How Can I Tell My Partner About The Abuse That I Experienced?

This is a question that I have been asked recently. I began by replying, that my client would know when the time was right to tell her partner about the abuse that she had experienced. She would know when they had found the right space.

I suddenly had to stop myself from saying any more. Why? You may ask. Well, because the conversation would not be purposeful unless we shared understanding. We would need a longer conversation with the time to explore how she could tell her partner her inner-most secret, and what responses she might expect and then receive; they are not always the same.

Using Words to Talk

You see, the words that you use when you talk to someone are the words that have meaning for you. The person that we talk to will have their own useful ‘meaning’ vocabulary. For example, if you say that you are frustrated, this will have meaning for you due to your experiences of frustration. The person that you are talking to; and you note that I say ‘talking to’, may have a different understanding of frustration due to their experiences.

Talking and communicating are different. When you talk, you tell someone something, you know what you said and how you said it. You stated your words and then awaited a response.

Getting a Response

When you talk to someone, something else is going on. Your nervous system in connection with your brain has sent electrical impulses through your body and you have stopped ‘telling’ and are now communicating. Your voice changes, your pitch, tone, and speech patterns will vary and you will use gestures.

You want to know that what you are saying is being heard. Your body language, the movement of your eyes, lips and facial muscles, the way that you stand, one hip jutting forward or your body leaning into the other person; and the way that you use your arms and hands all are forms of communication. You are communicating, not just talking. You are trying to reach ‘a state of understanding’. You might want to stand in front of a mirror the next time that you have a communication with someone.

Checking Your Partners Understanding

You will be interacting with that person, almost dancing together, and there will be a mismatch of steps. Can you imagine watching two people learning to dance the Fox Trot on programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing and watching the dancers tread on each other’s toes and miss the timing of the twirls?  They are not aligned. Then watch the same people after practising, as they glide around the floor, perfectly aligned and the steps moving in unison.  This is successful communication.

How can you communicate the fact that you have experienced abuse? You want your partner to understand how this has/is affecting you and possibly your relationship. This is so important to you. You want your partner to ‘get you’, to be with you, through the next stage of your journey. The fact is that unless you check out their understanding of what you have communicated; you will never know what you have communicated.

I am going to repeat this: Unless you check out their understanding of what you have communicated; you will never know what you have communicated.

You see, you are processing information by thinking, evaluating, reasoning, and interpreting. You respond to this information on the basis of your own meanings and knowledge and build a picture of your understanding with sounds and smells that you recognise. Your meaning can be lost if you do not have a shared understanding of words and body language.

A Shared Understanding is Possible

So, when thinking about how to tell your partner about the abuse that you have experienced be aware of the time available. Also, check the setting, and that you are feeling in a positive mindset about sharing the information. Prepare your partner by arranging the time and place. Give an indication that you have something important to share and explain how you feel about talking about the issue.

Make sure that there will be no distractions and that you have thought about what you are going to say. Make notes in preparation if it helps; use keywords to keep you focussed. As you explain, be aware of your body language and your tone of voice. Ensure that you have your partner’s attention and try to align your body language to allow your partner to match it. Try to take a slow Rumba, taking your steps slowly, and sway your body and language gently. Ask any questions regarding your partner’s feelings and whether your partner ‘gets you’. Take a break, when you need to.

You do not need to say it all at once. Your partner may have responses and you then need to change step, you align your body and language to theirs. Remember touch is important when connecting. It may take many conversations to help your partner to understand where you are with your recovery. Let your partner offer to help.

Remember, that when you tell your partner about the abuse that you have experienced, that unless you check out their understanding of what you have communicated; you will never know what you have communicated.

Please contact me if you want to book an initial conversation, to explore how I can help you share your message, and increase understanding of your needs. I want you to know that you are ready to have that important conversation with your partner.  Please email:

Talk soon,

Karen x

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