How do I resolve my sexual conflict?
anonymous Asks ...
I am the woman turning 40, engaged once in my mid 30s but to not the right person for me and broke it off; he was also my first sexual partner (going all the way that is); I did not wait until my mid 30s for any religious reasons, but I was brought up to wait for the one, though when I went for it with him, I think I just wanted to get it over with. It was a relief but the feelings after that came up (major insecurity, attachment, anxiety) was not good until I dealt with some of it. Before breaking up that engagement my mother put in my head he might be gay because he was very metrosexual and although I don't think so to this day, it has tortured me, and made me very scared to attract not a heterosexual male into my life, but someone pretending to be. Although I don't think my mom was right, who knows, this was very disturbing at the time, given this was also my first sexual partner (I had made out with lots of guys before but never gone all the way); since that relationhip that was 4/5 years ago, I have not been able to find or create a lasting one to lead to marriage; as I said I feel stuck; I am very aware I grew up in an environment with no lines/limits respected especially by mom, and as a single mom, I always tried to calm her/soothe her; but it cost me staying away from men and trouble and maybe miss out on some relationship skills early on; given that I have dated so much, guys find me attractive, and I have a kind heart, I have had no issues attracting one man after another,but now getting to 40 I am not necessarily everyone's # one choice if they want to have kids, nor do I want them to be; I want someone who wants a lifetime companion first, not just a baby making machine; I love babies and yes it hurts to think I may not have kids and I know I have option to go to sperm bank to do it; but I don't want that; I want to share that experience with someone I love, or I can leave it and if it's too late when I find the love of my life, I have love to give and then can consider adopting a child. My concern right now is how I haven't been able to maybe fully heal from my engagement and although I have dated plenty of men since then, I think for most of my life though these dates and the attention has been for my ego and to fill me up, rebellion against mom or just neediness; I want to enter the next one from a healthier place and I do want it to lead to marriage; I don't sleep with anyone unless it is as serious as leading to marriage, but as I am working on my trust with men so that I know when to trust them enough so that they don't just tell me what I want to hear to get close to me, I have considered waiting to have sex again until I am at least engaged; some say that is unrealistic, others don't think so, so I don't what's reasonable; any guy can tell you what you want to hear to get you into bed, so I am leaning towards waiting until I am at least engaged; I tried this with last guy but then going partially sexually didn't work and he was pissed off, even though he knew where I stood on the sex. in any case I find the sex gets in the way of my relationships getting to the next stage of being serious and i don't know if this is combined with my trust level which it does. Now I am scared though because I get very strong sexual urges and the other day out with a girlfriend , I met a guy who was very attracted to me and let him french kiss me and even feel me up; this is completely out of character for me for someone I just met; I was feeling down and had had a couple drinks but it made me think what you set about not knowing how to set boundaries or being assertive, while at the same time maybe the kiss by itself and the sexual curiousity was real; I felt good the next day as if it proved to me my attractiveness and I needed that, but then again it went too far; I am worth more than a quick rub down on a dance floor; what scares me is that I have been the most strict/concservative of all of my friends growing up and I know in my teens probably suppressed these feelings too much, and now I feel really wild and because of waiting so much, I feel like exploding; yes self-pleasure helps and is fine, however, I keep fantasizing about being with a man in different ways all the time and I don't want it to consume me. I am still not going to sleep with anyone unless in a serious,monogamous relationship, but I need a way to deal emotionally with these sexual urges; I feel like because I am not getting anywhere to marriage with men, it's hopeless and pointless to try to even date again, but in the meantime my hormones are driving me crazy as I feel something emotional/mental needs resolving so I can get unstuck and be able to trust in a healthy way and let someone in and have a long-term relationship with. Please help, I don't want to suppress my sexual feelings but is it healthy to make out once in a while with someone to let yourself, even though a quick make out session is not what you want; I feel like a whore, as much as I am the last thing from it; I don't want to go from guy to guy and make out with a 100 guys; I rather wait for one that is worth it and then trust and go all the way because I am sure it will lead to a life together, but how do I do that?
Penny Bell Says ...
Hi there, I remember your question in your last letter, which was to do with attracting a man interested in a long-term relationship. This question is a different one which concerns an inner conflict you seem to be experiencing regarding your sexual feelings and your expression of them. It seems that you are caught between the idea of not denying your sexual urges or feelings, and your values, which are that waiting for the right person and a commitment (you say you have considered waiting until engagement) before committing to the sexual side of a relationship is important to you. You say there is a difference of opinion amongst your friends as to what is “reasonable”, so you don’t actually know if your values are “reasonable” or not. There seems to be further conflict for you about sexual behaviour – you talk about “going partially sexually” which just made your boyfriend at the time angry. So there’s an “all or nothing” question there – how far is too far? It sounds like you feel as if you’re walking on a sexual tightrope; whichever way you go could be wrong and you could end up in the ditch. To complicate things even further, you are thinking that sexual repression in your early life is now causing you to feel sexually wild, even explosive. You ask if it’s healthy to have the occasional sexual encounter in order to satisfy your urges, then you ask the opposite question “how do I ... wait for one that is worth it and then trust and go all the way?”.
All inner conflict divides us. One part of us wants to do/think/feel something and another part wants something completely different. If it’s deciding whether I want a mango or a strawberry, it’s a simple matter of one part giving reign to the other – either way I’m going to enjoy it. But for you, this conflict has powerful implications and consequences. Waiting for the right guy means suppressing those sexual urges and perhaps also enduring the feelings of neediness, emptiness and loneliness that you speak about, whereas satisfying your sexual urges could lead you to “feeling like a whore”, in your words - feelings of guilt and shame. So you are fairly evenly split down the middle here into two distinctly differing parts.
If I were your therapist I would be interested in how each part feels about the other, and what each part would say to the other, in order for you to find some congruence on this. For example, I would get the needy sexual acting-out part to say how she feels about the laced-up conservative part, and continue the conversation about the effect this has on her feelings, attitude and behaviour. And vice versa. When I do this with some folks, it turns out that each part is kind of mad at the other for sabotaging their life! There can be some pretty strong feelings in there, and a whole lot more underneath. You use some tell-tale words, like “whore” (indicating guilt and shame) and "wild" and “explode” (indicating an anxiety about self-control) that hint of what lies beneath. Finding out what is causing this conflict, what is the belief underpinning each side of the debate, takes some good therapeutic work.
The thing is, I’m not in any position to advise you as to what is right or wrong for you, and neither am I in a position to help you explore this conflict to the point where you find peace with it. Suffice it to say that sometimes, you just have to sit with it until you know what is right for you. And self-exploration, so that you know what is reasonable for you, regardless of what anybody else in the whole world thinks, will be the thing that helps you resolve this.
So I’m going to reiterate what I said previously: To gain a better sense of self, and to discover for yourself what you truly believe is good for you and for your future, some work with a therapist would be very helpful. This will also address what you have so aptly described at the end of your letter as your need for your emotions and thinking processes to be resolved, or congruent. As you become more comfortable in your own skin, with more of an ability to trust your own perceptions and decisions, you will be more able to discern what is right or wrong or good or bad for you in your relationships not only with others but also with yourself.