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Trauma Makes Relationships Hard

TW: discussion of past sexual assault

I had reached the point recently, where I thought I my sexual assault trauma was no longer a factor/impacting my life. I really felt good and like I was navigating my life well.

I realized in the last week or so, that that is definitely not the case. While my flashbacks and anxiety attacks don’t occur with as much frequency as they used to(and thank God for that) the other symptoms and emotional issues are ever present.

My relationship has suffered a lot this last month and I’m not ignorant to the fact that I played a large part in it. I’ve been shutting down, passive aggressive, and just an over all not nice person and when my boyfriend reached out I pushed him away because I realized that this is my trauma talking not me. He doesn’t deserve to be hurt like that and I feel so bad for once again, letting my trauma control everything. I was seeing my attacker everywhere in my relationship, when he wasn’t there at all. I was literally projecting my attacker onto my boyfriend.

I had a really long convo with my boyfriend earlier today about all of this. It was difficult because I’ve been so emotionally closed off and shut down but I did it so yay? I’m so afraid this is going to leave me alone and lonely. When I push people away it looks fine on the outside because I do a great job of pulling the “I’m fine and can handle everything on my own,” but it’s so isolating.

I know what I need to work on and I know what needs to be done I’m just so scared that my trauma is going to be too much. I can’t get rid of it, I can’t jump in a time machine and make it not happen. It’s six years after the assault and I’m tired of dealing of the after affects. I don’t even feel like I should still be this upset because, it wasn’t that bad. I remember saying to my therapist early on that I shouldn’t feel so bad about it because no one would ever make and episode out of law and order SVU out of it. (I know this is a reaaaaally bad and dangerous line of thought but I’m doing my best to be honest here)

It took a really sobering church sermon that utterly smacked me in the face this week to begin realizing and working through some of this but I’m just tired. I really thought I was doing better. If you made it this far, thank you for reading

-Jedi

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Hey @TheJediAshCash,

Thank you so much for your honesty and sharing about your situation. There’s a lot of my own heart in what you said and I’m sending a lot of hugs your way right now. :hrtlegolove:

I realized in the last week or so, that that is definitely not the case. While my flashbacks and anxiety attacks don’t occur with as much frequency as they used to(and thank God for that) the other symptoms and emotional issues are ever present.

I hear you. There’s so many layers of things to deal with while recovering from a sexual assault. It’s very discouraging sometimes to realize there is still something else. It doesn’t mean the process is endless. But it takes time, for sure.

On a positive note, it’s really good to acknowledge that you are not affected the same way by anxiety attacks and flashbacks anymore. Those are important points and significant aspects of your healing journey. And as someone who’s been on a similar journey because of past assaults, I’m aware that this is not anecdotic. It is a true relief when you don’t have to deal with those things anymore, and I really wanted to acknowledge that as being part of your own progress. Because even if you feel like you’re moving backwards right now, it certainly doesn’t apply to your recovery as a whole.

I was seeing my attacker everywhere in my relationship, when he wasn’t there at all. I was literally projecting my attacker onto my boyfriend.

You know that already, but it’s not your fault. It took me a lot of time to accept to be touched again by someone - and I’m not talking about intimate relationships, just the act of being touched in general. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine being alone in a room with a man. And I pushed my partner away so many times during the first years we knew each other, but also this year especially. For reasons I learned to admit, for the last couple of months I spent a lot of time struggling in silence and being passive aggressive as well. He didn’t understand and I wasn’t giving him any way to help. Mostly because sometimes I couldn’t help seeing people who had hurt me through him. It broke my heart to see in his eyes that my attitude was reflecting that fear. It brought me back to some old feelings of carrying a burden that no one should be aware of but me. In the end, both of us are willing to do better, but communicating and being honest about those things is very painful sometimes. It feels safer to push people away. But as you said, it’s also very isolating… And if we’re honest with ourselves, it rarely brings us where we really want to be.

Again, it’s not your fault. For what it’s worth, I believe projecting your attacker onto your boyfriend is, unfortunately, normal. Your boyfriend is close to you in ways that no one else is. It’s okay to be afraid to be vulnerable, to feel some confusion sometimes between your past and your present. What matters now is that you are safe. And with the help of your boyfriend, you can learn not just to know that as being true, but to feel it and experience it on a daily basis.

I had a really long convo with my boyfriend earlier today about all of this. It was difficult because I’ve been so emotionally closed off and shut down but I did it so yay? I’m so afraid this is going to leave me alone and lonely.

Yes! You can definitely be proud of yourself for talking to your boyfriend and being honest about how you feel. I really hope this conversation will be an opportunity for both of you to gain on mutual understanding. And just to be even more close to each other.

I know it doesn’t make the fears go away, but you’ve been really brave to share with him what’s on your mind. I had a deep conversation with my partner recently in which I had to explain what was going on in my heart because it was affecting our relationship in ways I didn’t want. It was extremely uncomfortable and I feel like I’m still “recovering” from it. But I know it was the right thing to do. Just like you did.

It’s hard to feel stuck between pushing away someone you love yet being “safe”, or being honest about your struggles and stepping into the unknown. It’s especially hard when you’re afraid to lose the person you love one way or another. But in any relationship communication is key. What you did will help your boyfriend to understand what he can do to support you, but as the same time it will give you some relief in the way you experience those emotions.

You can get rid of the unnecessary guilt, shame and pressure. You are loved. You are safe. This reality will help you to carry on and you have the right to embrace it yet feeling afraid, yet feeling unsure, yet having many doubts.

I want to encourage you to try to be patient with yourself, as much as you can, in times to come. Try to let your boyfriend know when you need time and privacy, but also that you know he is here for you. You don’t have to talk all the time and it doesn’t have to be deep or perfect. But some middle ground can be found and help everyone through simple words such as “I love you, I know you care about me but I don’t feel okay to talk right now, maybe we could try later?”. Maybe trying to connect to each other in different ways could help too. I personally found that having relaxing or fun moments is so needed when I feel like emotional issues are more present. There are moments when I just need to say “f*** this world” and do something I enjoy without any pressure, stress, or external responsability. And it’s a blessing when I can share those moments with my significant other. Most of the time it would be something as random as playing a video game, having a walk outside, watching a movie we love or watching the stars together. Just a moment to isolate… together.

I remember saying to my therapist early on that I shouldn’t feel so bad about it because no one would ever make and episode out of law and order SVU out of it. (I know this is a reaaaaally bad and dangerous line of thought but I’m doing my best to be honest here)

And thank you for your honesty. It’s truly appreciated. You know already that it’s unfair to think that way. Though it’s a real strength to be aware of it and why your experience doesn’t need to fit in an Law and Order episode to be real and valid. Two people can have the same car accident and be impacted in very different ways. Yet both ways are okay. It’s not much about the content than how you experience something with your own heart. And your heart is important. :heart:

I know what I need to work on and I know what needs to be done I’m just so scared that my trauma is going to be too much.

It’s really positive to be aware of what you need to work on. It shows your strength and how much you’ve been learning to know yourself, through your story but also just what you’re experiencing in the present moment. More generally, this knowledge also gives you a direction. It brings hope. And you can be so damn proud of the efforts and energy you put into healing.

But I hear you. Being afraid that your past experiences might be “too much” is a valid concern, especially if you feel like you’re taking a step backwards lately. It pushes you to reconsider everything and even the progress you made. For what it’s worth, this thought has been very present in my mind this year. With covid and lockdowns especially, I’ve been forced to face my past more than I ever did. And as much as it’s positive because it pushed me to make good decisions in order to heal, the process itself is very messy. I thought multiple times “so what I’ve done until now was useless?”. Sometimes, the more you dig and the more you feel lost. It feels like losing control and it’s hard to not believe that the battle is lost. But it’s not. And I believe that, in those moments especially, we probably need to be very kind to ourselves in order to ride the wave more easily.

You are not your trauma. It is part of your story, it impacted you in ways you might be still discovering right now. But it doesn’t define you. And it certainly doesn’t define your future or your capacity to have relationships. Even if it feels too much lately, you are still moving forward. Not like on a straight line, because our experiences are constantly moving and changing. But more like experiencing different seasons in your life. This one is difficult. It is a reminder of things you might still need to work on. But that doesn’t make you weak and it certainly doesn’t erase your progress. Though you have all the right to be tired and to say it. There’s something unfair in having to deal with all of this.

Yesterday, I just saw a video from someone on Instagram and her account became my daily dose of hope lately, because I feel understood through the things she shares. I’d like to share that video with you, which is about how she experienced - and still experiences - trauma recovery: https://www.instagram.com/tv/CIJAI3cj7sD/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link It’s very simple, humble, but also a good reminder that we are not our own enemies, even when new obstacle arises along the road.

I wish the best to you and your boyfriend. Trauma makes relationships hard, indeed. It’s a real challenge in itself, sometimes more than other times. But as for any other obstacle, it is not impossible to overcome it. You’ve been doing great. You are doing great, probably more than you imagine or feel right now. But I can tell, you’ve been taking some important steps. And I hope you’ll take some time to celebrate yourself today. <3

I’m sending another round of hugs your way. :hrtlegolove:

My apologies, this ended to be a long post. D:

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@Micro

Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful response. I really appreciate the time you took to type all of that out <3. Also thank you for sharing some of your story with me.

I’m trying to take baby steps to work on my end. I’ve been functioning in “robot mode” for so long that trying to be vulnerable feels almost impossible. I shut my feelings down anytime I feel like its something that I can’t trust with someone else. It’s been months since I actually brought up my assault with my boyfriend/reassessed my needs and feelings on it which is pretty much how I ended up where I am now. I almost lost my relationship because of this and I honestly wouldn’t have blamed my boyfriend if things had ended because I was…not a great person and I hate that it took so long for me to realize that I was being an ass and acting out of/through my trauma

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Jedi,
I feel this post on a deep spirtual level. Seriously. I was reading your post and I feel like I could have written it because I’m in a very similar place!

Seriously, this is literally me. In fact, I had myself so convinced that I was “over it” until I started digging into some of my emotional issues. I was talking to a mentor Sunday after church. I’ve been triggered since seeing my abuser last week and honestly, I was pissed at myself for being so upset. She pointed out to me that I would’ve been upset last year, but I wouldn’t have understood why. But now, even though it sucks and it hurts and it’s bringing up old things that were long buried, I am facing it, which means I am making progress.

This is definitely yay! Being vulnerable and honest about this stuff is so hard. So do celebrate. And do be honest. I’ve found that I’ve been trying to protect my husband from my emotions and trauma for so long. He doesn’t want me to protect him. He wants me to share with him and to help him understand me better.

Keep at it, Jedi. As someone who spent the better part of two decades trying to pretend my assault didn’t happen, please face this. It sucks. It hurts. It feels overwhelming and insurmountable. But, you are not alone. And facing it means that little by little things will get better. Like, for real better, not bandaid better. Until then, just remember that I’m rooting for you! I believe in you! I’m with you! I’m praying for you! And one step at a time we can do this together. :two_hearts:

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