Keeping Boundaries When They Are Really Struggling...

I have had a survivor in my life for a little over a year now. We dated for around 7 months and things were going great until he started to go through a very dark time as he explained it to me. Around this time, he told me he couldn't be close to people (men and women) and he didn't trust himself to be in a committed relationship. He said it is too hard for him to be close to people and he doesn't believe it is possible for him to be in a committed relationship. He also disclosed to me his CSA around this time. He was sexually abused by both men and women from as young as 2 1/2 years old. This included a family member.

After we broke up, he continued to contact me every month or so to say he missed me and wanted to see me and then would quickly say he didn't think it was a good idea because he can't give me what I want, which is a committed relationship. He dated 2 other women in the time we were broken up (each for only about a month or so). He contacted me and he was the one who actually told me about these girls and he told me he just can't control himself when girls approach him. He said he really didn't want to be with them because if he could be with anyone it would be me but he has way too much baggage to be in any type of committed relationship so it wouldn't be fair to me. I was happy he was honest with me but hearing he was with other girls was very hurtful even though we were broken up at the time. I am also not sure why he contacted me when he was seeing another girl even if it was just something casual. About 4 months ago he told me he was going back home to start his healing and get back into therapy. He said he was going to make things right.

I never heard from him while he was gone, he was MIA for over 3 months. I recently heard from him and he is back in therapy but he really isn't doing well. He said he found a new therapist he really likes and is going 2 times a week now. He told me he couldn't stand being in his home town and was really struggling so he only stayed a month and started traveling. He traveled all over for a little over a month or so before returning here. He said he has been living out of his car for the last few weeks and just staying with friends here and there, and plans to stay here for maybe a month before leaving to travel again. He said he has no real plans or place to live so figures he would just bounce around. He also told me he doesn't think it will ever be possible for him to be in any type of relationship with someone and he is trying to finally accept this. I was happy to hear he is back in therapy and doing it 2 times a week but he seems more depressed and in a bad place than I have ever seen him and he seems to have just given up on everything, which is hard to watch him do. I asked why he doesn't stay with his friends and he said he doesn't want to burden anyone. He said he will stay with friends here and there but never longer than 1 day at a time. He is happy to be living out of his car...

***Trigger alert****
During our talk, he also said he wants to tell me something but I have to promise not to ask any questions because it happened to him only a few weeks ago and he is not ready to talk about it yet. With that, he told me he was drugged and abused recently. He said he felt completely helpless and couldn't move or fight for himself. He wouldn't tell me anything more but this just broke my heart given everything he has already been through. He said he just isn't ready to really talk about it with anyone yet as it is too fresh. I said I understood and I am so sorry this happened to him. I let him know if he is ever ready to talk about it, I will always be here to listen.

However, I am continuing to keep my distance and keeping boundaries with him, I told him it isn't a good idea for us to meet up while he is back. He agreed and said he wants to see me really bad but is also afraid of hurting me even more than he already has over the last year. I told him if we are going to be friends, we can't sleep together. He still seems to have a hard time grasping the thought of us not sleeping together ever again but I told him cheating is a huge boundary for me and until he can get that under control, I can't see him. I will be there for him if he needs to talk but that is it. I know I am doing the right thing for myself but I just feel terrible about his situation. Am I handling this the right way? Any ideas on how I can support him best?
Others with more experience than I will chime in I'm sure, but I just want to say that you MUST take care of yourself first and foremost and stay within your comfort zone. You already know that you cannot solve his problems and have a clear idea if what your boundaries are. That is really important. Since you are asking yourself how to be his friend and support him, you are already acting like a good friend. Putting yourself in a position to be hurt by him won't help either of you.

Just my opinion.


If I could relate to him, I'd say he has a bad habit of throwing himself out into dangers . He will reach some devastating lows and come out of it, start getting better and once he is balancing back out to being healthier, back to the same mistakes.

He wants to commit to a grounded committed relationship and is being honest about that much, also admitting his cycle of mistakes and doesn't want to hurt you the ways he lets himself hurt.

He was recently drugged and abused, I've gone through this and it continues to devastate me . On days when life is calm and comfortable. When my wife is close to my emotions. When I feel safe, the stuff that deeply bothers me comes out, and it really unfair to my spouse to not get the affection from me she deserves because I have to filter out the rest of my life and there is no release for my pain..

I mean, it's rewarding to see how loyal I am to our relationship, and he would also benefit with the growth and development that comes with a long term relationship.

He is happy being out on the streets floating around in his car, I lived the same way before I moved in with my wife, wife and I were only friends for a long time before we started a relationship . We made sure to always discuss life choices and plan major events like marriage and children.

We practice honesty and growing together. Being accountable for myself and facing challenges head on has taken me very far. I still have immense struggles and feel debilitated by my abuse in so many ways I can not see hope to overcome yet in my life.. I am clinging to what I have going for me and always putting the next forward to do the right thing. I depend on my spouse for foundation and she depends on me also, so I feel some purpose, but I also feel overwhelming stress if I will ruin our relationship. It's about trust and compassion, she has struggles too and I'm there for her. Handle my own stuff most the time, but she can shoulder my personal burdens with me when need be.

When I notice myself vulnerable and weak to make a mistake, I try and bite that urge and do just the opposite. Stabilize myself and get back on track..

He may or may not be able to do this on his own, some folks spend their whole life in a vicious cycle of making life harder on themselves, I'm no exception..

Take his word for what he shared with you, he's being tender and honest letting you know his weaknesses but he is likely being co-dependant (not unhealthy) but you are doing right by not enabling him too much. You set goals for yourself and he can respect that.

You set good boundaries, should voice your concern for his health. Such as his many sexual partners is risk of STD and sadly he is probably too trusting of strangers and can lead to situations like the drug and rape. I've been there too... strangers are a vice because we don't have to make sense of ourselves or what we are doing, just be absent of expectations really. Usually strangers don't care if they have their own motive and we can be what others want and get what we want too, but it's hard to say what that want is, it's buried under shame guilt confusion and insecurities. I often would hang around strangers and just listen to them talk about whatever because I didn't have anything going on for myself, I was so dislocated and numb that I got.myself into a lot of bad situations.

The best solution for him to prevent future abuse is for him to find a stable home and build a routine in his daily life and minimize the chances of turning back to bad habits each time he gets too comfortable.
Therapy is a good start but he's the one who will decide whether he is going to build or destroy , we each can wield a hammer and choose to be constructive and destructive in everything we deal with.
It took me a very long time to stop throwing myself into harms way, and I still struggle, but I have something that I dare not jeopardize, and that is my future. A future where my wife and children turn to me for reassurance and safety. I will be here for as long as I can and protect and provide for them the best I can, even when I fail at it, it is the goal I have in my life. I didn't start out with this goal, I built it with my partner, over time.

You can try and help him see himself in a healthy strong future but you can't live his life for him or make his choices for him... Something to keep in mind is that there are a lot of people out there just waiting for an opportunity to sexually abuse someone else, and he himself is likely to feel a mysterious urge to run from safety and back into familiar danger. Being too safe is confusing for me, and I still have to tiptoe around my wife because if we're being honest here.... What you are looking for in a relationship with a guy, is not ,what he is hiding from you, and it hurts to keep our secrets secret. His sexual abuse will always weigh on his mind and heart, no matter how good life gets. It's worth making life better, but it isn't always so simple.

Deeply sorry you are both having to figure this stuff out like this... It's not what we imagine life is supposed to be like. Take care, I hope this made at least some sense, I'm always available for conversation if need be, Johnathan.


I think you are handling it very well. You know what you need and what you want and what would be unhealthy for you, and you communicated your boundaries in a clear and straightforward way so there is no misunderstanding. FWIW I think your boundaries are totally reasonable and very healthy. Not that you need anyone else's approval or permission to feel the way you do. Now stick to it! That is the hard part, or it can be for some of us. My survivor and I have made similar agreements in the past and neither of us has really been able to carry them out. We always end up having sex, lol. He has similar issues where he just can't commit to being a "real couple" . At least he's being honest and I'm not under any illusions and I'm also not in a place where I'm getting my hopes up and getting hurt over and I have grown to really value my independence so I am not out there looking for a relationship anyway. We are in a place where the sort of gray-area situation works for us but I think if I were younger and still wanting a family etc, that I would need to draw firm boundaries along the same line as you. Because you need to be free to move on, and not get entangled in a situation where you are giong to wind up frustrated and hurt.
@Induna , thank you, and I know in my heart I am doing the right thing for both of us. If I do not set this boundary, he will just keep hurting me, and I know when he hurts me, he feels even worse. It is a cycle that I cannot allow to continue. I am trying to be a good friend to him because I think that is really what he needs. He is not ready for a relationship and sex makes it too confusing for us both.

@.aseity , your insight has been invaluable and I'm sorry to hear of the things you have lived through. You seem to be on the right path, and given my experience with my survivor, I know how hard that is to do, so you should be very proud of yourself. I know the best thing for my survivor would be stability but he always pushes it away. He said he has a hard time accepting good things and doesn't feel worthy of anything good. He was doing really well and seemed happy the months we were together. He told me he was happy with me and I gave him everything he ever wanted but he wasn't happy with himself. He always tells me he knows if we were together and committed everything would be great and amazing but he just can't allow himself to do it.

It has been about 7 months now since we broke up. In that time I have just watched him spiral down and every month that goes by he seems to be in a worse spot. I haven't slept with him or even seen him in person for those 7 months. It has been very hard but I can't allow him to put me at risk for STDs and I know he is sleeping around since we broke up because he has told me. He even told me he is no longer going to date anyone and he will only have one night stands. So until this behavior stops, I can't see him. He has been very open and honest with me and I have tried very hard to not take his behavior personally. Although at times it can be difficult. Sometimes I can talk to him and he is his old self. Other times, he is extremely cold and distant towards me. It feels like 2 different people. All I can do is be there when he reaches out and needs to talk. I'm not sure there is really much more I can do at this point.


He told me he was happy with me and I gave him everything he ever wanted but he wasn't happy with himself. He always tells me he knows if we were together and committed everything would be great and amazing but he just can't allow himself to do it.

Sometimes I can talk to him and he is his old self. Other times, he is extremely cold and distant towards me. It feels like 2 different people. All I can do is be there when he reaches out and needs to talk. I'm not sure there is really much more I can do at this point.
This applies to me as well. It was my wife who suggested to me I need to find someone else to talk to about my issues because it doesn't blend into our relationship very well, so I've been practicing how to filter out .
It's like it's impossible to have a terrible life and a wonderful life at the same time. We often decide to feel one way or the other, not meaning to be negligent in regards to acknowledge how resilient we are for overcoming our past, and strive for continuous growth and development. It's exhausting, not just him or me or you but basically everyone. Life's ups and downs can bring people together and drive them apart. Understand your own heart and accept that you are a compassionate individual and at the end of the day it will be your own feelings you have to feel. It's good to learn from each other as much as we can. Maybe you two have some chemistry and want to have a future, maybe it's a pipedream, we can only do as much as we can and live with that. I wouldn't tell you flat out to give up on him, but if it comes down to it, you can lose someone or lose yourself so it's kind of back to the beginning ideals that it is hard to balance both the really bad stuff and the really good stuff.

Every moment just listen to your heart and see that what's right is right. We can hope that he finds a clear path to better days but no one is going to hand him a trophy life, he's gotta make it happen with his own 2 hands and with support along the way. Wishing the best for you and it is very sad to understand that we are all unaware of how much a person can suffer growing up and then "fake it to make it" , while actually "making it" they can't shake the "faking it" aspect and bounce around.