What happens when you’ve had sexual trauma and then, after years of abstinence by choice, you meet someone you like and whom you want to be with? I’ll tell you what happens. The trauma may not be at the front of your mind but your body remembers. Oh, does it remember!
The Physical Reaction
I had a first kiss with my new beau. I can’t say it wasn’t passionate, because it was. We had this instant connection. He gets my sarcastic sense of humour and he is patient when I put up walls to guard myself. I have come to realize that the two most important things I value in a relationship are safety and respect. The respect must be mutual and I need to feel safe. Here’s the thing though. While we were kissing my body went into shock mode. Something like this kiss hasn’t happened to me in a long while. My body started to shake uncontrollably. “My body does that. I can’t control it,” I explained after the kiss while I was still trembling. Later he explained to me he was worried I was having a seizure or that it was something serious related to my health.
Hiding the Truth
I was feeling very emotional at that moment. “You’re not going to cry, are you? Because that would be like the worst reaction,” he said. “No,” I replied, “I just need to compose myself.” The truth is, I was about to cry but I didn’t want to. There are different reasons why people cry. If I had cried he could have taken it as some sort of rejection, as if he had done something bad or wrong. The thing is, I had liked that kiss a lot, but my body and emotional sensory systems were completely overwhelmed at that moment. I never did finish that cry later, because, in the end, I really didn’t need to cry.
I have been seeing my therapist twice or thrice a week for the last year or more. It just depends on how much support I feel that I need. Lately, we have been trying to titrate down to therapy only once a week. This is a huge deal for me. Now that I am in the dating world it seems that I actually don’t have time to see my therapist more than once a week. I know that my therapist is going to help me to navigate through this new relationship. It’s a bit scary, but at the same time, it’s more exciting than anything. I can’t stop thinking about him.
Confusion: When to Do What?
I have a dilemma. It’s about physical touch. I honestly don’t know much about dating and so all I know are the two extremes. I have one friend who jumped right into bed with her now fiancé. They have been together for years, they are trying to have a baby, and the sex is amazing. It worked out for them. Then I have the other extreme. I have a Catholic friend who doesn’t believe in sex before marriage. Now she is happily married with a fourth child on the way. Do other people have this dilemma too? You see, historically my body was used as an object and I was only valued for my looks and my sexuality. I was, for lack of better words, completely sexualized. So, there’s that history and of not waiting, jumping right into sex. Then there’s the part of me which has moral values and people who love me like my Mum are telling me to “go slow.” Even my brother told me not to have sex on the first date!
My morals and my physical desires are in conflict. I am extremely attracted to this man and I want to have sex with him soon, yet I know, or at least I’m told, that I should wait. How long do you wait? I think it’s up to the couple themselves to mutually make that decision. But according to my Catholic friend it is my responsibility to be strong and help both the man I am interested and myself to resist physical temptation. This new beau and me, we were quite physical on the second date. I probably got carried away and he didn’t object. There was only one instance when I said no and he did respect that boundary. We were in public walking and kissing on the busy streets but we did find a dark back street and did a little bit more than just kissing. And now I don’t know if I should be feeling guilty or not. My Catholic friend said that the physical pleasure takes away from him getting to know me for me and not for my body. Will he respect me less for having allowed more than a kiss? I want this to work out. I want to do this the right way. Only, I don’t know which way is right. I don’t know how to censor my physical attraction to this man.
I Get to Decide
This is going to be a work in progress. Just as each individual is unique, each couple is unique as well. Today he called me his “special snowflake.” I am so flattered! I don’t believe there is just one right way to nurture a budding relationship. There is a right way, and that way is what the couple decides is right together. It’s about communication. If I can speak with him about my fears and reservations then he can be aware of them and respond to them. He doesn’t need to know about my traumatic sexual history. No one needs to know. This is my story and it’s up to me to decide on when to share this information. No one will ever tell me what to do again. I will never let anyone take advantage of me again. Yes, maybe I come off as a little bit controlling, but I believe that is me compensating for the years where I had no say about what was done to my body. Now I am in control of my life and I choose to put myself into situations of safety rather than trying to harm myself as a form of punishment for the bad person I thought I was.
Finding Your Self-Worth
If those things happened to me, it must have been because I was a bad person and therefore I deserved it. Or so my thinking went for years. That is, until, through years of therapy, I discovered that I am worthy. I am worthy of a good life and I am worthy enough to live. And here I am, reaping the benefits of having healed from the painful trauma. Things always get better, even if it doesn’t seem like they will. You have to have patience with yourself and be willing to forgive yourself because the healing takes a long time. There is no set time limit for healing. I will always be healing as well as growing, with each new experience that I have, and with each new year that passes by. If I can do this, then so can you.