Getting Your Partner on Board with Your Vacation from Sex
Getting Your Partner on Board With Your Vacation From Sex (The Center for Growth in Philadelphia) You’ve decided that taking a vacation from sex is an important step for you in healing from your sexual trauma. This vacation is a wonderful opportunity for you to develop a healthy sexuality and to better understand yourself and your partner as sexual beings. But before you begin this vacation you are going to need to get your partner on board. Getting your partner’s support is important for you to benefit from your vacation from sex. Often getting your partner on board can be a challenging task. Before you even talk to your partner about taking a vacation from sex, you should have already have a general idea about the following 5 things: 1) the purpose of the vacation, 2) the length of your vacation, 3) sexual or intimate activities to be included in your vacation, 4) goals for the vacation and 5) the cost of the vacation. Below are several concerns partners may have about your vacation from sex. Consider the suggestions for addressing each concern with your partner.
“You want to take a what? I’ve never heard of that kind of vacation before…” Your partner will probably have never heard of a vacation from sex. You will need to explain what a vacation from sex is: a temporary break from all or some sexual activities to enable healing from sexual trauma. Describe how many other survivors of sexual trauma have benefited from taking a break from sex. Focus on the positives. Emphasize that you want to take a vacation from sex because it will help you heal sexually and will allow you to develop a healthier sexuality.
“Are you telling me we cannot do anything sexual at all?”No. Not necessarily, although some survivors may need a break from all sexual or intimate activities. Regardless of the activities you are comfortable including in your vacation, your partner is likely to be upset with you wanting to certain sexual activities. Your partner may also believe that you are limiting certain sexual activities because they did something wrong. To avoid these misconceptions you will need to provide your partner with clear explanations of why certain activities are included and others are not. Before approaching your partner about your vacation from sex, you should have taken time on your own to explore which sexual and intimate activities you want to include in or exclude from your vacation. Approach your partner with an idea of the kinds of sexual or intimate activities you could engage during your vacation. Make sure to highlight why these sexual or intimate activities are okay to engage in. Focus on the positive effect these activities have on you and your relationship with your partner. This will help your partner later differentiate between activities you have chosen to include or exclude and the reasons why. For the activities you need to exclude from your vacation provide your partner with a clear explanation of why. Give concrete reasons of why such as, “Because I am dissociating,” or “It reminds me of my sexual abuse because…” You may not know exactly why a particular sexual or intimate activity is so triggering to you. If this is the case try to focus on the effect that the sexual or intimate activity has on you. Say something like, “I am not sure why, but I always feel bad about myself afterward and it is not healthy for me or our sex life if I feel this way.” This will increase the chances of your partner being able to understand why you need to exclude certain activities from your vacation.
“I feel like you’re ignoring my needs…”It is normal for a partner to feel as if there needs are not being considered. Your partner may also feel as though you are rejecting them. They might worry that this is the beginning of the end of your relationship. These fears and concerns are valid and you need to reassure your partner in order to get them on board with your vacation from sex. First give your partner the opportunity and space to express his or her concerns to you. Ask your partner 3 questions: 1) What are your concerns about us taking a break from certain sexual activities? 2) What could I do to make this vacation easier for you? 3) Are there other aspects of our relationship (both sexual and otherwise) that would be helpful for us to work on during this time? Next try to find room for compromise. Consider whether there are certain sexual or intimate activities you could modify to meet your partners needs. However be mindful that you will likely not be able to meet all of your partners needs if you are truly going to give yourself the space and time you need to heal from your sexual trauma. Furthermore it might be difficult to determine what is an acceptable compromise versus jeopardizing your healing by trying to appease your partner. In such a case it would be helpful to talk with a therapist.
“You’re just avoiding sex. How is that going to help?”If you really are just avoiding sex, then your partner is correct in suspecting that it would not help. However a true vacation from sex involves a lot of work! Explain to your partner the goals you want to accomplish by taking a vacation from sex and how you plan to achieve them. Describe how this vacation is going to demand a lot of emotional work from you and that you want their support.
“What is my role in all of this?”Your partner’s role will vary depending on the specifics of your vacation from sex. Before confronting your partner about a vacation from sex you should have already explored the specifics. Share with your partner your general idea of what their role will be. Ask and listen to what they would like their role to be. Is your partner looking to be more involved or less involved? How would they like to be involved? Emphasize that while you must do a lot of work on your own that they are your partner and must also work with them. Describe how their support and involvement would help you in the process.
“So what are the benefits to doing something like this?”Explain to your partner that taking a break from sex will provide you with the space from sexual activity needed to process your emotions and feelings about your trauma and sex. Highlight that the vacation will help you reclaim your sexuality in a new and healthier way. Remind your partner that the main reason for you taking a break from sex is so that you can heal sexually from your trauma. If you are able to heal sexually then you are going to have a better sex life! Not only will you have a better sex life with your partner but you will also have a more intimate relationship with your partner. The experience will be challenging for both of you but will also draw you closer and will allow you to know each other on a deeper level. While abstaining from intercourse and other sexual activities for several months or a year may be difficult, the long-term benefits that you will both experience in your lifetime together will be worth it.
The Next Step. If your partner is still struggling with the idea of a vacation from sex it would be helpful to talk to a therapist. A therapist can help both of your negotiate and communicate your needs for the vacation. If your partner is on board you may want to see a therapist anyway to help you both maximize the benefits of taking a vacation from sex. You should next begin to familiarize yourself with different exercises and activities that you can use during your vacation from sex to help you heal sexually.