December 11, 2012 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Dear Dr Love
I am 50 yr old female dating a 53 yr old man for a little over a year. He was married for over 25 years and he and his wife divorced (he did not want the divorce). by his account, toward the end the relationship was volitale (he doesn't speak much about it-- but mostly blames himself) Anyhow, he's been divorced for approx. 6 yrs. He's dated several women and had at least one serious girlfriend in that time. He's a good man and does a lot to help me (pays for things, projects around my house, etc..) Generally, we get along very well, spend lots of time together enjoy each other and he discusses doing things in the future.
My concerns are this: around last spring he developed erectile dsyfunction and we haven't made love in a long time. when it first happened he openly discussed what was occurring but the last several months he's shut-off sexually. He doesn't touch me sexually and I am unsure how to approach that I want to be touched and I want to touch him, even if it doesn't lead to sex (although that would be nice). When we have discussed the subject he was defensive and said this is who I am. We do kiss and hug and walk around naked in front of each other, but that's all. I'm really not sure how to handle this.
The other issue -- the few times we've discussed where tbe relationship is going he's said I don't know if I can give you want you want, can't we just be friends? I told him I don't do "friends" we're either together or we're not. to which he's replied, "I'm not abandoning the relationship, you're still my girl, I'm still attracted to you." Anyhow, many times he has said that he is no good for me, he's going to hurt me, I'm going to get mad at him...etc. He has said I'm not in love with you, and then at a later time will say I'm a great girl/person/woman for him. And in quiet moments has told me, "S---- , I Like you." (which felt like his way of saying I love you.) It's confusing for me and I believe it's because he's afraid to put himself out there -- Hence the wounded man.
I realize I cannot pressure or give an ultimatium and I don't. I've tried very hard to create a 'safe haven' for him to feel comfortable to express himself and to except him as he is. The holidays are difficult for him, I believe he feels like he's failed his children, his ex etc...(even though she wanted the divorce) so he is more withdrawn than usual and maybe a little depressed. I have deep feelings for him and want this relationship to work. But I need some guidace. I'm not trying to fix him, just trying to do the best to help and not hurt the situation. He's stated he knows he will have to make a decision soon about taking the relationship to the next level.
Yes, and I wonder how I can gently nudge him closer without giving an ultimateum (which I don't think work). At times it feels like he has a fear of intimacyThe causes of fear of intimacy are nearly identical to the fear of commitment. See Fear of Commitment/commitmentFear of commitment is a common source of conflict for couples. Commitmentphobia is often most strongly apparent in romantic life. Generally, commitmentphobic people claim that they are eager to find...(Click for full definition.) coupled with being unsure how to accomplice either; because he's made comments like; "it doesn't matter what I do...it won't work." or "this is who I am -- I'm going to make you made." We've had many discussions along the lines of --- yes we will anger each other but life goes on. And I do not play the blame game. I don't believe in that and I know it's destructive. I'm probably more "quietly disapproving" when I don't get what I want (such as affectionAffection is defined as fond attachment, devotion or love. Couples are most compatible when they are equally matched in terms of their needs for displays or expressions of affection. ) and am afraid, unsure how to ask what I want.
Waiting for the Wounded to Heal
You sound like a truly sweet and caring woman. Your Wounded Man is lucky to have found you.
As you describe this man, I see someone who is self-blaming and also self-destructive.
Even though his ex-wife asked for the divorceDivorce is a legal dissolution of the marriage bond. Many couples divorce themselves from each other on an emotional level long before a legal divorce is sought. As I say in my book, Till Death Do Us...(Click for full definition.), I sense that he knows deep down that he failed her--that it was his own actions or inactions that forced her to end it.
What I hear also is his broadcasting to you that he’s going to fail you as well. He sure is doing his best to fail you sexually. He also hints at the fact that he’ll never be able to give you what you want in other areas (i.e. marriage).
What screams at me is the fact that he’s reciting a script that has failure written all over it. He already seems to know the ending of the story—after all he wrote the script that ends with his failing at yet another relationship.
I wonder why he’s destroying such a good thing? There’s much we don’t know about him.
One thing I do know is that he’s using what I call the “dying by one’s own sword” defense. You see, humans like being in control of their own demise. Since he knows that he’s bound to anger you and fail you just as he did his ex-wife, he might as well be the one to bring about the end of your relationship. In other words, depriving you of sex and refusing commitmentFear of commitment is a common source of conflict for couples. Commitmentphobia is often most strongly apparent in romantic life. Generally, commitmentphobic people claim that they are eager to find...(Click for full definition.) is the sword he wields (to kill the relationship and push you away) before you have the chance to dump him.
There’s no point in talking about the sex or commitment issuesIssues, in the words of the Serenity Prayer, are things you can change, either by making different personal choices and/or by finding ways to work with your partner more effectively. . His depriving behaviors are merely a symptom of his own fears that he isn’t addressing. He’ll never be able to overcome these depriving behaviors until we uncover and resolve the deeper issues that are fueling them.
For now, put aside (these) issues and focus on helping him to realize the way he sabotages the relationship. I’d start by telling him that he sends you mixed signals that push you away. He says he cares but doesn’t have sex with you and says he won’t commit.
He says that he knows he’s going to make you mad. It’s as if he’s bracing for the end.
The goal is to get him to own what’s really going on with him. Get him talking about how scared he is to fail you. And get him to admit that he’s afraid that you will dump him the way his wife did. Is he not giving you sex and telling you that he won’t commit as a way of testing you to see how much you love him and will put up with? Or is he forcing your hand to provoke you to end the relationship sooner rather than later, to get the inevitable pain over with?
If he becomes aware of his deepest fears and feelings and resolves them, he’ll no longer need to drive you away, which means that the sex and the commitment will flow naturally.
For further help on how to get beyond the impasse, read my book Till Death Do Us Part (Unless I Kill You First): A Step-By-Step Guide for Resolving Relationship Conflict. It will guide you on how to get to the bottom of your issue and uproot it. When the real issues are addressed and resolved, the presenting problem (in this case the lack of sex and commitment should just resolve all by themselves!
Let me know how you do.
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