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Loving someone with trauma

to all concerned

ive recently met a girl and we have been dating for about 4 months now.
things were going really well (not saying they arnt now, but i wouldnt be here if things were peachy)
we expressed a deep desire and feeling for each other and we enjoyed everytime we were together.
we are both Christians and dont want to engage in sexual activity with each other until hopefully we marry one day. we both respect each other and trust each other with that “vow”

she has been very open to me about her abusive past in previous relationship where she was forced into sexual situations with her previous partner, to a point that it could be classified as rape.
when we met and started dating, i had been single for 5yrs and she only for 7 months…but we instantly hit it off and fell for each other comfortably

there had been no signs of trauma in the beginning days/weeks of our relationship and we got a long so well. but the past month has been different and have found she has withdrawn from me and almost become really uncomfortable holding hands or hugging or any physical touch for that matter.
it was such a sudden change going from being comfortable holding and hugging each other and enjoying time together, to almost a complete withdrawl and discomfort.

what im basically searching for here in this community is if anyone can offer any advice on how to love and treat someone who suffers with trauma like this but wont talk about it, and if there is any advice on how i can prevent myself from taking this withdrawl and distance, personally?
cos to be honest it has been hard on me the past few weeks wondering why and if im to blame for this sudden withdrawl from her part…

please help

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I’m only 15 so I might not have good advice, but have you asked her if she’s okay? For me it always makes me feel like the person asking cares about me a lot so i’m sure it would make her feel a little good if you asked her, and maybe remind her that you love her if you’ve even said it yet. Or you could just tell her straight up, “i care about you a lot yknow, and i never want you to be sad” or something along those lines. If you take this advice and it makes her feel bad im so sorry. I would just hate not trying to help at least a little. Me and my boyfriend have been together for almost a year (our one year is oct, 9th), and its been a little hard on the both of us because this is my second relationship and my first one was abusive in a sexual way too and i guess i didnt really learn anything good from that relationship because i made so many bad choices and basically cheated on him because i was in such a bad place mentally because of my past relationship and because my dad was beating me a little bit before hand, and now i have a problem with cutting myself and trying to kms on a daily basis and he ended up cutting himself too and of course i blame myself for that. The point is we managed to last hopfully a year even with all the struggles and he’s always been there for me asking me if i’m okay. Last night i really wanted to kms and i told him, and i started rambling about every little thing i was thinking about (and it was a lot), and he just took a second and asked me “Are you okay beautiful?” and it made me realize he actually cares about me. Which made me think but not in a bad way, and it made me wanna talk to him and tell him exactly how and what i was feeling. That might not be how it’ll work for her though, but i hope things are going to be okay with you two once again i’m so sorry if my advice doesnt help. It wasn’t much but i hope things are okay with you guys :slight_smile:

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Hey @Ash777,

I’m so glad to see you here, but also to hear some updates. Congratulations for this new relationship! It is such a blessing to know that you’ve met each other and things are going well - besides what you’ve shared of course. You deserve happiness, to love and feel loved as well.

I’m in a relationship with a man, we’ve been together for almost 11 years now, and we’ve known ups and downs because of my past traumas and his own, such as what you described. I could never emphasize enough how communication is important in a relationship, but even more when there are traumas that are affecting one or both individuals, because traumas are difficult to understand at first, including from the person who’s experiencing triggers and such.

Physical touch, especially, is a major aspect of learning to trust someone again after being sexually assaulted. We want to love, we want to receive that love too, but sometimes our body just says no, because physical touch would be associated with pain. Maybe something triggered your girlfriend, and as her partner, you can invite her to talk about it in a gentle way. Just to let her know that you’ve noticed her attitude changed, that it’s okay and you understand, but also that you are there to listen and support. Never try to cross her boundaries of course. Never try to force her to talk. Just leave the door open. Someone took her right to decide for herself at some point in her life, and even if it’s scary for her, she needs to learn to invest her right to be herself and make her own decisions again, including when it is appropriate or not for her to ask for help. It’s a trial and errors process, but with you by her side, she might be more confident to actually try. A loving and not pressuring reminder sometimes, that you are here to listen without judging, is a way to not let her mind forget that reality sometimes.

Thankfully, love can be expressed in many ways that are not only physical. It’s heartbreaking when it’s one of our love languages though. It’s one of mine, and I feel so helpless when I physically can’t accept a hug from my partner. It makes me feel guilty, bad, and utterly broken. It makes me feel like I’m not allowed to heal and access to love. And the most painful to me is to see how it hurts him, because I start to believe that he would be better with someone else.

But he reminds me that I am loved, in different ways. Spending quality time together. Doing something we like. Having nice and tender words at unexpected times. Being silly together and make each other smile. He’s reminded me multiple times that he was my ally in this, even when it was hard on him too and got upset, frustrated, etc.

I know it’s really hard though. I went through sexual traumas, and learned some time ago that my partner too. It’s since that moment that I realized how helpless he felt sometimes when I started to shut down. I see myself in him and his reactions sometimes, and vice-versa, which can be a very painful and draining cycle if we don’t give ourselves some grace and space. Somehow, we love being alone together. It’s how we feel safe and loved. It doesn’t look like most “conventional” relationships. But it’s how it works for us, and we’ve learned to be okay with this.

He always respected my silence but he also couldn’t ignore how it was affecting him too. He expressed his frustration many times, which generally put me into a spiral of guilt that I was already feeling. So, last year I’ve started to seek help again with a therapist even though I’m unable to talk about those things with my partner, still. On his side he’s not ready to give a try to therapy again. It hurts sometimes to only be allowed to be there, even though we wish we could do more. But… we need to remind ourselves that being there is a lot, actually. And I can talk from my own experience that trusting someone after being assaulted or physically hurt is an incredible mark of love. Everything else is about learning how our own traumas affect us, what are our triggers, and how we can learn to cope in ways that are loving and mindful in the present moment, which can take a lot of time.

Traumas can take ALL the space in a relationship as it tends to affect every aspect of someone’s life. And as much as it’s important to follow your partner’s pace when it comes to her own healing, it’s also really important that you take care of yourself too. Some people experience secondary trauma - they never experienced the thing that their loved one went through, but they internally build up a deep feeling of guilt, grief and helplessness. It’s important to make sure that you have spaces to talk too. To be yourself. To have times when you won’t have to think about these past events, without feeling guilty for it. Over time, you learn to create that balance too.

Overall, with time as well, I can only encourage you 1/ to educate yourself about that type of trauma and how to support her and yourself; 2/ eventually, to seek professional help at some point. Even if she doesn’t want for herself you can seek counseling for yourself individually. And having that space to express all the things that can affect you and weighs on you on your daily life including your relationship, can really be a needed breather sometimes.

Withdrawal and distance are not something to be taken personally. It’s a normal reaction that can happen from time to time when someone used our body without our consent before. I understand though that it might trigger some insecurities of yours. But it’s really important to progressively distinguish what is about your relationship, what is about you, and what is about her. Insecurities that collides together can create a really vicious cycle. The more you try to stay rational and clarify your thoughts, acknowledging your feelings, being honest with yourself but not letting them take all the space, the more you’ll be able to respond to those changes of behavior in a loving, compassionate and calm way.

It is a challenge for you as well, because it kind of forces you to get to know yourself better. Your limits. Your patience. Your boundaries. The balance can be subtle, but with the right amount of communication and trust invested in each other, you can also move mountains and grow stronger together.

You are a good partner for seeking help for that matter. You obviously care and you are aware that you need to take care of yourself too. It’s a first step, and a good beginning. :hrtlegolove:

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Hey, I wanted to say that I get it. My wife insists that she’s processed her past trauma, but I’m not convinced, and she won’t talk about it with me. Not that she shows signs of being triggered or has problems with simple touch; but intimacy is an area of improvement for us, and similar to you, it wasn’t always that way. It makes me feel insecure. Rationally, I know she’s not trying to hurt me, but I don’t know if it’s subconscious avoidance borne from trauma, comfort with the status quo, or something else. Irrationally, I fear it will be something we have to work on our whole lives, where even if that’s the case, it should be an endeavor and not something to fear.

In any case, we try to keep lines of communication wide open. When one of us is particularly withdrawn and regular conversation isn’t breaking through, we ask in the third person, “how is SheetMetalHead” or “how is wifey?” We can then respond with “SheetMetalHead is (worried/fatigued/overwhelmed)” and that starts the conversation. Asking “how are you” prompts answers like “fine” or “okay.” Asking in third person is a signal we came up with, and it may be confusing at first, but I feel like taking the ego out of a first person response makes it easier to objectively talk about what’s going on.

It sounds like you and she have really fallen for reach other. You’ve had some serious conversations already, both about the past and the future. That makes it a serious relationship. I hope you can use this as an opportunity to practice communication skills! In all the mature relationships and marriages I’ve seen fail, it seems like circumstances are just symptoms, and the root cause is always communication. This can be a growth opportunity for your relationship! That’s not to say it won’t always be a challenge, that part is never guaranteed, but it can be an opportunity to rise to the challenge instead of letting it win. I wish you two the best!

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@Ash777

I was raped and beaten when I was 8yrs old. So, this hits home for me.

I’m very comfortable with my sexuality now, but the first half of my life was very confusing and terrifying. There were triggers that my husband needed to know about. I was forced to do things to this monster and for a long, long time I couldn’t do those things which with the right person could have been very different and good.

I’m not saying this has happened, but I’m wondering if you have unintentionally triggered her. Even the most well intentioned touch can trigger. My rapist came from behind me and to this day if someone stands close behind me, I get anxious.

As far as staying in the relationship, you have to ask yourself if this is something you can handle yourself. Are you stable enough to be able to cope? Having someone in your life that has been thru trauma isn’t easy, but with patience and lots of love it can be healthy.

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Hey all

Firstly, i want to thank you all for your feedback, advice and just overall care for myself and this matter.
i cant put into words the appreciation i have you all in helping me see the bigger picture and understand that healing takes time, and i have no authority over how long it takes. i see that now and acknowledge healing is a long road that one must take alone sometimes…

that being said, an update from my side since i post the intial topic. we have decided to go our seperate ways in terms of a “couple” but still both very much desire to be a part of each others lives. she felt she couldnt provide me the love i deserve and felt she needed time to heal properly.
we both acknowledged our deep love for each other still, and (as stated) desire to remain close in terms of friendship and continue our support in our growth in Christ Jesus.

im very heartbroken it had to happen this way, but sometimes our plans are not God’s plans and yes that may suck sometimes (especially today) but in time i will see that God has the bigger picture in sight, and whilst we both dont know what the future holds for us, we know that if we trust in Him…a blossoming friendship could be the best thing for us

but thanks all again…
let the healing begin i suppose, for myself, and for her.
i do trust and believe we can make this work in terms of a friendship.

much love

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Hey friend

My ex boyfriend love me even though i was to broken to be loved. I myself who has trauma and now im dealing with it. He still loves me throughout it even tho it was a struggle for both of us. He still manage to love me and accept it. All i can tell you is love her and accept it even tho there is no red flags for trauma.

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Hey @Ash777,

Thank you so much for these updates.

I’m so sorry your relationship ended, although it seems to be a very thoughtful decision, made with a lot of mutual care and respect. You will learn to be there for each other in a different way, and maybe one that will make you grow even more as individuals. You are right, sometimes healing must be done alone. Or at least, not with the commitment that a loving relationship would imply. She won’t be alone though. And you neither. You still have each other, but it might take time to learn to compose with this new reality.

I admire and respect your faith in the fact that things will make more sense progressively, that a meaning will come out of this separation and will hopefully let something even more beautiful happen between you two. I believe we can feel it in our heart when a decision is the right one and happens at the right time, even if it implies a part of loss and grief. There is a certain ambivalence, but also an intuitive knowledge that everything will be fine and things will line up in due course.

Know that we are still here for you as well, anytime. :hrtlegolove:

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