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December 30

Is it him, or my past?

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:01 am

Sorting it out on September 7, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

I have been with my boy for 2 years and I really love him. We were supposed to get married this year, but decided we were perhaps pushing things a little too far too fast and postponed the date to an as-yet-undecided future day. We both want this relationship to work but to do so, I feel we need to resolve a huge problem that is overshadowing us:

I don’t like to be physical with him very much anymore.

I was sexually abused when I was very young and I know this impacts me in some way(s) every single day, though how it manifests itself in my day-to-day life, I am never sure. I have never tried to block the abuse from my life, to ignore it or pretend it never happened. Nor have I ever tried to use it as an excuse or a part of a poor-me martyrdom act.

Now I am wondering how much of my past is impacting my current relationship — or if I am “using” my abuse to cover up the fact that I just feel cold and numb and sometimes even a little repelled or violently angry when I am physical with him. I mean, I know that these feelings are often *brought on* by abuse, but sometimes I wonder if I am simply not attracted to him anymore, but my feelings of frustration and sadness over this are coming out AS cold/numb/angry/repelled.

I am really scared to lose him: I also have Panic Disorder and I know that he’s my safety person, that if I lost him, I might really break down and be afraid to do all the things I want to do with my life. I don’t want that to affect my decision, but I can’t see how it wouldn’t.

At the same time, though, ASIDE from the physical aspect of our relationship, I feel really safe and loved with him. But I feel like I should let him go find someone a little less confused; I feel like I have led him on — I know I am a very different person with regards to physicality at the start of a relationship than I am later on, but I didn’t know I would get to *this* point 2 years down the road. I know he misses the sexually-okay person I was when we met, but I am not sure how to get back there.

I know he’d never just up and leave because he’s not “getting any” — we have talked at length about what’s going on; he is very willing to stay and work through this with me — but he is also a very sexual person and I know this is depressing and frustrating the hell out of him as it frustrates and depresses me. And as understanding as he is and as sure I am that he’ll hang in there with me for quite a while, I know he won’t wait forever. He hasn’t said this, but I get that feeling anyway.

And to make matters more confusing, I feel, at times, like I am attracted to other people and can think about them, physically, the way I haven’t been able to think about my partner in a long time.

I know this is a heavy load, but I feel really desperate. I can’t afford a private counselor and I am a little unsure about my other options. I guess I am really looking for a somewhat objective opinion. I would like to think that my partner and I stand a chance here, but if we don’t, I want to be able to end this in such a way that we can still leave the door open for a friendship. He’s one of the best friends I have ever had and I feel like my own bizarre hormones are on the verge of ruining it for the both of us.

— Headfirst in Hell

Dear Headfirst,

Here’s Belleruth! “You are a very insightful and thoughtful person, and i’m impressed with how much clear thinking you’ve been able to do on such a confusing issue. This happens very often with abuse. You’re this hot, super-sexual babe early in a relationship, but then when the relationship starts getting emotionally intimate and stable (and thus threatening) the sexual interest wanes. You can even get phobic about having sex, and that gets worse and worse the longer you stay away from sex. It’s more commonplace than people think.

Believe it or not, if that’s what’s operating, some fairly simple behavioral exercises, graduated over weeks from simple kissing (you know, first base, second base, blah blah) with you in control of the progression actually works. If that’s what the deal is.

If, however, there are other problems in the relationship, as you have implied there might be, then this could be your extended way of getting him to get mad and leave you. Maybe he’s boring. Maybe he’s at a totally different educational and cultural level. Sounds like you feel guilty a lot and that you ‘owe’ him for sticking with you and all your ‘defective’ issues.

Or he may be wonderful and you’re just too messed up from your history to enjoy him. Either way, you do need counseling. There are family service and other agencies — Jewish, Lutheran, Catholic social services — where you could explore this with a nice, neutral, smart person both individually and as a couple. (You could also get behavioral therapy for your panic disorder, which includes your phobia about sex.)”

Hang in there, Headfirst. You’ll turn things around.



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