpts; requires registration.) Original Reddit thread.
  3. A large number of groups This is a link to a resource. that one can join, be they political, charity, environmental, helping the needy, or otherwise.
  4. Exercise thread This is a link to a resource. in the resources and recovery section of the forum.
  5. How I do online dating. This is a link to a resource. A member relates his experiences.
  6. The ieatboogers guide to using sex sites to defeat your love-shyness. This is a link to a resource.
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