Anxiety Due to Past Experience

my ex-boyfriend was sexually abusive.  he would guilt me into having sex and i was afraid to say no to him.  because this was my first relationship, it is the only definition i have.  we were together for nearly three years, and only after did i truly recognize the depth of the effect upon me.  the man i have fallen in love with now is considerate and kind.  we have spoken many times about the troubles i am having, sometimes i can't even bear to have him looking at me unclothed, or i find myself on the brink of tears when we are physical.  my boyfriend and i have an understanding that we will not make love until marriage, but even mild physicality is difficult for me now.  i feel like i want to hide, that i cannot bear to be touched.  i have flashbacks at times of things that happened and i cannot seem to escape them...

please comment if you have any suggestions.  i have been very troubled by this because i do not want to distance myself from him...

candlelyte candlelyte
18-21
10 Responses Feb 21, 2009

I saw this story and wanted to comment on it because i went through the EXACT same situation. Reading the comments between you and Kellanna really helped me. I can relate completely to you two and i think it will help my healing process so that i, too, can experience intimacy without having to put a wall up in a reflex defense to protect myself. You two have been given a second chance to help yourselves and it is a great success that you two took that opportunity and made something of it. Though we all still have our scars to deal with, we have loving people at our sides and the insight of what we need to do and the progress we have made in the process of healing ourselves. Thank you for your stories.

over time i came to wonder if i was at all loved for myself, or if he simply came to me to be comforted... which i believe was often the case. that is why i now fear that dehumanization that occurs, for when two people become intimate, there is a great degree of human nature that simply takes over... and for many this can occur without love. recognition of this has created that barrier you speak of, an ability to disconnect one's thoughts from one's body. now as we speak of this i recall at one time hearing something very similar in reference to young children that were abused. for that reason, many children that are abused, particularly sexually... seem to drift from relationship to relationship without valuing sex as anything other than a fleeting pleasure, devoid of sanctity or love. i think i can understand that now... i am so glad that you and i were able to recognize the desperate need to leave, as painful as it was. i still wonder to this day, how i was able to do so. i believe that you and i, and others like us... can in time recreate our scarred definitions of intimacy. for we have both been given the gift of a new beginning, and as such, the opportunity to start again.

i am grateful for this conversation that we are able to have, more than i can say. this is also the first time i have ever felt someone could truly relate and understand. strangely enough it was three years for me as well...that i remained... and i understand exactly what you mean when you refer to the "commodity" feeling. i can't help but feel used when physical contact is initiated, however loving it may be in the relationship i now treasure. in my previous relationship i convinced myself that it was love, that my feelings of pressure and unhappiness were a fault of my own. i also long for the regaining of that feeling you speak of, the curiosity and excitement, the beauty that intimacy possesses when it first comes into being.

Also, I've learned not to trust men when they show an interest in me, spark of physical attraction. When that happens, the wall just comes up and I block them. I've had way too many an experience where that's all they wanted anyway, sex, and I hated feeling like a "go to" kind of girl that wasn't valued for me. Seems like many of my past experiences with men involved them not being sincere, or atleast appearing sincere, then flaking out after they get sex and only showing interest when they want sex, and blaming me for their misery when they don't get sex...sex became such a big headache that seemed to be a cornerstone for the relationship, but instead of being a way to express love and care, it was a "commodity" that the male felt a right to, and they tried to justify it by being nice to you...that's the kind of environment that I've been exposed to repeatedly so that when my husband, who is genuinely loving and caring, tries to be intimate with me, I automatically have this wall of disdain for the situation, and feel pressured, which doesn't help me to relax, let alone enjoy myself. So, it's a combination of things, added to the fact that I was abused sexually as well....I remember a time when I was younger when the wonder and sensation of physical intimacy was like magic...but that seems so long ago and like in another world that it's hard to imagine how to find my way back to that, when it is now finally safe to open up and be loved that way again...I've never been able to talk about this subject with anyone who would understand me, so it is of great help that I feel I'm able to now, so I am thankful for that. I hope this somehow is helping you too in your own situation, which I can relate to. :-)

Hmm..you bring up an interesting and very relevant point at the end of your comment candlelyte. It is easy to become "accustomed" to a way of relating certain events to other events in our lives. I.E. if we were abused in the past, we just learn to function in that kind of environment, be it by putting up walls and becoming more aggressive, or learning to shove things away and disassociating when situations might make us uncomfortable, not knowing if we can trust ourselves to let go and relax for fear of being hurt again. We "put on our armor" so to speak, but really, we don't need to with our significant others because we know they'd never hurt us. We become "hardened" after enduring harsh environments that we forget how, or just have to let go of our bad past experiences, to open up again and make room for new experiences. It's like someone who's survived the depression, or has seen war, or has been through a life altering event...you never seen to be able to forget it, and an impact was made on you and built into your nervous system that becomes part of the way you tick...it's survival. I don't think anybody who has not been abused, either sexually, verbally or physically, and has lived in that kind of environment, will know exactly what you and I are talking about or why we stayed for as long as we did. For me it was 3 years...3 years too many, but there were many other personal reasons why I "endured" through it until I said enough! It did a number on me psychologically, emotionally and physically, and took me at least 3 years to really start to feel the internal healing process make headway past the emotional damage...but that's because I really wanted to not be a victim of mistreatment anymore, and I didn't want it to scar me for life, affecting my present and future. Getting over the anger, fear and sadness and finding and strengthening myself again was one thing, but the physical intimacy is the hardest part I think, because that is the ultimate in letting someone get close to you, and when you've been hurt badly before, it's not an easy thing to just let go of....but I have hope, and if I really want to, I can change anything in me...I just learned to do without the physical aspect, but....therein lies the challenge with our new loving and caring male partners. It's not like my husband wants to have sex all the time, but when the situation does present itself, then I feel the wall automatically come up and it's hard to address that on the fly...perhaps I need to make a date with him, and prepare myself mentally for it...

hello kellanna,<br />
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i do agree, this situation demands a great degree of delicacy, and little steps are what is needed to make progress in the realm of trust. knowing that there is no cause for fear and focusing on the love we have for our significant others is a vital aspect of reaching that goal, i believe. i just don't want to convince myself that i can never again open up by avoiding aspects that i know are cause for my withdrawal or discomfort. you are right, i believe it correlates very closely with fr<x>ame of mind, as i think it is the moment where the mind disconnects and associates the present with the past... that is the point where disassociation occurs. that is where the fears resurface and it is all too easy to fall back into the mindset where it's easier to disconnect in order to avoid collapse. unfortunately it's very difficult to grow accustomed to a different manner of being loved...to be loved sincerely, unpressured and with kindness. i think being accustomed to abuse, etc makes it exceedingly difficult to recognize and accept the unselfishness of love when it does present itself.

I think my first "small step" endeavor with my husband is to focus entirely on him...notice everything about him. I think this will help take the "routine" out of sex and help me focus on the moment and being with him...no one else. I'll try to focus on everything about him that I love and am attracted to. Perhaps this may help you to get your ex out of your head because you know exactly who you are with now and that you are safe because your boyfriend is an entirely different person, and this will be an entirely different experience. Nothing bad will happen...it's okay....

Hi candlelyte...I think I've learned to just function successfully without sex...but, at the same time, there's probably a lot of fun missing if I can't open up the way I'd like to sexually. I know my husband would never hurt me ever, but I guess with so many bad feelings tied to sex from past bad experiences it's built up a clam shell around me so that it's hard to get out of it and open up. That clam shell is pretty darn hard too, like a steel plate of armor that comes up automatically whenever I sense intimacy requests coming because of being abused. Even if I do engage in intimacy I don't seem to be able to enjoy it the way I want to, since that shell is still there and embarassment or fear is still running in the background and the shell is protecting me just in case...man....tough situation. At least we know our men would never hurt us like our exes did, so that's a start...being able to trust first. It's okay...gradually I guess we may try to take small steps toward opening up instead of taking a "big leap"..focus on a small step we're trying to take and becoming comfortable with that, then stretch a little further next time until we realize we're okay, and this isn't so scary. Otherwise, expecting ourselves to completely let go of our "security blanket" is like jumping off a cliff...gradually climbing down is better I think...this is helping me too, to be able to talk this out. I hope this helps a little, or at least gives a different insight or perspective. :-)

indeed i would be very grateful to talk more about our endeavors to come to terms with this. my boyfriend is so kind and understanding that it is painful for me to withdraw from him when i only wish to grow closer to him. i find myself so tense however slow we make take things... as you said, it pains me to know that there are others who have endured similar experiences, and yet there is comfort to be found there as well.

Wow...the more I read comments here regarding sex the more I am assured that I'm not the only one out there that has past issues with it affecting my present sex life. I too was abused sexually, but by my ex husband who "raped" me while verbalizing control tactics during intercourse that I think killed my sex drive and clammed me up down there...it took me years to let go of the trauma experienced by his sexual abuse. Now, I am married to a wonderful man who is sensitive and loving, but I find I cannot relax when he wants to be intimate...it's frustrating because I seem to automatically clam up and pull away, and feel like sex is "harassment"...I want sex, and can be a very sexual person, but it's amazing how these traumatic experiences can affect our brain chemistry...hang in there...I'd love to hear more of your experience in trying to come out of this because I'm trying to work on that too.