Sexual relationship with someone with a bad history
February 6, 2012 7:58 AM Subscribe
I'm dating a girl who has had a difficult past and who seems to be strangely absent during sex. Help me figure out how best to deal with this.
It's been only a few weeks but we are already incredibly tight and are already effectively a couple. We're very compatible and hanging out is the easiest and best thing in the world. I've been so incredibly happy since we started dating; so has she, it seems. Except...
Sex. She's into it when it happens, and enjoys it, but never initiates it and tends to be a passive partner, e.g. does not express desires or ideas during sex, doesn't say anything unless in response to me, barely touches me in sexual ways, hardly responds to my touch. Physical contact and touching itself is not a problem at all, but when there is a sexual element to it she seems to shut part of herself off somehow. Discovering this has been surprising because her personality is normally bursting with creativity and expression; she is somehow not there during sex, or not herself. Wondering about this, I began to suspect she'd had some bad experiences in the past.
I learned today I was right. She told me she was sexually assaulted as a young teen, endured a long period of bullying and harassing and people treating her with a lot of cruelty in general, and is only recently free of a long abusive relationship. Her life has been difficult, to the point where I'm frankly amazed she has not been crushed into nothing. But she has tremendous strength, and seems to be in a good place about all of this; not blaming herself, and being able to talk about it without difficulty, for example.
This is a new situation for me and I need advice. Sex is very important to me and the long-term health of this relationship will, I think, depend on settling into a sexual dynamic that works for both of us. Things are fine for now because it is still so early and everything is still fluid, but I have a foreboding sense that a pattern wherein I am the only person asserting an identity will lead to eventual frustration. Yet I can hardly put pressure on her to be something she's not, or to bring out and express sides of herself that she has learned to keep closely hidden for very good reasons. These things have to happen on her schedule, if they happen, and the best way forward I think is to provide a safe encouraging space for her to explore them. But I have to consider that even this may be too much to ask; I frankly have little idea how deep the scars may go and what the effects may be. And that this may preclude any possibility of the healthy sexual relationship I really want to have with her. The thought of this makes me incredibly sad. I kind of feel like I need to ask her what she wants and needs from me in a sexual sense, but doing even this makes me nervous in that I am worried about crossing a boundary that I can't see.
Hence, advice needed from those who have been there. Tell me what I need to know or be thinking about, and how best to proceed. (I'm male, late 20's, she's mid 20's, both with several long relationships behind us, though as I said her most recent one was very nasty.)