How to deal with lack of arousal due to past abuse?

G

Goldballoon

I have recently started dating someone and I like and trust this person but I feel really lost with how to deal with the sexual intimacy side of things. I think my problem is that I don't feel safe in intimate situations to properly let go and feel aroused and relaxed. I have also had the problem of ignoring when I feel like this, as I feel guilty, and so will go ahead with things so I don't let the other person down, even if it then causes me pain. I have been in therapy for around 6 months which I believe is why I have been able to make good progress in successfully dating a decent, non-addicted person - for the first time in over 10 years - this therapy has mainly focused on building my self-esteem, managing my emotions, and making sense of my family relationships and childhood. I haven't really gone into past abuse in therapy, it just hasn't come up. I haven't had sex with the new person I am dating yet, although we have kissed and cuddled a lot. He stayed over for the first time this weekend and I woke up very early with a nightmare, it was a flashback of my abusive ex raping me, and I was so relieved to find the new person lying in bed with me rather than my ex but it left me feeling not great, and certainly not in an amorous mood, which was disappointing. I'm just very confused about how to approach all of this, and if anyone has any advice at all from similar experiences, it would be really appreciated. I want to be intimate with this person but my body seems to fail me.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Have you talked about it with your therapist? And with the person you are dating?

My experience is different in that I've been in complete denial about the impact on me and just had sex without thought. But now, since therapy and in very recent weeks: sex makes me cry.
I don't know the answers. But I think talking and connecting with emotions are helpful?

And when I'm feeling unsafe or a feeling that is overwhelming, I try and remind myself I'm safe now. Works sometimes, doesn't work other times.

Maybe it's a really positive sign that when you woke up from the nightmare you were so pleased to see him in your bed, rather than be worried that he was in your bed? Sounds like you feel safe with him and he is safe?
 

Goldballoon

New Here
Thank you for your comments and sorry to hear about your experiences.

I haven't talked about it with either. I've been dating him for six weeks and it seems like such a serious thing to talk about, I can't imagine how to broach the subject. We've mostly been focusing on affection and playfulness and having fun. And same with my therapist really... Easier to talk about self-esteem and relationship issues.

I've had the same experience in the past of having sex and crying. And I've had the same in the past of just having sex without thinking. Well, I think I was in a place where I was so disconnected, it was so nice to have human touch, and any touch was so arousing, and I suppose lack of any sort of boundaries... Now I've gone the other way? I've been single and mostly celibate for quite a few years now other than a few encounters which never really went anywhere.

Yes I like what you said about him being safe, in comparison to my ex, I really felt such relief. I've had so much experience of men pushing and ignoring boundaries, and then myself not expressing my boundaries - Maybe I feel like I can't trust him or myself fully to protect myself. The situation isn't safe, it's not even purely about him?

I really obviously do need to talk about it with him, and ideally my therapist too. I'm starting to wonder if I made a mistake in getting a male therapist - he asked me a few times at the beginning if I was comfortable with him being male, and I can see why now, but I can't imagine starting up with someone new, and my last therapist was female and she was really terrible.
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
hi! I have a a couple of threads asking about this - both lack of arousal ( I think or maybe I talk about that elsewhere ) and pain.

i don’t want to presume your gender - but with pain it might be worth seeing a dr? For me that was a Women’s intimate physio and a gynaecologist - and discovering I had developed vaginismus. And this really does impact , though I don’t think my case is severe. After some time addressing it I’m making progress. :) - and I often fail at the consistency required to maintain that progress.

Broaching the subject with your therapist can be really daunting . For me what I recognise is that my abuse etc doesn’t just influence my sexual behaviour but lots of other things. To enable my therapist to best help me I have to be candid - so to arm her with all the tools she needs to see me. That sounds so easy ! It’s not .

there are ways you can do it that might make it easier for you if that’s difficult - when you are ready - like sending an email the day before your appointment with a brief introduction to this trauma- so your T can raise it. Or if your therapy is in person ( it seems so long since anything was in person here - pre virus) writing it down and asking your T can read it .
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
Thank you for your comments and sorry to hear about your experiences.

I haven't talked about it with either. I've been dating him for six weeks and it seems like such a serious thing to talk about, I can't imagine how to broach the subject. We've mostly been focusing on affection and playfulness and having fun. And same with my therapist really... Easier to talk about self-esteem and relationship issues.

I've had the same experience in the past of having sex and crying. And I've had the same in the past of just having sex without thinking. Well, I think I was in a place where I was so disconnected, it was so nice to have human touch, and any touch was so arousing, and I suppose lack of any sort of boundaries... Now I've gone the other way? I've been single and mostly celibate for quite a few years now other than a few encounters which never really went anywhere.

Yes I like what you said about him being safe, in comparison to my ex, I really felt such relief. I've had so much experience of men pushing and ignoring boundaries, and then myself not expressing my boundaries - Maybe I feel like I can't trust him or myself fully to protect myself. The situation isn't safe, it's not even purely about him?

I really obviously do need to talk about it with him, and ideally my therapist too. I'm starting to wonder if I made a mistake in getting a male therapist - he asked me a few times at the beginning if I was comfortable with him being male, and I can see why now, but I can't imagine starting up with someone new, and my last therapist was female and she was really terrible.
I understand. It is a hard and serious thing to talk about. (Took me 16 years to be able to talk to my partner about it! Which I don't advise others to do....!)
Maybe there is a way of broaching the subject with your T. So rather talking about what happened to you, you can say that something from your past is impacting your relationship now. Your T will understand. No need to go in to detail, but your T could help you think of ways to communicate something about this with your partner.
Talking with your T about the situation not being safe as opposed to your partner, might be good? He could help navigate that too and help with grounding techniques to remind you that you are in the hear and now with a safe person, not back in an unsafe situation.
You don't need to say anything to anyone that you are not comfortable with.
 

BlueRaccoon

New Here
Hey there! I just found this forum, so I realize I might be a little late to this post. I did some research on what to do when I'm in similar situations, and made a list in a notebook with solutions and sentences that calm me down when I'm having a panic attack, for example. One of those things, that I think might help you, is the following: the reason why you're having trouble with intimacy is because your body and mind still think you're in danger, right? Rather than seeing an intimate relationship as danger, or as something that you're not able to feel comfortable with, try seeing it as a challenge. It's something that you will need to go through, step by step, that will make you feel empowered in the end. If you feel anxious or have nightmares, that's okay: it's part of the process, and you'll have ups and downs during this challenge, but you'll feel better being intimate eventually. It's something you need to train and build up. And if this is truly a person you trust, then they will help you complete that challenge, but you're still the one in charge, and the one who will succeed in the end. I hope this helps, and best of luck :)
 
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