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At Living Well, we recognise that there is not a lot of information and support out there for partners of men who have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault, particularly in relation to the impact on couple relationships. Whilst relationships can be a place where difficulties with trust, intimacy and sex can appear, they also provide an opportunity for issues to be worked through and resolved. If your loved one or partner was sexually abused or sexually assaulted, this details some of the relationship challenges you may be facing, and some ways of responding.

While the language in this article often refers to couple relationships, this information can apply to any form of relationship or loved one — a son, brother, father, relative, or friend. Before discussing some of the ways sexual abuse can impact men and their relationships, it is important to acknowledge that all relationships require time, effort and commitment — from both parties — to be successful.

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A relationship can be a place of intense joy and pleasure, and at times can produce considerable heartache and distress. Relationships where one or both parties have experienced childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault are no different. They benefit from partners talking, sharing interests and working together to address difficulties as they arise. A healthy relationship is therefore not about having no difficulties; it is about having the skills, time and energy to work things out and grow together. Whether you or your partner was sexually abused or not, this will always be the case.

There is no prescribed way that an experience of sexual abuse will impact on a man or on his relationships.

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Everyone is different. A man will often try to find his own way to deal with the experience of sexual abuse, and will work hard to limit its impact on his life and relationships. Although hearing that a man has been sexually abused is distressing, sometimes this information can help a partner make sense of some of the behaviours they have been observing.


It can then provide a starting place for positive change. Men and their partners have identified a of ways that the experience of childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault has impacted on them and their relationships. The behaviours listed above might have developed as a direct result of being sexually abused, or in an effort to manage the trauma. They should not be seen as evidence of a damaged person.

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It can be useful to talk and understand how this behaviour developed, the reason behind it and how it has become a habit. Some behaviours that may have worked for a while or in particular circumstances can overstay their welcome.

They can become unmanageable, unwelcome for the man and for you. With enough support, it is possible to develop alternative, more sustainable and more life-giving ways of coping. about how solutions can become problems on the Dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse.

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For a long time, until I could talk about it all and find some other ways of getting by, I just tried whatever was available. It is really important to avoid seeing everything that happens in a relationship through the prism of sexual assault.

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Couple relationships often involve two people muddling their way through, negotiating and sorting things out, trying to ultimately build satisfying and supportive lives. Many of the ways you have used to get through difficult times together will continue to be helpful in overcoming problems related to sexual abuse or sexual assault. You probably already have most of the tools you need. Partners and men who have been sexually abused have identified a of themes that can appear in their relationships. Some of these are below.

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The closeness-distance dynamic is one of the common relationship challenges following sexual abuse, in which you might experience a see-sawing in your relationship. Your partner might at times seek out re-assurance and assistance, and at other times distance himself, wanting to work it out on his own. Some men try to manage feeling moody, withdrawn, uncertain and uncommunicative by taking himself off and keeping himself to himself.

He might do this with the idea that this will help stop things from getting worse, or that it might help keep his partner safe. What can you do? Understand that in all relationships there are times for togetherness and there are times where a little space is welcome. It is good to regularly check in with a partner to see how they are travelling. Try to keep each other up to date as to how the relationship is going for each of you, but without increasing pressure to have stuff resolved right now.


It is also good to remind yourself that, although you are impacted by his behaviour, it is not all about you. One of the best things you can do is to keep respectful communication flowing. Remember to take time out if it gets too intense, and then to return to the topic and talk about the important stuff when you have had a breather. This may include self-soothing by use of alcohol, overwork, excessive interest in sex or pornography, etc. You do not have to accept or approve of behaviours that are not working for you or your relationship; nor is it your job to fix them.

It is worth encouraging him to access support that helps him develop more life-affirming patterns and ways of dealing with stress and distress.

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Also, try to make sure that you are properly supported, informed about ways of looking after yourself, and dealing with the impact of sexual abuse. This then provides an opportunity to talk and confirm there is a shared vision that you can both work towards. See our on Men and intimacy. These feelings can make it extremely difficult to talk to each other. We know that shame — just like a mushroom — grows best in the dark. Remember, your partner has probably had a lifetime of messages about what it means to be a man.

This includes things like being strong, tough, capable and bullet-proof. He therefore may be struggling with his own masculinity, and this will reinforce his feelings of shame.

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Sometimes, rather than working overtime on this sense of shame and trying to evaluate whether you or your partner needs to feel ashamed for either the abuse or some actions taken since then it can be useful to check in with yourself. Heaps of the things he has always done which seemed a bit strange suddenly started to make sense. Many of the ways that people react to traumatic events, such as avoidance, not trusting some people or situations, fear for the safety of loved ones, and being their own harshest judge, can act themselves out in a romantic relationship.

Knowing that these behaviours have an internal logic and might be a response to trauma can both give you perspective and provide a picture of what might help in making things better. When some behaviours are spoken about, and become understood in their historical context, it can provide a platform for change.

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By talking about what is happening in a safe, supportive environment, individuals and couples can find solutions. Just as behaviour is learnt and becomes habit over time, alternative ways of doing things can be developed, encouraged and supported.

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Like in all couple relationships, relationships work best when each partner takes responsibility for themselves, for managing and looking after themselves, and working together to support and encourage each other in building a caring respectful futures. Thanks for reading. Please see our For partners section for more information that might be useful for partners of men who have been subjected to childhood sexual abuse or sexual assault.

Comments on this are now closed. If you have further questions, please check out a we developed in response to some of the messages we get:. Common questions from partners of men who have experienced sexual abuse. Feel free to leave your comment or question on thathowever please note that we are unable to respond to every request.

All he can say is he needs help but continues to do them. I noticed he had a sexual addiction a few years ago when I googled it and saw the symptoms. He started going to a sexual therapist and then stopped bcs of finicial reasons. Until it started to escalate into texting my friends and recently my sister in law and saying he wanted sex from them. This is affecting our relationship very much.

Can you help bcs at this point I just want to take my kids and leave. Should I try To keep seeking therapy for him so he can attend or just end the relationship after 17yrs. Jess [Living Well Staff] July 25, at pm.

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It sounds like a really difficult situation. I am hearing that you are concerned about what may have happened for your husband in the past, what he is currently doing and how this impacting on your relationship.

There really is no way of knowing whether your partner has been sexually abused in the past from his current behaviour. It is good that he is acknowledging that he needs help and that he has ly engaged with a therapist. I would definitely be encouraging him to talk with his doctor and to see if they can assist with obtaining access to a counsellor or therapist at minimal cost also to consider making use of relevant free help lines if he is in distress or concerned about the way he is acting.

I see you said that this is a 17 year relationship and that you have children together. It will be useful for you also to make sure you are supported and assisted in thinking through what your options and priorities are, and deciding where to from here for you. It is helpful if you are clear about what kind of relationship you want, what expectations there are in relation to how partners behave in this relationship, and how you show love, care and respect for each other.


This will mean working out and being clear as to what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Providing a clear message about what your expectations and limits are is important. ZIP: 67543

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