Dear Mary: 'I have a great fear of sex'
Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.
Q. Please help me - I have a great fear of sex. I was in a relationship for a number of years and have a young child. It was after the child was born that all this happened, and my ex hurt me really badly. I've just started a new relationship but I'm really scared to have sex, and so that is causing problems.
Mary replies: You have sent me two separate emails about this, so I can see how upsetting it is for you, and how anxious you are to have the problem resolved. However, this is something that cannot be rushed, and you should not feel under pressure to have sex with your new partner until you are ready to enjoy it.
At the moment, you obviously associate the sexual act with your ex-partner, and this causes you to feel tense and remember how he hurt you. In neither email do you tell me whether he hurt you physically or mentally, or indeed sexually, and I wonder if you have been able to share the details with anybody. In order for you to move on you will need to do this - ideally through some form of counselling.
I know counselling is not readily affordable for a lot of people , but you should investigate what services are available to you in whatever area you live, as there are voluntary agencies in some parts of Ireland.
During counselling for the failed relationship you will be able to discuss in detail all the bad experiences you had, and this should help enormously - talking really does help. If, after this, you are still frightened to have sex then you may be suffering with either dyspareunia - painful sex - or vaginismus which is the inability to have any form of penetration. If this is the case then you would need specific psychosexual therapy.
I'm sorry to be talking so much about counselling - I'm sure you would much rather have an instant fix - but in my experience the brain is very tied up with sexual functioning and so you will need help to get back to normal.
The good news, however, is that problems such as yours respond very well to sex therapy so it is well worth while pursuing.
It is also important for you to build up trust within your new relationship, because your trust with your previous partner was shattered. If you are currently being presssurised to have sex before you are ready then you will have to be very strong and explain that the time is not right and he will have to be patient.
It is important for you to remember that prior to all of this you were able to enjoy sex and it is the events of the break-up that are affecting you now. I do hope that you will get back to the way you were.
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately