I've often seen clients surprised or perplexed that their partner had never told them about their past abuse. For a variety of reasons, people feel that they should hide this particular fact about themselves; For some, it's out of a desire to forget their past. For others, it's out of a fear of coming across as needy, or otherwise being perceived as weak. Some have been living with the painful memories every day of their life. Others have learned to cope by repressing such memories, and are just now remembering what happened.
The following may be signs your partner is struggling with memories of childhood abuse:
You may have noticed that your loved one doesn't want to talk to you as much as they did before, or isn't interested in spending as much time with you. In the beginning of the relationship, it may have seemed that you talked about everything, but now it's hard to have even simple conversations. Additionally, they may seem particularly disinterested in talking about specific individuals, places, or times during their childhood.
You may have noticed that your partner frequently seems to be "off" or distracted, thinking of something else, and not present in the moment. While some of this may be simple fatigue, it may also be that they are trying to make sense out of what happened to them as a child.
3. Sleep Disturbances
You may have noticed that they have problems getting to sleep, or staying asleep. This could be due to the stress and anxiety they may be feeling about the memories of their past. Among a host of others problems, sleep disturbances are a known contributor to anxiety and depression.
You may have noticed that your partner has started to become upset in their sleep, or may be having nightmares more frequently. It's possible they could be dreaming about their past abuse and trauma. Sometimes, these nightmares can seem so realistic that your loved one may be afraid to go back to sleep.
5. Increase In Alcohol Consumption
You may have noticed that your partner is going through alcohol much more quickly than usual. Many times, abused individuals will drink heavily in an attempt to forget about the abuse. This increase in alcohol consumption can affect sleep negatively, as well, in that it further contributes to depression, and anxiety.
6. No Longer Wants To Be Intimate
Often times, you may see that your partner is no longer interested in being intimate, or may no longer wish to enjoy in certain aspects of your intimacy. It's important to remember that while this can become a source of frustration for you and your partner, your partner has no control of how their body has chosen to respond to the trauma of their past.
You may see that your loved one no longer wants to do the things that once made them happy. Your partner may also be sleeping too much, or too little, in an attempt to escape from the feelings and memories of their past.
What should you do if you suspect your loved one was abused? First, I would recommend seeing a professional therapist to help process the feelings that you are experiencing, and begin the process of creating a healthy plan to address your concerns. Secondly, you should continue to maintain a supportive presence with your partner; It may take time, and patience before they are ready to open up about what happened. Let them know that when they are ready to talk, you will be there for them, and if they feel they are uneasy discussing what happened with you, you will support them seeing a therapist. You may be the only person they have in their life that they can trust and rely upon in this particular way.
If you suspect that your loved one may have been abused, schedule an appointment with me, and together we can discuss how to best help you, and your loved one.
Please call me at 615-982-5710 to schedule an appointment.
Ginger Poag, MSW, LCSW