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New relationship: struggling after an abusive one(11 Posts)
NC for this. I'm dating after a fairly long abusive relationship. The abuse was sexual & emotional mostly. New relationship: we've been seeing each other less than a year, friends first, dating past few months.
Only been sexual in past few weeks and I struggle to say what I want or to say no. He's realised. We talked but it was the same last time. I don't know how to get over it. As soon as it gets sexual I'm almost zoned out, it'd be far easier if he just did what he wanted. I haven't told him that of course but that's where my head is. I feel really ashamed I'm like this.
When I think about it I want to run away from the whole relationship. Yet he's really nice and everything else is very good. When I say zoned out it's not exactly like that, more that I don't feel myself. I feel heartbroken over it, I thought I'd moved on so much but this just makes me think I haven't. My chap's said I'm putting too much pressure on myself. I don't know if it's just that or how to fix it. I feel he deserves better.
I think you're new bloke sounds like a good egg & sounds understanding. He also does sound right about the putting pressure on yourself bit. I think you just need to keep the lines of communication open. Good luck OP
Have you heard of dissociation? It sounds like that's what is happening to you.
In a traumatic situation, like sexual abuse, your brain learns to kind of freeze / zone out. People can feel numb, floaty, or kind of disconnected from their own body. It is evolutions last way of protecting you when you're in a horrible situation that you can't escape from.
Now when you try to have sex, it triggers that same reaction, because it is an automatic reaction that your body has learnt, even if the situation now is safe.
This is quite common for abuse survivors. I recommend reafing about it, and potentially talking to an experienced therapist. It's helpful, if you feel able to, to tell your partner whats happening too.
I've heard of dissociation. I didn't realise it could apply to how I feel because I don't blank out. I don't really know how to talk about it with him more than I have. I was hoping it'd go away, it hasn't. It's worse in fact.
He's very focused on me. In a way it makes it worse. I'm not used to that. I'm used to performing for someone and being used, not someone who wants me to have pleasure and have a true dialogue, sorry if this is horrible and tmi. I can't seem to handle it at all.
I don't blame him. I'm just not sure what to do next. He's so nice, I feel he deserves better than this.
You deserve something good as well and he sounds kind, patient and understanding-please don't give up on something positive because you feel that you don't deserve it.
Therapy can be incredibly helpful, even though it can also be terrifying. My therapist told me that I needed to give myself permission to be liked and happy and that began, after a while, to sink in-i'm not useless and rubbish and I do deserve to be happy. That's the same with you-you deserve to be happy and fulfilled, you need to give yourself permission, even if you may need a bit of help to get to that point.
He sounds lovely As do you!
What does the 'zoned out' feel like to you?
Have you talked about the sexual abuse before? Have you had the chance to talk with a therapist?
This may be a sign, oddly, that you are now in a safe place - rather than keeping it buried your body and mind are ready to process the trauma. Obviously you'd rather not feel this way at all! But it can be healed, with time and skill.
Halfway down this article there are some ideas about things that can help if you are dissociating during sex
Thank you for the link, Porpoises. I've had a read. A lot resonates. I find it hard to describe how I react. I'm all right when we kiss/touch playfully, it's when it came to clothes off, actual sex I started feeling not well or weird. I feel frightened, yet I fancy him, and want to. It's a mixture of me going into myself and that I can't talk, like the words aren't coming out. One thing my ex did when I refused some things was to slap me round the face then saying I loved it. Name calling as well. I feel frightened to say no, I think, in case he doesn't listen. There's also that I don't really know what I like or want, to be fair. It's very much like I can't think, can't think straight anyway. I had plenty of sex with my ex but mostly rough and porny stuff. I like when he holds me close to him, like a hug, but I can't stand when he doesn't actually. The other thing is that I felt little or no pleasure. I was more distressed than anything. He's very uncomfortable with how upset I got. That's why I feel he deserves better. I'm not sure how we can move on from this.
I've had counselling but not proper therapy. It's true I feel safe with this chap, he's respectful and patient. He knows sketchy details. Btw sorry if tmi information.
Can you confide in your boyfriend and explain to him what you've explained here? I think that if he knew what you had been through, it would help him to understand and to help you overcome the trauma experienced with your ex. For that is what it was and is. Trauma.
More counselling would help. Reading some self-help books on the subject would also help. As would confronting those feelings of not being good enough. Where have those feelings come from? From being abused. From being traumatised. From being a victim.
You must put yourself first now and find ways to heal. Its really important. Your new guy sounds like he could be trusted to help you with the healing process if you let him.
I wish i could help more Drafty, i don't have all the answers.
I'm sorry about the horrible abuse from your ex.
I think the best things you can do are:
-keep talking with your partner
-slow down on the sexual stuff or stop altogether for a while if you need
-If, and only if, you want to keep trying sexual stuff right now, learn to pay attention to whats happening to your mind and body so you can recognise when you are dissociating. When you are, dont push yourself to continue sex, take time to feel yourself again, and then see what you want to do. It might be hard to tell your partner to stop once you are in that fearful state, so maybe agree a signal with him?
-when you know you're dissociating, sometimes you can ground yourself again by noticing body sensations, e.g. the touch of your feet on the floor
-you might be able to notice certain sensations, positions etc trigger the dissociation.
-Seek therapy (look for someone experienced in treating trauma and abuse)
-try not to push him away because he 'deserves better' - this is your low self esteem talking. Whether he wants to be with you is his decision, and he is choosing you (obviously, conversely, whether you want to be with him is your decision. You can leave if this isnt working for you, or if the relationship is bringing more stress than comfort. But don't push him away 'for his own good' - its up to him to decide whats for his own good, and it sounds like he might be very sad to lose you.) Also the fact that he got upset that you were upset is a really good sign - it means he is caring, empathetic, and you can work together to solve this.
Also its okay to have pretty unconventional sex, not to follow what you assume 'everyone else is doing'. If you find that being held really closely is pleasurable, and nothing else is, or that you need to talk all the time to hear his voice, thats fine. As you heal, what feels okay will gradually expand. There might be some things that you never enjoy, and thats fine too, be pragmatic about what works for you rather than trying to emulate a 'perfect' sexual partner (which probably only exists in our collective imagination!)
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