“Dear Ignacio, my fiancee recently disclosed in couple’s therapy that she was sexually assaulted as a teenager. This came up in the context of #intimacy issues that we were having. I feel really bad for her and want to help, but she shuts down every time the topic of sex comes up, let alone talking further about the incident. I want to be supportive of her #healing, but I think every time I approach the topic she feels that it’s about me wanting to have sex. I don’t know how to have her trust me and my intentions.”
It’s wonderful to hear that you’re invested in supporting your fiancee’s healing. The first step in supporting someone in their healing journey is understanding what THEY consider supportive. Sometimes, we (survivors/victims) don’t know what kind of support we need or how to ask for it. So patience is a virtue. Those who love us often want to take care of us, help us heal and make the bad thing go away. Not all healing is linear, easy or pretty. It can be confusing, frustrating and depressing.
Although the assault happened when your fiancee was a teenager, the ripple effects of the trauma can last a lifetime. This often means struggles that affect intimacy, communication, trust and boundaries. While you are figuring out how to support her best, remember, she may be trying to figure out her own feelings. Disclosing childhood sexual abuse (CSA) is a big event and she maybe dealing with many complex feelings as a result. Allowing some space for your finacee to learn for herself what support means and what she needs can help her find agency, and locate her own power.
In the meantime, I suggest you continue going to couple’s #therapy, and consider going to individual therapy to support yourself as well. While doing this work, take some time to think deeper about your own #boundaries, as well as #communication and intimacy style. If you and your fiancee mainly talk out loud, try communicating in a different style. Sometimes you get different results by taking a step back and coming in from a different angle. For example, you can try writing letters or emails while in #quarantine, or if you live together, use a notebook to share vulnerable thoughts and feelings, loving moments, deep fears, and even jokes.
Intimacy through sex eb and flows for most people. I encourage you two to think about how you build intimacy in ways that are not sexual. This may be your mutual love for a hobby, a TV show, or an outdoor activity. Focusing on non-sexual intimacy can help build trust by showing your partner that you are committed to her regardless of her interest in sex. Supporting a survivor/victim of sexual assault is not a quick fix, but intentional love and care pays off in the long run. Finally, I recommend reading the book “Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma,” to both of you.
#heal2end #communication #healing #boundaries #intimacy #survivors #CSAsurvivors #engaged #healingsex