Dating seems pretty straightforward. You go on one date, then a few more, and soon enough you are in a relationship. Sounds easy, right?

What if this happens, then your partner tells to you he or she is afraid of intimacy because they have a history of being sexually abused? This might be a dealbreaker for you. Or, you might ask yourself if you can help your partner overcome their fear. Either way, there is hope. You can leave the relationship if it seems too much for you to handle, or you can stay. If you stay, there are things you need to know.

First, it is important to keep in mind that if your partner tells you about an abusive history, you believe them. It is also important, that you, as their partner, know the causes and symptoms of sexual abuse, described below:

Causes

  • Fear of intimacy, especially being touched whether in a friendly or sexual way
  • Fear of being near abuser
  • Fear of being abused again
  • May abuse others, either physically, emotionally, mentally, or sexually
  • May become promiscuous
  • May question sexuality

Symptoms

  • Flashbacks
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Sexual frustration
  • Self harm
  • Anger
  • Low self-esteem and/or self worth
  • Withdrawal

The list can become quite extensive, especially since a history of sexual abuse affects other areas in a person’s life, such as one's faith, education, career, and social life.

Sexual abuse is common in most parts of the world, but many cases go unreported. If your partner does tell you about a history of sexual abuse, you may feel like you can never be intimate with that person. However, you should not doubt your ability to get close to that person, because there is a way to let your partner feel comfortable being near you. All you have to do is accept that it will take time, but it will be worth all the pain and suffering that could occur along the way.

Below are three simple steps that can help make intimacy possible for the both of you.

What this simply means is that the past does not define the victim, that the present is a time to heal and recover, and that the future is to be embraced as a new beginning.

Below are the 3 steps explained in detail, and what you, as their partner, can do during each step.

1. Acknowledge the past

Listen to everything your partner is trying to say. They may feel ashamed of their past, so you should be supportive and empathetic.

Try to comfort your partner in any way that you can, and give them their space when necessary. The victim may or may not have gone to therapy alone, but if you advocate couples' therapy, chances are your partner will embrace it.

2. Be in the present

This is the perfect time for the victim to face reality, particularly their inner critic. This internal voice could change in the present, if the individual focuses hard enough

This is the time for you to show your partner that you will not abuse him or her, and that they can trust you.

This is something else that can be assisted by going to therapy, or brushing up on your knowledge of sexual abuse.

3. Embrace the future

The future signals a fresh start. This is the time the victim should determine what thoughts and behaviors they can improve on in months and years to come. This will help them feel the way they did before the abuse.

As a partner, this is a good time for you to show the one you love that you will be with them every step of the way. It will mean being there when they need you and giving them space when want it.

They may need some time alone to contemplate their thoughts,and this is completely normal. Give it some time, and maybe the two of you can return to the way things were, or your relationship could improve.

Sometimes love isn't enough to solve a problem like this. You might end up leaving the relationship frustrated, realizing that it is not a journey you want to take. This happens.

Being a victim of sexual abuse takes a toll on any relationship the victim gets into. However, it does not have to be this way. The victim can be a thriver if they follow the aforementioned tips. If the thriver struggles to thrive, then maybe they need space or therapy. If you decide to end things and miss your partner, let them know they can reach out to you as a friend. If you do not miss your partner, wish them good luck and be grateful for all the good times you shared together.

Image credit: pexels

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