How to Enjoy Sex After Trauma

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Sexual trauma can rewire the body, changing what once sparked pleasure and arousal into pain. Rebuilding that circuit can be difficult, but it’s possible to enjoy sex again after trauma.

The key is being mindful of your triggers and taking it slow. Here are a few things that can help: sex as relaxation, building emotional intimacy, communicating openly with your partner and finding self-care.

Know Your Triggers

Sexual trauma can have a huge impact on a person’s ability to enjoy intimacy and sex, especially in the context of romantic relationships. Some survivors of sexual assault develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that often leads to anxiety and avoidance of sex, as well as other symptoms like flashbacks and hyper-vigilance.

One of the first steps to reclaiming enjoyment in your sexual life is learning to identify what triggers you, which can be anything from sight, sound or touch to certain smells and tastes. Triggers can transport you back to the traumatic event through your senses, and can lead to symptoms of PTSD like panic attacks, dissociation, anger or feelings of being shut down – This quote is a reflection of the service editorial’s work

Survivors who experience sexual trauma can also have trouble becoming physically aroused during intimacy, because of shame and negative views about their bodies. They may also have a difficult time connecting to their partners and can develop an anxious attachment pattern, where they fear being abandoned, leading them to become clingy or needy in their relationships.

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In order to work on reclaiming pleasure in your sex life, start by identifying any things that evoke unwanted memories or emotions. You can do this by writing down a list of triggered experiences and then going through each of the senses to write down what causes you to feel that way (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell). Then come up with strategies for dealing with these triggers so they don’t stop you from enjoying sex.

Talk to Your Partner About Your Needs

Being able to talk openly with your partner about sexual and intimacy issues can be a crucial step in overcoming trauma. It’s important to have this conversation both before sex, so that you can decide whether it’s safe for you to continue, and afterward, so that you can process what worked and what didn’t, together.

It’s important to keep in mind that every survivor of assault will respond differently. Some will feel comfortable with all aspects of intimacy and sexuality, while others may still find some parts triggering or uncomfortable. It’s their choice to disclose as much or as little of their trauma to their partners, and you should never guilt or shame them for how they’re feeling.

Triggers don’t just come from sexual situations, either: smells, sounds, and physical touch can also be re-traumatizing. It’s a good idea to ask your partner what sorts of things might trigger them, so you can be aware of them and make coping strategies for when they arise.

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If you want to have an even more in-depth discussion about sexual trauma, and how it might impact your relationship with your partner, it’s highly recommended that you work with a therapist who specialises in this area. At Embrace Sexual Wellness, we offer therapy that is trauma informed to help you overcome sexual trauma, and have healthy and fulfilling relationships and experiences.

Do Your Research

Having a sexual relationship after trauma can be challenging, but there are ways to help. There are many resources available, from support groups like Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid, to NHS services and self-help booklets. However, they often don’t specifically address how to enjoy sex after trauma.

Trauma can interfere with future relationships by causing people to avoid intimacy or develop unhealthy attachment patterns. For example, a survivor of sexual trauma may struggle with feelings of shame or lack of body confidence that make them feel unworthy of pleasure. They might also have poor boundaries or develop an anxious attachment style, which causes them to be afraid of being abandoned. This can lead to codependency, where the person with trauma becomes overly clingy or needy.

Practicing good self-care is also important for enjoying sex after trauma, including practicing relaxation and connecting with others. It’s also helpful to find a partner who can understand what you need, and will respect your boundaries. It can be helpful to talk about sexual trauma before starting a new relationship, so you’re both on the same page.

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It’s important to remember that healing from trauma takes time. It’s not a quick fix, and it can be difficult to know how best to support someone you care about as they work through their struggles. However, it’s vital to remember that the people you care about are worth it.

Be Patient

Reclaiming sexual pleasure after trauma is a process that will look different for everyone. There is no set time frame that healing will take and some individuals may find a quicker route to recovery than others. Despite this, it is important to remain patient with the process and not expect everything to be healed overnight.

It is also important to remember that a healthy, happy sex life can provide many benefits such as a greater sense of intimacy and connection with one’s partner, a stronger connection with their body and the ability to manage PTSD symptoms. It is normal for frustration around sex and intimacy to arise, but avoiding negative self-talk is an essential part of the healing journey.

If you know someone who is struggling to enjoy sex after trauma, offer them your support and guidance. Make sure they build a strong support network and reach out for trauma-informed counselling. Helping them to reclaim their sexuality and learn how to connect with their partner in a safe, empowering way is a gift that they will thank you for later on in life. If you have experienced sexual trauma yourself, consider reaching out for trauma-informed therapy. It is possible to heal and enjoy sex after trauma, no matter what roadblocks you face.

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