Implications for Therapy
After a love-shy man has been successfully helped to the point
where he is involved in a stable heterosexual love relationship, I think
it makes very good sense for his therapist to help him develop a friend-
ship network. At that point in time the love-shy man will almost always
be quite receptive towards the idea of developing male friendships. On
the other hand, before that time he will usually not be receptive. Practice-
dating therapy groups (discussed in section three of this book) can prove
very helpful catalysts in helping the love-shy to develop same-sexed
friendship networks and mutual support systems. And their usefulness
should be capitalized upon in that regard.
In recent years a controversy has developed among therapists
working with the lonely and the love-shy. Many such therapists believe
that the almost constant preoccupation love-shy men have with finding
someone to love should be discouraged. Karen Rook and Letitia Peplau
of the U.C.L.A. Loneliness Clinic have taken a rather crass and arrogant
stance in this regard:
"While lonely individuals are most likely to say that they need 'one
special person' or 'a romantic partner', their views do not necessarily
represent psychologically sound treatment goals....Having such
relationships does not necessarily protect one against feeling lonely,
particularly when important social exchanges are not provided
through the relationship....We recommend caution in defining
relationship formation as the goal of intervention with lonely clients
.... Among the sociocultural factors that we suspect contribute to
loneliness are the social stigma associated with being unmarried,
and the cultural preoccupation with love relationships. We would
call for greater acceptance of lifestyles other than traditional mar-
riage. We urge that the pressure to 'achieve' love relationships be
relaxed and that other forms of social relationships, particularly
friendships, be given greater status." (Rook and Peplau, 1982, pp. 360--
It has been my experience that the only people preoccupied to any
extent at all with love relationships are those without such relationships.
Felt deprivation gives rise to preoccupation. And the only workable way to
stem this preoccupation is to somehow satisfy the unmet need. To be
sure, there are certain groups, such as elderly widows, for whom the
obtaining of a heterosexual love relationship may indeed be unrealistic.
In a society with six times as many widows as widowers, sex ratio
considerations alone dictate for some that ways other than heterosexual
love and romance be cultivated for assuaging loneliness problems. On
the other hand, in the case of the love-shy man there is no logical or
necessary reason for a therapist to discourage his/her client from wanting
a heterosexual love relationship.
Actually, it would probably not even be feasible for a therapist to
do this even if it were indicated. Love-shy men are too intensely preoc-
cupied with their need for a female. It is only through releasing this need
and preoccupation through satisfying it that the love-shy man can begin
to appreciate the desirability of building up a network of meaningful,
non-romantic friendships. This represents a key reason why the deep-
seated emotional need for a love relationship MUST be satisfied first
before any other worthwhile goals can be worked on.
Secondly, the having and sustaining of male friendships absolutely
requires a reasonable degree of harmony between a man's ideal self
(deeply held values, interests), and his real or actual self. A real self that
is at drastic variance from the ideal or aspired to self effectively blocks
spontaneous, free-flowing communication. In addition, it makes the love-
shy man appear bored and disinterested in what the other members of
the all-male friendship network are conversing about. It makes the love-
shy man appear excessively self-centered and self-preoccupied.
A person's own cup must be reasonably full before he is going to
be in any position to share the content of his cup with other people.
Until a love-shy man has made substantial progress towards the attain-
ing of meaningful female companionship, his "cup" is going to be well
nigh empty. He is certainly not going to be in a position to freely and
unself-consciously share anything of his "cup" with male friends.
And why should "friendships" have to be of only one sex (one's
own sex) anyway! Like many therapists, Rook and Peplau assume that
friendship and social support networks must necessarily be comprised
of people of just one gender. This represents a very deeply ingrained
cultural assumption and bias which (1) is very destructive, and (2) which
we need to get away from. This is a key reason why I have stressed
throughout this book the desirability of developing a Coed Scouts orga-
nization for children--so that those who wish to do so can learn to play
and to comfortably interact in strictly coeducational settings from the
earliest ages in life onward. Neither children nor adults should have to
accept strictly sex-segregated friendship groups. More succinctly, there
is no reason why a man (or boy) cannot have a woman (girl) as a lover
and/or wife, and other women (girls) as "just good friends".
In general, it is both arrogant and alienating for a therapist to
intimate to his/her love-shy client that he/she knows what his/her client
needs better than his/her love-shy client himself knows what he needs.
It is this very arrogance that led most of the older love-shy men to a
firm resolve to never again seek out a clinical psychologist or any other
type of professional psychotherapeutic counselor. Simply put, I believe
that therapists have a moral obligation to honor their client's presenting
problem, felt needs and preoccupation. A person almost always knows
(1) what he needs, and (2) what is truly in his best interests, far better
than anyone else ever could. The rightful and proper task of a shyness
therapist is to help his love-shy client obtain and develop an emotionally
satisfying relationship with a woman.