They should not be seen as evidence of a damaged person.It can be useful to talk and understand how this behaviour developed, the reason behind it and how it has become a habit.They benefit from partners talking, sharing interests and working together to address difficulties as they arise.A healthy relationship is therefore not about having no difficulties; it is about having the skills, time and energy to work things out and grow together.This then provides an opportunity to talk and confirm there is a shared vision that you can both work towards. I always thought that if he loved me enough he would stop doing those things – now I can see that it was his way of switching off and although I still don’t like it and want him to change, at least I can see it for what it is” A man’s, and possibly even your own, sense of shame around what happened, the effects, and fear of other people’s reactions or judgments.These feelings can make it extremely difficult to talk to each other. We know that shame – just like a mushroom – grows best in the dark.Remember to take time out if it gets too intense, and then to return to the topic and talk about the important stuff when you have had a breather.If your partner was sexually abused, some of the ways he has learned to cope, or to keep the thoughts and memories of the abuse at a distance, may be “playing themselves out” in your relationship with him.
Try to keep each other up to date as to how the relationship is going for each of you, but without increasing pressure to have stuff resolved right now.
It is also good to remind yourself that, although you are impacted by his behaviour, it is not all about you.
One of the best things you can do is to keep respectful communication flowing.
At Living Well, we recognize that there is not a lot of information and support out there for partners of men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, particularly in relation to the impact on couple relationships.
Whilst relationships can be a place where difficulties with trust, intimacy and sex can appear, they also provide an opportunity for issues to be worked through and resolved.
Some behaviours that may have worked for a while or in particular circumstances can overstay their welcome.