Misuse of power intended to harm or control another person is considered to be abuse. This could be physical, verbal, or emotional. All types of abuse can cause pain and psychological distress.
This article does contain mentions of abuse. If you or someone you know could be in a domestic violence or abusive situation, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1.800.799.SAFE
Survivors of abuse may develop negative feelings long after the abuse has ended. Anxiety, flashbacks, poor self-esteem, or trust issues are common. This could impact a person’s ability to form long-term intimate relationships, like marriage.
If you or your loved ones are survivors of abuse, know that you are not alone. According to the National Sexual Violence and Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men have experienced abuse in the United States.
The effects of abuse can be challenging to manage. Hence, one could take help from online resources like BetterHelp to access mental health professionals who could guide and support you. It can benefit anyone to take steps to overcome difficulties and cultivate healthy, meaningful relationships.
Here are a few things that survivors of abuse may want to keep in mind before getting married.
Begin with acknowledgment
One of the first steps in the journey of managing being a survivor of abuse can be acknowledging that one can not put the experience on a shelf and walk away.
Avoidance often becomes a defense mechanism for survivors of abuse. However, this could result in the suppression of strong or negative feelings that are harbored inside the individual.
Instead, it is usually important to be honest with one’s partner about the history. By being honest and open with your partner, one can develop greater feelings of intimacy between each other.
Often, survivors of abuse enlist the help of mental health professionals to conduct couple’s counseling sessions. These sessions may result in greater insights into your different situations, their impact on the marriage, and ways to overcome them.
Understand the psychological impacts of abuse on marriage
And share them with your partner
Emotional and psychological trauma can result from extraordinarily stressful events, like abuse, that could result in outward actions or emotions. It can be helpful to think this all through before getting married, in order to be aware of them and take steps to manage or decrease them.
This could include the following:
- Pushing away from the spouse: survivors of sexual abuse sometimes misplace the guilt onto themselves, triggering unhealthy thought patterns. Once the individual convinces themselves that it is their fault, they can develop lower self-esteem.
- The survivors could also learn to hate their bodies because they were “damaged,” and doubt the motives or sincerity of those who want to be with them.
- This psychological impact can harm a marriage. Insecurities can cause partners to doubt each other for no real reason. It can also produce constant self-doubt. These insecurities may lead to someone unintentionally pushing away a spouse since they cannot express their true feelings. Trust issues and shame may begin to develop as an outcome of the abuse.
- Distorted views of people: survivors usually have a heightened sense of awareness because their trust was violated. They may perceive others negatively and assume everyone has bad intentions, causing paranoia and false accusations. These beliefs could even apply to their spouse as well. Negative perception could lead to over-analyzing innocent behaviors.
- Recollecting the abuse during physical intimacy: this could be a massive issue among partners. Often, survivors of abuse may experience flashbacks during physical intimacy, and this could lead to fear or hostile reactions towards the partner while engaged in intercourse.
Understand the behavioral impacts of abuse on sexual intimacy between partners
The psychological trauma caused by abuse can lead to behavioral actions and consequences. This could possibly affect marriage. This can be a sign that certain discussions need to happen with one’s partner or mental health professional.
- Unable to express discomfort: survivors of abuse may believe they cannot share something they did not enjoy during intimacy because they had become accustomed to staying quiet and being oppressed. This mindset becomes distorted when someone accepts discomfort during intimacy with their spouse and never says anything.
- Getting startled when touched: survivors of abuse may exhibit a chronic sense of awareness and hypervigilance. Unexpected touches are neither pleasant nor appreciated. They may have physical or violent reactions in such scenarios.
- Some survivors find it difficult to try different ways to be intimate with their partner since they fear unpredictability.
Identify different ways to feel safer with one’s partner
Survivors of abuse may require extra time, attention, and effort from their partners to develop strong and healthy relationships. Survivors could identify different ways to feel safer with their partners and build on physical and emotional intimacy.
A survivor of abuse may not be able to clearly articulate their needs to a partner on their own, without working through their emotions. Consider speaking with a therapist about how you can be comfortable in a relationship to learn how to teach a potential partner before marriage.
Some of the ways may include:
- Communicate well with your partner: be clear and concise with one’s own needs and the expectations one has from their partner. Ideally, one could speak openly about any negative thoughts or emotions to avoid bottling up emotions. Be clear about one’s boundaries or limits to ensure safety and trust for both people.
- Discuss new ideas first: to ensure trust and predictability, partners could discuss new ideas related to family, relationships, or sexual intimacy before taking concrete actions. This results in decreasing elements of shock that could trigger moments of anxiety.
- Increase the quality time: survivors of abuse need to develop safe, nonsexual relationships with their partners. Engage in romantic activities, try new restaurants, or pick a hobby to do together. This could result in greater emotional intimacy and engagement.
- Ask for support: survivors of abuse may often feel that they are alone, but that is not true. Seek help from your partner and friends in situations that have gotten too overwhelming and develop a safe space during tough times.
Seek Professional Help
Survivors of abuse may need to seek help from licensed mental health professionals to manage the impact of trauma. They may also take couple’s counseling sessions with their partner to understand their journey and help in their healing process. Survivors could also partake in support groups to meet people with similar experiences.
Survivors of abuse often experience deep psychological wounds that may take time to heal. This could impact long-term committed relationships.
Understanding the impacts of abuse on one’s psyche and relationships with people is a step to developing better mental health. By taking control of one’s emotional recovery and understanding your reactions, you may begin to take active steps to manage the effects and can establish a happy, loving, and long-term marriage.