How can I support my partner as he/she is dealing with abuse issues?
It is very usual for partners to want to help and support their survivor partner, especially during times when abuse issues are being processed. Although it might feel counterintuitive, often the best way to support your partner is to take care of yourself. Finding the support you need to maintain your own emotional balance decreases the stress on your relationship and allows space for your partner to focus on the difficult work of dealing with abuse.
My partner has become quiet and somewhat distant since she/he began therapy to deal with the abuse. Is this normal?
Processing through the layers of pain stemming from childhood sexual abuse can be a very inward and intense process and survivors may seem withdrawn or unusually uncommunicative. This can be stressful on their partner, family, and relationships.
Although this can be a frustrating or lonely time for partners, it is useful to remember that this is often a part of the process.
Although my partner has been sexually abused as a child he/she does not want to get help. How can I convince my partner to go to therapy?
Although this can be a very frustrating issue in a relationship, survivors must seek out therapy in their own time. Traveling back through the decades to approach the long buried pain of abuse in childhood can be an intimidating and difficult decision for survivors. Supporting your partner’s choice to seek help when ready often helps to lessen the stress on your relationship.
Our sexual relationship has become very strained. Is this common?
Unfortunately, it is extremely common for adult sexual relationships to be negatively impacted by childhood sexual abuse. The level of closeness involved in physical and sexual intimacy may feel threatening or entrapping. Sexual acts themselves may be triggering or stressful for adults who have been sexually wounded in childhood. Understandably, this can place significant stress partners and on the relationship itself. As difficult as it may be, it is important to remember that a survivor’s difficulty with sexual intimacy is not personal or a reflection on the relationship.
Is there hope that our sexual and intimate relationship will be restored?
Yes. Although this process takes time, there is hope that trust, closeness and intimacy can be restored. With the help of a knowledgeable and skilled couples counselor, couples may find ways to safely allow the vulnerability necessary to engage in emotional and sexual intimacy. Through this process couples may come to find ways to deepen and strengthen their relationship in ways that allow a strong and stable connection.