I am a 41-year-old man and have issues with intimacy, which I am struggling to address. At the beginning of every relationship, I am sexually active, but when things become serious I start to back off and retreat into myself. I then find intimacy incredibly difficult – so much so that I don’t engage in sexual activity at all. Hugging and kissing is fine – I am not completely unfeeling – but I can’t bring myself to have sex.
The situation has been the same with all my partners; in the past, I have dealt with it by finding fault with my partner or the relationship, then ending things. I have had therapy for depression and events in my past, but I was never able to fix the intimacy problem. I have been in my current relationship for three years and we have not had sex for two of them. It is destroying a relationship that is perfectly fine in all other aspects.
You have already done half the work, so don’t give up now! Having the insights you have gained through therapy is an important step, but now you will have to put that knowledge into practice. I can understand your frustration, but try to be patient while you attend to the job of taking a step-by-step approach to building intimacy with your partner and dealing with your fears.
Self-soothing techniques will help. What exactly occurs in your mind and body when you consider having sex with your partner? Learn to recognise your thought processes, anxieties and physical responses in the moment. Address them through breathing, anxiety control and replacing your thoughts of impending catastrophe with mantras of safety – or whatever techniques your therapist suggests.
True intimacy involves taking risks, revealing your own vulnerabilities and accepting another person’s imperfections. In your case particularly, it requires that you learn to feel safe with another human being. This takes time and effort.