Triggers

TKingger

Registrant
My finace was sexually abused for about 4 years as a young boy. He has triggers from time to time Most recently, I was rubbing his hand while watching tv and it triggered him. He kept it inside, but told me about it the next morning. I'm always caring and compassionate towards him and listen intently. We discussed it briefly before work that morning, but time was limited. I brought it up after work that day and he was quite upset (not at me), but in general. He felt that telling me in the morning was enough and there was no reason to discuss it further. I understand why he would feel this way. There are two of us in this relationship and I feel my feelings and ability to process what happened matters too, so if I need to discuss it further to be able to move forward, I feel that should be okay. Has anyone experienced this? Its not as thought my fiance thinks my feeling do not matter. I believe he simply wants to have to think about what happened to him as little as possible. How do spouses of victims try to balance being there for their spouse and balancing their own feelings and needs in a situation?
 
I am sorry that you are going through this. Last year when I was in the midst of talking about my abuse, my wife asked me to talk to her about choosing a campground for our next camping adventure. I looked at her and said I couldn't do it. I knew if I did that small thing I was going to loose it. I didn't have the margin to answer a simple question.

Your needs to matter. Under normal circumstances your desire to process what happened is reasonable. The challenge is that it is tied to perhaps the most shameful, hurtful experience of his life. I cannot possibly convey how terrified I was to stop and deal with my abuse. It felt like a blackhole that would destroy me if I faced it. So even talking about an incident between you and he may get too close to that.

You have needs and your needs matter. I guess the question is where you take your needs. It sounds like your husband may not be able right now to help you as you also deal with the trauma of his abuse. My wife joined an online forum for support as I went through my healing and also got her own counselor. She found both of those helpful.

I am sorry that you are experiencing the shockwaves of his abuse.
 

ODAT

Registrant
I am sorry that you are going through this. Last year when I was in the midst of talking about my abuse, my wife asked me to talk to her about choosing a campground for our next camping adventure. I looked at her and said I couldn't do it. I knew if I did that small thing I was going to loose it. I didn't have the margin to answer a simple question.

Your needs to matter. Under normal circumstances your desire to process what happened is reasonable. The challenge is that it is tied to perhaps the most shameful, hurtful experience of his life. I cannot possibly convey how terrified I was to stop and deal with my abuse. It felt like a blackhole that would destroy me if I faced it. So even talking about an incident between you and he may get too close to that.

You have needs and your needs matter. I guess the question is where you take your needs. It sounds like your husband may not be able right now to help you as you also deal with the trauma of his abuse. My wife joined an online forum for support as I went through my healing and also got her own counselor. She found both of those helpful.

I am sorry that you are experiencing the shockwaves of his abuse.
Beloved Son, can you tell me which forum your wife joined? Mine just started in a meeting for people who are with sex addicts but I’m not sure that’s the best place for hervas my sex addictions were related to the trauma of my abuse. I have not been with anyone set we met almost 20 years ago…
 

TKingger

Registrant
I am sorry that you are going through this. Last year when I was in the midst of talking about my abuse, my wife asked me to talk to her about choosing a campground for our next camping adventure. I looked at her and said I couldn't do it. I knew if I did that small thing I was going to loose it. I didn't have the margin to answer a simple question.

Your needs to matter. Under normal circumstances your desire to process what happened is reasonable. The challenge is that it is tied to perhaps the most shameful, hurtful experience of his life. I cannot possibly convey how terrified I was to stop and deal with my abuse. It felt like a blackhole that would destroy me if I faced it. So even talking about an incident between you and he may get too close to that.

You have needs and your needs matter. I guess the question is where you take your needs. It sounds like your husband may not be able right now to help you as you also deal with the trauma of his abuse. My wife joined an online forum for support as I went through my healing and also got her own counselor. She found both of those helpful.

I am sorry that you are experiencing the shockwaves of his abuse.
Thank you for your comments/reply. I am so sorry for what happened to you and you're so brave for sharing it with others to help them. Please do not be sorry. My heart breaks for my finace whenever he has a trigger or bad dreams etc. I was abused as a child as well. It was not to the extent at all of my finace. I do understand to a certain level, however I do not experience triggers etc like he does. His childhood was stolen away from him. I simply want to find a healthy way that I can be there for him and we are able to both process and more forward together as a team. I feel completely useless and helpless when he experiences triggers, bad dreams, and all the backlash of his trauma. I listen, I ask him what he needs from me, I ask if its okay to touch him or hold his hand or hug him before making any moves. I want to be there for him always and forever. I guess I struggle with where my level of "matter" is in it all. I feel my finace feels helpless as well and feels terrible that his past hurts or has the potential to hurt our relationship. Do you get those feelings? What do you wish your wife would do in those instances? Reassurance of some form? It seems as thought he wants to sweep it under the rug sometimes when I need to talk about it in order to move forward. It is never an argument, however he does get upset at times simply because he doesnt want to think about it.
 
First off, I will state the obvious, it sucks that you and your fiancé and me and my wife have had to deal with this sh*t. It isn't fair but it is the journey we find ourselves on.

Every relationship is different. To be candid, my wife put absolutely no pressure on me for two years to talk about it or to support her as she dealt with it. She is in a 12-step program and has a sponsor who has become a good mentor/friend. I gave her permissions to share with her as my wife needed to. And she also got counseling. I was so fragile as I talked about the abuse with my counselor I just don't think I could have handled my pain and tried to help her with hers. And it was hard on my wife. I hadn't cried in decades and made up for lost time. Many times my wife held me as I had a panic attack that had my muscles contract me into the fetal position and then I would sob. It would pass then 5 minutes later happen again and she would hold me. One time as she held me I said, "I want to go back to him", "I want him to abuse me again". I can't even imagine how hard that was for her to hear.

Your fiancé sounds like a good guy. That he isn't able to support you or talk to you the way you need doesn't mean that you don't matter. It just means that he isn't able to talk to you or give you the support you need. One way to think about it might be that your fiancé has received a traumatic emotional injury that is keeping him from providing the emotional support you need. If he had received a physical traumatic injury and unable support you physically, perhaps you wouldn't come to him and ask him to support you physically because you would know that he simply wouldn't be able to. In the same way, I am guessing the emotional traumatic injury he has received simply makes it so he cannot provide the emotional support you need.

My gentle encouragement to you is to give him space and don't bring your need to process to him. He may not have the capacity to handle his pain and yours. If you continue to bring your need to process to him, he will receive it as pressure to provide something he is not able to provide. And I suspect you will continue to be frustrated.

Instead, perhaps a girlfriend or counselor could walk with you and help you process until he is able to support you the way you both want.
 
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JeremyG

Registrant
My finace was sexually abused for about 4 years as a young boy. He has triggers from time to time Most recently, I was rubbing his hand while watching tv and it triggered him. He kept it inside, but told me about it the next morning. I'm always caring and compassionate towards him and listen intently. We discussed it briefly before work that morning, but time was limited. I brought it up after work that day and he was quite upset (not at me), but in general. He felt that telling me in the morning was enough and there was no reason to discuss it further. I understand why he would feel this way. There are two of us in this relationship and I feel my feelings and ability to process what happened matters too, so if I need to discuss it further to be able to move forward, I feel that should be okay. Has anyone experienced this? Its not as thought my fiance thinks my feeling do not matter. I believe he simply wants to have to think about what happened to him as little as possible. How do spouses of victims try to balance being there for their spouse and balancing their own feelings and needs in a situation?
Like others, I'm so sorry you have this burden. My husband has it now also. And it's very difficult for him; so, I truly feel your confusion. Seeing your post here, I know that your fiance is lucky to have you. What I can say from my position is: I'm just now, after 1.5 years of CSA therapy, starting to deal with feeling my way emotionally through my triggers. In the past decades, I responded to them intellectually which made things "easier" -- as intellectualizing matters kept my pain at a distance. Now, I sometimes want to run from them and sometimes want to explore them a bit. Sometimes I'll raise the topic with my husband and then decide mid-sentence: Nah, I'd rather just stop here. I know it's hard on him. And he one night didn't handle things too well, which made me feel lonely and isolated. And angry. The next morning, he simply said: I wasn't at my best, can I just ask for a do-over? I just hugged him. It's all I needed to hear. I'm certain your fiance wants to be there for you. At the same time, right now, I'm also certain that he's struggling inside to make it out of the darkness and through to the light. For a while, this all might be for you and my husband live swerving behind a drunk driver. Sometimes I want to talk, sometimes I want to run. Sometimes I want a hug and ask for it. Sometimes I want one but won't ask. I'm so sorry it's hard on you and my husband, TKingger. Your well being is obviously critically important. Perhaps posting here and seeking the help of a specialist who helps spouses and significant others of CSA victims would help. I wish you and him well.
 

TKingger

Registrant
First off, I will state the obvious, it sucks that you and your fiancé and me and my wife have had to deal with this sh*t. It isn't fair but it is the journey we find ourselves on.

Every relationship is different. To be candid, my wife put absolutely no pressure on me for two years to talk about it or to support her as she dealt with it. She is in a 12-step program and has a sponsor who has become a good mentor/friend. I gave her permissions to share with her as my wife needed to. And she also got counseling. I was so fragile as I talked about the abuse with my counselor I just don't think I could have handled my pain and tried to help her with hers. And it was hard on my wife. I hadn't cried in decades and made up for lost time. Many times my wife held me as I had a panic attack that had my muscles contract me into the fetal position and then I would sob. It would pass then 5 minutes later happen again and she would hold me. One time as she held me I said, "I want to go back to him", "I want him to abuse me again". I can't even imagine how hard that was for her to hear.

Your fiancé sounds like a good guy. That he isn't able to support you or talk to you the way you need doesn't mean that you don't matter. It just means that he isn't able to talk to you or give you the support you need. One way to think about it might be that your fiancé has received a traumatic emotional injury that is keeping him from providing the emotional support you need. If he had received a physical traumatic injury and unable support you physically, perhaps you wouldn't come to him and ask him to support you physically because you would know that he simply wouldn't be able to. In the same way, I am guessing the emotional traumatic injury he has received simply makes it so he cannot provide the emotional support you need.

My gentle encouragement to you is to give him space and don't bring your need to process to him. He may not have the capacity to handle his pain and yours. If you continue to bring your need to process to him, he will receive it as pressure to provide something he is not able to provide. And I suspect you will continue to be frustrated.

Instead, perhaps a girlfriend or counselor could walk with you and help you process until he is able to support you the way you both want.
Agreed, it is not fair. As you say, we are here now and must work our way through this.

Sounds like you have a very supportive wife. She seems to be going the extra mile for you and for herself. Thats very encouraging and I'm glad you both are reaching out for what you need. Sounds like I can learn a lot from her.

My finance is an amazing man. The strongest man I know and I feel so very grateful every day that I'm going through life with him as my side. Its true, he may not have the ability to be there for me. I've not thought of it from that angle. Again, not fair, but possibly the absolute truth. I have reached out to this forum to gain support for myself and to also learn how to be there for him even more so than now. I do not wish to put pressure of any kind on him. I want to be his pillar and not an anchor.

I thank you for your insights. Its difficult to navigate through this. I find this forum very helpful.
 

TKingger

Registrant
Like others, I'm so sorry you have this burden. My husband has it now also. And it's very difficult for him; so, I truly feel your confusion. Seeing your post here, I know that your fiance is lucky to have you. What I can say from my position is: I'm just now, after 1.5 years of CSA therapy, starting to deal with feeling my way emotionally through my triggers. In the past decades, I responded to them intellectually which made things "easier" -- as intellectualizing matters kept my pain at a distance. Now, I sometimes want to run from them and sometimes want to explore them a bit. Sometimes I'll raise the topic with my husband and then decide mid-sentence: Nah, I'd rather just stop here. I know it's hard on him. And he one night didn't handle things too well, which made me feel lonely and isolated. And angry. The next morning, he simply said: I wasn't at my best, can I just ask for a do-over? I just hugged him. It's all I needed to hear. I'm certain your fiance wants to be there for you. At the same time, right now, I'm also certain that he's struggling inside to make it out of the darkness and through to the light. For a while, this all might be for you and my husband live swerving behind a drunk driver. Sometimes I want to talk, sometimes I want to run. Sometimes I want a hug and ask for it. Sometimes I want one but won't ask. I'm so sorry it's hard on you and my husband, TKingger. Your well being is obviously critically important. Perhaps posting here and seeking the help of a specialist who helps spouses and significant others of CSA victims would help. I wish you and him well.
I appreciate that. I would wish my finance pain away in a millisecond. I cannot so I want to be there for him best I can. Plus keep my own mind healthy in the process. I'm sure there is a lot of push and pull. I can see when my finace is willing to talk and feels he can, and other times he shuts down. I'm certain he wants to be there for me too and feels all this isnt fair for either of us. Nor is is fair for you or your husband. It doesnt sometimes does feel like trying to follow behind a swerving drunk driver. Very good analogy! We are all only human and none of us are at our best always. I'm glad you and your husband see that and can move forward. These are the things I need to hear. Knowing there is always love and hope and ways to move ahead together. Its not a smooth ride but I wouldnt want to ride with anyone else.
 

blankspace

Registrant
Your comment popped up on top of the list and I decided to jump in and have a read, maybe my own experiences can help you understand.

CONTEXT: I was abused over multiple periods in my life, first as a young child by family members and then as a teenager by someone I thought was my best friend. It's the one in my early teens that I get the most affected from. I have triggers that catch me nearly daily, slowly I'm working on them so that I can handle them and they won't affect me anymore but it's taking time. Triggers can be the weirdest things and depend on the thought of the mind, for example, I recently saw a joke post about bondage the position they were in the joke picture really triggered me.

This started making me have flashbacks of being abused by the person and from there my mind spiralled out of control from that to no one would ever believe me if it ever came out, no one would believe I was the victim because I'm a big guy and they where smaller, so it must have been my fault, so im the criminal and I'll go to jail where il be abused all over again and no one will ever believe me. Now I know this is only my mind playing tricks on me as it does with many other survivors in similar ways, but it can be tormenting to go through. Lucky enough I hide it extremely well, I have learned to, although there are days it comes through people can tell somethings not right, but what it is. I don't talk to many about it outside of this community.

It's very possible that your partner could be going through a similar mindset where it's one thing spiralling from the other to the other until your down a rabbit hole of thoughts not related to you, making up the worst possible scenarios in their head. When this happens it's noticeable in a way, if you watch you will see emotions change, reactions to what people do around them will change, it's something no one can hide I've been told, it's just something that's there.

When this happens these are the things that help me
  1. just be alone. Just get space to try to get me back on the path, nothing bad against anyone I am around I just need less noise
  2. Distraction. For me, its goofy kids shows or comedies that help me numb my brain and get distracted
  3. Be Made feel safe. I don't have someone in my life right now that can hold me, so I wrap myself in my blanket tightly to feel like being held
  4. Food... not the best for me, it why im extremely overweight right now because of this, comfort food helps me relax
  5. video games, basically escaping my mind and re-focusing helps me
  6. Just get away, getting up no matter the time of the day or night when it kicks me, just go do something like go outside look at the starts or go to a takeaway get something small and listen to music
Those are the main ones that really help me. I hope this gives you some ideas on ways to help him, sorry you both are going through this, I wouldn't wish the mental torment we survivors go through daily on my worst enemy. And know, it's not that he doesn't care about your feelings it's just a self-preservation thing that our minds go through where we look off emotions to stop us from feeling anything. I did it with my ex-girlfriend and it drove her crazy that I would shut down emotional and she would start a fight with me that made me lock down further. She had an idea something happened but not the details of what happened and what I go through with it.

Just know, if he is letting you close like he is, he cares about you more than anything else and you bring him comfort and solace, he just needs to deal in his own way. Hope this wall of text helps in some way
 

TKingger

Registrant
Your comment popped up on top of the list and I decided to jump in and have a read, maybe my own experiences can help you understand.

CONTEXT: I was abused over multiple periods in my life, first as a young child by family members and then as a teenager by someone I thought was my best friend. It's the one in my early teens that I get the most affected from. I have triggers that catch me nearly daily, slowly I'm working on them so that I can handle them and they won't affect me anymore but it's taking time. Triggers can be the weirdest things and depend on the thought of the mind, for example, I recently saw a joke post about bondage the position they were in the joke picture really triggered me.

This started making me have flashbacks of being abused by the person and from there my mind spiralled out of control from that to no one would ever believe me if it ever came out, no one would believe I was the victim because I'm a big guy and they where smaller, so it must have been my fault, so im the criminal and I'll go to jail where il be abused all over again and no one will ever believe me. Now I know this is only my mind playing tricks on me as it does with many other survivors in similar ways, but it can be tormenting to go through. Lucky enough I hide it extremely well, I have learned to, although there are days it comes through people can tell somethings not right, but what it is. I don't talk to many about it outside of this community.

It's very possible that your partner could be going through a similar mindset where it's one thing spiralling from the other to the other until your down a rabbit hole of thoughts not related to you, making up the worst possible scenarios in their head. When this happens it's noticeable in a way, if you watch you will see emotions change, reactions to what people do around them will change, it's something no one can hide I've been told, it's just something that's there.

When this happens these are the things that help me
  1. just be alone. Just get space to try to get me back on the path, nothing bad against anyone I am around I just need less noise
  2. Distraction. For me, its goofy kids shows or comedies that help me numb my brain and get distracted
  3. Be Made feel safe. I don't have someone in my life right now that can hold me, so I wrap myself in my blanket tightly to feel like being held
  4. Food... not the best for me, it why im extremely overweight right now because of this, comfort food helps me relax
  5. video games, basically escaping my mind and re-focusing helps me
  6. Just get away, getting up no matter the time of the day or night when it kicks me, just go do something like go outside look at the starts or go to a takeaway get something small and listen to music
Those are the main ones that really help me. I hope this gives you some ideas on ways to help him, sorry you both are going through this, I wouldn't wish the mental torment we survivors go through daily on my worst enemy. And know, it's not that he doesn't care about your feelings it's just a self-preservation thing that our minds go through where we look off emotions to stop us from feeling anything. I did it with my ex-girlfriend and it drove her crazy that I would shut down emotional and she would start a fight with me that made me lock down further. She had an idea something happened but not the details of what happened and what I go through with it.

Just know, if he is letting you close like he is, he cares about you more than anything else and you bring him comfort and solace, he just needs to deal in his own way. Hope this wall of text helps in some way
Hi! Thank you so much for sharing your story and experiences with me. This forum has helped me a lot with perspective and understanding. I'm sorry for what happened to you and that it is carried with you. Be kind to yourself. Your comments about self preservation make perfectly good sense. It is difficult to feel like you're doing something wrong when you accidently trigger them or they maybe push you away to deal with their feelings, but this helps me understand why. My finance is a very good man and a very hurt little boy. My heart aches for him. I do believe he does trust me and I do bring him some level of comfort. I just wish I could offer more to him. Perhaps I can in time. Patience, love and understanding. Distraction is a big tool my finance uses. He used to use alcohol, fighting and womanizing. After much therapy, he no longer engages in any of those behaviors. I do really appreciate you responding to my post. It means a lot and it is very helpful. Be kind to yourself. You're a brave person! Thank you.
 

blankspace

Registrant
I really hope my input help, and im slowly learning to become more open about my abuse and not letting what that person did to me hold me back, it can be tough nearly every day can be a struggle between getting triggered or letting it control my life... If you have any questions I'm more than happy to help with answers any way I can, it helps me to talk about things with people who understand what I'm going through
 

TKingger

Registrant
Yes, very helpful! I'm happy to here that. One day at a time. Onward and upward. Easier said than done obviously. My finace and I went to dinner Saturday night and I told him about joining this forum. The timing was right. He was very happy that I was making such an effort and looking for support for myself. He agreed with what you had said, that when he is triggered and just trying to close that box, he does not have the capacity to be there for me in that moment. You were right on the money. He opened up quite a bit at dinner. I think he felt safe to do so. He explained that when he was young, most boys were getting sexually curious about girls, but for him, it was all a trigger. Sex has a very different meaning for him. I'm not 100% what at this point and perhaps he doesnt even know. We have a healthy sex life, but its a struggle for him to be in the mood. Do you have those experieces?
 

blankspace

Registrant
Amazing to hear you two are talking, its the biggest step of recovery is just talking about it, well for me it was anyway

Sex is something im still trying to get comfortable with since coming to terms with what happened when I was younger and it had not really hit me that it had happened I had it bottled up and just kinda went with things, but it wasn't fixing the issue like I thought it was. Until one day all the protective barriers I put up collapsed, I had a breakdown over it while talking to a friend I was gaming with online after someone made a joke that triggered me and he said what it was. I just could not do anything with anyone unless I was forcing myself to while trying to just fit in with the friend's group I was slowly pulling back from a hermit state or making up lies to friends that I had, to maintain the image and not be probed as to why I wasn't going out to hook up with everyone I could like them where. Even then I was having breakdowns after feeling with flashbacks and all-around bad thoughts. And it wasn't just sexually but even having someone touch me on the shoulder or back would spike fear and id nearly break down over it.

Unforuntantly this ruined one amazing relationship for me, the girl I had met was amazing, she had an idea something happened just not what had happened. She was very sexual and I would force myself to be sexual to make her happy, but once it came to sex I couldn't do it, I made excuses every time like I didn't want her to get pregnant, or I have no condoms, or stuff just to brush it off. At the time I still was very much still going through the early stages of trauma since the barriers came down. she went to a party with her friends got drunk and ended up having sex with a guy then blamed it on me not having sex with her. We broke up and tried to get together again, and when I wouldn't have sex again because I was still too broken, We had a fight over something stupid she left and I never saw her again. Last I see she is engaged to the guy she cheated on me with.

For a long time since I was very weird in myself about sex after that, it was more like a transactional thing just to keep the hormones at bay once every few months or just do texting with someone, where I would go meet up with someone who has one night stand then spend the next week after causing in alone in a dark room dealing with a mixture of flashbacks, anger and more. Again still making up stories of going out on dates, to my online friends to try and just maintain the strong, confident image my friend has of me, but I mainly think its for me to be alone to deal with flashbacks and stuff because if they knew I was upset they would ask then I would have to talk about it, and I never want them to know I'm broken on the inside, because to them I think I'm the rock they lean on when they're going through stuff, and I like being able to help them.

Honestly, it has taken me a long time to feel like I am comfortable to be able to get back to being physical with someone, a lot of self-development books, and self-hypnosis in truth and I'm still not even sure I am ready. I guess I will see when I find someone I can feel safe and comfortable with.
 

TKingger

Registrant
Thank you for sharing your experience. I had a very similar experience from my ex boyfriend. He never admitted any sexual abuse to me, but was physically abused and verbally abused as a child. We lived together for 7 years and he would not share a bed. Made every excuse in the book from skin parasites to calling me names for wanting to be close to him. I wonder if this is why he kept that physical distance between us. Water under the bridge at this point, but it makes one think.

You're very brave to keep pushing forward as you are and facing things head on. Feeling safe and comfortable seems to be a common theme (as it should). My fiance seems to feel safe and comfortable with me and it keeps getting better as time goes on. He trusted me early on, but I know that still meant he didnt fully trust me. Not because of me, but of what happened to him. Whenever he has a trigger, that set things back a bit and we are both a little on eggshells for a few days afterwards. We communicate well, but it still takes time for the trigger to go away and get "back to normal."

I guess all we can do is one day at a time. (not that more than that is an option), but just keep pushing forward and not letting the things we cant or couldnt control, determine out happiness and our future.
 

WG

Registrant
TKingger - You've received some insightful and very useful advice. To which I would add : locate a therapist you can discuss these things with. If not, you must have a girlfriend or two whom you trust and you can talk with. It's a hugely intimate topic yet all too human. If you're unable to locate a therapist, look for a forum for spouses of sex abuse survivors - they do exist.
If either of you are connected to a place of faith - church, mosque, synagogue, temple, etc., seek out the leader, priest, imam, shaman or whomever and ask if they have a connection to someone you could speak with on a regular basis. If you do decide or can locate a therapist, you must know that this is not "one and done". Just meeting sporadically here and there will be of little help. It has to be consistent, regular and in-depth discussions. Either with your husband or not. I would suggest not. You need the place to question, vent, talk and cry without his being there. Not that he doesn't matter but you won't feel as if you need to hold back or not discuss something for fear of triggering him, let him attend his own meeting alone and you attend yours. In time you can attend together but you need your space. Just like we need ours.
 
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