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TW: Childhood sexual abuse/cheating

I recently found out my partner cheated on me two years ago as a one time thing. 
We’ve been together nearly 4 years. Found out he was on a dating app after a year and a half of being together- he didn’t meet up with anyone but it was still painful. 
I broke up with him a few months ago as we were trying to figure out marriage and kids and things didn’t feel right. Got back together after talking for a bit, found out he’d slept with a few people while we were talking and in process of getting back together - another boundary clearly crossed as we’d discussed a Ross and Rachel scenario a few times and I had made it clear that it wasn’t okay. While we were definitely broken up, it wasn’t my business or concern. 
Had known for almost 3 years that something had happened in his childhood. After finding out he actually cheated (more recently, and then also recently found out about the woman from 2 years ago - information new to me for a month and then 2 weeks ago), he opened up about the abuse from childhood. 

Have done a bit of research and from what I can tell, there’s a few directions men go who’ve been sexually abused in childhood: inability to engage in sexual intimacy; ability to engage physical sex but not emotional connection at all; or a mix of both; and then lastly having dealt with impacts, to be free from burden and able to have healthy relationships. 
His case it seems is to mask his self from life by engaging in physical sex and with me it got too real and he was trying to hide. 
I am feeling all over the place and hurt and angry, but also trying to understand and forgive. Unsure how things can work out but I want them to and I know he does love me because he’s supportive of my dreams, pushes me to do well, been there through my own experience of sexual...assault seems too strong a word, but this was also a trigger for him and I believe led to him going outside the relationship to escape reality and flashbacks. He is kind, gentle and loving, but classic push/pull-retreat/approach dynamic and shuts people out completely. 

Just really need to understand what happened and be able to process it. Is it a normal reaction to cheat if you’ve been sexually abused in childhood? 

Is it repairable? How do I navigate my feelings and trying to maintain healthy contact? We are currently in some limbo phase of being broken up but talking every day and I have said I don’t feel like we’ve broken up. And that I don’t want to be with anyone else. He has said he wants this to work but doesn’t see how, as what he has done is “unforgivable”. He’s going to see psychologist - first appt this week. 

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Re: TW: Childhood sexual abuse/cheating

Hello @Thnbgr sorry to hear about what you and your partner have been going through. I can't imagine how tough it must be to hear that your partner (is there another term that you would prefer us to refer to him as?) cheated whilst you were in a relationship. It sounds like you were able to communicate well with him about this and that you were able to set up some clear boundaries. It is a shame that things didn't necessarily work out.

 

I think it is understandable that you have been feeling hurt and angry. It is also really great to hear that you are trying to manage these feelings to try to understand and forgive - it is not always easy to do this! It sounds like it would be best for you to talk with your partner or a mental health professional about some of the questions that you have about your partners past. I think people manage trauma in various ways, so it would be useful to speak with various sources to get the best understanding possible. You can call helplines such as Relationships Australia or Kids Helpline to speak to trained professional and get some support. Heart

 

It sounds like you are a really supportive person and I am sure that your partner has been appreciating the support you have provided. It is really great that he has reached out for support and will be seeing a psychologist soon. Hopefully he will find it to be a really helpful experience. 

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Re: TW: Childhood sexual abuse/cheating

Hi there @Sophia-RO, partner is fine, he still holds that place currently in my life, and if it changes then it would just be previous partner. 
There are days where I let my emotions get the best of me and I can say a lot of hurtful things that I end up regretting once I’ve calmed down. 
That’s what I’m struggling with the most at the moment. I go between angry, sad, emotionless in quick succession and often flip in and out of anger and sadness quite quickly. I know that limiting my contact with him would help in this regard, but I do miss him and want to talk to him. He always picks up and when things go well for a period of time, he will reach out. Then I get angry and bite his head off and he retreats. 
He is currently unpacking his past and it’s taking a huge mental and emotional toll on him, and I don’t want to add to it - so there are days I feel I’m okay and it’s fine to talk and the anger/hurt will sneak up unsuspecting and things go downhill. 
As I write this I feel I am confirming that no contact for a period of time would be best. 
I am conflicted because I know it takes time to heal from infidelity and I worry the longer we don’t speak, the longer it’ll take to heal. 

He has opened up about his past a fair bit, but a previous counsellor I saw had advised against bringing it up unless he brought it up himself, and to not push for information as it can be triggering/insensitive despite best intentions. 

I am also currently speaking to a psychologist, but the appointments feel very far apart from each other (2 weeks apart each session - fairly normal). I also call Blue Knot Foundation Helpline, but there are times when these resources aren’t available and I feel I have nothing to turn to. 

I reached out here because today was one of those times where the resources I’m accessing aren’t available. 

I feel in over my head. I’m heartbroken by the infidelity, heartbroken about my darling as a child having to go through what he went through, and lost about who he is and who I am. I feel like my life got cracked open, and that’s okay because the light shines in where there are cracks. And time heals. But it’s raw at the moment and I can’t do this alone. 

sometimes I’m not supportive when I’m angry about being cheated on and I know it’s okay for me to feel that way, but I also feel guilty and scared I am stopping his progress towards healing, because I question why it happened and what happened and if I meant anything to him - which I know I do, but there are moments when thoughts of the cheating come to my head and stop me from seeing anything but that. It makes him feel guilty, ashamed and question his worth as a person, and while there may be many who think that’s rightfully so, as mad as I can get I don’t want that for him because I do love him. But then I also get mad if things seem to be going well for him, because then I feel like I’m not a priority...
I feel selfish but justified at the same time to get angry about it. 
I’m really lost and confused and down. 

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Re: TW: Childhood sexual abuse/cheating

Hi @Thnbgr ,

 

I can hear how much you love your partner and how conflicted you are about what is best to do for both of you, healing from the hurt that his infidelity caused and also holding space for him while he upacks the trauma in his past sounds incredibly difficult. It's great that you're seeking support from a psychologist and the Blue Knot foundation.

 

I think what you say is really beautiful - "I feel like my life got cracked open, and that’s okay because the light shines in where there are cracks. And time heals. But it’s raw at the moment and I can’t do this alone."  

 

Sometimes, we do need some time and space to begin to heal by ourselves, and I think there are times when we need to put our own oxygen masks on first, before we can help others. Do you think that might be where your desire for some time without contact could be coming from?

 

You sound like such a loving and supportive partner. I can imagine that all of this must have really taken its toll on you, are you able to plan something nice for yourself, that's just for you? Do you have anything that you enjoy doing for self-care? 

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Re: TW: Childhood sexual abuse/cheating

Hi @Janine-RO 


Absolutely, I don’t want my process of healing to get in the way of his. While I am allowed to hurt and allowed to feel like it‘s a big deal, I also understand that the magnitude of events that happened on his side require more attention and love and care than I think I am able to give at the moment. 
I also find it challenging to know when to support and when to let him reach out, because he rarely reaches out. 

I do want to go no contact, but only if it is to help both of us heal. I worry it will just cause a rift between us as we might grow in separate directions and I don’t want that. But I also know I can’t control things and need to let go and if it’s meant to be, it will come back. 
I also am scared to go no contact because I don’t want him to feel like when he needed it most, the person closest to him wasn’t there as this is how he felt as a child and teenager. This is probably more important, because I can kind of accept that we are not meant to be together if that’s how I move forward, but with this it’s important to me to show up for him, to help change his perspective. 

I’ve been doing home workouts and going for walks with a friend, and cooking. As much as I’m able to, I’ve been doing okay. Sometimes I stop when I let my emotions overwhelm me. I go up and down very frequently. 

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Re: TW: Childhood sexual abuse/cheating

Hey @Thnbgr 

Your thoughts around what you are able to give are so insightful, it's really amazing how you are able to be so in tune with your own feelings and capacity to support someone - these things can be so hard to do, but it sounds like you've got some self-awareness skills there that would make you a really great partner.

How is your partner feeling about the possibility of no-contact? It seems making that decision is playing on your mind and you're weighing up the options, could it be helpful to put a timeframe on it? 

I really like what you're saying that if it's meant to be it'll come back, I think that is such a mature and freeing way to look at situations - I definitely wish I had been able to look at some things that way! You seem to be really caring and considerate of both his feelings and your own.

That is great to hear your doing walks and cooking (we've actually got a pretty cool recipe thread that's just started that you can check out here if you're interested Smiley Happy ) and that you're taking time out for yourself.

And it's understandable that your emotions can be overwhelming sometimes, its a lot that you're going through. We are always here as an ear if you need to vent Heart