Most relationships always are exciting and make each partner feel special in the beginning. Your mutual attraction combined with learning you have new things in common stirs up your feelings. Even learning about your differences and exploring the world together makes your relationship fresh and exciting. However, for someone with a history of sexual assault or abuse there comes a point in the relationship where uncertainty about telling their partner about their past may start to creep in.
Being a survivor of sexual assault is, unfortunately, not uncommon. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men in the United States experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. So when is the right time to open up to your partner about your past, and how do you tell them?
You Choose When to Disclose Your Past to a New Romantic Partner
As a survivor of sexual assault or abuse, you are in control of when you share your story. A lot of survivors wonder when the “right” time to disclose their past is. But there is no “right” time. It depends on so many different factors. Center yourself around your own needs and share only when you’re ready, and not before. You may even consider discussing it first with a therapist, counselor, friend or support group.
Ask for What You Need
Even if your partner understands how common sexual assault & abuse is, they may be surprised and caught off guard. It can help if you know in advance what you’ll need to get through this discussion. You may need your partner to not ask questions, or to not touch you while you’re talking. When you are ready for the discussion, tell your partner directly what you need. Be honest and upfront, and ask for support when you need it.
Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Partner May Not Know How to Respond
There is a wide range of “normal” responses when a woman (or man) discloses past sexual abuse to a new romantic partner. Hearing sexual abuse disclosures affect both the person telling the story, as well as the person listening. Your partner may be silent for a while as they take the information and consider what to say. Sometimes the initial response is even to say things that seem insensitive. While you may be disappointed by how your partner responds initially, it’s important to know that it may not reflect how they feel later. Give them time to process it.
Opening up and discussing difficult, sensitive topics with your romantic partner is never easy. But these challenging times are often the ones that create milestones in your relationship. When you are able to have these sensitive conversations, it can ultimately bring the two of you closer than ever.
Need Professional Guidance?
Are you a sexual assault survivor and in need of guidance and counseling? As a licensed mental health professional, I can help. Call my office today and let’s set up a time to talk.
Individual Counseling Services
Do you want to work on your own self confidence or work plan out what you will say about your past to your partner? I can help. In addition to working with individuals surrounding relationship issues, I offer anxiety treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy for depression and career counseling.
Couples & Marriage Therapy in Cincinnati, OH
Have you told your partner about your sexual abuse history and feel misunderstood? Or are you just not feeling supported? At my Cincinnati, OH based counseling office, I specialize in working with couples. I am an experienced couples therapist and can help you and your partner better communicate with one another. Contact me today to set up a free consultation or intake appointment for you and your partner.