“How do I get past my childhood trauma and enjoy my husband’s loving touch?” – Can’t Get In The Moment
My heart goes out to you, it really does. It is so challenging to not be able to enjoy sexual contact when you’ve got a body full of trauma triggers. I’ve found many people aren’t aware that sexual abuse or assault can leave the survivor with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD doesn’t only afflict war veterans – virtually anyone who has experienced any trauma at all can face PTSD symptoms. Mayo Clinic breaks down the symptoms very well.
PTSD works like this: let’s say you’re in a forest on a hike, you hear a few noises and when you turn around, you’re five feet from a bear. Terrified, you’ll no doubt book it as far away as you can, as quickly as you can. However, in the presence of such fear and the body’s response to it (fight, flight or freeze), your brain opens up to retain all the details of that event. Smells, sounds, things you saw, how your body felt – all that data is stored in the brain so the next time you’re hiking, you’ll be more aware of the bear’s presence and not have another run-in. PTSD stores those memories as “triggers,” and any of those smells or sounds can bring those memories back like you’re reliving it. Why? So next time, you don’t think it’s a good idea to buddy up to a bear again. The problem with PTSD, however, is that even after you know you’re safe, your triggers tell you you’re still in danger.
Childhood abuse is usually committed by someone close to the child, someone they trust. This can make intimacy in a healthy adult relationship challenging because intimacy itself can be a trigger. It can make it hard to allow yourself to feel vulnerable, to trust. And more specifically, it can make it very hard to enjoy consensual, loving sex with your wonderful partner who would never hurt you – because your body remembers everything, and the body doesn’t always know it’s safe.
CGITM, if you haven’t been to a sex therapist, you may want to look for one to help you manage the mental and emotional barriers you face. However, I’ll proceed with my advice under the assumption that you’ve already got support and guidance to deeper healing from other licensed healers in those fields.
Find your sexual blueprint.
Jaiya, a world-renowned sex and relationship expert and sexological bodyworker has an immense set of resources on what she calls your Core Erotic Blueprint. Broken down into profiles (Energetic, Sensual, Sexual, Kink and Shapeshifter), you can learn the way your body likes to receive pleasure – and make sure your partner’s speaking your body’s language. For example, if your blueprint is Sensual, you need to feel relaxed, comfortable and connected to your partner before you can even think about feeling sexually aroused. But if your partner’s blueprint is Sexual, all that ooey-gooey lovey stuff can seem like a waste of time – and therefore, he doesn’t spend as much time on it as you’d like. Once you both understand your own blueprints and how to communicate them with grace and compassion, your husband can start speaking your body’s language. When you’re both on the same page, there’s so much more room to feel safe to play and open up! (You can take Jaiya’s quiz to find out what your blueprint is – and get your husband to try it, too! If you want to really go deeper into how to communicate your own needs to each other, consider attending her Path to Passion event in 2015! I’ll be there, and if you tell her I sent you, you’ll get to attend for free!)
Play with non-sexual touch.
There seems to be a line at a certain age where we go from cuddling with our parents, relatives and even our friends…and then one day, that all sort of stops. At some point, it’s weird for your mom to kiss you goodbye. It’s weird to hold hands with your friends. But then we’re starving for touch. We all need it – babies who aren’t touched die without it, even when all their other physical needs are met – and as adults we still crave it in one way or another. So maybe you can make some space with your husband where one night, you’re going to play with non-sexual touch. This can involve massages, playing with your hair, scratching your back, cuddling – anything that doesn’t involve genitals or arousal zones. Get comfortable with this kind of touch and receiving his affection in it. This can help you get comfortable on knowing loving touch doesn’t have to be sexual or ask you to do something you’re not up for.
Play the “selfish lover” game.
How to play: one partner will be the giver while the other is the receiver. Agree on a time – could be five minutes, could be an hour. The receiver (let’s say that’s you) gets comfortable. If you want lights on/off, clothes on/off – it’s all up to you. For the time you’ve agreed upon, your only job is to ask for what you want. Your husband’s only job is to give you what you want, how you want it, so long as it’s something he’s comfortable doing. This can be very healing for survivors, because it puts them in the driver’s seat. You’re in control of how and when your body’s being touched, and if you don’t like it, you can ask for something else. Additionally, it helps reinforce that your requests (or demands, if you feel so bold) will be honored by your husband – and while you may logically know that, your body may need extra reminding. The beauty of being the sole receiver in this scenario is that in that moment, you don’t have to be worried about your husband’s pleasure. Accept that he’s enjoying giving you want you want, receive his enjoyment, and maybe you’ll allow yourself to drink in the love he’s giving you through his touch.
I’d also like to add: don’t ever agree to touch you don’t want, even if it’s to please your partner. Our bodies know when our hearts aren’t in it, and we should feel free to say no just as much as we say yes. If something doesn’t feel good, kindly mention it and ask for the touch you really want, the position you really want, or maybe a different activity altogether. Learning to speak up is a big part of healing and reclaiming our ability to receive pleasure after trauma.
I truly hope you’re able to try these tips and get more comfortable being touched in a way your body enjoys it. Touch itself is so healing – and sexual pleasure is a basic human right. You deserve to enjoy your husband’s touch!
Readers, if you have any other ideas on creating intimacy and enjoyment for trauma survivors, please share in the comments!