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  • Johnny and his girlfriend Rachel weren't getting on well after two years together.

  • There were lots of arguments, sometimes quite stormy ones.

  • When one night, Johnny smashed his fist through the kitchen door.

  • A friend suggested, he might try therapy.

  • It felt odd at first to be in a room with a stranger, who wanted nothing more than to listen to him closely.

  • She asked what fights between him and Rachel were about.

  • "Oh, this and that." Said Johnny.

  • Was there anything else he was sad about in his relationship?

  • "Sad" was a useful word to use.

  • It made Johnny feel that his anger wasn't some kind of horrible madness, which was the vibe he tended to get from all other observers.

  • His anger was coming from a place of weakness and inadequacy, which, crucially, a therapist could understand.

  • And not immediately judge him for.

  • There was a lot of sadness around sex.

  • Johnny and Rachel had been going for months without too much of it.

  • Johnny would try sliding a hand over gently, but Rachel would subtly ignore him, pretending to fall asleep.

  • The rejection was silently killing Johnny, and was at the root of his increasing coldness and snappiness with Rachel.

  • "That must feel pretty painful to be turned down," said the therapist,

  • in such a sympathetic way, that Johnny, who is an ex-marine, felt tears welling up.

  • Johnny began talking of his childhood.

  • He'd grown up in Texas and had never known his father.

  • His mother had been beautiful, volatile, and an alcoholic.

  • He always had a sense that he was a burden to her.

  • He'd been a chubby boy, slow at school, shy at home.

  • When he was fourteen, she'd left him in the care of her sister, and had gone to live with a lover in Chicago.

  • Johnny and his mother rarely saw each other now.

  • Beneath Johnny's outward strength, not far beneath, was a sense he was unacceptable to the core of his being, unable to sustain even his own mother's interest.

  • The feeling of self-loathing and shame was easy to reawaken.

  • And Rachel's sexual disinterest played right into it.

  • The problem was that Johnny wasn't good at translating his hurt into anything another person could understand.

  • Let alone sympathize with him for.

  • We tend not to be endeared by people who'd call us rude words and break furniture, however vulnerable they might be feeling inside.

  • Rachel had come to see her boyfriend as a bully, not a hurt, lost boy,

  • Though that was, beneath it all, perhaps precisely what he was.

  • The therapist suggested something as basic as it was brilliant.

  • Rather than trying and failing to have sex.

  • Johnny should tell Rachel a little bit more about what it felt like to be him, when his hand laid rejected, untouched by her in the bed.

  • Most importantly, he had to stay calm when he explained himself to her.

  • On the basis that, unlike when he'd been young, he now had agency, and choice, and a possibility of maturity.

  • Put like this, Rachel understood at once.

  • She didn't have some macho guy at her hands; she was picking up on echoes of a lost, scared boy, whom she actually cried for when it was explained to her like this.

  • It wasn't that Johnny and Rachel immediately had sex all the time.

  • Rachel's job often left her not in the mood.

  • But the meaning of lack of sex changed between them.

  • Rachel understood how Johnny might interpret her tiredness, and took steps to reassure him of her basic love for him.

  • Johnny better understood why rejection had a habit of stirring up such uncontrollable hurt in him.

  • Johnny gradually lost the old sense of helplessness.

  • "She isn't my mother, and I'm not a little boy at her mercy,"

  • he stated one day in therapy,

  • and it felt like the most obvious and momentous of points.

  • Johnny took on board what belonged to the past and what belonged to now.

  • The therapy lasted over a year.

  • Johnny and Rachel are going to be married soon.

  • The School of Life offers therapy in person or over Skype.

  • Click here for details.

Johnny and his girlfriend Rachel weren't getting on well after two years together.

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Sexual Rejection

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    Tim posted on 2016/10/31
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