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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » Reclaiming sexuality after abuse

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Author Topic: Reclaiming sexuality after abuse
Dwyn
Neophyte
Member # 107235

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After escaping an abusive relationship some 12 years ago, I am currently involved a loving, safe and committed relationship. We have been together for 10 years now and we are still very happy together. I have always kept the memories of that abusive relationship behind a closed door with a big 'keep out' sign on it. Approximately a year ago the memories jumped out at me and I have been working on them with a therapist since then. The only problem is that since the memories resurfaced, some part of me seems to have developed a fear of sex. I am fine with 'do it yourself sex', the fear is only related to 'do it together sex'. I am love hugs, holding and other types of 'safe' touch but I am afraid of any type of touch that triggers sexual desire or arousal. My partner is very supportive. We have talked about this and he is not pushing me in any way to be sexual. He is giving me all the time that I need to sort this out. I have been in therapy for nearly over a year now and we have discussed this fear of sex various times. Despite this, the fear still seems to be increasing rather than decreasing. But I don't want to give the abuse this kind of power over me and I am looking for ways in which I can take my own power back and reclaim my sexuality. I am just not very sure how to go about that.
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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Welcome to the boards, Dwyn. [Smile]

First of all, getting out of long-term abusive relationships is one of the most challenging things a person can do. You've got my admiration and respect for doing that. I know how scary and hard it can be.

Let's perhaps try starting here: given that your partner has been supportive, and I assume that means supporting you in staying away from any sex that is scaring you, or triggering fears or memories you can't handle, why do you think these fears are getting larger, rather than staying the same or decreasing?

What's triggering them lately? What tools have you and your therapist developed and worked with for you so far around this?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dwyn
Neophyte
Member # 107235

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Thank you for responding so quickly!

My partner is indeed supporting me in staying away from sex that is scaring to me. There are certain things that I know will trigger – oral sex for example – and I have made those off limits for the moment. But I don't always know in advance if something will trigger. When it happens unexpectedly and I indicate that something scares me – or when I just go into some kind of blind panic - and I just want to stop whatever we are doing then he always respects that. After that, I then usually only want him to hold me for a while until the fear fades away.

The reason why I think the fears are getting larger is because I am noticing that I am making increasingly more sexual activities off limits. The list just seems to be getting longer instead of getting shorter. In addition to that, I am finding it increasingly harder to by-pass that general barrier of fear that is keeping me from engaging in any type of 'do it together sex' at all. So the frequency of having sex together is still decreasing. I know that to me quality is more important than quantity but this is not really the way either of us wants it to be. I do feel attracted to him and there are definitely many more moments when I would want to be sexual but I just don't seem to be able to get past that barrier.

I think what is contributing to that fear of sex now, is that Pandora's box that I opened last year. That is when all those memories – that I had been trying to forget all those years – jumped out at me.

The way that I have been trying to deal with this so far is by trying to stay aware of my feelings, also and especially when we are engaging in sexual activities. At first this was difficult because often I did not really know what I was feeling. And often my feelings – in terms of emotions, I am not referring to sexual desire now - were just not there. Before I started therapy and before I started paying attention to that, I wasn't really aware that apparently I was dissociating from my feelings quite a lot during 'do it together sex'. I am getting better at staying aware of them now. In addition to that I am trying to find out what it is that I want in relation to 'do it together sex' and communicating that instead of focusing on the things that I don't want.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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So, am I hearing you right that you think some of this fear may be escalating due to the related fear that you may not improve in this regard, and sex with a partner that isn't scary, and doesn't trigger, may become further and further out of reach?

Has your therapist yet worked with you on help managing triggers when they occur? In other words, when you ARE triggered, do you yet have ways to have that happen, but have it be okay because you, or you and your partner together, manage those triggers?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dwyn
Neophyte
Member # 107235

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Yes, you are absolutely right. I am afraid of not being able to find a way to improve this situation and I am indeed afraid that sex with a partner that does not trigger and isn't scary is getting further out of reach.

To be honest I don't really know very well how to manage those triggers alone or together when they do occur. And I don't really feel very okay about being triggered either. It feels a bit silly to be confusing past and present. I know that beating myself up about this isn't helpful and it isn't going to improve the situation in any way. So I do try to stay away from that.

Instead, I try to stay in the present and I try to tell myself that I am safe now. But usually that does not really convince the part of me that is triggered and scared. So then I take a time out and I wait for the fear to pass.

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Okay: that's good you have that awareness.

You know, I wonder if starting by reading something like this, that I would say is related, might be a good place for us to start: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/what_if_i_never_want_or_feel_ready_for_sex

I'm thinking it might help to clarify more about those fears, so we -- especially you, obviously -- can have a better idea of what's under them, and best figure out how to tackle them.

It also sounds like part of the issue here is not yet having coping tools for your triggers. Really, while over time, we will tend to be triggered less and less often, triggers are still going to happen at least sometimes. And that doesn't have to be awful, or mean we have to go bananas trying to avoid them. Once we have some coping tools that work for us, being triggered really can be nothing more than a bad moment that we manage and then have pass.

How about talking with your therapist about this and asking them to start working with you on actually managing triggers?

I would add that, IMO, as we go on in life and gather life experiences, my experience is that the past and the present does tend to get mushier, even outside of trauma. For sure, that's not the same thing as being in one moment and then literally winding up being emotionally shot back in time to another, but my point is that's not really silly. It's a thing that happens, certainly with post-truama, but in general, too.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Dwyn
Neophyte
Member # 107235

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Thanks for the link. I have read the article and I need to think about it. It makes a lot of sense to me.

I will definitely bring this up in therapy as well and I will ask my therapist if we can work on managing these triggers.

It is getting rather late here so I have to go now but thanks a lot for your understanding and for thinking along with me!

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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Glad to be of help. Feel free to holler back if you want to talk about it some more anytime, or if after talking with your therapist anything new comes up you want some company in. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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