Sexuality – The Bedroom Department
For partners of Survivors, this whole aspect is very frustrating. The partner can wind up feeling like a failure for not be able to give pleasure or express their true feelings to the survivor. They may feel rejected and at a loss on what to do about this situation. Their own sexual desires are put on hold. They love the survivor but have needs of their own also. It is important to remember that the survivor is feeling these feelings because of the abuse they suffered and it is not that the partner is lacking as a lover. It is hard not to take it personally as what could be more personal than your sex life, however, it really is not your fault. You could be the best lover on the planet and that would only serve to make the survivor more confused, more guilt ridden. Survivors feel a tremendous sense of guilt for not being sexually available for their partners…for not enjoying sex the way they wish they could. The survivor probably loves you very much but it is just too scary to feel this with his/her body too. In fact, the fact that they are willing to stay in the relationship and have to deal with this sexual issue every day, is proof that the survivor must care for you a great deal. IT takes a big toll on someone to try and avoid sex, make excuses, panic at being touched in the night, have all those feelings continually brought up.
When the survivor starts being honest about his or her feelings with the partner, the partner might feel shocked, angry and bewildered, especially if the survivor seemed to enjoy sex before. Sudden upheaval of sexual issues is the norm when survivors start to work on abuse issues. Patience with the survivor is key. Survivors often cannot work on sexual issues until the later stages of healing. If a survivor feels pressure to have sex during this time, it only serves to make him/her feel worse. Especially if there is fighting or threats about this. The survivor feels like this is the original abuse because they feel manipulated again. This only shuts the survivor down further. When the pressure for sex is taken off of the survivor, this allows him or her room to heal sexually. As a partner, you do have a choice, you can leave the relationship and find someone else to have sex with but the survivor can’t. Unless she/he heals sexually, these problems will follow her into every relationship for the rest of her life. Her/his motivation to heal and change is greater than yours. You cannot make someone heal sexually. You can’t set deadlines or orchestrate the survivors progress. You can set mutual goals and work toward them. You can make your feelings and needs known and say that sex is important to you and that you want, eventually, to have a mutual sexual relationship. The survivor understands this, they want the same thing. Things will change and can even though it may not seem like it now. Ultimately, you will be rewarded with a whole and healthy person.
Working with a survivor on sexual healing takes an incredible amount of patience, persistence and an acceptance of the fact that you are growing as a person too. Survivors often need to be the initiators of sex in order to feel in control. This is an important thing for partners to understand.
Let the survivor make the moves and set the pace for your love making. If the survivor feels in control, often this makes a very big difference. Try not to feel rejected when you reach over in bed and your partner flinches from your touch. Remember that a lot of survivors do not like to be touched when they are sleeping. For obvious reasons, this is very triggering for them. Avoid power struggles over sex. During this time, partners may find it extremely helpful to join a support group such as SAVE.