Dear Dr. Archer,
When I was a baby, my mother and father divorced, and he left mom, an older sister and me. My mother remarried when I was about 3 years old. When I was 9, my stepfather began sexually molesting my sister and me. He was also physically abusive, and we were very scared of him.
This abuse lasted until I was 17, when I told him if he touched me again I would kill him, and I meant it. I don't believe my mom knew about the abuse until I told her when I was 16. She threatened to divorce him, but she never did.
At 16, a guy I was dating raped me because I would not have sex with him. I was raped again when I was 20 by a girlfriend's friend. At 17 I ran away from home and got in touch with my father, who had never paid child support or contacted my sister or me growing up.
Long story short, I moved to a different state to live with him. While there, he beat up his girlfriend, and beat me up, too. I moved back home with my mother and stepfather because I had nowhere else to go. I have been married four times--three of those to men who were physically abusive. At one point I lived at a women's shelter with my two children.
I am now 60 years old, and divorced for almost 13 years. I still believe in love even though I shouldn't, and would like to remarry at some point. I am very scared and have a tendency to sabotage potential relationships.
I have worked through most of the abuse that I've suffered at the hands of men in my life, but I know that I have walls built and have trouble trusting men. I have become very cynical in thinking that there aren't any good men out there.
What is your take on my past and my future?
Your story is heartbreaking and I applaud you for going through all of that and still believing in love. So many that have been through your type of ordeal would just say forget it and shut down on the thought of ever being in another relationship.
But here’s the deal: In order to find a relationship you have to stop looking for one. You need to first and always be happy with yourself as a person. Understand what you like and also your strengths and weaknesses.
Once you can do that then friends will find you. Make sure throughout that you stay true to yourself, enjoy your friends, hobbies and life. Understand that you are not alone, we all want to love as well as to be loved. As much as we want this, however, we must also be careful and choose our friends, lovers and mates very cautiously.
Love should be life giving, not life destroying. It is through meeting people, becoming friends first and then letting things progress naturally that we optimize the chance of meeting a good, sound and desirable mate.
The reason you have the tendency to sabotage relationships is so that you can stop something before it has the potential to become destructive and hurtful to you, which has happened many times. This is your own built in self protective mechanism and this is ok.
What you need to remember, Sharon, is that there are many desirable men and women out there, just as there are many undesirable men and women. Keep things simple, as there is no rush for another marriage. Enjoy each day for what it brings and simply enjoy the company you keep.
So enjoy your life now. If it leads to a mutually desired marriage one day, then wonderful, but understand that you can be happy even without this. It’s amazing to me that once a person stops looking for love and decides to focus on just being happy with who they are, that love will find them.
Good luck Sharon, I’m rooting for you and I bet the other readers are as well.