All of us endured trauma. Sexual assault is trauma and trauma affects so many aspects of our lives. One of these is our relationships. Relationships are hard for anyone. They are especially difficult for those of us who experienced trauma, and even more difficult if the trauma was when we were children. It causes a break down in how we learned what a normal relationship is supposed to be. We just simply did not learn or it was broken by the trauma.
Which leaves us in broken relationships as adults. I have yet to have one healthy relationship as an adult. I thought I had healthy relationships, but they weren’t.
Several issues get in the way of our relationships. PTSD, co-dependency, DID (dissociative identity disorder), depression, anxiety, I could go on and on. Trauma can cause all of these to occur in us and these make relationships difficult.
Add to it that people who have not endured trauma do not understand our need for help and how to walk with us, we become isolated. Take for example, over the years I have people ask why I don’t switch therapists. They look at how long I’ve been in therapy and see it as a failure. They have no idea how long it takes to process years of abuse. Years of abuse takes years of therapy to process.
Plus, you have to find a good fit with your therapist. You must have trust and confidence in the person guiding you through healing. It took me years to feel comfortable with my therapist to trust him with the horrific, personal details of my abuse. That was just the details, not the working through it.
I know a woman with a similar history to mine who has had people ask her why she doesn’t stop seeing her therapist because it would help her financially. That is like asking a heart patient with a heart rhythm problem why they bother having a pace maker. Would you question that? No. However, people do not see this as necessary for our survival and living this life.
I understand it is hard for people to walk with us because we need so much support. All my friends left me because they said I was selfish and only thinking of myself. It is hard to not think of my needs when I am trying to literally save my life. Not kill myself and process such devastating trauma that it’s like driving a knife through your heart and mind each time you do it. Over and over again. Session after session. Year after year. So I can live life again.
It is hard for people to understand our need to talk about hard emotional truama and sexual assault. Just the words scare them away. People get uncomfortable.
We also have severe mood changes because of PTSD, reliving trauma, and all that comes with it. Which is hard for others to understand.
I do not have the answers to how to have good relationships because I haven’t had one yet. I do know one thing God is teaching me.
First, we must turn to God for our identity. No it doesn’t happen overnight. Nothing ever does. However, as we begin to pray for God to show us who we are in Him we can begin to recognize ourselves as children of God and not of this world. Our identity is in Christ. We are who we are because Jesus died for us.
We are not good because of anything we do or don’t do, awards we might win, or how far we go in this world. Just as we are not defined by any bad decisions. Our identity lies purely with Christ alone.
Once we begin to realize this we are freer in our relationships because we aren’t seeking approval of others which we feel we need because of the damage our abusers did during sexual assault.
So as we pursue relationships, which yes are hard to find because we tend to isolate, there are things we can do. We can talk with our counselors about our relationships and how to be in healthy relationships instead of unhealthy ones. I have spent many sessions talking with mine about relationships.
I wish I could give you five things to do to have a healthy relationship but I can’t. I’m still quite broken. I pray each of us can find our identities in Christ so as we heal we can be in healthy relationships. We need relationships. God made us for them. Plus we need the support on this journey.
Help me find my identity in You alone. Remind me I am Your child and how much You love me. Don’t let me look to the world for who I am, but only to You. Help me find healthy relationships in this life not only to support me on this journey, but so I can be the other half of a relationship. You made us for each other. Don’t let me isolate.
I am placing a link here to The Five Love Languages quiz. You can learn your love language and how you relate best to others. You can choose whether you are in a relationship or single. I have found this to be helpful in knowing my own love languages, but also those of people I know. This is just one small tool I have found helpful.
© 2019 Susan M. Clabaugh. All Rights Reserved.