How to Create Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

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If you’ve been affected by any form of sexual trauma, it can be difficult to feel safe in a relationship. Here’s how to create intimacy and safety. 

Are you afraid of intimacy in a relationship? Sexual trauma—whether it’s rape, molestation, or even being shamed about your body, can deeply affect your ability to be intimate and vulnerable with your partners. This important topic was discussed on Last First Date Radio with my guests Neil Sattin, and his partner Chloe Urban.

Neil is a relationship coach, and host of the award-winning podcast Relationship Alive. He has interviewed many of the top hearts and minds in the relationship world, and synthesizes their wisdom to help you have amazing relationships. He and his partner, Chloe Urban, combine coaching, psychology, and healing work to help you overcome obstacles to connection and deep intimacy in your relationship. Their forthcoming book helps couples who have been affected by sexual trauma deepen intimacy, and their course, Thriving Intimacy, is a 7-week course designed to teach you the relationship skills that you never learned in school.

Highlights below for episode #239: How to Create Deep Intimacy, Especially if You’re Affected by Trauma.

How to Create Intimacy After Sexual Trauma

What made you choose this topic of creating intimacy after trauma?

Chloe: It’s a passion of ours and a part of our journey as a couple and with client. It’s a pervasive issue. So many are affected by trauma, and it can wreak havoc on how we create deep committed fulfilling relationships. 

Neil: There’s the big T trauma [sexual assault, rape], which are the big events. Most of us have little t trauma [someone says something about the way your body looks, or how you’re showing up sexually], as to what happens to us in relationship. It impacts how we date and have relationships, and can become an obstacle in relationships.

How do you create safety in a relationship?

Neil: Hopefully, safety is woven into everything you do in your relationship. From how you communicate, to how you have sex with your partner. 

1. Develop your skills of being present and recognize when you’re being triggered. Get yourself back into a present moment when you’re triggered/shut down. 

2. Communicate your complaints/requests.

3. Container: create the safety in your relationship where you might leak your energy out of a relationship by flirting with others, looking at people or chatting online, or watching tv a lot—ways that you take your energy out of the relationship instead of in the relationship.

4. Continuum: Creating sexual safety, from holding hands to making love, ways to feed your sexual energy all the time. Also the freedom to say no when you’re not in the same place as your partner. 

What are triggers, and how do they affect your relationships?

Chloe: A trigger is when something occurs that triggers our body to go into fight or flight. The primal brain kicks into gear and hijacks our system. We are just in survival mode. It can happen during an argument, or during sex, when someone says something in a tone of voice that reminds you of something that maybe your father used to say. [People respond to triggers differently.] Some people leave the room, some just shut down.

What’s a good way to deal with triggers? You can say you need to leave the room for 10 minutes and take care of yourself, and then come back to resolve it and work it through [with your partner].

How do you get past your triggers?

Neil: This is where the healing work comes in. If someone has dealt with something major, it’s a good idea to get help from a coach or therapist. Noticing when you’re triggered can be challenging if you tend to disassociate. A partner can help you become more aware. Shifting the response to the trigger can be healing. Explore the parts of you that were traumatized, and tend to those parts to bring the fragmented parts of yourself together. 

There are also ways for your partner to show up for those parts of you. Recognize that your past damage doesn’t define you.  


To learn more about Neil and Chloe’s course, Thriving Intimacy, text intimacy to 3344 if you live in the States.

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