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PTSD and My Relationship...the nightmares have returned
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An_215964 posted:
Hi,

I'm really hoping that someone here can help me. I was a victim of extensive physical abuse while growing up, as well as sexual abuse--and when I was 20, someone grabbed me off a street, locked me in a room, and tried to rape me for 6 hrs. Throughout my life, I always managed to fight off my attackers before they could penetrate me...which is one of the reasons why my beatings were so severe. I know I was 'lucky' in that respect...but it left me with horrible nightmares. I'd still be fighting off my abusers in my sleep. It was dangerous to try to touch me while I was unconscious...I'd lash out, kick, punch, bite--anything to get away without ever waking up.

The nightmares, the unease around men, the flinching from physical touch, has plagued me my entire adult life...except for the wonderful year and a half after my fiance earned my trust. He loves me and I grew to love him, we could actually sleep in the same bed together without me having nightmares (at least most of the time--and when I did, he could pull me out of them without me hurting him)...I felt safe with him. Our sex life was fantastic once we got me past the trauma that had basically turned me into ice--and to our mutual delight, we discovered that I'm actually a highly affectionate, highly sensual woman capable of multiple orgasms with a drive that matches or exceeds his own--all I needed was love & a gentle hand to turn me into a tigress. I knew he'd never hurt me...and then he did.

He's never done it deliberately...but he's hurt me. While I do have an active libido...it takes a little longer for me to fully warm up, and my fiance is larger than average. For the past couple of months...he's been shortening our sexual encounters to the point that I don't have enough stimulation to reach climax. I enjoy myself, for the most part---but actual penetration becomes uncomfortable for me without having had at least one climax first. I tried asking for more foreplay, I tried showing him what I want...and while it seemed to work for a few minutes, he'd get caught up in the moment and the pattern would repeat. After that, even on the occassions he's offered to slow down for second round just for me, I don't feel like it because I'm sore. Finally, I flat out told him he's been hurting me...he was horrifed, and for the past two months, he's shown me in every way that he knows how that he's willing to give me all the time and the foreplay I need--even just snuggle, or give me a massage, the way things were when we first started trying to repair the damage my past had left me with. The problem is: the nightmares are back.

I loved him, I trusted him, and he hurt me. I don't feel comfortable sleeping next to him anymore, I don't feel comfortable having sex with him anymore because he unintentionally conditioned me to link it with pain. I don't really even feel comfortable just snuggling with him. Sometimes, I can't help flinching when he touches me--just a hug, or a back rub...it doesn't even have to be sexual, and I'll still angle away. I'm having terrible nightmares--and now it's not just my past abusers, sometimes I see his face there, too. It's not fair to either of us.

I know I should have been more upfront about the reason WHY I needed more foreplay and stimulation...and we probably wouldn't be in this fix now....and yet if he'd listened to me, this might have been avoided, too. To his credit, he didn't realize that he was hurting me until I told him--and as soon as I did, he's been trying to make amends.

It's just that my trust in him is gone. He was the one man in my life that I believed wouldn't hurt me...and when he did it was worse than having the rug pulled out from under me. I feel like I'm in hell--and the one person who helped pull me out of it is the same one who sent me back in. We still love each other...but I'm recoiling from his touch. I never, ever thought that this would happen to me again...but it is. Please, any suggestions would be welcome.
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georgiagail responded:
You need some pretty intense counseling in regards to the previous sexual abuse. If you had this before, you need to go back for more again.

Your partner did not deliberately hurt you; it appears he was totally unaware that he was hurting you and you were unable to tell him so. However, because of his unintentionally doing this, you are now placing much blame on him.

The fellow is only human; he's probably not very good at mind reading. Unless you verbalize your needs he's not going to know that he needs to change things.

Your problem is that you are punishing him for what took place with others; those whom you cannot punish now. And until you realize this and are able to place this man in the accurate "compartment" (as a loving partner) in your own mind, you two are likely to have a relationship that's slowly going to die on the vine.

And I say this as someone who also has been a victim of sexual assault.

Gail
 
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cjh1203 responded:
I agree with everything Georgiagail said.

The difference between the man you're with now and the others who hurt you is that they did it intentionally and he didn't. He sounds like a wonderful, loving and compassionate man but, as Georgiagail said, you are punishing him for things that other people did to you.

I don't think you're doing that on purpose -- you can't help the associations your mind makes -- but you do need help to see that the man you're with now is not anything like the others, and he doesn't deserve to be treated like them.

Have you been getting therapy to help you come to terms with your physical and sexual abuse? It sounds as though you went through hell, and nobody can recover from that alone. Unless you can get some in-depth therapy, I'm afraid that this problem is going to keep coming up in any relationships you might have, and it's going to be difficult for you to ever be happy.
 
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sterilecuckoo58 responded:
I'll be very blunt about this... and so this is written to your man. But you read too.... okay? Its clinically graphic, okay?

Among the best pieces of sexual advice I got from the Penthouse letters books I read as a horny adolescent was to make giving your lady an orgasm the first priority. You can't do this with your penis because he's a trigger happy sort of fellow. Okay? So.... take care of your lady. Be patient. Its called 34-1/2. (half of 69?) once she has come she'll likely be anxious to get you inside her... maybe with you on top, but if she needs to manage how much of you is in, let her sit on top... and let her be in control. With your hands you can stimulate her clitoris , and if that's not good, she waves your thumb of... massage her nipple instead.... have her lean forward (and pack pillows behind your head) and massage her nipples with your tongue.

With a little luck, she'll have a series of orgasms and with all the wiggling she'll do you will likely come. If not... don't worry. If she is tired of being on her knees astride you, and had enough orgasms (does one ever have enough?) and you have still not come, guess what... She is gonna take care of you.... she'll gave you the nicest 34 1/2 she can manage with her hands, mouth and breasts... 100% attention or you.

Now, don't be blaming this on your lady's past history... this is a wonderful way to have a relationship where you each take care of each other - sometimes at the same time, sometimes in series.

Okay... your heads upside down between her thighs and your getting impatient... your tongue is tired, so change positions, lie on your back and she can straddle you... let her move so your tongue is where she wants it, rather than where you think she wants it... and finally, consider a pocket rocket... a little vibrator to speed the process along becasue you think your frustrated with her body, what about her... she gets frustrated with her stubborn body too....

Another thought... sometimes she's going to be not in the ood or the pressure to come... but she is nuts about you, so she goes down on you.... no pressure for you to fondle her or get her excited..so this session is all about you... sit back... relax....

Quick notes to the lady... After he comes his penis is SENSITIVE... be oh so gentle with it.... sometimes it may not even want to be touched...He is going to need his post ejaculatory snooze....this is a defect in the male, he has no choice about that, and if you have had your multiples already, it won't frustrate you. At your ages, he has a recovery time of about 20-30 minutes... Be sure your guy has a banana (the yellow kind) every day to restore potassium (its cheaper than oysters, and easier to get at the edible parts).. Finally, don't fake orgasms... and if some nights your just not getting one, and your vagina ain't ready for his penis.... push him on his back and take care of him orally/manually.

Oh... yeah... some times the lady is going to like you to nible on her neck... even bite gently and enter from behind.... this is related to the monthly cycle.... so.... after her first orgasm, give her a back and neck massage... then be nibbling her ear lobes.... neck.... slip in to her vagina if she's ready and well.... you both know where to take that to.
 
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sterilecuckoo58 replied to cjh1203's response:
You folks are young, you have a full life ahead and this fellow is the caring and thoughtful sort. He is young and not as practiced as I am (I have 30 years on you "kids") and he needs to learn patience, as do you.

Get to therapy... even though it is not a crisis. Let your therapist know you'd like to bring your guy... yes bringing your guy to therapy is exposing all your vulnerability to him. And he, if is a good man will be so compassionate and will come to understand that while your need to be treated more gently than other ladies, that your are not high maintenance and that you might be the most incredible person to be with for a long time.

I would encourage him to learn about sexual abuse and its many forms, repercussions, impacts on the victims... its a lot for young fellow to digest... but he'll be a better person for that, and he'll understand you and your needs better.

May you always need each other because you love each other (and not the other way around).

Happiness... there's a tough topic.... I think a prior comment suggests you may have a hard time being happy....I would say that as long as you have control you will cope with the ills that have befallen you and still be happy. Having a guy ht is not pathologically selfish makes for a happy love life, though the imagery will still come and haunt...

That brings something to mind, nothing traumatic like sexual abuse but it might offer some perspective. Back in '81 I recovered a 16-year old from the shore break who had drowned three days earlier two "beaches" east of my station. I was expecting her that day, and paddled out to get her, organized our guards to get her on a stretcher in the sh, ore break, and had a blanket to cover her with...and a vehicle on the sand to take her off beach.
The image of her bloated body floating is stuck in my brain, the horror of losing ones child when she's gone with family friends to the beach, the image of the parents who'd come to the beach that fatal evening... it rips at my heart. [tears are welling in my eyes>.
The point here, is that when my lady are in our hot tub and she floats her body diagonally across, I am siting at her head, and gazing on her body, in the moonlight, the water lapping at the edges of her breasts, and then that image of the 16-year old flashes in my brain and my lady feels the dark cloud crossing through me and asks whats wrong?
So, yes, I imagine that the violence that has been visited on you will always have the potential to interrupt your life, and learning to cope with that reality is the challenge and is your responsibility. I hope therapy will help you learn to keep coping, and that your guy will accept that often enough he'll put in his best bedroom effort and a spurious image will enter your brain and ruin it.... you'll both be frustrated and what you need to do is embrace and hang on through those hard times.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD responded:
I can't tell you how sorry I am for all the pain you've been through and continue to go through. Although you are incredibly upset (understandably so) about your relationship, the bigger problem is that pain you carry inside you. The feelings you are having are the symptoms of the abuse and victimization you've endured.

Although you talk about what your fiance did to you, you also seem to know that the struggles you are having are all about the past. Emotionally it feels like he has wronged you, but it sounds like intellectually you know (or part of you knows) that his greatest offense is to remind you of the past. You need professional help to get through this. Please find a therapist with experience helping people with histories of sexual trauma. That person can help you and your relationship. I'm sure that this will be a difficult step and a very hard process... but it can free you of past demons and help you to enjoy life again.

Please continue to return here for more support as you need it.
 
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cjh1203 replied to sterilecuckoo58's response:
"Happiness... there's a tough topic.... I think a prior comment suggests you may have a hard time being happy..."

I didn't say that she would have a hard time being happy -- I said that unless she gets help to deal with what she's gone through, it will keep coming up in her relationships and make it difficult for her to be happy.
 
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An_215965 replied to cjh1203's response:
Thank you for your replies...I think I need to clarify this a little:

While I have been sexually abused in the past, I was lucky enough, and strong enough, to fight my attackers off before full on rape occurred. It's one of the reasons my physical abuse was so severe. No one has ever penetrated me except for my fiance. He has hurt me in a way that no one else ever has, and I allowed it to happen.

That's probably been the hardest thing for me to swallow...that I allowed myself to be hurt when I've fought my entire life to avoid that particular kind of pain. I tried talking to him, I tried explaining my needs, I tried showing him what I wanted....I did absolutely everything I could for weeks on end to bring about an end to what I was going through...except fight him off or bluntly tell him WHY I was asking. I know now it was the worst possible thing I could have done, but I didn't want to tell him he'd been hurting me, that he was still hurting me...

He's always been very sensitive to inflicting pain on me--it makes him feel absolutely terrible when he realizes he's somehow injured me on accident. I remember seeing him torn up for days...and I didn't want that to happen to him again. I tried everything I could to make him stop hurting me without hurting him...and it only made the situation worse.

Right now we're struggling to recover the intimacy of our relationship...mainly, I'm looking for ways to rebuild trust. I know he didn't do it deliberately, but he hurt me intimately for weeks before I broke down and confessed why I'd been asking for more foreplay, more kisses, longer preliminaries...and I allowed it to happen. He knows that I don't place all the blame on him, but he's still broken up about it. I have to work on forgiving him, and forgiving myself, and I have to learn to trust him again. Any advice on how to make that happen would be greatly appreciated.

I think couple's counseling/therapy is a great idea, but I don't know any good therapists in the DFW area that we could afford. I think it would do us a lot of good to be able to talk our issues out in front of a neutral (though supportive) 3rd party; especially since we're having extensive outside stressors from his family and friends (they don't know my history)--they've never stopped trying to get him to break up with me. Having them harangue him and vilify me is not helping the current situation at all.
 
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cjh1203 replied to An_215965's response:
I'm having a hard time understanding why you don't trust him, when he didn't intentionally do anything to hurt you. How can you lose trust in someone who had no idea what was going on?

This is a very simplified analogy, but it's as if I never told my husband I had a severe peanut allergy and he gave me something to eat that had trace amounts of peanuts in it. Is it fair or logical of me to tell him I can't trust him any more because he caused me to get sick, even though he had no idea that I was allergic, and he gave me the food in all innocence?

Loss of trust usually has to do with intention, and your boyfriend had no intention of hurting you, and no knowledge that he was.

There are counselors who will allow you to pay on a sliding scale based on income. You can probably find out who they are by calling your local mental health association. Also, if you click on the "tips" link on the left side of this page, there is some useful information. Dr. Becker-Phelps also posted "How to choose a therapist" -- you can find a link to that on the right side of the page.

Good luck. I hope you can get this worked out -- he sounds like a really good guy.
 
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BalconyBelle replied to cjh1203's response:
I lost trust in him because when I told him what I needed, what I wanted, he promised he'd take his time make make sure I got off first... and didn't. I told him that I needed to climax at least once before hand for sex to be comfortable for me...he promised to take care of it--and didn't. True, he only thought the stakes were my pleasure and level of comfort, but he knew something was wrong. I wasn't climaxing--and before this, I usually climaxed at least once while he was inside of me--not even counting the times during foreplay.

He didn't listen to me, and I was hurt because of it. Instead of doing what I asked--and I'd ask or demonstrate what I wanted repeatedly, he'd go through the motions--know I hadn't orgasmed--and proceed anyway as long as I was wet enough that it wouldn't hurt him. That's when I lost trust. He broke his promises repeatedly, went back on his word, knew that as a result of it I wouldn't truly enjoy myself, and did it anyway.

--And I didn't only ask for extended foreplay during the heat of the moment, I also asked during a couple of serious discussions when we we both fully clothed. I knew he was stressed, and I knew he was a little pre-occupied...but we both knew he wasn't meeting my needs. I explained WHY I needed to climax before sex when it became clear that no matter how I phrased it, or how long we both knew I'd gone without an orgasm, he wasn't going to give me the time I needed. He is a good man...but he was becoming an increasingly selfish lover--one who didn't bother to see that his partner was satisfied regardless of how she'd asked or what she'd done, or what he'd promised otherwise.

For two months, I'd tell him what I needed, he'd promise to deliver, and each time, he'd break his word. He even knew that I wouldn't find satisfaction...and he still saw to himself first. Confessing that he'd been hurting me was the last resort...and while it did serve it's purpose as a wake-up call, and he has slowed down...it doesn't negate the fact that he knew something was wrong, he knew what he needed to do to fix it, and he chose not to. For two whole months, I kept trying to get through to him--and for two months he broke his word to me, and kept doing it over, and over, and over again. So yes...I lost trust in him.
 
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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to An_215965's response:
It's important that you understand that even though the sexual abuse did not include penetration, it is still emotionally scarring. You were violated and understandably suffer from that.

As for finding an appropriate, low-cost therapist, please check out my Tips and Resources sections. It will give you ideas for where to start and how to proceed. If you have more questions about this, please feel free to return here for help.


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