Can You Relate?

 
 

I’ve been cheating on my boyfriend after being sexually assaulted

I now only feel capable of intimacy with men I don’t care about – but I know it is wrong to betray someone I love

I’ve had a terrible relationship with my family

I’ve had a terrible relationship with my family my whole life and relied on men for support and comfort. I was sexually assaulted and told myself it didn’t mean anything. As a result, I’ve been cheating on my long-term boyfriend because, in doing so, I remind myself that intimacy has no meaning any more. I even stripped in a club just to feel as if I had control over my sexuality again. Now I only feel capable of intimacy with men I don’t care about. It feels wrong while I am with someone that I love so much. I know what I’m doing is wrong. Help me please.

You seem to have reached a very detailed understanding of why you do the things you do, and this is commendable. But gaining self-knowledge doesn’t always lead to change or to greater peace or happiness. Even with this knowledge, you are continuing to act in a way that makes you feel guilty and sad – while hoping for a different outcome. For people who are led to act a certain way as a result of trauma, change is more likely to occur not through merely understanding the reasons, but through doing the hard work of healing. It might take time, but facing the original pain and working through the deep feelings could release you from this repetitive pattern. But no amount of therapy will change the fact that monogamy is hard. Commitment is hard. All people in our human society who are sexually alive struggle with these constant challenges.

Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

If you would like advice from Pamela Stephenson Connolly on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please don’t send attachments). Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

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