I’m talking to him a couple of weeks ago. He’s one of the many people that have helped me salvage my objectivity and has helped me understand, not just the process of grieving, but he’s helped me identify some of my behaviors such as how and why i allowed my dignity to be eroded to the degree that i did and why i was incapable of recognizing it for what it was. He knows a thing or two about relationships and communication. His doctoral thesis was on the methods and differences between how men and women communicate. He’s spent two decades talking to people, to couples and many of them are genuinely afflicted with some type of clinical psychological ailment.
He’s just told me a story about a previous client who had been married seven times. She was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. As he’s telling the story, people that I know come to mind- people that are addicted to what’s called NRE (New Relationship Energy). They are often husks parading as polyamorists- incapable of any sort of sustained or sincere love.
But because of two events in my life that were instigated by the adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and because of a friend of mine whose friend of twenty six years simply stopped communicating with her (her friend is also a survivor of abuse), i saw a pattern. From that, a question emerged.
So i asked him, “In your experience, is it common for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to abruptly end relationships without even attempting to see what can be done to repair them?”
He mulls the question for a moment.
“No. I don’t see that so much. What I DO see is that survivors of sexual abuse are often incapable of distinguishing between sex and love.”
I stare at him. I cannot respond. The sound of pieces clicking into place is deafening in my mind. So many women that i’ve known and a few guys too- so incapable of making that distinction. So many ways to rationalize it- from, “I was drunk so I couldn’t control what I did,” to a few that have even tried to invoke polyamory as a justification (and entirely missing the “ethical” and the “amory” part).
In years past, i had a more diplomatic way of saying it. “Confusing affection for acceptance.” Shelly is a bit more ruthless in her delivery. She says, “They can’t tell the difference between being fucked and love.”
It’s one of those things that i’ve known for many, many years. Hearing it from someone with an academic and clinical background is an interesting sensation. Until then, i hadn’t connected the two- childhood sexual abuse and the conflation of sex (detached or otherwise) to love. There are other common behaviors too. Projection, selective disclosure and transference being three that i’ve become painfully intimate with (again). I imagine there will be more realizations as i continue to examine and heal my own wounds.
So many pieces fall into place. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click.