TW for some talk about past abuse/sexual assault. So he came over to my house for dinner last night.

Let me preface this by catching you up on what’s transpired to this point: he’s one of my best friends, we have known each other for 5 years, we both started to have feelings for attraction for each other over the past couple of months. He admitted his feelings to me first, and we went on our first date right at two weeks ago.

So, one thing that I knew going into this, was that dating and anything having to deal with it is somewhat unfamiliar territory for him. I don’t want to go into specifics too much but suffice it to say he had a traumatizing experience when he was younger that he has been working through over the past couple of years, and that became a roadblock to him wanting to date or have intimacy, and he is aware of that and has said as much. He’s 25, cute, smart, kind, etc, and he’s a virgin. He’s had opportunities to get with girls and go on dates in the past but has kept away from them out of fear and shyness. This is how I knew it was a big deal for him and took a lot of guts for him to approach me. Last night I found out he hasn’t had a girlfriend or any kind of experience since he was in high school/early college at least, so 7-8 years.

So, after dinner last night, he basically leaned into me and was like “look, I know you really well, and I know you know me really well, and I feel like we’ve been tiptoeing around the whole physical aspect of this dating thing because of that. I would feel really bad if I upset you in any way, and I know you’d feel really bad if you upset me, so I just wanted to put that on the table and acknowledge it.” (He is partially referring to the fact that he knows I was sexually assaulted in college.) I can agree with what he said. I could sense that he was nervous to make any kind of a move on me, and I was feeling the same way about him. Also, there has been some degree I think of awkwardness and not quite knowing what to do since we have known each other as friends for what seems like forever.

(my own personal backstory in case it’s relevant: I have dealt with issues stemming from my assault to the best of my ability. Honestly, I’m in a place now where I’m really comfortable with sex again and enjoy it enthusiastically, and I like being touched and receiving physical affection again. I have a real libido again after years of it being patchy or non-existent. I had a period of about 18 months where I refused to get involved with anyone while I did the heavy lifting of processing through my rape, but outside of that time I have been dating and having sex since I was 16 [I’m 27 now] and have had many relationships.)

Anyway. After we talked about that, he leaned in to kiss me, and we made out for a few minutes. I’m saying this with all of the kindness, care, and respect in the world: I can tell his lack of experience pretty clearly and feel his discomfort with physical stuff. It could just be that he’s simply nervous or it could be something deeper at play, I am not sure. I did not hate it, it was nice to have some physical contact and I felt like there was some degree of chemistry maybe under the surface, but there was a lot of stiffness, discomfort, and first-time-ish awkwardness. I was trying to be really gentle and slow without a lot of pressure or anything. I stopped at one point to ask if he was all right and he said “yes” and so I said “it’s okay, just relax.”

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I guess my real question is, is there a way that I can help him feel more at ease? I know to some degree that it just takes time to loosen up and get comfortable when you’re with somebody new, period, whether it’s your first time or your 80th time kissing a new person. And, I am not sure how to broach the subject of sex but I feel like given our conversation last night, he was basically giving me permission to be upfront with that sort of discussion. I am trying to put myself in the shoes of where I used to be back when I was just re-entering the dating pool after my sabbatical, or what it was like when I was young and inexperienced, and be able to come from a place of compassion. But, I also want to be able to enjoy the physical stuff when the time is right.

Really, even if this doesn’t pan out, I would hope he’ll walk away from this having had some good experiences with this sort of thing.

TL,DR my new beau has no true adult dating experience and is a virgin who seems uncomfortable with physical contact. I want to be tactful, kind, and respectful while also trying to gently coach him as to what I like and still figure out if this is going to work for us.

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thoughts?