My girlfriend and I have been together for 7 months now. Thing have been great up to about a month ago. One night we where setting on the couch. She had a really bad week of work because she just got permoted to a management job and she has been really stressed out from the week. She told me when she starts falling in love with someone that she loses all sexual interest in that person and wants to be mean toward them and start pushing them away. She then mumbled she has been like this since she was in the Navy and that something happened that caused her to be this way. And also she shared a email that she recived about Military sexual trauma and shared it with me and said that’s how she feels. She said all her past relationships had ended because of this. and she wants to get help. She told her psychologist about this the one she is seeing for depression and they are thinking of sending her to a expert to deal with it.

I have noticed that she is very moody sometimes after a stressful day she wont even talk to me. she is always saying to me I dont deserve her I deserve better and always thanking me for putting up with her being moody. She grinds her teeth at night and I also noticed she bites her nails to the nubs.Her drinking is not that bad of a issue she might not drink during the week. If so it’s just a beer or two and she doesn’t drink till she gets hammered.But sometimes when she’s been realy stressed she will drink until she is really drunk.

I don’t know what I need to do to help her. The sexual detachment is is a big concern for me. I dont want to damage or push her away but I dont know how she feels if i try to have sex with her or what she is feeling. Should I let her come to me and not push the issue? She is still very affectionate toward me holding hands,laying on me.,kissing me,hugging me. How can i support her and how can I help her get through this? and what do i not need to do to not make things worse? I am in love with her and she tells me she is in love with me and i want to help her get through this. She is 33 in good physical health was in the navy from 97-2000.

A: You two must love each other very much. She loves you enough to share her past and her fears, in an effort to not push you away like she’s done with others. You love her enough to want to help. That makes this situation hopeful. As you’re finding, sexual trauma harms more than the victim. It also affects those around her. Your girlfriend has done a good job getting on with her life. But in high stress situations and when a relationship gets serious and sexual, she gets “triggered.” That means that the feelings and memories of the past traumatic experience flood her to the point that she has to flee. Staying in the situation feels to her like the abuse is happening all over again and she feels powerless to do anything about it. She therefore pushes the lover away or escapes by drinking too much. She knows that these strategies don’t work in the long run. But in the moment, it’s all she can do to get away from the emotional pain.

Fortunately, there are therapists who specialize in sexual trauma. Do encourage your girlfriend to follow up on getting treatment. It is probably frightening to her to think about digging up memories she’d like to forget. Reassure her that therapists who do this work know how to create a safe haven for sharing and for doing it at her own pace. Remind her that if she could do it on her own, she would have done so already. Provide support but don’t push her. The original trauma was one of being out of control. It’s very important that she feel in control of her therapy.

In the meantime, you and your girlfriend might find some helpful information at this website that I found by searching the Internet: http://mydutytospeak.com/military-sexual-trauma/
I don’t have any personal experience with this group so this isn’t an endorsement. It just seemed like maybe it could be helpful.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 May 2011

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2011). Military sexual trauma is getting in the way of relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2011/05/06/military-sexual-trauma-is-getting-in-the-way-of-relationship/