Men Make Her Sick
Q: I was in a loving, stable marriage for 12 years when my husband decided to leave me and our kids for a woman he worked with. He was my best friend and we had weathered one of his brief affairs just three years before this. I'm 39 and have been on my own for two and a half years now. I'd like to date but whenever a man tries to talk to me I experience a wave of nausea. It's even stronger if a man touches me in any way or gets too close. How can I overcome this physical reaction? -- Catie
Dr. Susan: You believed you were in a loving, stable marriage for 12 years with your trustworthy best friend, but the evidence is that for at least a quarter of that time, you and your husband weren't on the same page. It's always quite a blow to one's sense of the world when a mate betrays one's trust. You implied your husband had repeated affairs. Your trust must have been eroding bit by bit over the years, but you always expected he'd stick around. So on top of his repeated infidelities, he broke the bedrock deal you thought you could always count on. No wonder you're having trouble feeling safe around men.
The fact that you're having this physical reaction when you're even spoken to by a man indicates to me that your problem is pretty deep. I'd highly recommend you get in touch with a therapist who might try various means of getting you over this phobic response. One technique that is often used is to get you used to contact with men gradually so you can see they're not all going to hurt you. Thus you might approach a male you're comfortable with (surely there are a few you don't want to barf over?), and play-act the rituals of conversation, flirting, and dating. An experienced counselor should be able to help you deal with your reactions as they occur. This level of upset isn't likely to be something you can just "decide" your way out of.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.