You’re not alone. Dr Laura Berman PhD is an Amercian sex therapist who recently hosted a couple facing that problem on an episode of her television show, “In the Bedroom with Dr Laura Berman”.
Finding Love after an Abusive Childhood
Mario was a firefighter, a seemingly tough and powerful guy, saving lives and confronting danger on a daily basis. Yet the pain and trauma he suffered during his childhood left emotional scars that were impacting on his relationship with Chanda.
Many people who endured a difficult and even abusive childhood have similar reactions. They want to move forward and find love and happiness, yet painful memories keep their emotions locked up.
Every time they get close to experiencing a true emotional connection or entrusting their heart to someone, they get scared and shut down.
In Mario and Chanda’s case, although they loved one another deeply, Mario couldn’t ever bring himself to say those three little words.
Learning to Give Affection
Nor could he be affectionate or tender with Chanda. After four years together, she said they had shared only one passionate kiss.
Not surprisingly, Chanda was beginning to have fears about the future of their relationship, even postponing their wedding three times.
If this sounds familiar, here are some things to keep in mind to help you on the road to healing:
Connect through intimate touching and kissing. Dr Berman said, “One of the homework assignments I gave Mario and Chanda was to take a bath together, and to touch each other from head to toe (without having sex) for 10 minutes each. The idea is to strip away the boundaries and simply focus on one another without hopping right into sexual activity.”
She also asked Chanda to kiss Mario the way she likes to be kissed, and asked him to stay present and to try to tune into the moment, rather than shutting down and running away from the affection and love. Although Mario found this difficult initally, he persevered despite his feels of fear.
“They now are kissing, touching, saying I love you — and happily planning their June wedding,” said Dr Berman.
How to Break Free of the Past
The scars of a painful childhood do not go away simply because we get older and become adults. Sometimes they even become deeper, more intense and more apparent in the patterns of our behaviour.
The only way to reclaim love and happiness is to:
- confront these issues;
- accept that the abuse was not your fault;
- acknowledge that you have the ability to be whole and loved despite past trauma.
It is not about denying that the trauma occurred, or about changing the past, it is about learning to live a full life with the knowledge that the trauma DID occur. Get the emotions out! No matter what you are upset about, it is important to get that anger and sadness out of you, to acknowledge these feelings without judgement, so that you can move forward. A relationship counsellor trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can assist you to work through these issues.
Hiding issues under the rug only allows them to fester and gradually poison everything in your life, even happy moments such as an impending marriage.
When it comes to sorrow, crying, journalling, or simply allowing yourself to be sad can be a crucial step. Remember, there are no “bad” feelings — all emotions, including sadness and anger, are valid feelings and you have a right — and responsibility — to experience and work through them.
Counselling can help
Counselling (either individually or as a couple) at this stage, can help you to gain acceptance about the past and an awareness of what is causing you the emotional pain. You will gain understanding into just how it is influencing your current relationship, as well giving you tools to help with commitment actions.
Don’t let the power of the past ruin your present relationship, or destroy your future!
Author: Linda Thomson, B Arts, Social Science, Human Services, Masters of Counselling, Master Social Work Studies, Social Work, Member – AASW.
Linda Thomson has many years of experience in different fields of counselling, and has also managed counselling services in the not for profit sector. She has been involved in training and mentoring counsellors, and providing professional supervision. Linda has extensive training in and a passion for sex therapy as she believes that it is such an important and often misunderstood part of our lives.
Please call 1800 877 924 or book online to make a confidential appointment with Linda.