I read a lot of your answers to other people’s questions and I have found that you give very sound and healthy advice. It is my turn to ask for that advice. My Sweetheart is a nurse and is the same age as myself....56 years old.
I met her two years ago when she walked into my store, and she invited me to her church where her and her mother worship. We have been dating even since then and slowly getting closer. There seem to be some issues that are slowing down our closeness and intimacy, however.
She said that she was afraid of moving forward because of the fear of being controlled. Even though she admits that I have never controlled her but instead have always asked her what she would like to do. I adore her and cherish every thought and action from her. I love her heart, spirit and body. I believe that love is when you love someone for who they really are on the inside.
Here are a few of the symptoms that seem to be slowing us down:
1. Her fear of being controlled which is stopping her from giving ALL of her heart (due to a past husband who was controlling).
2. She hates to look into my eyes. She used to always close her eyes way before I would get close enough to kiss her. Now she slightly opens them. I have told her that she has beautiful eyes and I love it when she looks at me.
3. She does not like it if I place my arm around her from the top of her shoulders. Instead, she will quickly grab my arm and take it off of her shoulder and place it down by her side.
4. She does not like to talk about sex.
5. She zones out on me where she will stare out into nothing. When I ask her what she is thinking, she says that she is thinking of nothing.
6. She constantly bites her fingers and curls her hair while she goes into this trance. I always bring her back by asking her questions about something around us.
7. She does not like to be touched sexually, even during a long kiss (15 seconds....used to be 1 second).
After about two weeks of dating when I was over her house, she took my hand and took me to her bedroom and we made love. This went on every day for a week then all of sudden she stopped and would not even consider doing it again. I told her that I was falling in love with her and that not having sex is ok. The first time we had sex at her house when we were alone there was better than the few following times. The following times she would act like a NUN and would just sit on the edge of the bed just waiting for me to do something. She would be sitting there on the bed with just a towel on and would have both hands tucked in between her legs. Once we were in the act of making love, she would fight enjoying it and when I told her that I loved her while we were one she would react negatively and frown and did not want me to say that. When I tried to compliment her on her beautiful body, she would tell me not to talk to her like a slut.
Of course I will continue to show her lots of love and affection but what else can I do to help her heal from some abuse she experienced?
I have also found out that she does not remember her childhood except that her father was a alcoholic and would hire prostitutes. She remembers a male friend of her father's coming over to give her a oyster to eat. But she does not remember her childhood and part of her teenage life. Her father has all of her pictures and has not given them to her. I did see one picture on a video when she was about 12 years old and she was biting her fingers then, also.
Please Please help me help her. I know that I am setting aside my needs for intimacy sexually, but I am trying to build her trust. I want her to give herself to me in love not feel forced to do so. Forced sex means nothing and leaves you empty inside. Help me, Natalie, please.
A Man in Love
Dear A Man in Love,
Your letter really struck a chord with me and I was deliberate in answering your question because I needed time to mull over the situation. It sounds as though your girlfriend has been through some serious trauma in her life. The fact that she has blocked out a large portion of her youth and young adult life shows me that there is still a lot of pain in her heart that she perhaps has not started to work through yet. This may be why she is shutting down both emotionally and sexually around you.
Now, I understand that you love this woman and that you care for her. I also applaud you for being so selfless and putting your own desires aside to work and focus on her needs. However, even though you want to be there for her, you also have to acknowledge that it isn’t your job to save her. I know you want to “fix” her and to heal her from whatever stress and sadness may be inside of her heart, but the only way that you are going to be able to do that is if she decides to help herself. She may need therapy to really deal with the deep issues that are wedged between the two of you.
I would gently approach her about the idea of seeking out a counselor (preferably one that deals with post-traumatic stress or sexual abuse). It may also be a good idea for you to meet with one, as well, to figure out how you can best support her while still being kind to yourself. It seems as though this issue with her isn’t going to go away any time soon. So the sooner that she starts to peel back the layers and deal with whatever is hurting her, the better it will not only be for her, but for your relationship, as well.
However, she may balk at the idea of going to therapy, and she may even feel offended that you brought it up. If she reacts negatively towards the idea, simply state that you love and care for her and that you hate seeing her in so much pain. Explain to her that you want the relationship to move forward and deepen, but you cannot do that until she begins to heal.
She may decide against the idea. She may not be willing to deal with the trauma, she may not think that there is a problem that warrants seeking out a therapist, and she may turn it around and blame you for her troubles. Be prepared for these reactions. This is why I am suggesting that you also seek counseling so that you will learn the skills you need in order to handle this situation in a healthy way. I really commend you for standing by the woman you love and encouraging her to focus on inner peace.
Her sexual repression seems to stem from somewhere in her childhood. The fact that her dad was an alcoholic who enjoyed the ladies of the night suggests that she may have been in an environment that was unhealthy for her as a young woman. Not having that positive male role model in her life may have caused her to shut down emotionally and reject all forms of love and attention from men. Perhaps she saw her father treat women a certain way and assumes that all men behave that way. Now that you have shown her that you are a different type of man, she may be confused or frustrated that her ideas of men are being challenged. She may be waiting for the other shoe to drop, for you to “mess up” and prove her right.
Given the circumstances, I would definitely give yourself a time frame as to how long you are willing to work on this with her. I know that may sound callous, but if you don’t give yourself a time frame, you could end up in this limbo indefinitely.
While you may be looking out for her, I worry that no one is looking out for you. Remember, you deserve to be loved and treated with kindness and respect, as well. You have shown her that you are a trustworthy, loving, doting partner. You clearly love her. That is evident. I just hope you are putting your energy towards a woman who loves you with the same amount of passion and sacrifice as you have written about. Give her a chance to work on herself, but if nothing changes, then give yourself permission to seek out a lover who wants to be with you as much as you want to be with her.
Good luck and thanks for the question!