Laura Beltran-Medina is a 2013 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, Santa Barbara.


sexual abuse, lived experience, early experience, intimacy, intimate partner relationship, intimacy, phenomenology

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This phenomenological study sought to understand the experience of seven men who came forward to contribute and discuss their intimate partner relationships for what relational intimacy could reveal about themselves, the meaning of intimate partnership, and their understanding of being in intimate relationships. The theoretical assumptions applied to this study are: (a) Childhood sexual abuse interferes with the ability to achieve deeper experiences of idealized love; (b) Negative effects of adult relational attachment are manifested in anxiety related to sexual intimacy, fear of emotional intimacy, and inability to fulfill dependency needs such as trust, love, and security; and (c) There is decline in the development of a strong therapeutic alliance. This research was guided by two central questions: (a) Research Question 1: What are the lived experiences of intimacy among men who were sexually abused as children? and (b) Research Question 2: How do men who were sexually abused as children describe their experiences with intimacy? Research data were gathered and organized by utilizing a phenomenological approach. An interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to analyze transcripts of participants interviews. Based on their experiences in developing intimate partner relationships, the participants were able to construct meaning about their childhood sexual abuse and intimate partner relationships. Nineteen themes emerged: (a) interpersonal safety woven in the fabric of sexual abuse, (b) need for trust, connection, and openness, (c) ambiguity in the need for emotional reassurance and mistrust of interpersonal relatedness, (d) sexual dysfunction, (e) emotional/intimacy distance, (f) healing while attempting to negotiate intimate relationships, (g) vulnerable to being hurt/betrayed, (h) disintegration of real and perceived intimacy beliefs, (i) understanding, (j) communication, (k) non-abusiveness, (l) exposure to relational bonding and interconnectedness, (m) religion and faith, (n) loyalty, (o) physical/verbal affection, (p) conflicted adult relational attachments, (q) fear of sexual intimacy, (r) fear of emotional intimacy, and (s) fear of vulnerability. These themes were organized according to three overarching themes: (a) negative intersubjectivity, (b) ambivalence in the need for emotional interconnectedness and mistrust of interpersonal relatedness, and (c) insecure adult relational attachments. The electronic version of this dissertation can be found at the OhioLink ETD Center,