Thursday, May 20, 2010

to love and to be loved...

One of the comments that struck me the most when I wrote "Riot Proof" was Eric's. You can go back and read it if you want but the gist of it was how hard it is to be a man in love with a woman who is a survivor of sexual violence. I don't really think that these men get enough credit for how hard their job is - to love someone who has been so deeply hurt and betrayed in such a physical way. So I'm writing this post for those men.

This one's for you, Eric.

The first thing to know, guys, is that you aren't the doctor OR the wound; you're the nurse. This means that whatever is going to get healed, it's the woman's job to heal. You cannot heal her wounds - she must learn to heal and to find her own power and strength again. If you do that for her it's not going to work. Trust me on this one - I spent a good couple boyfriends putting any hope I'd ever feel normal again on them. So not fair.

As much as guys long to fix and save the women they are with, women who are survivors have to learn to rely on themselves. So, guys, you're not the doctor who heals a patient - you're the nurse who can make things better by listening when she tells you what hurts, being supportive, and assisting with the first-aid when there's an emergency.

Nor are you the cause of your partner's wounds. She might try to make it seem that way - but no, not all men are equal, and you loving her and wanting to be intimate with her does not make you a lecherous, insensitive dickhead. It makes you human with a pulse. Congratulations.

The two things I hear the most from guys who are with women who are survivors are: 1) Why can't I fix it, and 2) I feel really, really guilty for wanting to have sex with her.

I've already addressed #1. It's not your job to fix her, heal her, or save her. It really, REALLY isn't. She's on her own path towards recovery and you don't have to carry her down that path; just hold her hand like she's your equal, not your project. She's not the bathroom tub. She's a living, human being who might be a little chipped and cracked here and there but she is not broken. (I am of the opinion that it is physically impossible to break the human spirit.)

#2 is harder. When you love someone, madly, deeply, Shakespeareaningly (totally coining that word), you want to be close. You want to be intimate and you want to feel like the two of you are the only two people in the entire world, regardless of how thin the walls of your apartment may or may not be. I get it. I've been there.

It's important to remember that when you're dating someone who has had sex turned on them as a weapon, to be used for the purposes of control, power, anger, or force, instead of love - that you have to start over from the beginning. You have to give these women intimacy in the form of love, kindness, gentleness, patience. You get to show how unalike some men really are from others. For this reason I advocate cuddling like there is no tomorrow. And guys, I mean cuddling with no expectation of sex ever happening. Cuddling while watching television, cuddling while reading books with each other, cuddling while eating ice cream. Cuddling while paying the bills. Whatever.

For a girl to simply be held, with no expectation of sex, is to feel safe and loved. It is a huge, huge step for girls who have been violated in the worst way to feel safe in your arms. And it's an incredible turn on. Try it sometime - and this is for everyone, including women - try just holding your partner in your arms and brushing your fingers through their hair and nuzzling their neck and telling your partner that it's not about this ultimately resulting in sex, it's about being in love and showing how much love there really is.

It's a game-changer in a relationship, it really is. And it breaks the spell. Because here's where the pain of what happened really lives: that a woman at some point or another cannot always distinguish between the people who have hurt her and the people who mean her no harm. It's not always clear in our heads; sometimes everything is gray and everyone is suspect. And we feel horrible that we can't see the difference between our predators and our partners. But that's not your fault, guys. And if you stay patient, if you listen, if you love us the way we need to be loved, everything can change.

I'm living proof. As are a lot of my friends.


Jeremy Asher said...


Robin said...

I cried when I read this. You are so amazing. Keep pushing the love. You are touching so many lives.

Phoenix said...

Robin - you know it's all your fault, right? ;) You called me a lighthouse and now I'm taking that job seriously trying to inspire people. And it's because of people like you that I keep pushing :)

drollgirl said...

this is so well written, and such good advice. i am so glad you wrote this, and i hope it helps many men and women that need some much-needed advice.

Miss Anne said...

Very well said/explained my friend.

Lira said...


Death Wears Diamond Jewellery said...

ive just read your last two posts and now im covered in goosebumps! you seem like an amazing person, so much insight and courage. wishing you the best xxx

Eric W. Trant said...

All right, little girl, I hear you, and thank you THANK YOU for the nod. I hear you better than you think.

Or maybe you realize just how much you got my attention.

Means a lot to me what all you wrote.

Last year I posted something on eHarmony -- I was frequenting the boards not to date, but to entertain myself -- and it pertained to dating victimized women. Click for the link.

I'll post it here, under my real name this time rather than my pseudo Saul.

I sure do appreciate your thoughts on the sex stuff. Not to get personal or anything, but that's where the damage is, and what I thought was fun and playful eventually turned into, well, it turned to shit.

Sorta like Tommy Boy and his biscuit, only I did it with a chick. I'm still afraid of screwing up my biscuit, if you catch me, so I'm real careful with it now!

The old post:
Another topic woke this up in me yesterday, and last night I tossed under the full moon about it, me and the dogs, up at 330AM, all of us pacing around wagging our tails and pissing in the back yard.

It's shocking, really. Shocking. I've dated women who were tied up in the shower, held at knifepoint, drugged, and who sat on the stand and testified against their husband, about what he'd done with their daughter. One girl's jaw popped from where her ex had broken it.

When I worked at Blockbuster, back in college, this lady came in, left with three movies, and thirty minutes later came back for an exchange. The left side of her face was beat to hell. We asked about calling the cops, she said, No, and after she left, we all stood around the computer looking at the address, 6101 Circle R, and reckoning whether we should take care of it ourselves. We didn't, but that was his address, by God. Threat of conviction was the only thing stopping us, too.

I'd hazard that none of the guys on this site are like that, and certainly only a small percentage of the guys in the world are like that. But they sure get around. And they do a lot of damage to those women.

I married one of those women. We divorced. During the counseling prior to the divorce, during our first session, the counselor looked at her and said, "That doesn't sound like normal sexual behavior. Are you a rape victim?"

I can do the same thing. You can tell who they are. They're different. Most women can recall a dangerous moment with a guy, or an uncomfortable encounter, but I'm not talking about an awkward date, or next-day remorse. I'm talking about hardcore Lifetime Originals, which always involve either molestation, rape, or violence against a woman or their children. I'm talking about being raped and wondering whether he was going to let you live. I'm talking about walking for an hour before someone finally picks you up, with you holding your shirt together with broken nails.

When you're sixteen.

Anyway. Just saying that these women really are different. You have to treat them with a lot more tenderness than a woman who's never lost her innocence.

However, the trust you earn is on a far deeper level. You have to want it. You have to earn it. It takes a lot of time and patience.

But once you find that trust in her, it's both beautiful and fragile. I wish I'd fully appreciated this while I was married.

Especially that fragile part.

- Eric

Bathwater said...

Wonderful post, very good lessons for a guy to learn.

Okie said...

Great post with great advice.

I had actually typed up a very lengthy response, to a large extent just reiterating what you said. But you said it so much better than I did. My only comment would be (and this in no way is meant to belittle your situation) that the advice you give is excellent advice for ANY relationship, even the most "normal" of relationships in which there are not deep wounds from sexual violence or other traumatic experiences.

Again, thanks for your bravery in sharing your experience and providing great advice and hope for others out there.

Gwen said...

You are truly amazing my friend!!! Truer words could not have been written. Love ya!!!


Jaeveberry said...

You have the most thoughtful posts. This is another great one that many people should read. Kudos & love! PS Ok, if you're one season behind then I don't feel so bad! haha because we have to miss the finale and watch it a couple hours later since we have something to go to (and can't miss) that is at the same time. ;) I see it as being able to prolong the goodbye! I don't want it to end, yet at the same time, it must. Sniff Sniff!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

You have been incredible in these last few posts. This advice seems invaluable.
On a much lighter note, I've left an award or two for you on my blog. No strings, just to say it's been great to meet you.

Jojomama said...

This is something I know quite a bit about. Thanks for sharing. (=
Found you on Talespinning.

Clarity said...

That was sweet. And true.

Sent email from "myname"123@...

Barbara said...

Such a lovely post, Phoenix!
And cuddling is important for everyone...I never got cuddled unless sex was expected.

g. fox said...

Well said. If only more men could truly understand this.

krista said...


Jos said...

Normally I do not share with my husband the stuff I read in "blog-land" but this ... do you know, I have been trying to explain this stuff to him for years ... that sometimes I can't tell that it's him ... and not "other him" ... and so sometimes I cannot be close.

The way you've written it here has helped us both. Thank you. xx Jos

Jojomama said...

I love To Be Loved is one of my fave Peter Gabriel songs. (=

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