“Instead of saying, “I’m damaged, I’m broken, I have trust issues” say “I’m healing, I’m rediscovering myself, I’m starting over.” -Horacio Jones
Walking on this journey takes patience, commitment and the ability to be vulnerable. Those who walk it together grow together in ways other partners may never be able to experience. Being an intimate partner on a journey with a sexual trauma survivor is a unique experience because you will both grow in different ways. You’ll learn more about each other, but you’ll also learn more about yourself and the world around you, learn to hold their hand on the journey with them.
- Try not to take their actions and take what you may consider a lack of affection personally. You may not know how far they have come, but their willingness to open up to you is possible because they are willing to open up to themselves. Take it slow.
- Try not to take the way to interact with you physically and sexually as a measure of how much they do/don’t care for you. When you have been violated sexually and/or physically your world changes and the way you communicate to others does too, especially a partner you are intimate with. Opening up physically takes a lot of courage for a survivor and a lot of patience on behalf of her partner during this process.
- Know it’s their healing journey to learn and your partner is also learning to connect deeply with themselves too, but you are also a big part of this process. Most of the time they want you to be part of their sexual healing journey they just don’t know how to communicate this desire to you. Ask your partner and express them that you want to be part of their healing, but also respect that you will not understand at times what they are going through and that’s okay.
- Communicate always, especially during sex. Having open, honest and authentic communication is the first step to having a successful relationship. If your partner does something you do not understand talk to them. Many times sexual trauma survivors are simply not aware. Have an open and honest conversation with them. Sexual trauma survivors need to feel emotionally safe to open up physically and sexually and they also want to talk you through their sexual boundaries, desires and needs. Open up a discussion together.
- Be patient. At times you may be frustrated, this is normal. When you deeply care for a person you want to connect deeply and intimately with them. Rather than push them practice acceptance and simply walk mindfully with them on their journey of healing.
- Love them for who they are now rather than who you know they can become. Many times we see our lover in a light is unrealistic to sustain, but this is natural because you believe in them so passionately. Hope is necessary, but remember to say in the present with them. They need and want your presence more than anything. Rather than trying to change them, just focus your energy on loving them.
- Know that you can’t save them you can only love them. Rather than trying to fix them take time to listen to them. Many survivors don’t talk about their trauma and it builds up inside. Help them create a safe environment and relationship to be open with you and not hide behind their trauma. You many not understand them, but you can always support them and be there to listen with an open mind and heart.
- Ask questions. Get to know how their world works and better understand their everyday reality of living with sexual trauma. Ask them about sex. Get to know what they need to feel comfortable. The more you can learn to support them the deeper your relationship together can go. Rather than having them live in shame show them that they are safe to live in love.
- Take care of yourself. It’s not always easy having a partner who is a sexual trauma survivor because you do have to be more aware and attentive to their needs, but you also need to remember to take care of yourself during the process. Their trauma at times can feel overwhelming, but the more you can practice being present with them and yourself the better you can sustain your relationship. Take time for yourself and take time for both of you to walk and experience your own journey’s.
- Don’t expect anything, just be there. Many times in relationships we would too many expectations on our partners and it only leaves us disappointed. When you enter into a relationship with a sexual trauma survivor you will need to be mindful of this. Their healing comes in waves and they need you to respect their boundaries. Be there for support without expectations or judgment. Let them open up their world to you one day at a time.