By Kathy Belge, Lesbian Life
When your partner is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse or incest, you often suffer right along side her. In addition to witnessing the pain and anguish she is going through, you may not be able to be intimate with her in the way you wish. Your sex life often suffers when you are partners with a sex abuse survivor. What can you do to take care of yourself and support her at the same time?
1. It’s not your fault.
The first thing you need to remember is that you are not your partner’s abuser. Even if you sometimes do things that trigger her, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You haven’t even done anything wrong. Triggers happen.
2. Your emotions are important too.
If your partner is just coming to terms and beginning the healing process of childhood sexual abuse, your relationship is going to change. She is going to be spending a lot of time and energy on her own healing. She might not have the emotional energy to devote to the things in your life. Or maybe you are minimizing what you’re going through because you think her need is greater than yours.
3. You can’t fix her.
This is a big one for lesbians. You can support her and help her through this hard time, but the healing is her job. And she need a qualified professional therapist to guide her through this process. You can never take away what happened to her. You can’t deny her what she is going through now.
4. Educate yourself.
The Courage to Heal and The Survivor’s Guide to Sex are excellent resources. Also check out About’s Incest/Abuse web site.
5. Remember sex is only one part of who you are.
If your partner is not able to be sexual at this time, continue to do the things you both enjoyed together. Have dates, get exercise, visit with friends. Take time for yourself too. This might be a good time for you to do something you’ve always wanted to do, like take an acting class or join a women’s volleyball team.
6. Healing takes time.
Some say healing from childhood sexual abuse or incest is a life long process. And it is. But things can and will get better. Some say that you should expect two full years of therapy to heal from the trauma of incest or sexual abuse. This can be a tough time for your relationship, but it can also be a rewarding time.
7. Take care of your sex life.
If your partner is not able to satisfy you sexually now, make time for yourself and masturbation. Some of the sexual activities you previously engaged in may trigger her, but there are many ways to be intimate.
Your partner may want a break from sex. She may not. If she does want a break, you deserve to hear from her how long. Does she need two weeks? Two months? How will you reassess when she’s ready?
8. If you’re a survivor of abuse yourself.
You too may be a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Remember that each of you has your own healing path. How your partner is dealing with her healing may be different than you. Feel free to share with her what has worked for you, but it may not be what she needs. Don’t push her down your path. If you are both survivors of abuse, you will need to work extra hard on your boundaries. It is best if you each focus on your own healing.
9. A word about triggers.
There are different philosophies about healing from sexual abuse and incest. Your inclination may be to avoid the activities that trigger your partner. Another philosophy is that triggers need to be worked through. People who go through life avoiding triggers, never heal from them and they become more powerful. Your partner and her therapist should come up with a plan for tackling her triggers.