- Dr. Love in the Media
Afraid to be Intimate
March 25, 2003 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Dear Dr. Love,
My boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years since I was 15. Unfortunately my first sexual experience was forced on me by an older close friend of mine after my 18th birthday.
Since then my boyfriend and I have had trouble getting physically close because I was afraid of being hurt again. Because of that he rejected me out of heartbreak and frustration and I started seeing someone at my old work.
This second person moved very fast and was very rough and forceful as well. As a result of this, I became pregnant and decided to keep the child, but I lost it after the first trimester.
I also found out the guy had a girlfriend at the time, so he disappeared and left me with the child and me fearing men even more than I did after the first rape. However, during all my hardships my boyfriend was there for me and now we are more in love than ever.
We are ready to be intimate, but we are having problems. When we get close, even though I fully trust him, I get very nervous and very scared and sometimes even sick to my stomach.
But even when I relax he can't maintain an erection and he pulls away, though he says he really really wants to. He's also still a virgin. Is he just nervous too? Is there anything we can do to help us relax? Or are we just not ready?
What a rough ride you have had so far. Both you and your boyfriend have been so traumatized that you are scared sick and he is scared 'unstiff.'
I assume that you both have talked over your feelings about what frightens you regarding becoming intimate. Have these talks outside the bedroom so you don't taint the bedroom with bad vibes. Talking is a good way of diluting your feelings. When the feelings are less intense, they shouldn't intrude on your sexual encounter.
Your boyfriend needs to talk about why he is afraid to have intercourse. Does your boyfriend sense that you aren't ready and is his body refusing as a way of protecting you? Is he scared that you will reject him again? Is his body shutting down before you have a chance to shut him down yourself?
Once he identifies and talks about all his deepest fears, he will be on the path to freeing himself. Also, when you understand what he is afraid of, you will have a better idea of what you can say or do to make him feel more at ease.
Likewise, you need to talk about what you are afraid of? If you are afraid of being emotionally or physically hurt, you are going to need to basically reprogram your brain so that it no longer associates sex with pain and injury. You can self-talk and remind yourself that your current boyfriend loves you completely and is totally devoted to you and to giving you joy.
You can also try a rehearsal for action in which the two of you verbally describe, blow by blow, what you will do when you make love to each other. Separating the words from the act itself will help you to desensitize, and you will both feel less overwhelmed and frightened when you actually get around to having sex.
You can also try visualization in which you see yourself having sex and enjoying it. If you visualize every day, you will be reprogramming your brain to associate sex with pleasure not pain.
Affirmations are also helpful in which you reprogram your traumatized brain to think and feel differently about sex. To do this you would speak as though you have already had sex and it was enjoyable. This type of affirmation would sound like this:'I had intercourse with my boyfriend and it was a wonderful and enjoyable experience.'
You can also try hypnosis which is very effective in reprogramming the traumatized part of your brain. I have given you both lots to work on. You should be able to work this out. Let me know how you do.
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