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Tips on Approaching Intimacy after Trauma

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Many people are battling to recover from past traumatic events. Commonly, these people will struggle with abandonment issues, jealousy, fear of not being good enough, and an overall mistrust in others. These lasting effects can make having intimate relationships with significant others or close friends very difficult, causing a lot of emotional turmoil; especially when the relationship is important to us. Sometimes, fixing these issues can be as simple as finding a few ways to cope when problems may arise.

Learning how to express your feelings

One of the main issues that people recovering from trauma encounter, is knowing how to say how they feel in an effective manner. Many times, a traumatic event will cause people to feel as if they aren’t heard; like their feelings are unimportant or invalid. This can motivate us to try to hide our feelings in order to avoid conflict, but in doing so we create a divide between our loved ones and ourselves. Often, trauma survivors will either lash out or shut down in response to a trigger that their significant others unintentionally caused. Instead of shutting down in fear of rejection, it is best to have a conversation about what our triggers may be and remember that in order for them to help they need to be able to understand what is causing you emotional distress.

Using “I” statements can be an effective way to express your feelings without causing conflict. “I” statements allow you to present your feelings as your own viewpoint, and not a factual representation of what may be the truth. Our feelings are completely based on the way we perceive what another person says or does, and sometimes our perceptions can be off, considering that people express themselves using different mindsets and thought processes; what I see as cold or mean, another person may see as assertive and to the point.

Practicing mindfulness & staying present

When dealing with trauma, some people may have a hard time with physical intimacy. When your relationship is lacking in physical intimacy, it can cause feelings of inadequacy on both ends of the relationship. This is common with sexual trauma survivors, and is never easy to overcome. People may deal with flashbacks and extreme anxiety, or just completely shutting down during any kind of physical affection. Because this can cause a strain on the relationship for both parties, it’s extremely important to find effective tools to break free from any adverse reaction to triggers.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as taking things slow and using effective communication. Working your way into complete physical intimacy overtime and telling your partner what your triggers are can build trust and help you create a strong bond. However, if you find yourself drifting away into another headspace during sex or having flashbacks, practicing mindfulness can be pivotal in your recovery. When being mindful, you are becoming aware of your present surroundings which can help alleviate your anxieties that stem from past experiences or fear of future negative encounters. Focusing on breath control can allow you to quiet the unwanted thoughts that keep creeping back into your head, thereby making it easier to enjoy your partner in the moment. All the while, be sure to keep communication open and let your partner know how you are feeling. While these tools may seem simple, they can help tremendously in creating the physical bond that many of us long for.

Going to therapy

When dealing with anxiety regarding intimacy, there are many reasons that therapy may be the most fruitful option. As a trauma survivor, it may be crucial to have a safe-space like individual therapy to discuss traumatic events and the anxieties related. Often times, survivors may feel responsible for whatever trauma was inflicted upon them. While this is never the case, it is important to discuss these feelings with a qualified therapist who can help you come to accept that you did not cause the negative experiences that you have gone through, and teach you that your trauma doesn’t have to define you.

Another way to promote intimacy in your relationship can be through couples therapy. If you have a partner who isn’t affected by the same intimacy issues, going to therapy together can provide some clarity and understanding to your partner that he or she may not have had before. Having both parties knowledgeable on each other’s intimacy anxiety is one of the most effective ways to overcome it. Your therapist may be able to provide healthy intimacy techniques specifically designed for you and your partner, which when combined with a healthy line of communication, could be the answer to your problems.



Author Bio: Kailey Fitzgerald is a writer in recovery from addiction and PTSD-related trauma. She is passionate about breaking stigmas regarding addiction and mental health, and spreading awareness.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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1 thoughts on “Tips on Approaching Intimacy after Trauma

  1. Emily Bennette says:

    This is some really good information about trauma and how to handle intimacy after all. It does seem like a good thing to get a professional to help you work through some issues that you could be having. That does seem like would help support your new relationship and help you make it a success. After all, sometimes you just need to talk to someone without getting judged and to get some great advice.

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