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    Sexless in The City

    In a world of couples, being without a sex partner can be disheartening. You may be an involuntary celibate. But don't give up hope.

    Sex Life on Hold continued...

    "Not having sex is really more about not having a partner -- and not being connected to someone in an intimate way -- so you really have to look beyond the physical act of sex to understand what might be the underlying factor that's preventing you from connecting to another on an intimate level," says Bartlik, a psychiatrist at the Weil Cornell Medical College.

    Often, she says, that underlying factor can be undiagnosed depression, as well as problems related to low self-esteem.

    "Sometimes not having a partner causes us to feel depressed, which then drives us further from our goal of meeting someone. But sometimes the opposite is true -- the depression or the self-esteem problems come first, and celibacy is simply the end result; it's a symptom and not the source of the problem," says Bartlik.

    When this is the case, she says, getting to the root of what's really making you feel so bad can have some magical effects on your sex life.

    "As you start feeling better about yourself, you may be very surprised to discover how many others are feeling better about you as well -- suddenly all those missed opportunities of the past come full circle and you have another chance," she says.

    While the desire for that warm, fuzzy, intimate, and, yes, sexual relationship is a healthy one, it's also important to recognize that you can be happy and healthy without one.

    "I think many people who don't have an intimate partner, or even any sex in their life, feel bad because they judge themselves and their life by society's definition of happiness -- a definition that often includes being part of a couple," says Dennis Sugrue, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School and past president of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

    Happy and Healthy Without a Sex Life

    But if you put society's definition on hold, Sugrue contends you might find you are perfectly happy living without sex in your life.

    "If you want a sexual relationship and you don't have one, that's one thing -- but if you are unhappy because society makes you feel abnormal or unhealthy without a sex life, then don't be swayed by that argument -- as long as you feel good about your life, that's all that counts," says Sugrue.

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