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Loving others less, loving herself more.

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

Dr. Smith,

I am a 39-year-old divorced mother of four. As strange as it sounds, I have been sexually active since the age of nine when I was sexually abused. I have not dated for the past year because all of the men I meet seem interested only in that one thing.

That wasn't a problem until recently, because I never met anyone I really wanted to get to know all that much. I have discovered that I like myself more when I am not having sex.

I recently met a nice guy and things seem to be progressing, but I still am not interested in having sex yet.

Should I tell him that before things go further and risk ending a promising relationship or should I let things play out and see where they lead?

How much about my past should I tell him?


Celibate mom

Dear Celibate mom,

Thank you for your willingness to tackle this extremely sensitive topic, one which many people struggle with but often opt to keep to themselves. I must make a few initial corrections first off.

You were not "sexually active" at the age of 9: You were raped or sexually assaulted, which means being forced to do something against your will, for which you did not have the capacity or maturity to consent.

The person who took advantage of you likely knew that you were vulnerable and preyed upon this. This has had a profound impact on your development sexually, emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, this is something that has happened to many people. There are too many variables to unpack here and these factors should be looked at in a therapeutic setting. For example, one possibility is that you might have created a connection between sex and relationships with men. You might see yourself as worthy of a healthy relationship only through the intimacy of sex. There are many other aspects that make for a healthy relationship and these aspects should be focused on considerably.

Additionally, you may have seen yourself as unable to say no... This is definitely not true and we are in a climate where more attention is being given to the concept of “no means no - no matter what the situation”.

As it relates to your present situation, exploring your history and pattern of behaviors following the sexual assault will help you to better understand your present choices and desires. In this process it will be important for you to arrive at a place where you are certain that you are doing only what it is that you would like to do, things that bring you happiness and meet your needs. Relationships have their own tempo and timeframe and each one is different, so I would not recommend trying to develop the “correct” time for anything.

Rather, the more intuitive work that you do on yourself to better understand your needs, the better off you will be long term. This applies to your past as well. I constantly talk about everyone having a story and a past. Most people would say they value honesty in a relationship, so that would mean being honest about our lives as things and questions arise. A person who has the type of character you are looking for will be able to handle the answers to whatever questions they might ask, accepting you as you are today.

In summary, the best thing you can do is work on yourself first, to understand your tendencies and how you became the way you are currently. This process should allow you to completely and unapologetically love yourself, and then you can share love with another.

I wish you well on your journey and enjoy the process.

Dr. Anthony J. Smith, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and Executive Director of Alase Center For Enrichment. We are delighted to have him writing a column for the The Saunders Report and answering readers' questions concerning important issues in their lives.

Send your questions to Dr. Smith at or to and he will answer them in

To make an appointment, you can reach him at (919) 957-7357 or visit his website at




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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