With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, the expectation of intimacy may arise between you and your partner. For some, this can be a difficult thing to process, and the holiday can be triggering in and of itself. For others, expectations can lead to feelings of obligation- something that can also be triggering, particularly if you are a survivor of trauma or violence. If you are feeling uneasy or uncomfortable about sexual expectations or intimacy, know this is not uncommon and you are not alone.
Sexual violence in its most basic sense is a violation of human connection.
Thus it is not uncommon for it to impact a survivor’s ability to trust, be vulnerable, and to feel safe and secure with a partner. You have a right to your own feelings and pace at which you choose to heal, however, if you are looking for tips to work towards rebuilding intimacy, here are some tips from Psychologist, Dr. Kristen Carpenter:
First, recognize the root of why you struggle with sexual intimacy. A specific experience may be the reason why engaging in romantic or sexual activity is uncomfortable for you. This can be done through personal reflection like journaling, or by processing your past with someone you trust.
If you feel ready, be open with your partner about your experience. Being honest and vulnerable can help to relieve some of the pressure that comes with an intimate relationship. This gives you the opportunity to tell your partner about any sexual activity you are not comfortable with, and it is better to put it forward beforehand, instead of in the moment. Remember, this is all to your discretion! Setting boundaries and open and honest dialogue is the key to having mutually satisfying, safe sexual experiences.
Another thing you can do is seek professional help. Remember, you do not need to go through this alone! Receiving professional help may be the key to understanding why intimacy is difficult and can provide greater awareness of your emotions. Also, if you think you and your partner may benefit from dialoguing with a professional, couples counseling may be a good option, depending on where you are at in your healing journey.
Lastly, you can work towards shifting your thinking about sex. This is easier said than done and takes patience, grace, and time. According to Sex Therapist, Dr. Wendy Maltz, “the goal is to shift away from a sexual abuse mindset (in which sex is unsafe, exploitative, or obligatory) to a healthy sexual mindset (sex is empowering, nurturing, and, most importantly, a choice).” Healing is a process, and this means that it will take time, but it is possible. Your body is yours, and you have the power to decide whether or not you are ready for intimacy.
You deserve to feel loved in the way that you want to. It is ALWAYS your choice.
Our Wave is here to support you on your journey to healthy intimacy after trauma. Here are some resources we recommend:
Counselors who specialize in Sexual Assault across the US: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/sexual-abuse
Book: The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Maltz