The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, 3rd Edition

Author: Wendy Maltz
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by 41mHL   2019-11-17

Please please know that your reaction is a perfectly normal reaction to a traumatic event. Your guilt for your partner is understandable, but don't blame yourself or let that guilt dominate your thoughts: he can be your biggest advocate and ally in recovering your healthy sexuality.

Two books you may find helpful:

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy

The first includes a chapter on specifically decreasing anxiety around physical contact and eventually sex; the second is entirely focused on decreasing anxiety with sexual activity.

You have my deep respect for tackling this so directly and so immediately.

by 41mHL   2019-11-17

Hey, working through trauma is a very slow process. If you are going to do this, and be a healthy partner for her, you are really going to need to focus on putting your needs aside and focusing on hers.

Maybe I should phrase that, "put your needs aside in the short-term, in order to help her heal to a place that she can meet your needs in the long-term." Don't go into this weekend expecting blazing hot wild sex that will meet your needs, go into this weekend focused on making sure she has a positive experience, so that she will want and trust you enough to try again.

One of the most counter-intuitive things that I didn't understand, which would have helped me be so much more empathetic to my ex-, is that a trauma victim who says "No" to sex is actually expressing a deep trust in her partner from a very vulnerable place -- she may not ever have felt "safe" saying "no" before.

The book that most helped me to understand, better, the effects of trauma on my partner and then on my ex- and our DB was The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz. It also includes a chapter on slowly reintroducing touch (with a long-term goal of reintroducing sex), which I'd highly recommend for both of you.

The next-level shows up in Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy by Linda Weiner which is aimed at reacclimating to sex, beginning with nonthreatening touch and working up to specific positions and acts which are less threatening for reintroducing sex to the trauma survivor.

For her, I strongly recommend a therapist who specializes in EMDR, which is a technique that can help her move the trauma memories from the fight/flight center to an appropriate place in long-term memory.

For you, I recommend the support group at /r/secondary_survivors, which is 100% tailored to people in your situation: loved one of a trauma survivor.

This will be a long and rough road for both of you -- two steps forward, one step back -- but past sexual trauma is something that can be overcome if the survivor is working hard at it, and one of her best resources can be a safe, loving partner who can be there for her.

If she were not working on it, and simply expected you to forgo sex indefinitely in order to meet her needs for safety, my advice would be very different -- only you can know if or when that is the case, but everything in your OP sounds like she's doing the hard work, very much wants to make a change, and wants your help in achieving that change.

by RockyPast8   2019-11-17

I haven't read that book, but I'm in the process of reading the book linked below along with my boyfriend. I have childhood trauma that we are working through together.

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https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062130730/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0062130730&linkCode=as2&tag=batgalbribri-20&linkId=2fdd7690f10927fde4e3856af53b8ee5

by 41mHL   2019-11-17

>because of her processing the trauma she’s pushed me away completely. She’s uncomfortable with my touch, has walls up when we kiss, and regularly dismisses my advances, as innocent as they are.

One thing that is very important to understand about this is, this is actually a good thing.

Part of processing and recovering from the trauma of sexual abuse is when the survivor finally reclaims her ability to say "No". Previously, she wasn't able to say "No", so she was never able to actively give consent to sex.

Usually this processing happens in a committed relationship with a man whom she trusts deeply. If he can accept her "No", truly respect and honor it, then she can begin to feel comfortable saying "Yes" and finally to reclaim having sex on her terms.

It takes a very special man to be able to be with her through this time.

I suggest you do some reading about sexual trauma -- my favorite was the book The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz. For the far future, when she is ready to begin reintegrating sex into your relationship -- on her terms -- you may get value from Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy by Linda Weiner. (Links to amazon)

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Now, only you can know if you will have the patience to survive this -- or believe that she has the will and drive to overcome it and reclaim a healthy sexuality of her own.

I can't advise you on that.

I would never blame you for deciding, "No, I cannot."

I think being in a DB is also traumatizing, both to men and women, and I'm sure a lot of trauma-based fears are coming up for you. I'm glad you have your own therapist to help you work through it.

I think that there is a reasonable conversation to have with your wife -- in a non-threatening way, with your therapist's coaching about what to say and how to say it -- about your past experience, and your fears, and what she wants for her own sexuality. What is the vision she wants for her sex life? What support does she want from you in getting there?

And, I think you should answer for yourself, what is the vision you want for your sex life? How long are you willing to commit to the marriage in order to see if it can get there?

by Reluctant_Achiever   2019-11-17

I can relate to the feelings of being "ruined", especially after what you have been through. My PA's active addiction led to a situation that I was sexually assaulted (not by him, but someone he was close to), and I had similar feelings for a long time. I can promise you though, you are not ruined. What happened may have changed you, but it didn't break you-- you're still here and working through it in the best way you know how. The work you are doing now will help you establish the boundaries and the "rules" for yourself in a new relationship, when it's time and you feel ready to be in one. I found a lot of help inthis book-- it has some background and some specific things to work through (with yourself or with a partner, whenever the time is right) to help with that feeling of being "ruined.

by Drabbeynormalblues   2019-07-21

I'm so sorry you both are going through this. I agree with the other poster about therapy because you both have some issues to work through. What your boyfriend is experiencing is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation but it can be fixed. The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz is a book designed to assist people dealing with a history of rape or sexual abuse deal with common problems that may arise because of being sexually abused. It would be good for you both to read that as well as work out these issues with the help of a therapist. Here is the link.

https://www.amazon.com/Sexual-Healing-Journey-Guide-Survivors/dp/0062130730

by Drabbeynormalblues   2019-07-21

The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz is a book designed to assist people dealing with a history of rape or sexual abuse deal with common problems during intimacy that may arise because of being sexually abused. It would be good for you both to read that as well as work out these issues with the help of a therapist. There are many other books out there as well that can help someone manage triggers and other issues. Here is the link.

https://www.amazon.com/Sexual-Healing-Journey-Guide-Survivors/dp/0062130730

by aradthrowawayacct   2019-07-21

If you don't already have these books, they could be very helpful. I often recommend these resources here for sexual assault and abuse survivors, because they are so good. Many therapists recommend them:

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, 20th Anniversary Edition

Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child

by ohgeeztt   2019-07-21

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062130730/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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This book may be helpful

by aradthrowawayacct   2019-07-21

If you don't already have these books, they could be very helpful.

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

by mossycoat   2019-07-21

i second the comment about finding a trauma-focused couples therapist, if you are able to do that.

do you feel safe with your husband in non-sexual contexts? like, no feelings of shame, humiliation, fear, etc.? if not, ignore the rest of what i've typed; but if you do, a handful of things come to mind for me here:

  • do you think it might be beneficial if you both had a conversation about your responsibilities/his responsibilities during sex as far as "whose job it is" to make sure he/you have an orgasm? (so, what i'm sort of tiptoeing around saying is: does he understand that your orgasm = your responsibility & his orgasm = his responsibility, & that if he's working so hard that he's getting frustrated & channeling that at you, it's probably time to stop/take a break? when my partner & i first started seeing one another, he was like this as well, & one thing that helped us is that i explicitly stated, my orgasm is my responsibility. it is not your job. you can help me, but it's my body. we also talked about how me feeling like i was "taking too long" would make it really, really hard for me to orgasm because i would start to focus on his needs--is he uncomfortable? getting impatient? wishing i'd just hurry up already?--or what i felt his needs were & feel guilty/burdensome/etc. that opened up further communication about our wants/expectations/etc., & we were able to problem-solve: if you get tired & want to stop but i haven't had an orgasm, i/you/we can do XYZ; if you have an orgasm but i don't, i/you/we can do XYZ; etc.)
  • (tw: the link is explicit, NSFW, & includes "kinky" stuff) the second thing that helped is: we each completed this "yes, no, maybe" sexual inventory & then shared our answers with one another. if you think he might get upset by some of the answers, then i would recommend not including him in this at all & doing it alone. at the very least, it might help you gauge what you're OK & not OK with right now as you work to rebuild trust/intimacy.
  • you mentioned that you have no problems having an orgasm when you're alone, so i just wanted to mention this: in the beginning, when we were first building intimacy & sex didn't feel safe to me, i would ask my partner if we could fool around & then, without intercourse but in the same room/bed/next to each other, be responsible for our own orgasms.
  • wendy maltz's the sexual healing journey might be worth taking a look at? the third section was especially helpful to me; it gives a lot of suggestions/exercises/things to think about in working to establish sex as an activity that is safe/pleasurable/etc. (vs. scary/painful/awful/etc.).
by ohgeeztt   2019-07-21

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062130730/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

by aradthrowawayacct   2019-07-21

> But that hasn’t helped yet, but I’ve heard that sexual desire can be something that is put in hibernation. Like when you are not sexually active for a while, your body stops being sexually interested. Don’t know if that is true

This is not true when a person has experienced sexual trauma like rape. It can just wind up traumatizing them over and over, strengthening their aversion more and more.

With her still so traumatized and so aversive, it's probably best to stop having sex until she is able to get the help she needs and can begin recovery and healing. It's just damaging her more.

Is the waiting list that long because it's public health counseling? Can she pursue a private practitioner and see someone sooner?

If you don't already have these books, they could be very helpful. I often recommend these resources here for sexual assault and abuse survivors, and their partners, because they are so good. Many therapists recommend them:

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child

by aradthrowawayacct   2019-07-21

If you don't already have these books, they could be very helpful. I often recommend these resources here for sexual assault and abuse survivors, and their partners, because they are so good. Many therapists recommend them:

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child

by 41mHL   2018-11-10

Hi, I'm an allosexual with a high sex drive, exiting a marriage with a sexual mismatch.

There are two relationship-destructive patterns to stay on the lookout for:

The first is harming yourself by agreeing to sex that you do not want. This is especially relevant if you have sexual trauma in your past, and/or are sex repulsed now. In these situations, you can (re-)traumatize yourself by following the "Just do it" mantra. If you have outsized emotional responses to the sex act with your partner, those are likely to be emotional flashbacks to previous elements of your sexual history.

The second is him interpreting your rejection of the act as a rejection of him. This is particularly acute if he has low self-esteem and relies on external validation to prop up his sense of self-worth. In this pattern, continued rejection can lead to collapsing his self-esteem and a pattern of depression. If your partner is having outsized emotional responses to you saying "no", these are likely indicators that this is what's going on.

To invert those patterns requires you both to be comfortable with "no": you need to feel like it is safe and fair for you to say "no", even after a sexual encounter has started, and he needs to feel appreciated and attractive even when you say "no": he needs to understand that that is about you and not about him.

I didn't figure either of these out in my marriage, unfortunately, until it was too late and the damage had been done. I'm working on them now in a new relationship with a woman who is asexual and a sexual trauma survivor. She was very direct with me about both of those issues, which helped me to frame her "no" as about the act instead of about me, and to understand that feeling safe to say "no" is a necessary component for her to say "yes". I've been very direct with her about avoiding the first anti-pattern: I've told her that I'm afraid of her hurting herself, that I do not want her to do that, and I've reassured her that there are other things we can do to ensure that both of our needs are met.

If trauma is a relevant portion of your past, I've found the following four books to be the most useful in understanding her, and helping me to approach our relationship in a loving and supportive way:

Amazon: The Courage to Heal

Amazon: The Sexual Healing Journey

Amazon: Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving

Amazon: Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy

by aradthrowawayacct   2018-11-10

Have you bought copies of

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

yet? Is she open to reading them and working through them?

Will she agree to see a therapist who works with people to recover and heal from childhood sexual abuse?

Someone different from this marriage counselor who says she's fine?

by aradthrowawayacct   2018-11-10

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

are both fantastic resources recommended by many therapists, if she's not open to going back to therapy

r/rape_counseling has a lot of resources as well, their mod team is excellent

I'd also suggest r/secondary_survivors for you. There's a lot of info an support there for partners

by goosielucy   2018-11-10

I've struggled with this same issue, where I became quite dissociated during intimate moments and the only way to get aroused was to fantasise about similar acts that happened during the abuse. That usually left in my feeling quite dissatisfied or shameful afterwards. I've been working on overcoming this exact issue for many years now with my husbands help. I've been learning and trying to keep myself more in the present, focusing on how different sensations feel instead drifting off when I close my eyes. I find it helpful (and quite connecting) to try and keep my eyes open and to lock in on my husbands eyes at times while we are being intimate.

I've found this book by Wendy Maltz helpful in addressing the sexual issues that come from CSA. She offers different exercises that one can do slowly over time to help remain in the present while working towards sexual intimacy. https://toptalkedbooks.com/amzn/0062130730

by aradthrowawayacct   2018-11-10

> She was molested by her uncle when she was a teenager.

She should be seeing a therapist who specializes in helping people heal from sexual abuse and recover healthy sexuality.

Is she open to doing that?

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

are great resources recommended by many therapists, among many other books on this topic.

> We waited until marriage to have sex. The sex has never been great,

It's also possible that she's just never been attracted to you, sexually. It's not at all uncommon for people who have been sexually abused to choose a spouse or partner who is nice and caring, but who doesn't turn them on because being turned on is so scary for them. It's unfortunate for the spouse because when they do heal from sexual abuse, they often still don't have any desire for their spouse.

> We have four kids ages 2-9 and a puppy so that the stressors that inhibit her libido aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

People can lean to handle their stressors, if they want to. Is your marriage important enough to her for her to choose to learn to do this?

by aradthrowawayacct   2018-11-10

> She was a victim of rape when she was very young (4 or 5)

It doesn't sound like she's been in therapy to work through this, heal, and develop healthy sexuality as an adult.

She should be seeing a therapist who specializes in helping people recover from childhood sexual abuse.

Is she open to doing that?

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Wendy Maltz

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines

are great resources recommended by many therapists, among many other books on this topic.