Couples in which one partner was severely abused often face a common but complex array of issues and threats to their relationship. Couples therapy can be a way in which the twists and turns of the healing process can be managed. It can lay the groundwork for an even richer, more deeply loving and meaningful relationship moving forward.
While every couple faces challenges of trust, understanding, connection, intimacy (into-me-see), and sexual replays of the past, couples in which one or both have been severely abused often confront these issues at much higher levels of intensity. I have worked with many couples that wanted to come to terms with and gently help one another heal from past abuse and trauma.
Couples that include a survivor of abuse and trauma often confront numerous issues in their relationship:
- A greater number and complexity of issues at any one time.
- Heightened confusion and frustration.
- Boundaries (I am me; you are you) concerns.
- Intense power struggles related to a high degree of safety concerns.
- Dissociation (a natural defense against intense emotions that causes large gaps in memory and awareness leading to distrust and often a sense of betrayal in the relationship).
- More difficulty with sexual issues (more pronounced and complex) flashbacks, deep fears, lack of clarity about basis for low libido, body memory, reactive performance issues in PARTNER, surprise is not welcomed!
- Survivors are often dissatisfied with the relationship, even if they are doing well.
- Social isolation (keeping the secret, they won’t understand, fear of feelings being revealed).
- Vicarious traumatization of PARTNER (the pain in the relationship, in itself, may be traumatizing to the partner.