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If you have been sexually abused in any way, it can drastically change the way you feel about relationships and sexual or romantic partners. This feeling may last for days, weeks, months, or even years. When you do find yourself ready to enter into a new relationship or partnership, you may feel nervous about discussing your past or your boundaries.

First of all, it is vital that your comfort is held as your top priority. Although it can be easy to want to bend to someone else’s will or want to please others, YOU should be your most prized possession. Go at your own pace and remember that you don’t owe anyone anything, even a romantic partner.

If you’re not ready to have sex and don’t want to explain why, you don’t have to. It may help your partner to better support and understand you, but you aren’t obligated. Be sure that you are clear with your boundaries, whatever they may be. If you are ready to have sex again but have specific rules or preferences, make them known. A respectful partner will never question your boundaries or go against them.

There is no set timeline for when you should tell a partner about your past experiences. You can gauge your own readiness based on how close you are with the person and how much you trust them.

When you do feel that you are ready to talk to your partner about past abuse, it is important that you prepare mentally for the conversation. It is also a good idea to make sure your partner is ready as well. If you don’t want to start the conversation abruptly, let them know you want to talk to them about something. You can even tell them it’s sensitive or important and should be done in person (or on the phone if it’s a long distance relationship, perhaps).

When the time comes, you should choose a place where you feel comfortable. A private place is best for a conversation of this nature, perhaps one of your homes or even a quiet cafe where you feel cozy and have privacy.

The amount of detail you share about your experience is up to you, as they are your experiences. You can choose to simply let your partner know that you were abused in the past and how it has affected you. Or maybe you can share more context as to how the situation(s) occurred and how you feel about them. If your experiences have changed how you feel about romance, relationships, or sex, that context may be useful to building a strong relationship.

Remember that self-care is extremely important and if you begin to feel upset, it is always your right to ask to talk about it at another time or perhaps not at all. Ask your partner to support you and respect you in whatever way you see fit.

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