Ghosts in the Bedroom: Guide for Partners of Incest Survivors


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For male Survivors, becoming intimate can be at best a problem and at the other end of the scale, can feel repulsive to them, because of the trauma of the abuse they suffered.

For others, they think that sex is not acceptable, in any form, but then many others act out sexually, often overtly, despite feeling bad about what they do.

If someone starts talking about sex, especially a certain sexual act, your reaction, as a survivor, may well be disgust, because it reminds you of a sexual act carried out against you in the past. Another reaction is that you may feel turned on by it, but then feel dirty for thinking or acting on such thoughts.

The one thing that all survivors have in common is that we are sexual beings, and therefore have sexual needs we want met, yet because we see sex as abusive, the abuse stops us from having sex with our partners, or makes us feel vulnerable.

To most people, sex is something natural to talk about, which it is and should be, but as a survivor, talking about sex makes you feel dirty, or even worse, that you must be perverted for thinking such thoughts.

But lets not forget that we all need respect, love, warmth, understanding and companionship, and the simple fact is that we all are sexual beings, and all need sex.

What you must try to do is remember that sex is not painful or frightening dirty, disgusting and un-natural.

The abuse you suffered was disgusting and wrong, and that’s the block which can prevent you from being sexual with your partner, or prevent you from being a partner in a loving and sexual relationship.

No matter how much your partner loves, supports & is ‘there’ for you, their needs are important too, and whilst not pressuring you into changing how you feel about sex, do you really want to lose the partner you have, or perhaps you don't have one?

Sexual problems cannot be dealt with in isolation, nor changed without support, so you need to tell your partner what does, and does not work for you at the time being, and if that is not possible, for whatever reason, talk it through with someone you trust, as it does help to share the issues you have and perhaps get a different outlook on the events

It does mean that sex can become normal for you in the future, so please begin to start reclaiming your sexuality and putting the abuse you suffered, and survived, behind you.

A slow process, I agree, but it is a start.

Maybe all you really need to do is share a cuddle, saying that’s all you want right now, and in time, you feel safe enough to make a move forward, in your time, and under your control.

To avoid sex, and in doing so, avoid partners, isolates you and all around you, and if you have a current partner, causes problems you neither want or need, so how can you get around the fact that we are all sexual beings, and all need sex?

Some survivors can become sexual with strangers, whilst with partners, and often end up feeling abused again. During sexual activity, some survivors 'turn off' sexually, feel frightened, ‘found out’ or even angry that emotions are rising, which has a throwback effect to the abuse.

This often happens due to a smell, noise, touching or even a certain sexual position or feeling, that reminds you of the abuse, more often than not, its not a conscious decision made, it just happens.

A lot of things that are perfectly normal behaviours regarding sex can also have the unfortunate effect of throwing you back to the abusive acts carried out against you.

You can do something about that, by not allowing your abusive past to encroach upon your current sexual life.

Its not easy, and I didn’t say it was, but like all things, you can do whatever you choose, and surely its now time to tell your abusive past to leave you alone, and reclaim your sexual life again.

When all is said and done, sex is supposed to be fun, comforting, loving and silly, so do what you need to do, and enjoy the fact that you don't have to be controlled by your past, and make sure you have fun.