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Is fear of intimacy normal after abuse? (long post, deals with abuse and breakups)


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Old 30th January 2014, 3:34 PM   #1
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Is fear of intimacy normal after abuse? (long post, deals with abuse and breakups)

Is it normal to withdraw, to be scared of intimacy, after being emotionally and psychologically abused?

I've actually gotten it from multiple angles over the last year, and it eventually took its toll.



I began hooking up with a girl a few years back. She wanted more, but I found out that she had an alcohol abuse problem, and it blossomed HARD. I cut off the "relationship" we had, but she began to psychologically and emotionally abuse me to try to pull me back in.

She began cutting herself and sending me photos, telling me that she'd kill herself if I didn't do what she wanted, calling me horrible names, etc.

Things got worse when she moved cross country and began seeing someone new because I took this as a sign that I could safely do the same. I met the girl of my dreams and things were INCREDIBLE, but when this ex found out...all hell broke loose.

She'd threaten to tell my girlfriend lies to break us up, and threatened suicide more than once ("If I kill myself, I hope I haunt you. I hope it scars you and ruins your relationship!"), she'd cut herself and send me pictures of the wounds. I had to call 911 more than once to ensure she was okay.

It hit a breaking point finally, and I cut her off. I had to. She insulted my girlfriend and sent her harassing Facebook messages, threatened me, the works. She did all this at 6am, waking me out of a sound sleep. I freaked out, yelled at her and hung up.

That night, she killed herself. Left a note blaming me.

Her older brothers held me responsible in their minds and told me so - one of them even did so on a regular basis.

I was often frequently bullied at work. Things became very stressful there, and I made many attempts to find new work, only to come up dry. I figured "a job I hate is better than no job at all" and stuck with it.

There were lots of other little bits of stress, including apartment hunting, being scammed by a potential job, constant employment rejections, the death of a coworker, and an aversion to graveyards that I suddenly cropped up while visiting one with my (then) girlfriend.

Everything finally began hitting me 5 months after this girl died. I was having bouts of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. I just couldn't keep myself together.

I had "medicine head" every single day for 2 months. I had daily panic attacks, was frequently tired and irritable, and was in a mental fog. It took all my willpower to make it through the work day...and then I'd go home and would try to sleep as best I could. Any sleep I got was not restful and was plagued by nightmares. I couldn't get out of my own way, and functioning was difficult.

All I wanted to do was try to sleep. I didn't want to exercise, see friends, watch movies, play games, see my girlfriend...I didn't want to do anything. But I didn't want anyone to know, especially not my girlfriend. But all the trauma made it difficult to be intimate with her the way I used to be.

We'd have sex and hold hands when out and about, but looking into her eyes, cuddling, or doing anything that could be considered "intimate" or "bonding" scared me. It hurt. It sent me into shivers and made me want to cry. I hid it from her and just slowly and quietly pulled away.

I didn't have the energy to go out and have fun. I realize now that I was depressed, but because I wasn't "sad" and had never been depressed before, I didn't know what was happening.

THAT was the biggest things I noticed. I felt apathetic about being intimate with my girlfriend...or worse, I'd get scared or repulsed by the idea. I didn't want to drive the hour to see her because the thought of staying at her apartment made me uncomfortable. But I loved her and found her attractive. I couldn't figure it out. It hurt and confused me.

Because I was so tired and twitchy, I started being super nice...in a way that still let me avoid her a little. If she was too stressed from work, I'd cancel dates to let her put in more time to get ahead (instead of taking her out and having a fun time with her). If she was upset about something, I'd be very gentle. If we had different opinions and she got heated, I'd gently express my opinion, apologize for making her mad, and change the subject. For 2 months I stopped making the drive to see her (she lived an hour away), and didn't make plans for when she'd drive to see me. I just let it all become routine.

I had some really good days where I could connect with her, but most of the time...I was just boring and passive. She made small hints about wanting to see me and take me hang-gliding, and I'd say "I definitely want to!" and would leave it at that...expecting her to plan it.

I think I forgot how to just let go and be happy during this time.

I cried almost daily, and ALWAYS cried on days where I saw my girlfriend.

I felt like I had blood on my hands. I didn't feel like I deserved my girlfriend's love.

But I hid the pain and torment, and her feelings faded. The dreaded "I love you but I'm not IN love with you". She thought of me affectionately and cared about me, but I didn't excite her anymore...she didn't "miss me enough" when she was away. I tried to chalk it up to the end of the honeymoon period, but lots of time and counseling have shown me how I sabotaged the relationship.

I tried to do everything "differently" than I had with the ex that killed herself. I tried to be more gentle and caring and less self-oriented. I tried to be nice and do what SHE wanted to do, but didn't take charge and lead when the depression hit. But thoughts of my deceased-ex filled me with grief and anxiety...I didn't want to get close to this new, wonderful girl because I was afraid I'd hurt her...or that she'd hurt me.

I was just getting better when she left too, and I found myself retraumatized all over again. I felt like a failure and a weakling.

All my other pity-partying aside, is the avoidance of intimacy and closeness a normal thing after something like this? I've been going to conseling, but I'm not sure what other avenues I should pursue to deal with this.
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Old 30th January 2014, 6:33 PM   #2
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thank you for sharing this. proud of you for taking action and getting into therapy. stay the course.
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Old 30th January 2014, 6:55 PM   #3
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Wow. I have felt a lot of similarities in regards to my BU, but experienced nowhere near the drama(suicide) and pain you have. I have had the same feelings you explained about intimacy since the 8 months after my BU, where I almost fear the idea of intimacy(physical and emotional) with the women I have dated since. I don't know if it is unresolved feelings from my past relationship or what? My ex and I had a toxic relationship where we both were emotionally and verbally abusive to each other. I though time would heal this but after 8 month maybe counseling is in order? Pfenixphire, is there anything that has helped you with this?
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Old 30th January 2014, 6:58 PM   #4
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I've shared bits and pieces of it before, but never really talked about it's effects.

I made a lot of foolish mistakes because I was too proud and too much in denial to ask for help when it mattered...I only sought it out when it had taken its toll on my health, sanity, emotional stability and relationship.

Had I lost those things when I was 100% myself and able to function I'd at least be able to hold my head up high and know I did my best. But I've had to learn with the knowledge that, because I gave into depression, I was half-assing everything.

Bitter pill to swallow, but I've got to whether I like it or not.
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Old 30th January 2014, 7:36 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by FortunateSon View Post
Wow. I have felt a lot of similarities in regards to my BU, but experienced nowhere near the drama(suicide) and pain you have. I have had the same feelings you explained about intimacy since the 8 months after my BU, where I almost fear the idea of intimacy(physical and emotional) with the women I have dated since. I don't know if it is unresolved feelings from my past relationship or what? My ex and I had a toxic relationship where we both were emotionally and verbally abusive to each other. I though time would heal this but after 8 month maybe counseling is in order? Pfenixphire, is there anything that has helped you with this?
The abusive relationship was pretty miserable, but I was healing from that fine on my own until the suicide.

That happened when I was only 4 months into the best relationship of my life. I withdrew a little then, but was mostly okay.

It only really hit 5 months later. Oh man, it was slow at first, but then I was paralyzed. I was terrified of my girlfriend, of opening up to get and letting her know that I was tortured and depressed. She just thought I was in a work rut that I couldn't get out of.

Counceling helped a lot. However, it's been nearly 8 months since my BU (10 since the emotional breakdown that started it all) and I'm still in rough shape.

Talking helps. I didn't talk when it matters, so I talk now. I talk to close friends about my grief, loss and pain. My most recent ex comes up every now and then, but I think of her fondly. I wish things had worked out, but that's in the past now. I know it was my baggage that forced us apart, so I'm sorting it out.

I talk about how I felt with people I know I'm safe with. My parents, my friends, and the counselor.

No holding back anymore. If I think it, I say it. Repressing stress and grief got me here, so no more of that.

Exercise helps, especially running and clinbing. It feels good to know that, even in working out, I'm physically moving forward.

Mediation helps when I can focus enough to do it.
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Old 30th January 2014, 10:00 PM   #6
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wow....

Sorry this happened to you. Sounds awful.

Your ex obviously had serious issues. But they are not YOUR issues. I would highly advise you continue to go to counseling for quite some time till you have skills to better deal with this now, as well as in the future because you will always remember this.

I think what your experiencing is most likely completely normal after such trauma. If I were you, maybe I'd take a little break from relationships for a while until your feeling better about things. Your most likely a mess. I sure would be. Take time for yourself to heal. Slowly but surely your life will come back together again.

Also keep in mind to learn about identifying red flags that may alert you to abusers in the future. You don't want to end up in this situation again.

Again, so sorry.
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Old 30th January 2014, 11:22 PM   #7
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I can relate to you, even as a male. I was abused by my ex-wife and, as a result, I've realized that I am afraid of intimacy. I think it's totally normal. Don't beat yourself up over it. Try not to be perfectionistic. Just realize that you have some things to work through (as do I) but you'll get there. I almost feel embarrassed to say this as a guy, since I know it sounds like a feminine thing to admit--but whatever.
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Old 30th January 2014, 11:37 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by M30USA View Post
I can relate to you, even as a male. I was abused by my ex-wife and, as a result, I've realized that I am afraid of intimacy. I think it's totally normal. Don't beat yourself up over it. Try not to be perfectionistic. Just realize that you have some things to work through (as do I) but you'll get there. I almost feel embarrassed to say this as a guy, since I know it sounds like a feminine thing to admit--but whatever.
Well, I think you see my problem more than you think.

I'm also male, and admitting I was depressed and afraid of intimacy seemed weak and unattractive, hence part of the reason I didn't want to admit to it or tell my (then) girlfriend about it.

Pride goeth before a fall, eh?
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Old 30th January 2014, 11:43 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Pfenixphire View Post
Well, I think you see my problem more than you think.

I'm also male, and admitting I was depressed and afraid of intimacy seemed weak and unattractive, hence part of the reason I didn't want to admit to it or tell my (then) girlfriend about it.

Pride goeth before a fall, eh?


Whoops, I didn't read close enough.


So are you saying that you had fear of intimacy BEFORE the abuse? And that's why you WERE abused? And that, if you didn't have fear of intimacy, you WOULDN'T have been abused?
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Old 31st January 2014, 12:17 AM   #10
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Whoops, I didn't read close enough.


So are you saying that you had fear of intimacy BEFORE the abuse? And that's why you WERE abused? And that, if you didn't have fear of intimacy, you WOULDN'T have been abused?
I was abused by one ex (the one that killed herself...which was the REAL abuse and what hit me hardest), and that made me afraid to open up to the girlfriend I had at the time.

Had I not been so freaked out by all this, I feel I wouldn't have lost the great girlfriend I had after the abusuve relationship.

Sorry for the confusion. There were two separate girls lol.
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Old 31st January 2014, 12:20 AM   #11
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I was abused by one ex (the one that killed herself...which was the REAL abuse and what hit me hardest), and that made me afraid to open up to the girlfriend I had at the time.

Had I not been so freaked out by all this, I feel I wouldn't have lost the great girlfriend I had after the abusuve relationship.

Sorry for the confusion. There were two separate girls lol.

Gosh, your ex killed herself??? I'm so sorry to hear that.
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Old 31st January 2014, 3:55 AM   #12
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I'm so sorry to hear what you've been through. I can't even begin to imagine the trauma and pain. What your first ex did was quite possibly the most cruel thing a person could do (the blaming you in a note). I'm sure you know now that she must have been extremely unwell mentally to have taken her life in the first place and clearly wasn't of sound mind, I hope you do realise it was not your fault in the slightest?

I'm glad to hear you're getting help and I understand feelings of embarrassment over asking for help and getting it to begin with, as you say "Pride goeth before a fall" - I know this to my own detriment. I spent an extremely long time suffering with depression before I sought help, and when I DID get help (and short term medication) it was truthfully like a fog had lifted and I could see clearly again, I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner - but better late than never

Try to remember that your ex seemed to want to destroy your life when she was alive, don't allow her to succeed in her death. Wishing you well.
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Old 31st January 2014, 3:41 PM   #13
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I'm so sorry to hear what you've been through. I can't even begin to imagine the trauma and pain. What your first ex did was quite possibly the most cruel thing a person could do (the blaming you in a note). I'm sure you know now that she must have been extremely unwell mentally to have taken her life in the first place and clearly wasn't of sound mind, I hope you do realise it was not your fault in the slightest?

I'm glad to hear you're getting help and I understand feelings of embarrassment over asking for help and getting it to begin with, as you say "Pride goeth before a fall" - I know this to my own detriment. I spent an extremely long time suffering with depression before I sought help, and when I DID get help (and short term medication) it was truthfully like a fog had lifted and I could see clearly again, I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner - but better late than never

Try to remember that your ex seemed to want to destroy your life when she was alive, don't allow her to succeed in her death. Wishing you well.
I always "knew" it wasn't my fault, but it FELT like it was.

At first it was fine, but I credit the amazing girl I was dating at the time and the intense "honeymoon period" we had for carrying me through.

But when that intensity began to fade, I sunk into a nasty funk. I didn't understand what it was or why I couldn't control my feelings.

It was scary and it hurt. It hurt to not feel attracted to this amazing girl. It hurt to not be able to tease her or joke with her like normal. It hurt that everytime we got close, I wanted to pull away because I didn't want her to see the darkness inside.

It's funny that you mention "fog" because that's exactly how I felt. 5 days out of 7, I felt like I was constantly in a fog. I couldn't see where I was going anymore. I had this odd sensation in my head (like when you haven't gotten enough sleep), and my brain just wouldn't function properly. I could barely get myself through the day, nevermind contribute to a relationship.

I was in denial. I just claimed I was tired from work. I assume it was stress, and worked myself harder to "fix" the problem.

I guess I didn't realize how much the suicide had really f**cked me up. I didn't want to admit it. She was troubled, selfish and hateful and was trying to ruin the best thing that'd ever come into my life. I didn't want to admit to myself, or anyone else, that she had hurt me so badly.
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Old 31st January 2014, 7:50 PM   #14
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I think this is a perfect example (albeit an extreme one) about how jumping from one relationship to another without processing and healing many times leads to another broken relationship.

Like you said, you were in denial about what happened and most likely hoped that the RS with girl #2 would make you "forget" the abuse and what happened with girl #1.

Girl #2 sensed your distance eventually when reality came knocking after the honeymoon, and knew that something was wrong because you were not being truly open and emotionally available to her. You may have been trying to "sweep under the rug" the unresolved issues you had with girl #1, and this is not possible. It will always come back to get you if you don't deal with it.

Again, I could only say at this point to do the work and get yourself in a good place before you become involved again. Also, after you do that and meet someone else, (who you know is genuine) don't think that you need to hide your feelings and emotions in order to appear strong and attractive. Real, healthy, mature women out there know that men are not made of steel. When you are able to show your vulnerabilities to the right girl, the intimacy you share will skyrocket and she will find this quality in you to be VERY attractive indeed.
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Old 31st January 2014, 9:03 PM   #15
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I think this is a perfect example (albeit an extreme one) about how jumping from one relationship to another without processing and healing many times leads to another broken relationship.

Like you said, you were in denial about what happened and most likely hoped that the RS with girl #2 would make you "forget" the abuse and what happened with girl #1.

Girl #2 sensed your distance eventually when reality came knocking after the honeymoon, and knew that something was wrong because you were not being truly open and emotionally available to her. You may have been trying to "sweep under the rug" the unresolved issues you had with girl #1, and this is not possible. It will always come back to get you if you don't deal with it.

Again, I could only say at this point to do the work and get yourself in a good place before you become involved again. Also, after you do that and meet someone else, (who you know is genuine) don't think that you need to hide your feelings and emotions in order to appear strong and attractive. Real, healthy, mature women out there know that men are not made of steel. When you are able to show your vulnerabilities to the right girl, the intimacy you share will skyrocket and she will find this quality in you to be VERY attractive indeed.
You may be right.

I was already with girl #2 when girl #1's abuse hit an all time high and the suicide occurred. I was on a shuttle bus with her when I found out about girl #1's death.

Girl #2 wasn't a way to forget...she was a girl I could've spent my life with, but I couldn't open up to her because I felt damaged, broken, dysfunctional.
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