Your partner was sexually abused
At some point in your relationship you came to find out your partner was sexually abused as a child.
Ideally your partner told you this before you started a relationship, but it doesn’t always work this way.
Some survivors from sexual abuse don’t know they were abused because of suppression or dissociation. Others do know but don’t want to talk about it, yet.
“Sweetheart, I’ve been sexually abused”
It’s not that easy to talk about, especially when you just start a new relationship. That’s why your loved one keeps quiet about it or procrastinates in telling you. Then all of a sudden you’re confronted with a dark cloud from the past. Your lover was hurt. Deeply.
It’s natural to become angry. But your partner will probably react in a different manner. It’s strange to realize that he/she may not share your anger. Especially when this is the first time he/she shares this, your partner may be inclined, out of misplaced loyalty, to defend the abuser. I think it’s important to remember that, although you feel like a bomb has just dropped on you, she has lived with this a long time. Knowingly or not.
Partners need help
At one point in my coaching practice my clients consisted of partners more than survivors. Men (and women) who’ve tried so hard for so long to be the ideal. understanding partner, but get stuck in: will it ever get any better? and When will we ever have a “normal” relationship?
It’s not easy being the partner of …
What are expectations of a so-called normal relationship? Intimacy, sexuality? Sure. Holding hands? Absolutely. Partners go without for long periods of time. Sometimes years. Add to that the unexpected, irrational outbursts when their loved ones are triggered and as a partner you can feel extremely lonely in your relationship.
You can call it a secondary trauma, if you will.
Don’t heal your partner, heal yourself
The question I most often hear is: Can you heal my partner?
I would like to share a very important tip: Please,help yourself.
You cannot change another person. The only thing you can change is your reaction to the other person. What can you do to change the pattern of you feeling sorry for and being scared of triggering your mate. Be conscious of what your wants and needs are.
Communicate. Communicate often.
For more information about the long term effects of child sexual abuse and how to heal from them, buy the book ‘I Thrive. Healing child sexual abuse’ at Amazon.com There’s a chapter in it geared towards partners specifically, but in addition, it will further your understanding of what child sexual abuse can do and how it can play out in the adult survivor.
New book on partners
note: Ivonne is writing another book as we speak, about partners of sexually abused survivors. Filled with tips and based on her experience as a coach to both survivors from sexual abuse as well as their partners. We will keep you posted. Expected in Dutch in April 2016.