BSO and I have been dating nearly 4 years. We've had lots of ups and downs, but the past few months is the lowest of the low.
D-day 11.09.2013. (BSO discovered FB conversation relating the incident to a girlfriend.)
The Incident: In mid-May 2013, BSO disabled his FB and turned off his phone for several days. I felt abandoned and betrayed. (He had an identical breakdown in October of 2010 and verbally promised never to break contact with me like that again.) To make a very long story short, we had a date on Saturday night, but I was unable to reach him, so volunteered myself at a large event produced by friends and colleagues. (I thought it would be good for me to do something to distract myself. I truly believed that my BF of 3 years was breaking up with me by way of silent treatment. Emotionally, I was broken, on the floor, in pieces.) My friends made sure I got drunk and I ended up at a guy's place for what was initially seemingly innocent/professional reasons, but I didn't turn him down when he came onto me. My BSO finally tried to reach me, but by that point I was drunk and missed the call. In retrospect, it was incredibly naive and downright stupid to believe that being there was in any way a safe idea. We only slept together this one time. The emotional pain was nearly unbearable while it was happening. But I did not stop it from happening until the physical pain became unbearable. (I have no explanation for the physical pain other than my heart was so far removed from the act that my body couldn't cooperate.)
The day after the Incident, I felt horribly guilty and confused, yet still predominantly betrayed and abandoned, and drove to BSO's place to break up with him. I failed. He scooped me up in his arms and made love to me. The next week I suffered as hell raged inside me. I managed to break up with him one week later. He spent all summer working to make amends and reconcile. Eventually, mid-September, we finally really reconciled and were moving forward building a life together.
In the interim, though I never had an emotional bond with OM, I did go on (foolishly) to further develop a professional relationship and a friendship of sorts. Looking back with regret, OM is a terrible human being—a user. I officially severed all contact with him a couple weeks after D-day, though we had scarcely communicated since mid-July. I have done everything, to the best of my ability, that BSO has asked me to do regarding being accountable, thoroughly explaining time line, and destroying tangible objects that are reminders.
One last bit of pertinent back story: I am a domestic violence survivor. At 18, I was date-raped by the man who would get me pregnant a few months later, I would marry three weeks after I turned 19, and would continue to be sexually, emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive for several years. (After which, I immediately found myself in another kind of abusive relationship.) I've been in IC and then GC for 2.5 years through the local domestic violence center. A few weeks after the Incident, my counselor took me through the EMDR process (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing,) where I worked through the trauma of rape. For the first time in twelve years, I was able to talk about what happened to me without the physiological response of reliving the traumatic events, where I was frozen, staring at the ceiling, unable to speak or move. As a victim of rape, I felt like my ability to say “No” was taken from me. Because what good is “No” if No doesn't actually mean No? Suffice it to say, I have engaged in a number of incidents (while single, before BSO) where I didn't say No and slept with men I had no desire to sleep with. This is my Why. This is what happened that night in May. My value as a human being got tied up in my sexual desirability. The EMDR changed that for me. My Why is gone. The sad irony is that, had I undergone this process a few weeks sooner, the Incident would never have happened.
(For those of you unfamiliar with the causal relationship between sexual violence, PTSD, and the tendency to seek affirmation by reenacting the event, I offer this brief excerpt which succinctly summarizes the pattern. Feel free to skip this part.
Trauma and Infidelity:
People may be driven to infidelity in order to attempt to feel some small modicum of worth. PTSD damages our self-worth; it makes us feel small, and wants us to feel like we don’t matter at all. Even though our loved ones tell us they love us, the PTSD makes us feel as if that is not true or that their love is not very important. It is almost as if the PTSD-Identity says the only way to know if you have self-worth is if someone else is willing to get naked with you for 3-7 minutes... In the PTSD perspective, a variety of partners then shows that one has more value. Besides the obvious problems of catching physical diseases, one discovers they will feel even less worthwhile after they have engaged a new partner.
Taken from: http://www.ptsdspirituality.com/2010/09/06/ptsd-spirituality-ptsd-damages-love-increases-porn-and-infidelity/ )
The tricky part is that in April of 2011, I allowed myself to entertain a flirtatious/emotionally inappropriate chat with an old flame. (Same Why.) I swore to never do anything like that again and began IC. BSO says time has made a liar of me. He asked me if I could give him a compelling reason to believe that time won't make a liar of me again.
So my question is: How do I demonstrate to my BSO that this is a genuine, lasting change? How do I prove that my Why is resolved? I truly believe that whether we are able to reach R or not, I will never again fall prey to that toxic emotional fallacy. I am worth so. much. more. Right now, more than anything, I just want the man I love back, the man I want to spend my life with. But I feel like he needs some manner of proof now before he slips further away.
I know this was a long read. Apparently, I'm not super awesome with the condensing. Thanks for staying with me. I look forward to your insight. BSs feel free to respond.
How about your BSO? Does he understand the traumatic effects that have changed your past thinking? Has he gone to any support groups or gone to any IC which can help explain to him how this broken thinking happens after an assault? For starters that would help to fill in some of the blanks for him. Most people (myself previously included) cannot get their head around your symptoms with poor boundaries or why you let yourself be inappropriate. Understanding is the first key to helping him move forward and will also let him know what to look for in your healing process as well. That should provide him with some reassurance to see that you have taken appropriate action with yourself to no longer be a victim and live a healthier life.
Also, you have to be patient with him. Time will help. He may or may not want to keep going over it again. Be as empathetic as possible with his healing process. Does he turn to you when he needs you?
btw... I'm very happy to hear that you are no longer the victim and are making a better life for yourself. Good for you is an understatement!
Hmm. That IC thing is looking more & more necessary, as things I thought I'd worked through years ago may have more of an effect on my behavior than I give credit to. I went through the PTSD-type of value-via-sex describe here back in late high school/early college. I thought I was beyond all that after a 17-year marriage with a good man.
I wish I had advice to give, but I don't. I can say welcome though.
[This message edited by splitintwo at 1:59 PM, April 1st (Tuesday)]
My best thinking brought me to SI.
Did it stop me from messing up down the line? No. But I can say with certainty that my PA/EA was NOT the same as my sex-based coping from years ago. I screwed up in a completely new way all on my own, and I can't blame my past experiences for it. I do think there are levels to this.
ETA - 13 years of marriage. Together 16. And grammatical corrections too.
[This message edited by yearsofpain25 at 2:05 PM, April 1st (Tuesday)]
Certainly explains my wife's need to schedule everything as a way of control (more than just in the bedroom but it's all related).
SI is like therapy.
splitintwo, I absolutely recommend IC. Many domestic violence centers across the US will accept new clients for free IC and GC, regardless of how many years have passed since the trauma, because they recognize the long-term and devastating affects. Also, there's a workbook you can pick up on Amazon for about $25 you might look into--Healing the Trauma of Abuse.
yearsofpain, my BSO sort of understands that the traumatic events have changed my way of thinking. I've been honest with him about my past since a few months into the relationship. I don't wear my past on my sleeve, but neither do I keep it secret. If it is relevant, I share. If it can help someone, I share. If someone judges me for being victimized, well that's their problem. (I've worked hard to come to terms with the fact that what happened to me wasn't my fault and I won't let anyone take that away from me.) I've been in counseling for years, so we discuss some of what I learn and the progress I make. I suppose it's hard for him to truly understand being a man and never having experienced trauma like this. He does try to understand. He did say the other day that my explanations sound like blame-shifting, like playing the victim. I responded by saying that I feel it is exactly the opposite; it is me taking responsibility for the work I have to do to heal. I am not blaming my ex abusive husband for my poor decision making. I am acknowledging that being traumatized has muddied my coping mechanisms. I see this as anything but playing the victim. I see it as grabbing the reigns of healing. If I sound like a victim, it is because I have genuinely been victimized. He seemed to take this at its value and did not further pursue that line of dialogue.
As for coming to me when he needs me, not so much. He's keeping me at arm's distance. He's not pursuing IC and I don't expect him to. I sometimes joke that no man is an island--except my BSO. I don't know what he needs right now. He keeps saying he doesn't want anything from me at all.
Having said that, he seems open to relationship therapy, so I am pursuing finding a therapist.
I am being as patient as I can. I'm trying to find balance between patience and letting him slip away. He is the love of my life. So I am pursuing him and being patient as he works through what he needs to. I don't respond in anger, but do draw a boundary when he becomes attacking. His rage seems to have died down, to have been replaced by indifference, which is much, much scarier than rage.
For his part, he's allowing me to work on things. He's accepting some invitations to spend time with me. He's responding when I reach out to him. I know that he's trying, or he wouldn't even be doing that much. It's difficult to feel like I'm the only one doing any real work, though, the only one making any real effort. I'm hoping patience and determination pay off.
Last week he said that he had forgiven me. Honestly, I found this unsettling because I'm not sure he means it or even knows what it means. It feels too soon. Perhaps I am wrong? Perhaps I'm not giving him enough credit? I guess he just seems tired and worn out and not sure how to move forward or even if he wants to. He knows he'll never love anyone else like he does me, which is why he's willing to try. But I know part of him thinks he'd be better off alone than to put in the effort required to recover this relationship.
As another note, for anyone who has experienced trauma like I have, I highly recommend finding a counselor who practices EMDR. It's a fascinating technique. For me, it was almost like magic. For the first time in years, I am able to eat in a restaurant at a table with my back to the room. I know this seems like a very simple thing, something most people take for granted, but I was literally unable to do this. The "frozen" response that has plagued me for years in uncomfortable social situations seems to be eradicated. I can't recall feeling frozen since the EMDR, but can recall dozens of examples before. I share this in hopes that some of you will look into it for yourselves or for your loved ones. It moves the trauma through the brain and past the point of flight or fight, which is where we get stuck when traumatic events still have a hold on us.
I would say that you are doing a lot of things right and certainly be persistent and try to find that balance between trying to do too much and giving him space.
Another thing you can do is recognize his side of the equation more. Just like he can't get his head around how you could possibly do what you did because he doesn't understand your symptoms, he may also feel that you don't see his thinking either. And you may have a hard time seeing it because of the victim aspect of what happened to you. The blame shifting comments are a prime example of that. He's been betrayed and he probably has more anger than he knows what to do with. Regardless of how you feel, he feels betrayed and has a hard time seeing past that since you made conscious decisions. This is where I'm having a hard time myself in my own situation (not with my wife, I'm a betrayed child and now as an adult with lots of issues...really long story).
You may be already be recognizing that and if you are my apologies. It's the betrayal and anger that is going to take extra special care to get through which is where the counseling will come in. You need someone to get down in the mud with the two of you to mediate...even if you are a victim.
Just another thought there.
I have been officially diagnosed with PTSD and disassociative disorder. EMDR was also mentioned to me by someone else on this site to help with my flashbacks, mind movies, whatever you want to call them but I'm so messed up we haven't gotten that far in IC yet. Only 7 weeks in.
Keep up the good work cindergirl. I'm pulling for you and your BSO.
Keep up the IC. Hopefully, you will explore the EMDR sooner rather than later. Putting an end to the flashbacks is exactly what it's designed to do. In many ways, I made more progress in 4 sessions of EMDR than months of traditional IC. Considering the trauma your wife lived through, I would suggest that it be something she explore as well.
silverhopes also put this link in appletoo's thread which may be helpful to you as well:
Sexual Abuse Survivors/Spouses
and this is over in the New Beginnings forum:
On supporting ourselves and others after sexual trauma
I also have an active thread going on with my wife's OCPD symptoms and how they can be traced back to her sexual assault in college if your curiosity should strike you: