SL Letter of the Day: Booze and Barriers

Comments

1
Important note for LAAP's GF / someone new to therapy: don't be afraid to treat finding a therapist like finding a new car. You don't just get into the first car on the lot & say: I'll take this one. You research, find out if the car you're interested in has features that suit your needs & after carefully reviewing information, you make your purchase. & if it turns out to be a lemon, you take it back to the dealership. & if you don't click with your therapist - ie, they're not helping you make progress - don't be afraid to get a better one. Therapy a service, & there's gonna be therapists who have more experience in areas important to you as a consumer. If LAAP's GF is in college, like LAAP is, then there's likely on-campus counseling services available which can point her in a good direction as she's starting the process.

& LAAP..it *is* a process. It can take a lot of work & time to get over all that.

Dan..really great advice, here. *fistbump*
2
@1 - "Therapy IS a service", that should read above.

Luck to you & your GF, LAAP, even if being just friends for now is what she needs more. <3
3
Having sex three times total isn't enough to really know how regular it will be later on. Maybe she just isn't comfortable with him yet.
4
@3 Have you ever found the frequency to increase as the relationship progresses past the first trimester? I have not.
5
I'm going to guess that this is one of those situations in which LW's giving himself permission to date elsewhere will be of assistance to him in not dating anyone during the potential years of therapy ahead.

Well stated about therapy, Ms Hopkins. When I began assembling my Savageland Downton Abbey cast around my claiming Isobel for myself, you were assigned the Dowager Countess almost at once.
6
Solid advice all the way around, Mr. Savage.
7
Two months and she still hasn't opened up to you? I'd say back off. That might draw her out, or it might split you up. Either way, that's better than the status quo.
8
Very good advice -- though I was surprised Dan didn't recommend weed as a potential alternative libido-enhancer to alcohol. Hope this young woman gets the help she needs to have a sex life that she can enjoy.

Also: Three times a week at 20? That's nothing, son. ;)
9
@8: It really does not matter what drug it is, if you need drugs to get normal, you need therapy and other help, not more/different drugs.
10
This is great advice. LW, you've got to listen to Dan.
11
@5: "The Dowager Countess"? If that were for the quality of Ms. Hopkins' wisdom, then sure. If however it's for the quality of her snark then I'm afraid that you're being too generous.

While we're at it though, who get's to be Martha Levinson?
12
One thing to keep in mind. Your school may have alcohol-consent rules. Some people have been kicked out of school for what youvare describing. Read Amanda Hess in Slate.
13
This is good advice. I really feel for all parties involved. As someone who has been in a similar situation more than once it is a obviously painful situation for the woman and a thankless situation for the guy.

One thing I would add(and I admit this is somewhat cold) is that he has to be careful of her taking up so much of his time/attention/emotional support bandwidth that he is incapable of giving a romantic relationship the time/attention/emotional support it needs to thrive.

Also, he should prepare himself for the possibility that once she is "better" she will most likely have 0 interest in having a romantic relationship with him. Basically unless LAAP cuts ties right now he has to get really, really evolved really, really quickly.
14
After a brief run of uncharacteristically iffy advice, Dan returns to form! Great answer.
15
Wow Dan's advice was great. I hadn't thought of the ethics of breaking up with someone for not wanting sex as frequently as you'd like. It sounds like a douche move but I never thought about why; it can be used as a way to extort sex.

She certainly deserves someone who isn't going to be pissed off by her sexuality though, so I don't think he should stay with her. She needs to heal herself more or find someone more understanding.
16
@1 +1 on the importance of finding a therapist you're comfortable with. -1 on how to do it. Might not be possible. Therapy is expensive and therapists are not car salespeople, they have to charge for those trial sessions. Therapy requires opening up even in the first session and that's an emotional drain for the client, doing that over and over can be a killer. If you're not rich you go in network if you have health insurance, and they have limited availability.

Therapy isn't like buying a car nor a service like getting your hair done, nor a lawyer who gives a free initial consult.

It's like exercise and a personal trainer -- YOU do the work, the therapist helps you but it's YOUR hard work that makes the difference. Tons of different styles of exercise out there (types of therapy) and personalities / styles of trainers, and finding one that fits your needs IS important, although a lot of trainers can train you for multiple types of exercises just like a lot of therapists are multi-purpose. Yes, you have to find one that fits, but you still have to do the work, and starting over with a new one is time consuming.
17
You can do all the research you like, you’re still going to be faced with trying to figure out if changing therapists is the best move if you don’t feel like you’re getting what you want out of therapy. Maybe you’re objecting to being challenged and you want to see someone who won’t challenge you and you’re just being bad and immature?

Don’t worry about that crap. Don’t second-guess yourself. If you want to change, then just change. If you want to quit, just quit. You are the one in charge of making decisions for yourself and you get to make the decisions you want for the reasons you want. You don’t have to spend your life trying to figure out what you’re supposed to want or decide.

This is actually one of the lessons of therapy!

(Addressing candidates for therapy generally, not the LW who isn’t obviously one right now.)
18
Money for a therapist shouldn't be an issue if the college campus has a decent counseling center. The counseling center at my college helped me a great deal when I was coming out. People didn't care for the doctors at the 'normal' health center, but the mental health professionals were generally praised.
19
LW: See if she wants to peg you for Valentine's Day.

j/k

I know it's more common than not these days for kids to become sexually active in their mid-teens, but there's the possibility that she is among those less experienced. Having an emotionally abusive boyfriend (and a rape!) in her past does not really spell out where she is, experience-wise.

At 18 she's almost certainly a freshman; at 20 he's quite likely a junior. For those people whose first real sexual opportunities don't arrive until they're well away from home at college, those two years can represent a bigger gulf in maturity and confidence than in most other times of life.

"I haven't been able to find much research pertaining to this." He seems earnestly analytical, but there isn't actual research (controlled studies, peer-reviewed journals, etc.) on getting into someone's pants—just truck-stop paperbacks like "How to Pick Up Girls."

If he wants to continue as either friend or boyfriend, he should not only encourage her to find a therapist to deal with her past traumas (not emphasize her current reluctance to have sex), but also turn on his heart-light—be a little less calculating and methodical about what HE needs to do to break down her resistance.

So my first comment wasn't really all that jokey. If the tables were turned and she were pressing him to do something anxiety-inducing, how would he feel?
20
@5 - I'm so, so, flattered, but @ 11 has the right of it. ;) I'm a nice auntie with some life experience, I've battled my share of trolls, but wouldn't Dan be the Dowager Countess? The immediate barb of the Dowager's wit is key. She just lifts that eyebrow & drops a bomb with a single sentence. I'm more determined than I am on-the-spot quick. I've always related to Tom's character, but if we have to play along gender lines I'm more of an Edith.

@16 - maybe it wasn't the best analogy, shopping for therapy/shopping for a car. My point was that sometimes when someone starts therapy, they have the assumption that the therapist is all-knowing, right off the bat. A few visits in, when they've confided a decent amount of their experiences to them, they realize that the therapist has an approach they don't agree with, they may feel that they're "locked in" because they've already gone through the work - & you're right, it is work - of opening themselves up to someone. Money definitely plays into limitations of access as well. LAAP's GF might have the resources of a campus counseling service, &/or, many areas provide a number of free counseling sessions through social services for victims of sexual or domestic violence.

Just wanted to emphasize to LAAP/LAAP's GF that although the effort involved in finding someone new if therapist #1 doesn't work out, it's important to remember that they're not indebted to stay with the first one she sees. Like @17 said. Not as quick to echo "if you want to quit, then quit". Some of the work of therapy is very uncomfortable & you may wanna quit, but maybe shouldn't yet..
21
Most college counseling centers have a limit on how many sessions a client may have -- 12 sessions is a common limit -- and someone who's dealing with both a rape AND an emotionally abusive boyfriend may need more than that. But the college counseling center should have a list of therapists who have a sliding scale or clinics that offer free or low-cost therapy, so it would still be a good place to start.

I've worked in college counseling centers in the past, and I can tell you that it's usually relatively easy to get a therapist at the beginning of the semester, but by halfway through the semester, there's usually a long waiting list. So go right away!
22
My hat goes off to this guy--he's a perceptive one, and I hope that the girl is willing to work through her issues for herself and the potential of their relationship. I say this as someone who was exactly where she was when I was 18--finally at college and away from the rapist/asshole ex-boyfriend of high school that made sex miserable for me. I dated and had sex with a few other men before finding the perceptive man who stuck with me through all the therapy and time it took for me to like my body again and to find my libido. (And I got a lot of that therapy at the college counseling center.) I suffer from depression also, which while medication helps my depressive symptoms, it also hurts that libido. Fast forward 20 years and I'm married to that perceptive man, but it took probably a decade before our mismatched libidos and my self-inflicted inhibitions finally fell away for a truly satisfying sex life. I wish them both the best and that time and talk will heal her.
23
Eva Hopkins @20, Yes, slogging through a series of therapists is hard and a waste of money. I used to get really pissed off when a new therapist would insist on taking 30% of my take-home pay to get me to talk about my mother and to try to persuade me that I was repressing conflict with her when in fact my relationship with my mother was probably the the least-conflicted one I’ve ever had.

After six or so very expensive weeks the therapist would give up on trying to break me down and make me confess repressed anger against my mother and switch to trying to convince me that I wasn’t depressed — on occasion, even that I wasn’t depressed, that drugs are bad and that I should stop taking whatever my psychiatrist was prescribing. By the time I’d worn the therapist out to the point where they had given up and were trying the radical experiment of acting on the assumption that I was there for the reasons I said I was I’d have lost trust in the therapist.

Now I don’t get pissed off. I go in, announce very specifically what I’m there for and if the therapist isn’t interested in that then I don’t go back. What has made that so easy in the past fifteen years is that my corporate employer has an EAP. I call them, tell them I want to see a therapist for problem X and they give me an appointment with one of the therapists on their list. If I like that therapist I go back; if I don’t, I don’t and I ask the EAP for a different one. Also at my age therapists have stopped trying to stuff me in the mother-conflicts box and are open to hearing what I have to say about myself.

Also also at my age I have a very clear idea of what I’m there for. In my twenties all I knew was that I didn’t work very well and would present with a vague “I don’t know. Just do whatever it is that therapists do, I guess, I’m new at this.” Now I can say that I’m having trouble untangling a particular knot and I’d like an objective person to talk the knot over with and help me unpick it. I can be pretty precise about what the knot is. Once I even told a therapist that I wanted her to be nice to me so I could remember what that felt like and go back out in the world and not settle for people not being nice to me.

Much of this is about self-confidence. I say quit whenever you want. You can always go back, but continuing to see a therapist you don’t trust is a good way to fuck with your head even if the therapist is on to something. If you trust the therapist but doing all that hard work is a problem for you, maybe you aren’t ready. Maybe you should give yourself a break and do it later. Maybe that’s a pattern you can talk about when you go back again.

Giving yourself permission to quit when you aren’t getting what you want out of therapy is a good way to build self-confidence. It's also a good way to come to recognize when you have something that you want an objective and thoughtful person’s help with. You can go back, see what kind of help you’re getting and whether it truly is helpful to you, then quit again when you’re done for the time being. Eventually you get a better grasp of what a therapist can help you with and you get more out of therapy.
24
Usually, I don't care if letter writers write back in with an update. But, I do hope this one does one day. Hoping his girlfriend finds the therapy it sounds like she needs.
25
Dan that's some fine advice
26
First time commenter here! hi everyone! This letter hit home to me, because i am in the exact same predicament, just on the other end of it! I'm married and in love with my husband, who is absolutely wonderful, but i have little to no sex drive. I haven't experienced any trauma, but i do suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. I have been taking medicine for it since i was 15 years old. I do the same thing when i get drunk. I have no idea why. I have a feeling that it has to do with self esteem/body issues. But more importantly with the medication i take, it can cause this to happen also. these two things together are a 'perfect storm' so to speak. and yes i see a psychiatrist once a week, so it might take a long time to deal with this issue. be patient and supportive. and if not, dan's advice is the better alternative.
27
What a lovely young man, this LW sounds. Beautiful.
Though, yes- not a job you can do on your own. Rape victims support group. College therapist, as others have suggested.
And if you are that taken with her, then patience. She will flower, as the past trauma is looked at.
28
Ms Hopkins - While I cannot relinquish you entirely, I am letting Mr Rhone and Mr Ophian share the parts of Matthew and Mary, and can let you share Edith and the DC with Ms Cute. The casting decisions contained a wide range of reasons.

My favourite point about Edith is the reason we know she will be punished for her liaison with Michael. It isn't because she dares to tryst while staying with Rosamund, or that Michael cannot free himself of his insane wife without leaving England, but for something far more scandalous. When Edith is at Michael's flat and they are swept away by passion she isn't wearing gloves. I feel confident trusting either of you to bring out the full horror of that moment. As for the DC, there's a significant part of the reason I put you there that I don't want to blurt out just now, but which will become apparent when another major role is revealed soon, as it may cause a sensation.
29
What Dan said is all true, but if you'd like the option of a better short term solution than alcohol try some ganja with her & see what effect that has.
30
@4, Actually I'm in a relationship right now where the sex increased (and IMPROVED) over time. I have a high sex drive, and boyfriend's is much more limited. I take direct clit stim, while the other girls he had been with preferred g-spot stim. We originally were having sex maybe once a week, but now it's at least twice a week. Boyfriend was hung up on another girl still when we started dating, and he was really self-conscious around me because he has a lot of scars from being a cutter as a teenager. The first three times having sex with someone is not always indicative of a person's full range of interests and abilities. Especially if you're willing to really take the time to communicate what you want. Boyfriend is still squeemish about how openly I talk about sex with him. Haha =]

HOWEVER. With LW's case, she probably is not feeling terribly sexual because she is busy trying to deal with trauma. I think Dan's advice was spot on, and this guy should not be fucking her to begin with, You have to be in reasonably working order to date, and she is not in a position to be dating. It's likely that she is mostly looking for someone to lean on and feel close to, which is not a healthy basis for any relationship,

To the people recommending she smoke pot, if she struggles with depression and anxiety, which is more than expected considering what she has been through in recent history, pot is unlikely to make her more sexual. She will probably freak out on it.
31
It's hard to be intimate with someone when you have a heavy psychological burden, someone in the LW's position has to be able to prove their trustworthiness, emotional depth, and dependability above their horniness. My heart goes out to the 18 year old girlfriend, hope she finds the support she deserves.
32
@8: " I was surprised Dan didn't recommend weed as a potential alternative libido-enhancer to alcohol"

He might suggest that when there's nothing obviously amiss. He's not going to suggest plying someone with drugs when he knows the party may not be okay. The lack of libido might just be the symptom, not "the" problem. And her potential problems are definitely more important than the LWs in this particular context.
33
Dan's advice is ok, but it seems to miss the mark on emphasizing what is important here: establishing non-sexual intimacy. A therapist is not a necessary step all the time and the stigma associated with it can be a huge barrier.

Maybe next time she gets drunk and is seeking physical intimacy, LW could hold back and spend and hour or two building emotional intimacy, talking about trust, intimacy, her past, how she feels about him, etc, BEFORE sex ... makes an amazing foreplay experience if sex happens afterward.

Also she might not want to have sex very often, but she might be willing to share your masturbation experiences. Next time you want sex, are kissing and alone, and she's not wanting to get penetrated, ask if you can pleasure yourself with her next to you. She might help out, or just caress/kiss you while you do that, or might not. It will show your vunerability and needs. You want sexual pleasure, wih her, not alone, or with someone else, but it doesnt mean she has to do anything she doesnt wsnt to do, just be with you while you tend to yourself. Open yourself up. Where are your walls? Where is your sexual shame?

Finally, lets make sure that sex isn't being viewed as a commodity. Sex is a connection between two people, not just a physical act. When you're asking for sex, you're asking for a connection. When you say your sex drive is high is that because you are starving for intimacy or just need to blow a load? The latter is better served by healthy masturbation or FWB kind of relationship.
34
Nice post, @33.
35
This letter needs to specify something: what "being his girlfriend" means. I suspect it means being exclusive. I suspect that Mr. Savage is suggesting that the two of them stay friends, emotional friends, even emotional friends who occasionally have sex, but do so in a way that expressly allows the LW to pursue other women who might be on closer to the same page with him sexually. But if I find it unclear, a twenty-year-old probably would too. The response should have said so straight out.
36
thoughtful post @ 23, Alison - thanks for that!
37
@33: " When you say your sex drive is high is that because you are starving for intimacy or just need to blow a load? The latter is better served by healthy masturbation or FWB kind of relationship."

Or finding a romantic partner whose sexual appetites are similar to your own.

One question that hasn't been answered is, when LW got drunk and got horny, what was her motivation and how did she react to her behaviour? Was she drinking because she wanted to have sex, and wanted to lower her inhibitions so she could mentally get there? Or was she embarrassed by or regretful of her behaviour afterwards? If it's the latter, LW should stay away from her while she is drinking, in case he finds himself the centre of a too-drunk-to-consent campus rape case, like @12 warns. If she wants to be more sexual and is using alcohol as a tool to get her there, definitely explore other ways to get to that same mindset, but in the meantime, I wouldn't discount the utility of having a few drinks to loosen up. A few drinks, not a too-drunk-to-consent number of drinks. If she needs to be falling-down drunk then that's a massive problem.
38
Yes Alison, interesting to read your experiences of therapy.
I went to a male therapist, for five yrs, in my mid twenties. He was great. A true healer. Helped me get a bit more of a father back. Mine had died when I was just short of turning 16..
He's a person, my therapist, I hold dear in my heart.
39
@1: "treat finding a therapist like finding a new car. "

I think of therapists more like used cars - they are each different in different ways, none of them are perfect - they each have their own problems / blind spots, and none of them come with a warranty.

If you haven't made progress in the first meeting, move on. It's a minority of counselors who are that perceptive and skilled, but they are out there. They tend to have long waiting lists and might only take referrals. But they're out there.

Maybe the GF will be more ready to talk to a therapist than she is to talk to the LW. If not, then let her down gently and continue on with your life. If she wants to make progress towards being "in good working order", then supporting her as a friend would be a generous kindness, although he doesn't owe her that. She hasn't stood by him or opened up emotionally to him in any way that addresses her issues.