Dear Annie: I’m a 46-year-old woman who has been married (and divorced) twice. Both marriages were filled with abuse — physical, emotional and sexual. Add to that severe child abuse — which has me permanently disabled now — and, well, I’m scared to be intimate with anyone ever again.
I’ve been on two dates in the past 13 years. I’m finally getting to the point where I like myself and am considering dating again (if anyone will want to date a middle-aged disabled woman). But I know that if I find someone I want to marry, the relationship will have to involve sex. It’s been 13 years since I last had sex. And for the seven years prior, it was forced sex, never consensual on my part.
Do you have any suggestions? Right now, the thought of sexual intercourse terrifies me. It’s certainly not an issue now, but it will be when I start dating again. I do see a counselor, which has helped me greatly, but we never discuss healthy sexual relationships; we just discuss the past abuse.
— Ready to Start Over
Dear Ready: I’m so sorry you’ve experienced so much abuse throughout your life, but I’m also inspired by your positive attitude. I’m confident you’ll find someone out there who is worthy of your time, and he’ll be a lucky man indeed. But before then, you really need to discuss with your counselor how past abuse has impacted your current relationship with sex. He or she may even be able to refer you to a sex therapist who specializes in working with victims of past abuse. A counselor’s office is a safe space that’s free of judgment, and this is exactly the type of thing a counselor is there for.
You’re only 46. You still have decades of fun ahead of you. Hang in there, and keep striving to open your heart.
Dear Annie: I appreciate your empathetic and helpful responses to those who write to you. Recently, you responded to “Frustrated Friend,” who was having difficulty with someone who talks incessantly and does not allow any comments.
I am an experienced mental health professional and wonder whether you considered that someone who cannot stop talking may be in a manic phase of bipolar affective disorder. There is no way of reasoning with or even interrupting people who are exhibiting these symptoms. They should be under the care of a psychiatrist. Medication is the first treatment of choice, followed by counseling.
— A Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Sarasota, Fla.
Dear LCSW: Thank you for raising this important point. I hadn’t considered that it could be something that serious, but it’s possible and, at the very least, worth exploring. I’m printing your letter here so that “Frustrated Friend” might consider helping her friend seek psychological help.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.