My therapist reminds me it happens to many men my age

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Hi Meredith,

I am a 55-year-old male who has not been in a relationship in 15 years. I have had a lot of issues with self-hate, and my fear of rejection has prevented me from reaching out and making the social connections I need to have a healthy relationship. I have been in therapy for three years now, and it has helped me to express my feelings and alter my mindset to have more confidence about who I am and what I can offer. Complicating my situation is a sexual function problem due to a medical condition. It has really undermined my feelings about being a man and has affected my ability to be confident that I can have a normal healthy relationship. My therapist reminds me it is a condition that happens to many men my age, and that couples she provides therapy for have managed to live with this condition.

The problem is that these people were couples before the conditioned occurred. There was an emotional bond that ensured greater empathy. I face having to address this issue at the beginning of a relationship, if I have a chance to get to that stage. How do I address it to a potential partner? Could this scare potential partners away? I hear that these problems are not a big deal for many women, but I am not so sure. My therapist says that the right woman interested in a loving, intimate, long-term relationship will be willing to deal with this issue with someone – together. I would like your take.

– Intimate Question

Listen, for some women, this will be a deal-breaker. That's life.

Some women won't be into you for other reasons. That's dating.

But your therapist is right – there are potential partners out there who will want you as you – are and will be thrilled with what you can offer. It's about finding them and being open (and patient) during the process.

Please remember that there are many ways to be intimate, and that some people who can do everything with their bodies don't necessarily want to do anything (or do it well). So much of intimacy is about paying attention to another person, which sounds like something you can do.

I hear your point about couples already being together when they face new barriers, but they have their own stuff to figure out. They have routines that have to change over time. They're dealing with other parts of their history. I wouldn't assume there's more ease or empathy there.

Focus on what you can do – what you like to do – and go from there. Address it with a potential partner when it's time to get closer. Ask questions.

Also remember that the person you date might be nervous too. Maybe they've been looking for a long time – or have insecurities about what they can offer (here's a good example). If your whole brain is focused on yourself, you're less likely to notice their experience. You won't be able to help another person be present in the moment.

The first question is whether you can have a good evening with someone. Try that first.

– Meredith

Readers? Pep talk here?