Adult survivors often have a difficult time initiating, maintaining and
enjoying relationships. Any kind of relationship, ranging from collegial relationships at work, to personal friendships, to parent-child relationships, to intimate, romantic relationships, may be problematic. Relationships for survivors may reflect the all-or-nothing syndrome: either too few or too many relationships that seem to come and go like people through a revolving door. In some relationships, the survivor may assume a particular role and proceed to play out a replication of the past abuse. Given that child abuse most often occurs in the context of family relationships, the possibility of your repeating old patterns in personal adult relationships should not be underestimated.
Relationships can be difficult because they call upon personal
characteristics and emotional capabilities that are often new to adult survivors, such as trust, assertiveness, intimacy, self-confidence, good communication skills, the ability to give and receive affection, self-awareness and empathy for others, and acceptance of one's own feelings and needs. Many adult survivors find their personal relationships characterized by fighting, feeling misunderstood, projecting blame on each other, and feeling overwhelmed by powerful moods. Frequently, adult survivors anticipate rejection or non-acceptance and protect themselves by withdrawing or by becoming overly aggressive. These behaviors, and others, are probably ones you adopted as a child to help defend yourself against the abuse, but they may not be productive or healthy in adult relationships.
After years of not feeling their feelings or expressing them to others, many
survivors feel limited in their daily dialogue with a loved one. Making changes in your relationships begins with developing awareness about which modes of communication work and which don't. Discuss with your partner when and how best to talk to each other.