I’m a 46-year-old woman who hasn’t had sex for over 10 years. This was never the plan, but I’m stuck in a perpetual circle: I worry so much about how I could explain this to a potential partner and the longer it goes on, the worse it gets. I don’t want to live the rest of my life without sex and affection.
Being theoretically ready to connect sexually with another person is a good first step. You will have to take some risks, though, and there is little defence for anyone against insecurities and embarrassments, no matter how sexually experienced they may be. In fact, being open to rejection – even ridicule – is an important part of your work ahead. When discomfort occurs, just tell yourself to breathe and tolerate it.
For now, try to focus on making connections with others simply for fun and friendship. If you allow yourself to become more gregarious, sooner or later you will naturally meet someone to whom you will be attracted. At that point, you will really have to leave your comfort zone and let your desire lead the way.
Pledge to be kinder to your body from now on, and embrace the notion that you deserve to have pleasure. Every single human being can be attractive to another. And don’t worry about potential partners’ negative views about your long-term celibacy: you don’t have to tell them, but even if you do, many men will simply assume you have high standards.
• Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist specialising in sexual disorders.
• If you would like advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online and in print. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010