Sexual abuse is a trauma that can cause lifelong issues, especially with trust and intimacy, and this can be difficult to deal with if this is something that your partner has experienced. You may not know how to support them or worry about saying or doing the wrong thing, which can make them feel like you’re pulling away from them. This is going to affect the relationship and can lead to a broken heart. You need to have the right attitude and expertise if you’re dating someone with this type of background so the relationship can be a loving and long lasting one.
1) Don’t push them to talk about it
When you’re dating someone over time, you share many personal things with each other but some issues take more time to brought up. Talking about sexual abuse or assault is a very difficult and painful thing to do and is something that needs to be done at the right time and place. This is why you shouldn’t push your partner to talk about it just because you think it’s good for them and can help them move forward. You need to let them talk about it when they’re ready to and this can happen over multiple conversations.
2) Be supportive and listen to them
It’s important to be supportive and listen to the person you’re dating, no matter how sensitive the subject is, because this shows love and understanding. This involves listening without interrupting them, telling them you still love them and it wasn’t their fault, comforting them and pay attention to what they’re actually saying. You need to do this and know how to do it effectively when your partner is talking about their sexual abuse so they trust you and are willing to talk to you when they need to instead of hiding their feelings.
3) Know when to ask if they’re okay
After dating for a while, it’s normal to notice when your partner is upset and ask if they’re okay but doing this too often can become annoying. They’re going to go through periods where the past is on their mind more often and they go through rough patches so it’s good to ask if they’re okay and need to talk to you or someone else about what they’re going through. That’s fine but you shouldn’t ask more than one or twice because it feels like you’re bothering them and sometimes they just want to be left alone.
4) Find online resources about sexual abuse
When you want to help the person, you’re dating deal with a serious issue then you need to look to as many places as possible for information so you get a full picture. Having this information can help you be more prepared and able to help your partner in an effective way.
5) Talk to other people who are going through this
You’re not the only person who’s dating someone with past abuse so there are lots of others who have been through what you’re dealing with. You can find these people by going online and finding support groups or message boards for partners of sexual abuse victims. Talking to them can help you feel like you’re not alone and you can be honest about how much you’re struggling to be a good partner. They understand and may have some suggestions you haven’t thought of.
6) Don’t downplay what happened
The worst thing you can do when dating a person with this kind of background is to downplay what happened. Telling them they need to get over it or they need to stop thinking about it are things you should never do. You may think you’re helping them see it as being less of a big deal and more manageable to live with but it does a lot of mental and emotional damage. This not only affects them but will ruin your relationship because they know you don’t understand what they’re going through and don’t care about it.
7) Talk about sex and boundaries
Sex and boundaries are things you should always talk about with the person you’re dating but these talks need to be more thorough when the other person may have sexual issues from their past. You need to find out exactly what they’re comfortable with and what can trigger them and you have to reassure them that you’ll respect their boundaries. During sex, they may be triggered or you may accidentally do something they don’t like and if that happens you need to stop immediately and help them get through this moment.
8) Accept their coping mechanisms
Coping mechanisms can help people deal with trauma and the longer you date your partner the more you’re going to notice what theirs are. It can be something small, like always making sure the door is locker, or something more noticeable like wanting to sleep with the lights on. You shouldn’t point these out because it can make them feel self-conscious and it’ll put a distance in the relationship because they’re embarrassed. You should accept their coping mechanisms because it helps them.
9) Don’t force intimacy
When you’re dating, it’s normal to show intimacy and do it on the spur of the moment because you want to feel close to your partner and show you love them. Doing this can be triggering to the person you’re dating because they’re not expecting and they may not be in the mood for it so keep that in mind. Ask if they’re okay with snuggling or get their attention by making eye contact and smiling before touching them so they’re aware of what’s about to happen. This shows thoughtfulness and can make them feel safe around you because they know you take their feelings into consideration.
10) Be understanding of triggers
You need to be understanding of triggers and the different ways of dealing with them because the person you’re dating will eventually be triggered while you’re around. It’s unpredictable when it’ll happen and what upsets them one day may be fine on another day so it can be hard to keep track of. People who are triggered will react with anger, crying or by wanting some time alone so let them deal with this in the way they need to and remember what bothered them so you can avoid doing it in the future.
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