Info for partners (Relationship challenges)

Info for partners (Disclosure) - LivingWell At Living Well, we recognize that there is not a lot of information and support out there for partners of men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, particularly in relation to the impact on couple relationship. Whilst relationships can be a place where difficulties, including difficulties with trust, intimacy and sex can appear, they are also somewhere, where these difficulties can be worked through and resolved. This page, details some of the challenges partners of men who have been sexually victimised report facing and some ways of responding.

All relationships require work

Before discussing some of the ways sexual abuse can impact on men and partner relationships, it is important to acknowledge that all couple relationships require time, effort and commitment from both parties to be successful. All relationships can be a place of intense joy and pleasure and at times can produce considerable heart ache and distress. Relationships where one or both parties have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault are no different, they benefit from partners talking, sharing interests and working together to address difficulties as they arise. A healthy relationship is therefore not about there not being difficulties, it is about having the skills, time and energy to work things out and grow together.

The impact of sexual abuse on relationships

There is no prescribed way that an experience of sexual abuse will impact on a man or on his relationships. Everyone is different. Men will often try to find his own way to deal with the experience of sexual abuse and work hard to limit its impact on his life and relationships. Although hearing that a man has been sexually abused is distressing, sometimes this information can help a partner make sense of some of the behaviours they have been witnessing and provide a starting place for positive change.

Men and their partners have identified a number of ways that the experience of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault has impacted on them and their relationships.

  • Avoidance of some people, places or situations. He may leave the room when some things come on television, he may change the subject when some things are talked about, there may be certain types of people that he stays away from, or there may be parts of his past that he avoids talking about. These are common ways that people try to keep themselves safe and try to keep distressing memories at bay.
  • Bad dreams, being preoccupied and spacing out. At times he may seem to be in “another world’ and appear to be disconnected or vague. Sometimes, after a traumatic experience, people can experience flashbacks to an event or series of events, to the point where they are re-living the past in the present. Memories of sexual assault for some men can “pop in” uninvited at any time of the day or night even while asleep in the form of nightmares and this can be very exhausting. (See Dealing with flashbacks and Dealing with nightmares).
  • Being jumpy, easily startled and preoccupied by safety issues. He may seem overly concerned with checking doors, windows, visiting crowded places, uncomfortable on public transport and be extremely nervous when you or the children are not at home. Again this makes perfect sense in terms of his desire to keep himself and his loved ones safe as he knows first hand what it is like to be unsafe.
  • Having difficulty trusting people, even you at times. When somebody has been hurt by a person they are supposed to be able to trust it can be extremely difficult to take trust for granted in later relationships. Or alternatively he may trust you, but nobody else.
  • Mood swings. It is common for people who have experienced sexual abuse and or assault to find that they can swing from feeling ok to angry to sad or to other strong feelings quite quickly and without much warning. These strong feelings might not make much sense on the outside as there can appear to be no external cause for them. However, they are usually connected to a thought or memory that has come uninvited and that brings with it some of the distressing feelings of the original event.
  • Behaviours that don’t make sense. Sometimes people who have experienced sexual abuse and assault develop behaviours that seem to be self-defeating such as problematic use of drugs and or alcohol, gambling, workaholism, over-exercising, overspending, over eating or consuming very little food or having complex rituals around the quantity and timings of meals. Others might be more directly involved in self-harming or obsessing about their bodies’ appearance in various ways. Many of these behaviours are not necessarily harmful in and of themselves, in fact some like exercising and hard work are admirable and as a society we approve of men who are active in these ways. These activities and behaviours are self soothing, calming, offer a sense of control, and have an internal logic that can take the person away from difficult thoughts and feelings. But they can become problematic when they are used to the extent that the person is not able to incorporate or to manage other aspects of daily life in reasonably balanced ways.

The behaviours listed above, might have developed as a direct result of being sexually abused or in an effort to manage the trauma. They should not be seen as evidence of a damaged person. It can be useful to talk and understand how this behaviour developed, the reason behind it and how it has become a habit. Some behaviours that may have worked for a while or in particular circumstances can overstay their welcome and become unmanageable, becoming unwelcome for your partner, for the relationship or you. With enough support, it is possible to develop alternative, more sustainable and more life-giving ways of coping.

For a long time, until I could talk about it all and find some other ways of getting by, I just tried whatever was available. Some of those things took the edge off things for awhile and that’s probably why I kept doing them”

Negotiating difficulties and improving the relationship.

It is really important to avoid seeing EVERYTHING that happens in a relationship through the prism of sexual assault. Relationships don’t come with a rule book. Couple relationships often involve two people muddling their way through, negotiating and sorting things out, to ultimately build satisfying and supportive lives. Many of the ways you have used to get through difficult times together will continue to be helpful in overcoming problems related to sexual abuse or sexual assault. You probably already have most of the tools you need.

Partners and men who have been sexually abused have identified a number of themes that can appear in their relationships:

  • Closeness / Distance. You might experience a see-sawing in your relationship, with your partner at times seeking out re-assurance and assistance and sometimes distancing himself, wanting to work it out on his own. Some men try to manage feeling moody, withdrawn, uncertain and uncommunicative, by taking himself off and keeping himself to himself with the idea that this will help stop things from getting worse or help keep his partner safe.

What can you do? Understanding that in all relationships there are times for togetherness and there are times where a little space is welcome. It is good to regularly check in with a partner to see how they are travelling and keep them up to date as to how the relationship is going for you and them, without increasing pressure to have stuff resolved right now. It is also good to remind yourself that although you are impacted by his behaviour, it is not all about you. One of the best things you can do is to keep the respectful communication flowing. Remember to take time out if it gets too intense and then to return to the topic and talk about the important stuff when you have had a breather

  • Unhelpful behaviours. Some of the ways he has learned to cope, or to keep the thoughts and memories of the abuse at a distance may be “playing themselves out” in your relationship with him, for example, self-soothing by use of alcohol, overwork, excessive interest in sex or pornography.

What Can You Do? You do not have to accept or approve of behaviours that are not working for you or your relationship, nor is it your job to fix them. It is worth encouraging him to access support that helps him develop more life-affirming patterns and ways of dealing with stress and distress. Also, to make sure that you are properly supported and informed about ways of looking after yourself and dealing with the impact of sexual abuse. Sometimes, it is only when things aren’t playing out the way that you hoped for that you identify what you most value and appreciate about relationships and what you want from a partner. This then, provides an opportunity to talk and confirm there is a shared vision that you can both work towards. (See our page on Men and intimacy).

I always thought that if he loved me enough he would stop doing those things – now I can see that it was his way of switching off and although I still don’t like it and want him to change, at least I can see it for what it is”

  • Shame. A partner’s, and possibly even your own sense of shame around what happened, its effects and the fear of other people’s reactions may make it extremely difficult to talk to each other.

What Can You Do? We know that shame – just like mushrooms – grows best in the dark. Remember, your partner has probably had a lifetime of messages about what it means to be a man, and that includes being tough and bullet-proof and he may be struggling with his own masculinity and this will reinforce his feelings of shame. Men’s sense of shame is often made worse by society’s negativity towards male on male sexual relations (to the extent that the focus is more on the fact that it was male on male sexual contact than that the contact was abusive). It is useful therefore to access quality information, to not deny or ignore a man’s sense of shame or your own struggles, but to talk it through and firmly place the sense of shame back with the person who committed the sexual abuse or assault (See Kevin’s Letter). Sometimes, rather than working overtime on this sense of shame and trying to evaluate whether you or your partner needs to feel ashamed for either the abuse or some actions you have taken since then, It can be useful to check in with yourself "How is holding on to this sense of shame working for me, for my life and for my relationship? And if it is not providing some demonstrable benefit to make a decision to try putting it down for a while.

Heaps of the things he has always done which seemed a bit strange suddenly started to make sense. I also realised that it wasn’t down to me to change it all – in fact, it isn’t all bad. He’s always wanted to be around me and the kids a lot in everything we do and that’s actually really nice – some of my friends wish their husbands could get a bit more involved.”

  • Understand the way trauma can “act itself out” in a relationship. Many of the ways that people react to traumatic events such as avoidance, not trusting some people or situations, fear for the safety of loved ones and being their own harshest judge, can act themselves out in a partnering relationship. As a result of childhood trauma, some men can become extremely protective of partners and children, to the point where his behaviour can feel ‘over protective’, even controlling.

What Can You Do? Knowing that these behaviours have an internal logic and might be a response to trauma can both gain perspective and provide a picture of what might help in making things better. When some behaviours are spoken about and become understood in their historical context, it can provide a platform for change. By talking about what is happening in a safe supportive environment, individuals and couples can find solutions. Just as behaviour is learnt and becomes habit overtime, alternative ways of doing things can be developed, encouraged and supported. Like in all couple relationships, relationships work best when each partner takes responsibility for themselves, for managing and looking after themselves and working together to support and encourage each other in building a caring respectful futures.

Note: See our For Partners section for more information that might be useful for partners of men who have been subjected to childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault.

 

18 Comments

  • melissa says:

    I’m starting to think my husband had been sexually molested bcs he has been doing strange things for a very long time and has no answer as to why he does certain things. All he can say is he needs help but continues to do them. I noticed he had a sexual addiction a few years ago when I googled it and saw the symptoms. He started going to a sexual therapist and then stopped bcs of finicial reasons.
    Some of the things he has done is drink until he is numb and doesn’t remember anything and starts to either fight or go online and message random girls and talks about sec. That’s all it was for a very long time. Until it started to escalate into texting my friends and recently my sister in law and saying he wanted sex from them.
    This is affecting our relationship very much. I have no idea why is he doing this and he direct revenge doing it and it’s just becoming extremely embrassing.
    Can you help bcs at this point I just want to take my kids and leave. Should I try
    To keep seeking therapy for him so he can attend or just end the relationship after 17yrs. He still hasn’t spoke to me about it and this happened on sat.

    • Gary says:

      Thanks for contacting Living Well and sharing your concerns.

      It sounds like a really difficult situation. I am hearing that you are concerned about what may have happened for your husband in the past, what he is currently doing and how this impacting on your relationship. There really is no way of knowing whether your partner has been sexually abused in the past from his current behaviour. It is good that he is acknowledging that he needs help and that he has previously engaged with a therapist. I would definitely be encouraging him to talk with his doctor and to see if they can assist with obtaining access to a counsellor or therapist at minimal cost (also to consider making use of relevant free help lines if he is in distress or concerned about the way he is acting).

      I see you said that this is a 17 year relationship and that you have children together. It will be useful for you also to make sure you are supported and assisted in thinking through what your options and priorities are, and deciding where to from here for you. It is helpful if you are clear about what kind of relationship you want, what expectations there are in relation to how partners behave in this relationship, and how you show love, care and respect for each other. This will mean working out and being clear as to what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Providing a clear message about what your expectations and limits are is important.

      I encourage you to continue to seek out information and support. You might want to talk with one of our counsellors online or on the telephone to help work out where to from here for you. Wishing you all the best – The team at Living Well.

  • Jane says:

    I often wonder if my partner has been sexually abused as a child but he says he hasn’t. The reasons I think he has been abused are that he has exposed himself to my friends and family members a number of times, always under the influence of alcohol. His recollection of these incidents is foggy, but he has admitted to them and felt deep shame. He is very withdrawn socially and has extremely low self-esteem. He has overdosed on medication while drunk and been admitted to hospital numerous times. He has self-harmed, cutting himself on his arms and on private parts of his body. He says he doesn’t know why he’s done this. He cannot cope with stressful situations and suffers from high anxiety. He has attended numerous forms of professional counseling and group support but nothing seems to make any difference for him. I have a strong sense he has been sexually abused in his childhood but he says it’s not the case. I feel like there is nothing I can do to help him. Are my instincts realistic? Is it possible he can’t remember the abuse if it has happened to him? How common is it for people to not remember the abuse?

    • Jess says:

      Hi Jane, Thanks for contacting Living Well. It sounds as if there is a lot going on for your partner and for you, and it is difficult trying to work out where to from here.

      In relation to your question “How common is it for people to not remember the abuse?” Research and practice suggests that a majority of people who have been sexually abused have very strong memories of the abuse, although they may not talk about it for a number of reasons. However, there are also some people who have been sexually abused whose memories are not clear or absent for long periods of time, who may remember and piece together fragments of memories later on in life. A difficulty is that you can only work with what is available and searching for a memory of childhood sexual abuse may lead to more distress, confusion and uncertainty.

      Your partner’s behaviour in exposing himself when he has been drinking is clearly upsetting for both of you. Given the other difficulties that you have identified – that he is socially isolated, has low self esteem, has self harmed and overdosed, does not cope well with stressful situations and has high anxiety – I suggest it is important that you access professional assistance from a qualified health care professional; from a doctor or mental health care worker. Whether your partner has been sexually abused or not it is important to access support to help him better manage difficult thoughts, emotions and behaviours. A priority is an emphasis on safety and stabilisation, in supporting him to develop skills to take care of himself and express his distress in less destructive and hurtful ways for him and those around him.

      I encourage you to keep working to ensure both you and him access quality counselling and support that addresses your concerns. Although it takes perseverance and hard work people can recover from such difficulties and live fulfilling, connected lives. Take care.

  • Piyush says:

    I am from India. In my state mostly marriage are arranged (parents choose a bride/groom for their son/daughter).
    Should I tell the girl (I have never met before) about my child sexual abuse?
    I want to let her know but I am a little-bit afraid if she tell anyone else.

    • Jess says:

      Hi Piyush,
      Firstly thank you for reaching out for some support with this. I know it isn’t an easy thing to put yourself out there like that.

      I see that you are considering letting your possible future partner know about your experiences, and it might be that you choose to do this. However sometimes with information like this it is important to choose the right time and be clear about what the purpose is in telling her at this time. I would advise that you first think about why you feel it is important to tell her about it now? What are you hoping might happen by telling her about it?

      Is this something that impacts on you in your life, and so you want her to be able to understand this? Or is it more that you want to be open and transparent in your relationship from the very start?

      It might be important to take some time first to get to know this woman: What her interests are, what is important to her, what are her hopes and aspirations for her life? It might be that in developing a relationship with her over the coming months that your history of sexual abuse is something you will share with her at the right time and place as you develop your relationship. At that point you might be better able to predict her reaction to it – particularly if you are concerned about her telling other people. At this point it is impossible to know.

  • Natasha says:

    Over a year ago I told my co-worker I had feelings for him and he said he thought about me as well but nothing could happen between us. I didn’t understand why and after a few weeks of getting really close with him and becoming good friends he confided to me he was sexually abused when he was 6 by his older cousin. It went on for years and he didn’t tell anyone about it. He’s 23 now and still a virgin, had very little sexual contact or intimacy with a girl. He told me his last relationship was about about three years ago and had ended because his girlfriend tried to kiss him. He said he freaked out on her and basically cut her out of his life. He had told me he can’t be with anyone at least not right now because he’s damaged goods and doesn’t want to bring anyone into his life. Over the past year we became good friends, really close to the point where it felt like a relationship but it was a cycle of getting really close to each other and then us not talking mostly because of my own feelings for him. I couldn’t separate my own feelings from our friendship. He also said and did things to show that he cared about me more than a friend which didn’t help me to move on but whenever I would mention it to him we would fight and stop talking. Then days or weeks later we would start talking and get close again. During the last months he said he doesn’t have feelings for me that way anymore and that I should move on. But again his actions showed differently to the point where even his close friends started accusing him of leading me on. We never crossed the physical boundaries but about 3 weeks ago we were at a party where he was severely drunk and crossed those physical boundaries. He approached me and was very sexual. I never seen him act like this before and even I knew it was out of his character. When I mentioned it to him days later he said he couldn’t remember anything. I showed him what he did and he apologized profusely saying he was drunk and maybe did it to me because there was history there. This emotional tug of war got the best of me and I messaged him saying really nasty things that I never said to him before. I was intoxicated and angry and hurt and confused at the time and just lashed out at him. I’ve been trying to apologize to him eversince that day because I knew what I did was wrong and shouldn’t have reacted to him that war. He never responded to anything I said and completely ignores me at work now. When i tried talking to him at work he would yell at me and tell me to go away that he wants nothing to do with me. I’ve stopped trying to apologize and just let him be now. What I want to know is that he won’t even talk to me and just cut me out of his life and I don’t know if it’s because of the message or a build up of the emotional rollercoaster that we been through or if his past has anything to do with him not wanting me in his life even as a friend. Are you able to shed some light on this?

    • Jess says:

      Hi Natasha,
      This sounds like a really tough situation for both you and your co-worker. Building a friendship or relationship can be difficult to negotiate at the best of times, but even more so when it involves a dual relationship as it does here, where you are personally close but also need to work together as colleagues.

      It can be even more difficult for people who have been sexually abused or have struggled in the past with relationships, where they are left with feeling not good enough or ‘damaged’ in some ways. Of particular relevance here is the difficulty with trust that people who have been sexually abused can experience, both trusting themselves and trusting others, and how this can be played out in relationships by seeking closeness and then pushing people away. This can indeed be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster and really confusing for everyone involved. It seems that you’ve tried to be understanding and respectful of boundaries, but have been pushed to your own ability to handle a really complicated situation. However it sounds as though by acknowledging where things went wrong and apologising to him you have let him know that you are open to talking and being his friend in the future, and rebuilding that trust. As such it will probably take some time for both him and you to sort out your feelings and decide where to from here.

      Best of luck Natasha. Let us know if we can offer any further support.

  • Charlie says:

    Hi there. Great article, thank you.

    My partner has recently revealed to me that he had slept with another woman during the duration of our (short) relationship. We immediately began counseling, and throughout the process it is unearthing that the woman was very manipulative, abusive, and in the end took advantage of him whilst he was under heavy medication and was in no way able to push her off. Furthermore, it appears that she was emotionally, verbally and sexually abusing him for the entire time, and he did not want to participate in sex but she would threaten him if he didn’t comply.

    I have evidence that this was in fact the case, but of course am dealing with my own sense of betrayal. He is too terrified to take any action with authorities, but is clearly experiencing trauma. I want to help him, and in some ways can empathize with what he is going through as I was sexually abused and blackmailed when I was a teen. However, I am finding resources for Adult Male Assault/Abuse almost impossible to find – most are designed for men who were abused as children. Do you have any recommendations of resources for us to try?

    Thank you.

    • Heather says:

      Hi Charlie,
      The experience that you describe for you and your husband is one I know from experiences with other clients. This can be a very difficult and distressing situation. Despite the distress for you both, it does sound like you are communicating and are trying to work this through together- or at least to understand.

      It would be best if we could talk this matter through – rather than offering resources, I am thinking what you both need is support. We at Living Well can provide the necessary information and support you might need. In order for us to best assist we would need to know where you live. There might be a very suitable service nearby that can assist you.
      We will be in touch via email. All the best.

  • qtpikimb says:

    I have a son from a previous marriage. I am now married to a man who was molested as a child. I know the details and we have talked about it. My son loves him and i believe he loves my son very much. I have never noticed any innapropriate behavior. But as my childs mother should i be worried? Am i just paranoid and should trust my spouse loves us? I do suffer from major depression and he has been faithfully by my side. Idk if im just fearful or if im doing the right thing?

    • Jess says:

      Hi Kimberly
      Thank you for contacting Living Well. I read that you are concerned for the well-being of your son and husband. I also read that your son loves your husband, your husband loves your son and that you have ‘never noticed any inappropriate behaviour.’ I just want to let you know that there is no evidence to suggest that men who have been sexually abused will automatically go on to commit sexual offences (check out our page on addressing the victim to offender cycle). Research evidence actually suggests that over 95% will not. What we do know is that men who have been sexually abused as children are concerned for the well-being of children, and if anything can be overly protective (they don’t want what happened to them to happen to another child). As a parent, I am sure you will want to keep talking and building the relationship with your son, so that if there is anything worrying him at home, at school or in the neighbourhood he can come and talk with you about it. This is the best thing you can do. Thank you for the question. I wish you, your son and husband well.

  • Elizabeth says:

    My husband came clean to me about the sexual abuse that happened to him as a child when I found out he was on websites looking at other men. He said he has been w a man before but is not “gay” he said he had an encounter w a man while we were engaged. This was a yr ago, just recently I found out he’s been on chat sites talking to men again and frequently watches gay porn but will hardly ever have sex with me and I have a pretty high sex drive so it’s not me pushing him away. So after the last chat site I told him I was leaving and he beggede to stay, is going to counseling and taking pills for depression. Just tonight I saw that he is
    Looking at gay porn again…I really don’t know what to do! I feel like I can not talk to anyone I know about this because it is very personal to him and humiliating to me. A part of me feels like I should stay and see if the therapy does anything, another part is just so hurt and depressed I feel like I need to go for my own good. For my sanity. What hurts is that he’s looking on these porn sites at men probably getting off but
    Not even touching me. It makes me feel worthless. I really don’t know what to do from here. We are both in our mid 20s and have only been married
    For two years but I feel like all he’s done is lie to me these past two yrs. I also feel like it’s not his fault, because he was molested so
    I should stay and try. Idk, any advice from anyone? He truly is a good person deep down anyone can see that.

    • Gary says:

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Thanks for contacting Living Well. I hear that you want to be supportive and understanding of your partner and to try and make the relationship work. It is good that he is now obtaining assistance from a counsellor and looking to better manage depression. One of the difficulties that face partners of men who have been sexually abused is that they feel they can’t discuss what is going on with their usual support network of friends or family. I would definitely recommend that you find an experienced counsellor who you feel comfortable talking with. You deserve support yourself.

      All relationships can face difficulties that can take some working out, whether a person has been sexually abused or not. What is important is that each partner takes responsibility for themselves and there is a shared understanding and commitment to making this a supportive, caring, respectful relationship that works for both of you. Secrecy about things that are shameful can be a legacy of sexual abuse, but this is not helpful for a mutually supportive relationship. It sounds as if you have been clear that his accessing gay porn and chat rooms and ignoring you is something that pushes you apart. The fact that he is accessing gay porn can add another layer of confusion and complexity. In order to work this out and not become side tracked (the gay issue can be side tracking), it might useful to invite him to consider what he is doing in terms of commitment to the relationship and to you. It will be important to be clear to him that if he chooses to access gay porn and lie to you, he is not showing love and respect to you and your relationship. He is an adult who has choices about how he behaves and where he puts his energy. He can choose to spend time with you doing things that you enjoy together, to nurture and build a more intimate, caring, sexy relationship. Relationships do take commitment and can be rebuilt.

      In working this out, I would encourage you to take care of yourself. An experienced counsellor will help you to talk through options in a way that is respectful of both you and your partner.

  • Marie says:

    I have been married to my husband for 5 years. Early in our marriage he had a bit too much to drink and he mentioned that he was sexually abused as a child by a man. He refuses to talk about it and just gets angry when I mention anything close to the subject.

    The first 4 years of our marriage, I would catch my husband visiting porn sites on the internet. I expressed to him that I did not like him doing that and to my knowledge, he tried to stay away from it. But recently his behavior has escalated from porn to contacting women on dating sites looking for one night stands to confronting a woman and giving his number to her as they text back and forth. I would approach him, and he would deny it until I would show him the evidence. He would delete his account or stop texting women but then once I turn my back, he is searching for escorts in town and when he is out of town. Again he would deny it and then make me feel like it was my fault for bringing it up again. He says that he doesn’t know why he has these urges and that he is stupid and weak. I want to help him and save our marriage so I have had us seeing a marriage counselor. But I don’t know how much more I can do if he refuses to tell the counselor that he has been a survivor of sexual abuse as a child.

    What more can I do? How can I approach my husband in a loving manner? I don’t know how to since he gets angry any time I bring it up.

    • Jess says:

      Hi Marie, Thanks for contacting Living Well.

      It is good to hear that you are seeing a counsellor about the relationship difficulties you are experiencing, including your partner using porn and dating sites. As you are probably aware, sexual abuse can have a profound impact on people’s lives. I also want to make sure you’re aware that many men who have been sexually abused are very reluctant to speak about it, even if they are struggling to cope or engaging in unhelpful behaviours. This is for many reasons, some of which you can read about on our Men and disclosure pages.

      Although there may be a connection between his experience of abuse and his accessing porn and dating sites, it appears he is just not willing to talk about the abuse at present. It seems however that he is identifying that he has urges that he is struggling to cope with. It would be useful for him to talk with a counsellor, if he is willing, about the habit of accessing porn sites and how he might stop this.

      It would certainly be useful for him to understand that this behaviour of his is impacting negatively on your relationship and your wish to be close to him.

      Just because someone identifies an urge, does not mean they have to act on it. Although it might take some work, people can learn to control their behaviour (whether they have been abused or not), and to work with a partner to rebuild trust and improve the relationship. It sounds as if you really do care for your husband and your relationship. Working to improve your relationship need not necessarily be about the abuse. I would suggest that you continue to be clear with him that you care for him, whilst at the same time being clear that you do not accept his use of dating sites and talking with other women as part of a loving relationship.

      Good luck Marie and I hope this assists.

  • Anna says:

    My boyfriend recently told me that he was sexually abused at the age of 9 by a Mexican man that was drunk and punched him in the face. My boyfriend started drinking at the age of 9. He told me he was exposed to his Dad’s porn at the age of 5. His dad was a womanizer and drunk. Every time I wanted to get close to my boyfriend…he’d tell me he was in love with an ex-girlfriend. He did cheat on me, texted various women, has never added me to his Facebook, but has added those women. He was in the military briefly and was released due to an accident, but he never served during war time (never saw combat). He told me that he sees me as “family” and that he loves me, “but not in the way that you want me to love you” and isn’t intimate with me at all. -We had sex in the past, but since reuniting after breaking up for 2 years…he has not asked for sex or anything. -He’s never had a desire to kiss me. Tonight he drank too much and became violent and escalated when I asked him to leave my home and told me to call the cops. He escalated further and choked me and hit me hard in the face and is in jail. I doubt he’ll remember much when he sobers up tomorrow. If he does sober up, I doubt he’ll remember how hard he choked and hit me to leave marks and bruises. -He thought I was exaggerating when I was crying and asking him to stop and told me that I was “weak”. I do truly love him. But he consistently gave me mixed signals then would get mad if I wanted to break up. -When he’d say he’s not my man…he’d become insecure and jealous and want to look at my phone, emails, Facebook and hacked into them. He said he was “in it for the long haul” and wanted to “merge our lives together” yet would say he’s not my boyfriend and had no interest in being more than a friend to me…but told the police that he has been my boyfriend for 8 years and included the 2 years we were broken up, because I kicked him out when I saw he was texting his ex-girlfriend in another state (he went to that state to be with her and she rejected him and he immediately called and begged me to take him back…I didn’t and let him stay there until recently when he called and told me his Dad was dying of lung cancer and that he needed me and wanted to come back to be with me and see his Dad). He’s in jail now. I have no idea what to do. I do love him. But he refuses to go to Counselor or get help and denies that he has been sexually abused and doesn’t remember telling me he was abused when he was drunk. I want to visit him at jail, but was told due to him choking me that he is restrained from me and cannot even call me. I have no idea what to do other than continue to pray for him. Thanks.

    • Jess says:

      Hi there Anna,
      It seems as though you are in a really difficult place right now. I understand your concern and wish to support your boyfriend as a survivor of child sexual abuse. He has a really painful history behind him and, as you clearly care for him so much, you want to be there for him and be close to him. I’m hearing that the mixed signals you’ve been getting from him are making this even more confusing and painful for you and you’re at a loss as to what to do now.

      Anna I’m hearing that you’ve so much care and concern for your partner, however I need to be clear that his behaviour is not okay. What you described above is intimate partner violence, or domestic violence.

      If he is serious about sorting himself out, it is important that he gets serious about addressing the violent behaviour, whether he remembers it or not. The fact that he had been drinking at the time does not excuse the violence or make it any less worrying. If he wants to build loving, caring relationship in the future, now is the time for him to stand up and be counted on to take responsibility for what he has done, and to address that behaviour so that it never happens again.

      Supporting someone to take responsibility for themselves does not mean accepting or excusing the violence. Be aware that men who have been violent in relationships will often minimise, deny and blame. It is more than possible that he will minimise the extent of the danger or harm to you, deny his responsibility for it (for example by saying, “I was drunk”) or blame you for saying something or doing something (“you provoked me,” or “you should know better”).

      To demonstrate his commitment to building healthy, safe relationships, he can start by enrolling in a men’s non violence group (such as Living Without Violence). It is important that people around him encourage him to do so. This is about him practically committing to change for himself and those around him, for everyone’s safety and security.

      Please take some time to look at:
      Domestic Violence Resource Centre or 1800respect if you’re in Australia.
      The Hotline if you’re in the USA.

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