Am I broken? Should I just give up and start wearing shapeless beige garments to symbolize my sexual death? (Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
I'm at a weird place in my life, and I'm not sure what I should be doing, if anything, about my problem.
A few years back, after a year of misdiagnoses, I was correctly diagnosed and began treatment for a thyroid disorder.
I was also in a fairly unhealthy relationship that involved codependence with a guy with severe mental health issues and neuroses. Not really his fault, but there were clearly unhealthy patterns, and the sex was infrequent and lousy, and I eventually was so unhappy I couldn't take it anymore.
The thyroid problem caused my body to change significantly (weight gain, thinning hair) and totally screwed with my self-image. I was also trying to get my child, who I raised alone, off to college and the transition was very rocky for both of us.
The guy and I broke up. The kid got off to college and adjusted. My weight stabilized. I started taking online classes to get the college degree I've thought about for decades.
It's been two and a half years, and I've been pretty much... celibate.
Haven't even tried to date. I know I'm not asexual, but the physical changes from the thyroid issue, a lifetime of anti-depressants, and the fact that I'm very close to 40 have all conspired to erode my sex drive significantly.
I still like sex, I just... don't feel like I could attract a guy that I would want to get sexy with and don't think about it as much. I see a therapist, but they haven't been hugely helpful in aiding my self-confidence.
I feel like there's no one out there for me, I'm past my sell-by date as a woman and maybe as a sexual being, and I don't have time to date between working full time and taking online classes, anyway. But most of my friends are married, and I fantasize about how nice it would be to have a serious relationship.
I have an active social life, but I'm lonely for that specific relationship-style companionship.
Should I go back to Ol' Reliable, AKA internet dating?
Should I just keep my head down and get through school, which could take the next six years?
Should I just give up and start wearing shapeless beige garments to symbolize my sexual death?
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First of all, LOL at your last question. The answer to which is NO, you don’t need to start wearing shapeless beige garments to symbolize your sexual death!
I get it. You had a rough couple of years, and the celibacy is a reset. After my first husband and I split up, I was celibate by choice for a while. I needed to focus on my kid and getting my life in order. And that’s what I did.
What you’ve been doing is recovering.
You’ve been recovering from illness, from a breakup and the fallout of a codependent relationship, and transitioning from having the kid at home to the kid going to college. Not to mention that you’ve gone back to school. It’s a lot.
Just because you needed some time to recalibrate doesn’t mean you won’t get your mojo back.
Let’s address the age thing. In the few years since I turned 40, I have remarried, had a second kid, finally finished my degrees, and sold my first book.
Your impending 40th birthday is not a signal of the end of sex, love, and dating.
You are a healthier, stronger, smarter woman than you were just a few years ago. Embrace that. Those qualities are sexy.
Do I think you should try online dating again? Sure. But let it be fun for a bit. Let yourself be in the present and see what happens. Maybe you’ll have sex. Maybe you’ll make a lifelong friend. Maybe you’ll meet a future partner.
You have the friends and social life on lock. I know it can feel lonely not to have that primary romantic relationship, but you are not alone.
And I always liked to remind myself of this…
It is far better to be alone than in an unhappy, unhealthy relationship.
I am fairly sure you are happier today than you were three years ago. Celebrate that. You are fabulous!
And you don’t have to wear shapeless beige clothing (unless you like beige).
Try online dating, let your friends know you’re open to being set up and continue to enjoy the life you’ve built for yourself.
You are not broken.
I believe you are going to be just fine.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m reading, what I’m watching, Vesuvianite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at email@example.com. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo