I must start by stating the obvious which is that it’s difficult to answer your questions without having met you and gathered specific information about your life. It’s important to keep that caveat in mind.
It’s not clear to me that anything is wrong. Undoubtably you’re struggling but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are the problem. You’re only 20 years old. You’re still very young. It’s common to experience the type of struggles you have described at your age. The ability to develop healthy relationships can be a challenging task. It’s a struggle that many people face, especially at your age.
You might be guilty of exaggeration when you write: “I’ve never been able to connect with someone.” Using words like “never” invokes a certain wholesale characterization that may not be entirely accurate. If we were to examine your relationships, an objective source, such as a therapist, might characterize some of them as being close or deep. They may even describe it as a connection.
Much of this issue, and how you characterize it, depends upon your definition of certain words. What is your definition of “connect?” What exactly do you mean by that phrase? How do you understand the way in which people are “supposed to” connect and how do you define “serious relationship?”
You mentioned that you have friends whom you “cherish” but it appears as though you do not characterize those relationships as being serious or as evidence of your ability to connect with others. Again, it would be helpful to know how you define a serious relationship. If we were to ask those friends whom you cherish, if they considered your relationship to be serious, they may say, yes.
In addition, to cherish someone is to protect and to care for them lovingly. You asked in your letter “why can’t I love anyone?” If you cherish them, then, by definition, you do love them. Thus, it would appear as though you “can show someone your heart” and you “can love” another person or other people.
It’s possible that you are making assumptions about the way you think relationships are supposed to be and then judging yourself against those assumptions. If your assumptions are wrong, then your conclusions are also wrong.
Developmentally, according to Eric Erickson, being able to connect intimately with others is a task expected to occur between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. The stage is called intimacy versus isolation. According to Erikson, this is a time when individuals are focused on forming more serious and loving relationships. Perhaps you are struggling with that task. That’s fairly normal for people at your developmental stage.
If you’re struggling, it’s wise to consult a mental health professional. Counseling is the ideal place to deal with these types of issues. Few things are more important than the ability to develop healthy and happy relationships with others in our lives.
Hopefully, you’ll consider consulting a therapist. It could help you immensely. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle