Underneath The Shame: My Boyfriend Was Sexually Abused
"I was sexually abused," said my boyfriend M. "And … I'm bisexual." I instantly burst into tears.
I was speechless. Suddenly, it all made sense. Since meeting M, I knew something was off. He was obsessed with oral sex and constantly spoke about past experiences with other women. Nothing I ever did in bed was ever good enough. I needed to learn how to deep throat. I wasn't enthusiastic. I was beginning to feel inadequate at times wondering if he even cared for me at all. Yet at other times he showered me with love and affection, holding me tight and telling me I was the best thing to ever come into his life. When M accused me of not enjoying oral sex (not true) and therefore not liking him, I decided to finally confront him. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't know what it was. I sensed M's obsession with the perfect job was less about personal preference and more about an issue burbling underneath the surface. So when he came one evening, I confronted him. "Is there something wrong you're not telling me about? I feel like you're on edge and picking on me and I don't know why."
And that's when he told me he had been abused.
He told me he had always liked girls up until his abuse and never once thought about guys. He was sure his abuse had caused him to become bi. He watched gay porn from time to time. He had experimented before. Yet he thought the idea of dating a man was "disgusting." And kissing a guy? "Gross."
Ideally, he wanted us to have a MMF threesome together so he could have a release that didn't involve cheating on me. And no, he hadn't been to therapy. Suddenly the ground felt like it was falling out beneath me. My beer-swilling, Playboy-reading, ex-football player boyfriend with a penchant for hunting was telling me he had been sexually abused and had experimented with men; and wanted me to participate.
This was the same guy who loved going down on me and was constantly feeling me up every chance he got. This was the same guy who stared at me with googly eyes when I was doing something as simple as making a pancake. My stomach rose up into my throat. I was scared. What did that mean for us? Would all of his unresolved issues come racing out later in life like demons from hell? I didn't want to date a man who was bi (just my personal preference), but I intrinsically sensed that his "bisexuality" had less to do with orientation and more to do with the effects of abuse even though I had no proof. I couldn't wrap my head around what I was hearing. I loved him to pieces and didn't want to let him go. My heart broke for the little boy who was hurt so badly and for the pain and confusion he must have gone through. But he didn't want any of my sympathy. As far he was concerned, he was fine. So I was forced to keep my sympathy to myself, lest he thought I pitied him.
I had many gay, lesbian, bi and even transgender friends. I couldn't imagine one of my gay or bi friends being grossed about kissing or having a relationship with the same sex. It simply didn't add up. Confused, I read everything I could get my hands on about male sexual abuse. Though there was some info about emotional issues (which I was only starting to see) little was said about same-sex attraction (SSA). It wasn't until I stumbled upon articles by Dr. Joe Kort that I finally started to understand. Kort writes:
"These [abuse victims] heterosexual men are not homosexually oriented. They do not sexually desire, nor are they aroused by, other men. However, they compulsively reenact childhood sexual abuse (CSA) by male perpetrators through their sexual behaviors with other men. If a basically heterosexual boy is molested by a male relative, he may keep "returning to the scene of the crime" to defuse his emotional pain or desensitize himself to it. When his original trauma gets cleared up, the 'homosexual' behavior he's reenacting ceases. This isn't about gayness; it is about sexual abuse."
But it wasn't enough. I wanted to dig further. How did I know this was real and not just some psychology mumbo jumbo? It wasn't long until I stumbled upon an online forum for male sexual abuse survivors and I got the raw truth first hand. A straight man abused by his uncle fantasized about having sex with older men. A gay man abused by his mom thought he was straight. Still others fantasized about being beaten, coerced and abused. Another had to dress in women's clothing after being forced to do so by his mother. Many of them were tortured by their fantasies; others learned to deal with them through therapy. I knew there was truth to my initial assessment.
Haunted by their past, I learned that many of these abused men (regardless of orientation) had resorted to "reenactment." Explained one man:
"There is no stopping the thoughts of being sexually abused. So one coping mechanism is to try to create a reenactment where the same things happen 'consensually'. So it won't really be forced on you but rather it would be you exercising your own will and therefore controlling the situation. This is extremely commonplace among survivors."
This was the crux of the problem with M. How could we move forward if he's carrying such darkness from his past? I should have addressed this right away, but I was scared so I turned a blind eye. However it soon became obvious that though his preoccupation with blowjobs is what made me suspicious, there was a lot more going on underneath the surface.
As I read more and more about male CSA, I realized that many survivors (but certainly not all of course) also exhibit a lack of trust, fear of intimacy, feelings of inadequacy, confusing emotional needs with sex and the need to lie to keep themselves "safe". And as he became more comfortable with me, many of these issues came to light. We would get close talking about our future and all the ways we wanted to grow together, only for him to pull away ditching plans with me to play golf with his buddies. He would tell me he wanted to marry me only to flip around and say he could never trust women.
My life with him was a rollercoaster. One minute I would be on top of the world overcome with happiness and the next I'd be curled up in a ball crying as he told me only women he didn't love could ever satisfy him in bed. It's as though he wanted to get close but was so afraid of getting hurt again. I knew M's lashing out had to do with the immense pain he carried around for years and wasn't about me. But it hurt nonetheless. I often went from sympathetic, to angry, to hurt, to confused, to loving all in the course of a day. It often felt like walking on landmines; when would one explode? When would I explode?
As I struggled to understand what was happening, I became angry. We've all seen countless stories of men coming out about their abuse. But what happens to them after? I was angry about the secrecy and shame that surrounded sexual abuse and male sexual abuse in particular. After surveying 40,000 households about rape and sexual violence, the National Crime Victimization Survey revealed that 38 percent of rape incidents were against men — and that's a number that's largely on the rise. In past years, it was as low as five percent. Why is no one talking about it? For a society that expects men to be in charge and in control all the time, I could only imagine how painful M's abuse was. The last thing he ever wanted to admit was that he was a victim even if he was.
I loved M more than words could express. I loved the part of him that lay deep down inside underneath all the pain. The part that surprised me with love sticky notes every morning, planned a scavenger hunt for me and talked about his dreams for us together. He was like a little teddy bear inside that turned into a porcupine when provoked. I was afraid. What would happen if we had kids? If one of us had a health scare? Or got laid off? Would it trigger him?
After walking on eggshells for months on end after his revelation, I finally confronted him. I told him his desire to have oral sex with another man was likely related to reenacting his abuse and not sexual orientation. I told him our relationship had become fraught with constant arguments, lies and verbal attacks, all the remnants of a past he didn't want to deal with. I told him we had to go to therapy if this was ever going to work. I told him I didn't want him to feel ashamed or embarrassed for something he was a victim of. This is not what he wanted to hear. He angrily accused me of not accepting him the way he was, that this was the way he always was, and that therapy would never help.
Another woman might have seen the situation for what it was; a sinking ship. But our relationship created the perfect storm for my codependency issues and his neediness. I grew up with an emotionally unavailable father and a demanding mother. My need for approval, my feeling responsible for others and my fear of rejection propelled me into a toxic relationship with someone who wasn't capable of honest healthy love. M grew up not trusting anyone and never feeling cared for. I couldn't get enough of his adoration and sought to prove that I wasn't like the other women who let him down. He couldn't get enough of my love seeking to fill his empty heart that like a sieve could never be full. I had inadvertently set up a situation in which nothing I ever did would be enough. Just like with my parents, I was always acutely aware that his love for me came with conditions, none of which I could ever meet. But yet again I brushed aside his words hoping things would change. However when I caught him lying about emailing an ex-girlfriend while we were on a brief break, I knew it was time to end it. M didn't think his lies, criticisms, or reenactment desires were a problem. I knew I couldn't live in a state of constant emotional abuse and instability. Though I knew M loved me, I had to come to terms with the fact that love wasn't enough. M wasn't capable of giving me what I deserved; a happy, healthy, supportive adult relationship. I decided it was time to choose myself. With heavy hearts, we parted ways. I can only hope one day he chooses himself too.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.com: Underneath The Shame: My Boyfriend Was Sexually Abused
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