Dear Ms. Behaved,
My friends tell me that I should get out more and start dating. I’m 40 years old and I divorced my husband three years ago. (We remain friends and just became roommates.) We have no children. Quite frankly, I don’t want to date. Dating means I’ll have to eventually have sex and sex means gross, sweaty men. I find it nauseating. One of my friends suggested that might be gay. To be honest, I wouldn’t know how to be a lesbian. I’m fine with my two dogs and a cat and my circle of friends. How can I tell them that I’m okay on my own without hurting their feelings? I know they think I’m lonely and only want what’s best for me, but if I’m grossed out by men and wouldn’t know what to do with a woman, where does that leave me?
-Just Not Interested
Dear Not Interested,
When I agreed to write this column, I promised I would always be honest about my own life, what I felt, what I thought and what I didn’t know. After reading your letter I have to say, “I don’t know.”
First off, I don’t know how you and your ex-husband came to the decision to continue living together. As you remained close enough friends with your ex-husband, I have to assume he wasn’t abusive in any way. These are tough economic times, so maybe it’s for best for financial reasons. However, it would be awkward to bring any potential partner into this situation. Are you sure you aren’t setting yourself up to stay in a faux-marriage? It may be comfortable, but I’m not sure it’s healthy.
You mention that dating would lead to having to have sex with “gross, sweaty men,” which leads me to believe there is more going on than your letter suggests. Did you ever enjoy sex with your husband? From your tone, I would guess that you didn’t. My next question is there an issue specific to him that turned you off or do you find men undesirable in general?
Trust me when I say I’ve had my fair share of crappy relationships. There have been times when I’ve thought it would be better to be alone than to risk going through that rigmarole again, but I’ve also been lucky enough to have some wonderful men in my life. With that in mind, I can’t have beef with an entire gender—just a few select douche bags.
If being your repulsion stems from physical reasons, perhaps you are attracted to women as your friend suggests. There is no indication in your letter that you are interested in women, only that you don’t know what to do with one. Well, no one knows what to when we first get involved in romantic relationships. The first time we French kiss, get felt up, perform oral sex, etc. – it’s all unfamiliar territory, and we learn as we go. For most (not all), the majority of this exploring takes place during our high school and college years. Our society expects young people to muddle their way through awkward sexual encounters, but what happens if you bypassed that stage and got married before you discovered who you really are? If you are in fact a lesbian or bisexual, it would make sense to feel like a nervous teenager. You’ve never tested the waters, so of course it would be intimidating.
You indicate that you are fine and the companionship of your animals is enough, but my intuition tells me that if you were truly happy, your friends wouldn’t be worried. My guess is they are picking up on something and aren’t buying it when you put on a happy face and tell them you are okay with being alone. Their concern is coming from a caring, loving place. Please understand that I am not suggesting that happiness is contingent on being in a relationship. However, your letter doesn’t make mention of feeling fulfilled. It sounds more like you’ve given up and are settling. Pets are wonderful but they are not substitutes for human relationships.
I wish I could give you a perfect answer, wrapped up with a nice little bow, but like your friends, I am picking up that there is more going on under the surface. My suggestion would be to seek out counseling. Not for your friends, not for your ex, but for YOU. Give yourself this gift of talking to a professional about what’s going on. You may discover that you are not a woman who is “not interested,” but just a woman who needs to work through some baggage to figure out what makes her tick and fills her with joy.
My hope for you is that you take the first steps in discovering who you truly are and follow that path to your own happiness. None of us should schlep through life “not interested.”
Jonna is here to help you over the mid-week hump every Wednesday. Send your questions about love, relationships, life, and grabbing life by the balls to email@example.com. Read more of her posts here.