Three Intimate Encounters Have Female Soldier Wondering Why

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Reader’s Question

I am a 20-year-old Airman First Class female who, up until this week, had never had any experience with a romantic/sexual relationship. So, I’m still in a state of confusion and frustration over three recent events. Particularly, I’m wondering if the most recent two events only happened because of the first.

To give some background: There was a Staff Sergeant where I work who I came to admire for both his leadership skills and beautiful personality. All of us who live in the same building are pretty close, but he and I just seemed to hit it off. We formed a fast friendship within two months. I immediately felt an attraction to him, but for several reasons (he is my team leader and is married and 25 years older), I felt it best to keep our relationship at a friend level. He would always make jokes about his sexual frustrations, due to not being with his wife in over a year. Despite his jokes, everyone knew he would never cheat on her. But he always would choose to invite me to bars or to go drinking. I told him several times he could go drink with other airmen, but he said he’d rather watch a movie with me and drink a little of his own scotch, then go out. I loved how he made me feel special in the little ways.

We spent the day before he was to leave watching movies. I had noticed that during the past weeks, he had began to touch me more, so it didn’t bother me when he held my hand. Toward the end of the night, we began to talk. He played with my hand while we talked, then kissed it. I looked at him, shocked. Then he pulled me close and kissed me. I never had a boyfriend, and my only sexual experience in kissing was with a game of spin the bottle. So I am wondering if it was just because he wanted me and made the first move that I so helplessly returned his kisses. We eventually stripped down to nothing but undies. We could have gone further and I knew we both wanted to, but we never went further than a thrust with two pieces of cloth between us.

Part of me felt it was good we did not continue, but another part has regrets. I also wondered why we didn’t go further. We talked a lot — but not about his wife, his reason for kissing me or why we didn’t go all the way. It was all about appreciation of how we changed each other’s lives, if only for awhile. He told me I was beautiful and that he had never been with any fellow soldier that way, and that I was not being “used.”

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Just two days after my Staff Sergeant left, another one of my team leaders asked if I wanted to watch a movie with him. He had occasionally joined us before, so I thought he wanted to keep up the movie nights. I also had a friendship with him, and I knew he was going through a nasty divorce, so I knew something had been bad when he began drinking wine straight out of the bottle. He even began crying, and I tried to comfort him. He eventually sank down and lay his head in my lap. He eventually fell asleep, and I think he subconsciously gripped my thigh, maybe dreaming of his wife.

By now, I’d become emotionally stressed from trying to figure out what was going on in my first and second encounters. Eventually I cracked when I was hanging out in my fellow junior enlistee’s room. I told him about my encounters. Then he began to hug me, and pushed me down on his bed. I let him kiss my neck. When he began to rub himself against me, I slowly stopped it.

I’m so confused with all that’s been going on! Why all of a sudden do these men come to me and express themselves in a verbal and physical way? Is it my ability to listen? How is it that these three events happened so fast and so close to one another? I love my profession, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable at work.

Psychologist’s Reply

Although it appears that you suspect there’s some connection between what happened between you and your Staff Sergeant, there are additional possible reasons for the kind of encounters you describe. But rather than concern yourself with whether those reasons are primarily external (e.g., “word getting out” that you can be made to succumb to expressions of emotional pain) or internal (e.g., your lack of experience and eagerness to feel loved), it would be best to focus on setting and enforcing appropriate boundaries with respect to your relationships. You must champion the values you hold. There are many reasons to avoid becoming involved with a superior. And if you suspect a pattern of subtle harassment, it’s your duty to report it.

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