Untouched and Confused

Q: I have been living with a man for nearly 20 years. It hasn't always been easy. The first five years were especially rough. He treated my daughter from a previous marriage the way he himself was treated, which he claims to hate to this day. When we fought over his disciplining of my daughter, somehow I became the bad person to him. Since my daughter has grown up and moved out, I thought things were better. I was mistaken. He has only touched me once in two years, which he explained by referring back to our fights of 15 years ago. He said that I was playing mind games with him and he was not going to play them. I have no idea what he is talking about. I feel very lonely and unattractive to men now and I have been in this relationship for so many years that he has become my security blanket. I do not know what to do. — Debbie, 47

Dr. Susan: Something is going on under the surface here that has to be brought into daylight. Only then can you decide whether to stay or go. The two of you can either see a marriage counselor, or, at the very least, he needs to explain to you exactly what "mind games" he's talking about. Is he still holding it against you that you threatened to leave him 15 years ago when his parenting style was causing you grief? Is he seeing someone else? It's natural for you to feel unloved and lonely and unattractive with a partner who is so closed off. It's always very hard to pick yourself up and start over after so long with one person, and I'm not saying it's going to be necessary. But you need a fresh start, beginning with your mate's opening up to you about how the two of you can make your relationship more gratifying.

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