She’s unable to open up to people

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Let me give you some background. I’m now 58. I was raised in a strict military family. My father a MSGT the Army for 23 years. I was the youngest of 5 children and 1 of 3 girls. In our family girls were not considered as good as the boys. In addition, if one of us were to physically punished, it our father who who whip us. I remember the black eyes and fat lips (today it would be child abuse). Mom, well she mentally abused me and suspect my oldest sister as well.

when I was about 5-6 my oldest brother molested me. When I told my mother she blamed me and I was punished. So he continued until I was about 12. When I was 13, my dad started molesting me as well. He made attempts to rape me but always stopped just short of completing the deed. I never told mom, why, I’d just be punished. Dad’s actions continued until I was about 17.

When I was 16 I had a boyfriend, “Ted”. One weekend we were expecting family friends from out of state for visit. My mother looked at me and said, “well at least you have a boyfriend and I don’t have to be embarassed.” So now I knew my mom was embarassed to have me as her daugther.

At 22 I married. I stayed married for 18 years. Even though I have 3 children I never had an orgasim. I hate sex. I live alone now and have tried to date, but they all want sex, so I end the relationship. Today, I live with my dogs. They love me for me just loving them. I can count on them to love me back. If my dogs don’t like you, you don’t come inside my house.

I want people to like me. I want to open up and be friendly. I want a real relationship with a man. I don’t want to be alone. At work, I stay to myself as much as possible. I don’t associate with my fellow teachers, I do my job and go home.

Am I making any sense? I have felt alone for so long, most of my life. I look at pictres of myself when I was a child and I can’t find any with me smiling – not even my birthday pictures.

A: You are absolutely making sense. You are also at an age where we all feel kind of like it’s now or never for dealing with longstanding issues. Many people find new energy for trying to deal with life-long painful issues. I applaud your courage in being willing to try to make some changes.

You didn’t mention whether you have ever been in any therapy. I encourage you to give it a try. You report a history of severe sexual abuse. It is no wonder at all to me that you dislike sex, can’t trust a man enough to let yourself orgasm, and, indeed, don’t trust many people at all. As lonely and painful as it has been to remain always emotionally distant, it has been far scarier for you to let yourself get close enough to perhaps be hurt yet again. This is an all too common story. Believe me: You are not alone in your reaction to childhood betrayals and pain.

A therapist who is experienced in working with trauma can help you finally close that chapter in your life so you can open a new one. The two of you will set a pace that is comfortable for you to explore relationships with colleagues and friends and, eventually, with dates. You have a right to have support and practical help as you work on such difficult material.

I hope you will give it a try. I think you deserve to have love and companionship for the rest of your life.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 Jun 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). She’s unable to open up to people. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/06/28/shes-unable-to-open-up-to-people/