"HOW CAN I GET OVER MEMORIES OF SEXUAL ABUSE?"

Therapist A is a counsellor with a psychodynamic approach with experience of working with adults and young people.

It is very hard when, as a result of past traumatising experience, our bodies react in a way that is out of our conscious control.

Your difficulties could be approached in three possible ways. First of all you seem to have a very good friendship with the man you have met recently and, if it were possible, maybe at this stage of life it would be good to focus on and value the friendship, the companionship that you have.

However I do understand your wish to experience, at last, a good sexual relationship and maybe you could take the approach offered by many sexual therapists, a step by step, gentle approach where you both know what the limit of your physical contact will be, so for a while it might just be holding hands, or lying next to each other.

Perhaps, long term, the most helpful course of action, following the length and level of abuse that you have experienced from your father and husband, would be to seek the help of a psychotherapist to talk to, who would work with you to lessen the trauma of your past and think with you about ways of developing your sexual relationship. It could be emotionally painful but they would be able to work with you and your individual situation. You might feel the fees were more than you want to pay and it could be difficult to find someone near to where you live who could help you but it would be worth looking on this website and also on the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy website.

Therapist B is a Relate-trained counsellor with experience of working with relationship issues and is an experienced couples counsellor
Therapist B is unavailable at the moment so this response is from a professional counsellor
You say that your husband sexually abused you and that your father physically abused you. All survivors of abuse of any kind can have very strong reactions, but for adult survivors these reactions are usually much stronger. Because a trusted adult did not respect your personal boundaries when you were young, adult survivors can often feel they do not have the right to control what happens to them. They can experience flashbacks and memories of the abuse and guilt and shame because they were not able to stop it, even though that would have been impossible. The most difficult emotion for an adult survivor of childhood abuse to get in touch with can be anger because a child being abused feels fear and powerlessness but also anger. The child cannot use this anger in any way as it will have no effect on the abuser or it may even endanger the child if it is physical abuse, as in your father's case, so it has to be kept hidden. As an adult, this may echo with you feeling that being angry will have no effect for you and learning to trust again may be very difficult for you. Fear also comes into it, of course, and the physical symptoms you describe are indicative of terror and powerlessness.

Very often, we as adults can subconsciously choose a partner who replicates the behaviour of someone important in our lives when young, even if that person hurt us badly and it may be that you subconsciously chose a husband who would repeat a pattern in your life. It might be important for you to recognise that because it sounds as though the new man in your life is nothing like either your father or late husband and, although intellectually you know how to relate to him, your memories and physical reactions are making it impossible. You say that your new partner would have to force you to make love and that he refuses to do that. Does this mean that he would have to abuse you before you allow him to get close to you? That is the pattern that you will need to break but well done for finding someone who respects you and cares about your feelings as that is a very important step.

It would be helpful for you to see a therapist to explore all these issues and to look at what you are feeling about your new partner, what happens to you emotionally when you approach intimacy and whether the physical symptoms you experience are connected to the abuse you suffered from your father, your husband or both. However, there are things you can start to do with your new partner but it is important that you do not do anything that you are not in control of and that you take a lot of time if you are going to approach some self-therapy - one step at a time is really important if you are going to be able to learn to tolerate intimacy. You may want to look on Google for the process of learning to trust again after abuse for adult survivors.

Here are two websites: www.havoca.org  or www.enddomesticabuse.org

Therapist C is a psychotherapist trained in gestalt psychotherapy and neuro-linguistic programming

It sounds like a really difficult situation for you. I sympathise with how much you would like to have a normal sexual relationship with your new partner and yet the difficult experiences of the past are blocking this. You say your father was physically abusive and then your husband so you have been in a chronic abuse situation for a long time. Your body and mind have spent a long time coping with abusive situations and you have not had enough time to integrate the change into your life. As you say you get triggered in specific situations and you may dissociate or have flashbacks which are signs of a reaction to trauma. These reactions whilst being adaptive in abusive situations can feel chaotic and limiting when you want to function fully in normal life. Iím glad youíve met someone with whom you feel compatible and whose relational style is so different . It is probably noticing this difference that helped you become aware of your desire to move on and seek to resolve your issues in order to experience something new and positive.

After such experiences the way forwards in my way of thinking would be to get in touch with a counsellor trained in working with adult survivors of childhood abuse. A counsellor would be able to help you work towards developing strengths and skills and aim towards a sense of healing . It is generally a phase orientated approach that first aims to help you develop your own support systems such as better identifying and understanding what triggers you, your emotions and how to manage at these times. The next step is to better understand how you have adapted to your traumatic past experiences and how much they influenced the way you adjusted to life. The final phase is to work towards integrating a new sense of self that can function better in the new context. The journey may take some time but it will surely be worth it. Good luck.