Q: Almost two years ago I wrote to you about an abusive relationship I was involved in, and you gave me very helpful advice. I want to thank you now, a bit belatedly. I have since left him, and my life is a lot saner now. But I need help again, this time with a totally new situation.
I'm 38 and never married and beginning to be really scared about never finding the right man or having children. I have lived alone for 14 years and have years of dating experience, so I
know what's what out there.
I met this very nice man at the gym six months ago, and we started to date exclusively. The relationship was developing to the point where we told each other we were in love. What's the problem? Well, for one thing he's 43 and feels he's not financially stable enough for a home and family. He also thinks he's too old to be a father.
His past? He was pressured into marriage in his 20s. The marriage lasted three years. He lived with girlfriend No. 2 for 10 years; the next girlfriend, No. 3, asked him to live with her after six weeks of knowing one another, a relationship that lasted four years. It is No. 3 I'm most concerned with -- she was engaged and married within six months of ending her relationship with this man. She had had four abortions and was totally afraid of getting pregnant again, so she dreaded sex and made it a very unpleasant experience for him.
Well, now when he and I make love he loses his ability at the critical moment. At first he blamed it on stressful work, then an ulcer -- both of which are improving. Trouble is, I am now in doubt about my own sexuality. In the past, I've had good sex with no love involved, and now I have love and no sex!
I don't know what to do or say to this nice guy without upsetting both him and me. He tells me it's not my fault, but he is not investing any time in finding out the true cause.
So where I stand now is in limbo. Do I move on to other jerks? Or do I stand by my man and help him work out his problems? Are all men so weak, or am I one of the unlucky statistics who just can't seem to meet one emotionally stable guy?
(On a lark I went to a palm reader. She said I'm cursed when it comes to my love life! That really made my day.)
A: It's not a curse to meet a nice guy who has problems, it's a challenge -- and an opportunity. But if he refuses to help himself, and if you see him as a mass of problems rather than as a partner who needs a helping hand, then it's time for you to seek some help out of the morass and into the daylight.
Sit down with a counselor you trust and respect, someone who feels like a caring friend, and talk out your misgivings. It may be your history that needs sorting out -- and your goals that need bolstering. Reluctance to go back into the singles scene is a poor reason for staying with a relationship. Help yourself first.