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#60257 - 02/15/06 10:43 PM Feeling Helpless
ShellyB Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/06
Posts: 3
The guy that I've been seeing for a few months is a male survivor and has been very honest with me about this from the beginning. Sometimes he talks about how it affects him--the panic attacks, dissociation, etc--and I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject. However, I feel like he always keeps me at arm's length because he doesn't think I can understand and he expects me to judge him. This makes me afraid to say anything. When I ask him to communicate with me--even if it's admitting that he himself doesn't know what's going on--he says he thinks he's at a place where he can't give me what I need. His comments make it sound like I expect him to be healed which could not be further from the truth. I'm totally willing to be an ally and I have an enormous amount of patience, but I need to feel like he's willing to put himself out there too. My therapist pointed out that I feel like my needs aren't as important as his and I know that's true but I want to be with him and I want to make this work. I just feel so helpless and sad and alone. Anyone have any insights?


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#60258 - 02/16/06 12:12 AM Re: Feeling Helpless
Lloydy Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 04/17/02
Posts: 7071
Loc: England Shropshire
Shelly
I'd have to say you're doing ok, and that you recognise that patience, in industrial amounts, will probably be needed.

Quote:
However, I feel like he always keeps me at arm's length because he doesn't think I can understand and he expects me to judge him. This makes me afraid to say anything.
Our abuse can be a very personal thing for us, especially in the earlier stages of recovery when we can often think that we're all alone, no matter what our logic tells us.
Using a site like this however confirms that we aren't alone, and there are other men out there feeling like we do. I can remember the day I met another group of male survivors and it was so emotional and enpowering, I gained strength from their experiences.
Perhaps your partner still has feelings of isolation, however much he 'knows' the facts?

Feeling like this can often lead to the survivor thinking that nobody else will ever fully understand what they actually feel, perhaps non survivors wont ever fully comprehend what we feel, although I know for a fact many partners come damn close to it.

Maybe it's trust that he's struggling with?
And I don't mean that he doesn't trust you in particular, he quite possibly doesn't really trust anyone - especially himself - in regard to abuse and healing issues.
Sex abuse often has more to do with the abuse of power and trust than the actual sex, sex was the weapon of choice to the abuser.
Once trust has been shattered so badly it takes a hell of a lot of rebuilding.

What you wrote about how you are dealing with his abuse seems to indicate that you are making great efforts to support and understand him, but we can only work at our pace unfortunately, so patience really is a virtue.

Dave

_________________________
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
Henry David Thoreau

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#60259 - 02/16/06 01:07 AM Re: Feeling Helpless
ShellyB Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/06
Posts: 3
Dave,

Thanks so much for the response! I guess one of the biggest questions I'm struggling with is what I can reasonably expect from him? Sometimes I feel like he doesn't understand that what he's going through affects me too because it affects our relationship. The few times I have tried to express this sentiment to him, his response suggests that he thinks I'm demanding or expecting too much. I don't mind making some sacrifices and being patient but what is reasonable to ask of him in return? My therapist (who's a sexual abuse survivor herself) thinks he's hiding behind his "victim" status though I don't think that's entirely true. But then again, how can I know?


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#60260 - 02/18/06 12:52 AM Re: Feeling Helpless
Andrew Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/25/03
Posts: 1192
Shelly,
One of my deepest fears is that my wife would get to know too many details of the abuse and then accuse me of being a willing participant, enjoying it, wanting it etc. I have only ever given her the bare essentials for fear of having her point her finger at me. And I don't mean to make her sound unkind or quick to judge, she isn't, just the opposite; these are my fears and issues. The other part that is shaky and scary is that the whole thing (sexual abuse) was so long ago and so difficult to relate to in present terms, in the here and now. I say this because it
is very difficult to relate to my adult 55 yo self and see me as vulnerable or a likely victim. Peace, Andrew

_________________________
there is no courage without anxiety

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#60261 - 02/18/06 01:50 AM Re: Feeling Helpless
roadrunner Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/02/05
Posts: 22045
Loc: Carlisle, PA
Shelly,

So much of value has been said above, and to that I will only add the element of confusion. When we are first setting out on our journey of recovery we are blasted by a lot of revelations, ideas, memories and so on, and much of that is profoundly distressing. We don't even know who we are anymore - how can we tell our partner what is going on when we have no idea ourselves? Can it be true that we were not responsible for what happened? What if we were? Andrew talks about some of that.

You raise a key consideration:

Quote:
I guess one of the biggest questions I'm struggling with is what I can reasonably expect from him? Sometimes I feel like he doesn't understand that what he's going through affects me too because it affects our relationship.
He will open up to you as he is able to do so. That's hard to explain I know, but the simple truth is that until we feel ready it just doesn't HAPPEN. I wish this were otherwise, but this is the way it works.

The other side of this, however, is that the relationship has to work both ways. If he is a survivor, okay. But that doesn't mean that all your needs and feelings should get trumped all the time. I would feel free to express to him how you feel and what you need. He needs to see that you aren't closing down on him, and at the same time you need to feel that you aren't turning into a caregiver who isn't allowed to have issues and ideas of her own.

Much love,
Larry

_________________________
Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking my freedom highway.
Nobody living can make me turn back:
This land was made for you and me.
(Woody Guthrie)

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#60262 - 02/18/06 08:38 PM Re: Feeling Helpless
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
Hi Shelly,

My boyfriend never wants to answer questions like the one you posed-- what can I reasonably expect from him? This is mostly because he's afraid of disappointing, or failing to live up to whatever he promised, so he avoids the question or sets the bar very low. Before he started recovering, he would do this about EVERYTHING-- like I would ask him what time he thought he'd be home from work, and he would refuse to answer because there might be traffic and then he wouldn't be home at the time he said he'd be home.

I can honestly say, this didn't have a lot to do with me not making it safe to be wrong-- I wouldn't have made him feel bad for being later than he'd thought-- but I did need to reinforce to him, a lot more than I would have realized, that it's okay to guess wrong, or fall short, once in a while.

As he has learned to feel safer about life in general he is better about setting honest, realistic expectations for himself in all things. But it has to start very small.

The other part is communicating with him about specifics-- I'm not asking you to be specific here if you're not comfortable. But I know that part of my need to know "what I could expect" WAS about my own insecurities too-- I wanted guarantees that would make me feel safer. I needed to learn to stop asking for the promise that he would do things, and just start asking him to DO the things. Does that make sense?

SAR


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