When to tell partner you were abused?


I’ve recently started seeing a girl. When is a good time to tell her about my history of abuse? We’ve been on 3 dates thus far and I had sex with her last night. I’ve got trouble with, emotional intimacy I guess. I feel like that part of me is dead. I don’t know when a good time to bring it up with her would be, also want to tell her about the effects it’s has on me.
I had been married 12 years when I told my wife. she felt deceived and as though I did not trust her because I waited so long. to be fair to me, I did not realize I had been abused until I had a major bout of depression and emotional breakdown, which broke the dam to all the repressed memories, so I couldn't really have told her something that I myself did not understand. she says that it would not have made any difference if she had known from the start, but we had a very rocky time while I was going through therapy and I have had problems with intimacy off and on (more often on than off!) for our entire marriage.

so my advice is to tell her as soon as possible. you don't want to both have a lot of time and emotions invested in a relationship that may not weather the storm. it is better to get it out there early on so you both know what you are dealing with.

that is my take on it.
I agree with Lee. If you feel like the relationship might be going somewhere, I would tell her. If you're comfortable with doing that.

When I met the woman who is now my wife, I told her as soon as I realized that I had strong feelings for her. I just put it all out there, all of it, in an email. I REALLY don't recommend doing that. In person would have been better, in a way that wouldn't have made her feel like she'd just had all of my stuff completely dumped on her. I was very lucky that she didn't run for the hills.

You may want to phrase it in more hopeful terms than feeling "emotionally dead" because the obvious question then is "Why should I be with you if you can't feel anything for me?" Because I'm assuming you do feel something for her, even a little bit, right?


I had the same experience as Lee. My wife thinks I was not being 'honest' about my feelings for her but in fact, I didn't know that abuse from 40 yrs ago existed until it finally sort of showed up in therapy.

I'm not sure what I would do, actually, if I were in a new relationship. I have major problems trusting, so I would probably not say anything, but also, that relationship would not go far.

That is a tough one, but I agree with the guys that talking about it would be important if you feel you can trust her and that you won't be re-traumatized by her responses. I applaud you for trying to be open about it with her. It's really really brave of you.

Keep thinking on it, buddy. We are here for you in all circumstances.



Very interesting question. I did not tell until over 25 years of marriage. Telling was a disaster for me. Nothing good came of it except I met someone who I was able to tell upfront. Why I often ask myself--was it because I was healing and looking to accept the past, was it because she made me feel safe when I never felt safe in the past, was it the compassionate and loving environment that I longed for without torment, was it because I was learning to love myself, was it because she was honest with me about her frailties, her family history and issues while my former I witnessed the physical abuse which was extreme of her cousin they deny--I did not tell because I feared having to tell of my abuse, was it because I no longer believed I would be physically and verbally attacked in my living quarters, was it because the child within had escaped and I lost control of myself. I really do not have the answer. I believe when I first told in the marriage we were in a very bad place to begin--some related to my silence on the abuse, some related to my fears and buried emotions related to the abuse, my dissociating to escape the past and then present, my medical episodes with syncope, some related to feeling abandoned and alone for years beginning at the time of my episodes with syncope, some related to a child who was allowed to control the house by abusing, stalking and spying and the gang mentality that evolved. It was a host of issues but much related to my sense of worthlessness related to the abuse.

I believe the survivor will know when the time is right. I believe if you feel comfortable and safe with the woman you are seeing, the sooner is better. There will be people who do not have the capacity or desire to help a survivor. That will be her decision.

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That will be her decision
This is a really good point, Kevin. To me it affirms that as a survivor, another person's decision to help/not help, be there/not be there is not about me as much as it is about them and what they can handle or what they want to handle.
My wife of 35 years filed divorce two years after I first told her. Many other reasons and fault a plenty but my “deceit and dishonesty in refusing to share such a vital fact” is still oft cited by her - a long with the fact she is convinced since the Perp was Male I must be gay.

My new lady of almost three years has known ALL of it for almost four years. It is so refreshing and peaceful to not wonder but know she chose me knowing of my past. Tell her sooner not later.
For me personally I told my now wife that I had been abused when we started talking about marriage. I was deliberately vague and left out most details to protect her. To this day after twenty some years of marriage she does not know most of it. When I started my current healing process she did learn some details but I've never fully shared my story. It's just too painful for me let alone how she would handle it.


Thanks for all the input guys. I’ll try to bring it up sometime in the near future. If she runs off because of it, then it’s probably for the best


This is just my opinion but the abuse happen to you and it is your right to tell who you want, when you want and if you want. I feel no obligation to share with anyone what happen to me. Not everything has to be shared but if you feel it does then that is ok too.
I think it would be best to tell her before things get to serious so she knows. Not like what I did I waited til I broke down and was waking in the night full on panic attacks. She demanded to know what was going on. I told her enough so she knew I was broken. To her credit she tried to help and got me into care.

Our marriage didn't last and I think it had to do with me not trying to tell her earlier that I had this troubles in my past. I never thought much about my past until my Neck let go and I could not work anymore. Everything started to come forward at that time and I was to confused to be able to talk about it so I guess I shut her out. I needed to isolate and did.

I think if I had told her before I broke down we may have had a chance.

take care


I believe it is an important part of the make up of our whole selves, and if the desire of a healthy relationship with another is to be met it is by both people bringing their whole selves to the table. I also believe that secrets are toxic, especially if it is the secret of your childhood violation.
I really really liked my partner when we met 20 yrs ago, I was still then so out of balance with my thoughts and feelings of a childhood filled with sexual abuse and carrying so much guilt and shame about it that I was sure it would scare my new friend off. I figured, well... better get this over with... so I told him on day 2, to no fanfare, no reproach, only just support and care. Granted at the time we were both naive to what having to deal with all of this baggage would look like over the years but we were willing and there was deep love there. I could not ever imagine keeping this part of myself away from a partner, can't fathom how that would or could work.
Do it... and if they run, they run, and if they do don't spend a single second trying to stop them at this early stage in relationship, just enjoy the moments of watching those future problems fade as they go.
My two bits


There is no should or good time I don't think. It's good that you want to deal with it. I consider having sex a serious matter so, I'd be thinking about telling her, but that's me. Right now I'd say it's you that's most important and how it's going to make you feel.


I waited 35 years because like others have said It wasn't until then that I realized what had happened to me.
Many years ago someone shared this with me but it still took me 35 years to tell my wife...

"What do I want from my wife? I would want to know that you are there for me. That no matter how horrible or how graphic the story, you are there. There can be no judgment or criticism. You can ask for clarification, but no discussion. This is my story I need to tell it. I need to feel safe. I need to know that you will never divulge anything that you hear. I will be scared, and I need to know you will keep me safe.”

This is exactly what my wife did and much MORE!

Heal well, Ted


My wife knew before we started dating. It was a good thing that she knew what she was getting in to. However, as our relationship developed we still had to work on the issues that my abuse brought into our relationship. Tell her when it is comfortable for you, but like the others, don't let the opportunity pass by. The sooner the better. Hopefully, she will support you. But also realize that you are not responsible for her reaction or behavior, she is.


Zorn at al,

Telling them sooner than later I think is important. I certainly do not think that having sex is a good reason for disclosure. But
I never thought sex was an indicator of a long term relationship. Once I was thinking of getting togther, living together, or considering marraige
then I would definitely disclose. My now exwife (we were married 25 yeaRS) did not understand. She was molested by her 13 year old cousin when she was 9. She lost her virginity in a date rape. (I think she was 20) she did not think this was a problem, so she just thought I should "get over it."

She never understood what she was getting into. Although I did the cooking and grocery shopping she always felt she was stuck with
the women's work When I got sober, she did not. She felt I did not make enough money, but I was responsible for the kids college, health
insurance, and more than 3/4 of the house etc. So it did not matter what our plans for a mutual effort to be part of the "cause" together..

Any way, that is what I think.

May the Lord Bless you and Keep you.
My wife of 35 years filed divorce two years after I first told her. Many other reasons and fault a plenty but my “deceit and dishonesty in refusing to share such a vital fact” is still oft cited by her - a long with the fact she is convinced since the Perp was Male I must be gay.
OMG, man, i am so sorry she is like this towards you. i know my reply is probably meaningless to you, and you lived with her for 35 years, and i am just a stranger, but she is wrong! one of human rights is a right to keep a secret, and becoming a spouse doesn't mean stopping being a human. Not to mention the fact i assume it took you long time to realize and even begin to go through the abuse history - i think she just plays victim here for some moral justification of her own problems.
I’ve recently started seeing a girl. When is a good time to tell her about my history of abuse? We’ve been on 3 dates thus far and I had sex with her last night.
i feel like i am saying something different than everybody else, but my two cents are: people often don't react well to the abuse stories, you have every right to keep your story to yourself and have good reasons to do so!

my opinion there are important questions to ask here (i mean something you can check yourself with, it's not that i am trying to invade your situation): why would you like to share it with her? is it for you or for her? how deep are your relations with this person, do you really got a feel of what she is like? do you feel it is getting serious? do you have experience of living together?
could it be a self-sabotage action? are you seeking acceptance as a abuse survivor or as a man from a woman?
i guess if you honestly ask youself those questions you might gain a better idea when you would really want to share your story. i hope it helps


I propose that it's important to keep in mind that there are many different ways to do any one thing -- in this case telling another of our CSA. I told my wife during our engagement. I didn't go into detail, rather, just told her I was sexually molested by a priest. This approach worked well for me, but it may not work well for someone else. I was connected to a counselor at that time in my life so I had the support if needed. And I think this is an important component of a plan when the decision is made to share one's CSA with a significant other, e.g. wife, partner, family members, etc. As we can never really know what the reaction will be to our revelation, it's important to have support lined up should the receiver of our story not respond well to the news. Whatever your decision, Zorn, be comfortable with it, go with it, and never regret the outcome. You are not responsible for how others react to your story.

One last thought: write down on paper a list of books, articles, web links, etc. that provide good information about how to respond to someone sharing their story of CSA, and then share that list with her. It'll help her understand that her role is an important one. Remember, ignorance by definition is the lack of knowledge. We are all ignorant from time to time.

Whatever you decide at this time, Zorn, is the right decision for you.

I've been married four times so I'm perhaps not a good person to offer advice on relationships... but I will. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread is the phrase I believe. I told my fourth wife EVERYTHING I then knew about my past before we moved from friendship to become lovers. Alas, I didn't uncover the sexual abuse for another three years and while she was supportive as I began that work, it eventually took a toll as I withdrew sexually and emotionally. We separated and divorced then after about a year reconciled well enough to resume our friendship which continued to deepen over the years to the point we considered ourselves life partners, though we hadn't resumed a sexual relationship. But things came apart when I reported to her one day that I was happy to have not used pornography for a number of months. She felt betrayed since she thought my use of pornography had ended years ago. So we went from partners to estrangement and now slowly back to friendship.

I guess the moral of the story is we can NEVER know how others will respond as they learn about our journey. My friend could be with the fact of my abuse, but not so comfortable with the reality this abuse led to sexual acting out that unsettled her. The abuse and the acting out are all part of the package, best as I can tell. I'm finding peace with it even as I stop indulging in those behaviors. I want healing not accommodation. Whether I can have a relationship or not is another matter.