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#435866 - 05/26/13 12:23 PM New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls
imperfection85 Offline


Registered: 05/13/13
Posts: 18
I am new to this site so first off I would like to say hello to everyone: survivors, partners, families, and friends of survivors, and hello to anyone else I might have missed. You are all incredibly strong people and I am glad to be a part of such a strong online community.
I will quickly introduce myself- I am a female partner of a male CSA survivor and I have turned to this site for support. After reading through many posts, I am touched at how responsive everyone is and amazed at all of the support given so I thought I would reach out myself with some of the challenges I am facing. Just a heads up this will be a long post as I want to give you all the whole story- since everyone has been so honest and open on here, I want to do the same.
My boyfriend and I have been dating just over a year now (we are in our mid-late twenties), he had disclosed to me about a month into our relationship that he was sexually abused by a family member when he was about 4 years old. He said that not many people knew about his abuse: just a few very close friends, his psychologist, and recently his parents/siblings (he had only come out to his family about his CSA about 6 months before him and I had started dating, so about 1.5 years ago today). Upon telling me about this, he said that he didn't want me to see him differently or feel that he was a charity case- and to be completely honest I don't see him any differently other than the fact that I view him stronger for having been through this and still shining(as are each and every one of you!) I was surprised that he had told me about this as he said that none of his ex girlfriends in the past knew about it, except for his first girlfriend when he was a teenager as this was when he was just beginning to deal with the CSA and needed someone to turn to. He has been in quite a few relationships ranging from a few months to 3 years and he had never mentioned anything about CSA in any of those relationships, so I was very surprised that he came out to me with this so early on- I'm assuming this is a good thing right?
I should mention that when we started dating he made it very clear to me that he wanted things to take a natural path and did not want to get into anything 'serious' too soon. He was not fond of labels and just wanted everything to unfold naturally. This was fine with me as I did not want to rush into anything either. Before he told me about his CSA, he just said that he had some "issues" that he had to take care of, and that he wasn't ready to be committed to anyone due to this. He said that he didn't trust people and when I asked why his past relationships ended he said that there was no connection.
Throughout our relationship there have been a lot of ups and downs, mostly on his part. In the beginning he came on very strong and we saw eachother frequently. Then, I noticed that after a few months he became distant and a bit withdrawn. This lasted a few weeks and then it was back to normal. Then again, after a few more weeks or maybe a month, he became distant again which lasted a few weeks/a month. I never used to really ask him about this directly, I kind of just assumed that it had to do with him dealing with the issues of CSA because when he shared his story with me he did say to me "that's why i'm so up and down all of the time, i feel like it's me against the world". I never really ask questions as I didn't want to be invasive, so to respect his privacy I just made sure he knew I was always there if he did want to talk or turn to me. I used to question whether it was something I was doing that was making him withdraw but little things he would say would make it clear to me that he was just going through a rough time. Right now he has been going through a distant phase since around mid April so it's been a little longer than usual and he has been more distant than usual; before we would still talk everyday but the conversations would be drastically shorter, and instead of seeing eachother every week it would be every 2 or 3 weeks. But now, we go 2 or 3 days without talking unless i am the one to initiate, and see eachother once every 4-5 weeks. The last time I saw him I asked him why he was being extra distant and he said that it had nothing to do with me, just everything had him burnt out (work, personal stuff) and that he has just shut down and does not want to see anyone or do anything. Since then he has still been saying this and it seems to be getting worse. He told me that his depression has gotten worse and he just sleeps and watches tv when he is not at work. Don't get me wrong, he will reach out if we haven't spoken in a few days but it is mostly me that has to do this generally and sometimes I get confused as to whether I am bothering him by reaching out, or if he wants me to reach out to know that I care and am not upset with him. I appreciate him opening up to me about his depression as I know it's never an easy thing to talk about this stuff.
Just wanted to get your opinions on my situation, advice, experiences of anyone who can relate.. things like that. I also would like to get an understanding of what it's like for him right now and why he goes through these periods of withdrawal/depression. What is he enduring emotionally to make him withdraw? Why does he withdraw from me? Why does this happen in phases? How can I support him better without being intrusive but still letting him know I care and am happy to talk about anything that he wants to. It's very tough caring for someone more and more and having them withdraw more and more. I can feel that he has genuine feelings for me and cares- whenever we are together it is the most beautiful feeling that grows every time we see each other and that is enough to keep me going; I am willing to support him through his entire journey. Just need some advice to keep me going through mine smile
Any and all advice is greatly appreciated as this is such an emotionally taxing point in my life, so I would be thankful for any contributions- thanks very much in advance for reading this and thank you for your time!

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#435876 - 05/26/13 01:12 PM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
trytry Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 02/13/13
Posts: 36
Loc: Wisconsin
A lot of us are used to being on our own, when you hide something so traumatic for so long, such as CSA, it really leaves you no choice but to feel distant from everyone else. It's how a lot of us grew up so sometimes we feel more comfortable being alone, it's not really easy to explain. Just remember it's not because of you, you're not the reason for him being distant at times.

I didn't used to be a fan of poetry until I realized how well feelings can be described from it, I'd take a look at the poetry section of the forums if you want to get an idea of what he's dealing with and how he feels at times.

Unfortunately I don't have much advice to give, but welcome to MS, It really shows that you care about him a lot to have come here.

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#435878 - 05/26/13 01:30 PM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: trytry]
imperfection85 Offline


Registered: 05/13/13
Posts: 18
Thank you so much trytry- I will keep all of that in mind and your encouragement in stating that this is not because of me is very reassuring!

Hope to see you in the forums and thank you for the kind welcome smile

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#435946 - 05/27/13 09:02 AM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
Esposa Offline
F&F Greeter
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/19/11
Posts: 709
Loc: NJ
Welcome!

This is a great place to get an idea of what your partner is going through but I also want to encourage you to focus on yourself some too. This is not an easy journey and even when equipped with all of the answers to your questions, you may still feel lonely and detached sometimes - so I encourage you to focus on you and getting your needs met too.

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#435968 - 05/27/13 11:48 AM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
imperfection85 Offline


Registered: 05/13/13
Posts: 18
Hi Esposa!

Thanks so much for the nice welcome! You make a good point- focusing on myself is very important as this is quite a challenge, I will definitely try to do more of this. I can already see that this site is going to help me out a lot through my journey.

See you in the forums! smile
_________________________
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have

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#436063 - 05/28/13 11:14 AM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
tidestheyturn Offline


Registered: 05/24/13
Posts: 5
Hi! I'm new to this forum as well. This is actually my first post! Heh. I saw your thread and felt like I should reply.

A little backstory: My husband and I have been married since September. We started dating in September 2009, so we've been together a bit over three years. In the beginning, he was similar to how your boyfriend was - he didn't want to "label" things, didn't want to rush into stuff. He said he also had trust issues and issues being vulnerable with people. I assumed it had to do with his previous relationships, which I think he also thought at the time (he didn't remember the CSA until last year). So we took it slow, and we were both patient with each other.

Last year, he was student teaching when one of the other student teachers mentioned a boy in her class who was being molested by an older boy. This triggered my husband to remember everything about his CSA - and, without getting into too much detail, it caused a massive breakdown. He's been getting help since - seeing a therapist, on medication, that sort of thing - but it was a very, very rocky road. That was last May. We got married in September, and we were consistently living together probably a year or a year and a half before then (for a while, I was splitting my time between my mom's house and his place).

Your situation is a little different since you're not living together, so it's harder to see the changes every day, whereas my husband and I live together, so I can see these things a little more readily. I will say that for him, he has good days and he has bad days - and he doesn't always know why they come in waves. Sometimes, he'll be thinking a lot about his CSA, so it'll be a bad day. But sometimes, it won't permeate all of his thoughts and actions, so it'll be a better day. My husband has told me that it takes the majority of his energy trying to be vulnerable to me, to open up to me - as "trytry" said, he has spent most of his life being isolated. Carrying everything on his own. Learning to rely on no one else. I think it also relates to the fact that the last time he probably felt vulnerable was when the CSA happened, so naturally, one would learn how to never be vulnerable again, to protect one's self.

Honestly, I used to wonder the same things you're wondering. Everyone is different and everyone deals with his/her problems differently, but I know that for me, it helps both of us to reach out to each other. When I send him messages, I'm not always pouring my heart out to him or anything; sometimes it's just a little "<3" to let him to know that I'm thinking about him. Or sometimes it's just asking how his day is or how he's feeling.

Something that has really, really helped me has been reading books about male CSA. There is one that my husband and I are both reading, "Beyond Betrayal: Taking Charge of Your Life After Boyhood Sexual Abuse," which has helped a great deal. I've also ordered another one but haven't started it yet, which is specific for women who are with male survivors of CSA, and that one's called, "When a Man You Love Was Abused: A Woman's Guide to Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation." I would also like to stress what Esposa has already said - please take care of yourself. I have the habit (a bad one) of ignoring my needs and my feelings in order to accommodate the feelings of those around me. But it's not good. You're in the journey together - yes, he has to do the majority of the work - but you're still handling and dealing with this as a couple. As my husband and I have said, we no longer have "separate problems." We share them, and we have to work through them together.

I'm sorry this was so long ... but I hope there was at least something helpful. Please feel free to PM me whenever you'd like. I'm always up for a chat. smile

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#436081 - 05/28/13 02:02 PM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
imperfection85 Offline


Registered: 05/13/13
Posts: 18
Welcome tidestheyturn, thanks so much for reaching out I really needed this- I actually woke up this morning feeling really down about everything so your response could not have come at a better time!

It seems that your relationship is very similar to mine in a lot of ways so it's reassuring to know that someone else understands what I am going through. Your husband is lucky to have a supportive partner like yourself and I hope that you are both doing well in the relationship.

I'm actually just about to go out to the mall and I am going to be sure to pick up those books you mentioned. The only books I have been reading are "Victims no Longer" by Mike Lew and "Allies in Healing" by Laura Davis; the last one is an excellent resource for partners of male CSA survivors. I'm glad you listed those as I was actually looking for more resources on this type of stuff for both me and him.

Thanks so much again for your advice! I will definitely take you up on your PM offer, look out for me in your inbox wink

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#436107 - 05/28/13 04:43 PM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
tidestheyturn Offline


Registered: 05/24/13
Posts: 5
Thanks for the welcome! I'm sorry your day started off negatively. I've been dealing with a lot of those myself.

There is something I didn't mention that I wanted to mention now - communication has been a key element for us. It's a cliche for relationships and marriages all over, but it's especially true if your partner is a CSA survivor. There were a lot of things that we never talked about - it was painful for him, he had trouble opening up, I didn't want to push him too much, I also had parts of me that didn't want to know too many details, etc. When he first told me, I asked him what happened, but the pain was still too real for him. He couldn't talk about it. And I never pushed again. I would continually say, "I'm here if you want to talk," but never really tried to start a conversation. I've read in a lot of places that it's better NOT to push, that it's better to just offer your support and your ear for when your partner is ready. But for our relationship, it wasn't quite enough.

A week or two ago, we finally had a "breaking point." I was dealing with a lot of anger over things in our relationship, and I felt like it was time to talk about it. I explained why I was feeling angry, what it was that made me angry, and made sure he understood where my feelings were coming from. The following day, he had a breakdown of sorts and poured out all of this emotional stuff that we've never really talked about. We talk about it a lot - my family is comprised of over-communicators. Everybody is in everybody's business. His family is the exact opposite. They don't really talk about issues or problems. They just deal with things on their own. So that's what he's learned to do - whereas I need to talk everything out to make sure the air is clear. So I let him talk, I listened as he told me what made him angry, what hurt him, what I did that made his healing process more difficult. We had another day of intense talking (I still had some issues I needed to talk about), and we've been so much better since.

So I would stress communication. I mean, there's obviously a good way and a bad way to go about that. You don't want to attack him or accuse him of things, but I think that by allowing myself to be vulnerable by admitting what I was really thinking/feeling on the inside, helped him to feel like he could open up more. You know?

I don't know if that's even all that helpful, but I thought it might be useful! Thank you for your recommendations, as well - I'm going to check those out!

I meant to ask - is your boyfriend getting professional help? I apologize if you've mentioned this already. Because that's been a huge factor in our relationship, as well. And I'm also in therapy - for totally unrelated problems but, more recently, related ones, as well. It's a means of taking care of myself. So, without sounding forward or pushy, I'd also recommend thinking about that for yourself!


Edited by tidestheyturn (05/28/13 04:44 PM)

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#436113 - 05/28/13 08:23 PM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
imperfection85 Offline


Registered: 05/13/13
Posts: 18
Hi again tidestheyturn!

Thanks so much for adding this, it is very eye-opening as I have actually been thinking of how to get us to communicate more. I agree with you that communication is key- it's just figuring out how to talk about these things that has been a challenge for me.

Like you in the past, I hesitate from bringing it up because I don't want to push him or make him disclose anything that he isn't comfortable talking about yet. Also like you, I make him aware that I am always here to offer support whenever he is ready and let him know he can be an open book with me.

I see him trying to reach out to me sometimes, but he quickly shuts down soon after and we don't get much of a conversation out of it. Maybe I will try what you suggest and open up to him about how I have been feeling, perhaps this will let him feel more comfortable opening up to me as you husband did with you smile

And to answer your question, he was in counselling about 2 years ago but has stopped and I think that may be part of the reason he is so isolated and withdrawn. It's great that you are taking the time to go to therapy for yourself! Has it had a significant effect on your journey? Have you noticed your own personal improvements? That might be something for me to consider- like you said, I must focus on my own needs too!
_________________________
You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have

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#436124 - 05/28/13 09:35 PM Re: New here, partner of CSA survivor, need advice pls [Re: imperfection85]
tidestheyturn Offline


Registered: 05/24/13
Posts: 5
Yesterday, actually, he started bringing up what happened on his own. We were talking about other things, but it somehow brought us to what had happened to him many years ago. I asked a few questions, gauging his reaction to each one. Even though I have a LOT of them, I knew not to push it - so I asked maybe two or three, and I could tell he would have kept talking if I wanted him to, but I could also tell he was losing energy quickly. He changed the topic a few seconds later. So I would say maybe trying to take baby steps like that, even. If he shuts down or withdraws, or says that he doesn't want to talk about it, respect that decision. And re-affirm that you're there for him, should he decide he wants to talk.

It's a lot to carry on your own without professional help - both for you AND him. I've been in therapy for a long time for things unrelated to this, but it's been such a god-send with everything that has been happening. It's how I was able to first discuss the things I felt angry about - that way, I was able to get my initial explosive reaction out without having to subject my husband to it. When I finally brought the topics up with him, I had had time to talk it out and figure out a better, calmer way of talking about things. I've found that it's really very useful, personally and in the relationship.

Have you thought about maybe trying couple's therapy, as well? I mean, obviously that's for the future, but it might be a good way to show that you're in this together. You're not going to just throw him to the wolves and expect him to work on his problems on his own - you're there to help him, be his support, work on it with him, you know?

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