When Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Marriage Intimacy
A person who has been sexually abused as a child often thinks that once the abuse stops, he or she can “just get on with life” and everything will be “just fine.” After-all, the past is the past, right? Wrong.
I’ve been there and have done that and fell for the same lie. I thought that the pain was behind me and I’d be fine. But I wasn’t. And neither was our marriage, because my “past” affected it, or I should say it “infected” it greatly.
I thought that marrying a man who was gentle and kind would lead to a healthy sex life together and my past would be “my past.” But again I was wrong. It’s not that my husband Steve did everything right to help me deal with things properly. He said and did things in his frustration that sometimes complicated matters all the more. But that was not his intent to hurt me further, it just happened and I didn’t handle matters very well at all, and made matters all the worse because of my inability to know how to best work through my issues.
Like many others who have suffered sexual trauma at the hands of someone who took advantage of a child, I found that eventually the past had to be dealt with. I couldn’t just put it on a “shelf” away from the forefront of my mind and count on it staying there any longer. Eventually memories came out to haunt me when I least expected it —especially during intimate times with my husband.
And even though my husband was and is nothing like either of my abusers, somehow I ended up punishing him for the original pain that he did not afflict upon me. As the memories kept poisoning my mind and our love-making experiences, eventually my husband also became a victim of my past sexual abuse, as I kept pushing him away more and more until I couldn’t even be intimate with him at all.
Yes, Steve understood why I acted as I did (at least he said he did, and I believe him), but it didn’t erase the fact that he wanted to be close to me and yet I couldn’t handle any type of sexual closeness. It was just too painful of a reminder of the hurt I had experienced in my past. So, in essence, my past abuse continued haunting me, as well as my husband.
Something that Dr Archibald Hart said in a past Focus on the Family broadcast rang true in my life and is probably applicable to most people who need to deal with childhood sexual abuse. He said,
“It is understandable that you would continue to struggle with the abuse you went through as a child. Our emotions are so intense when we are young that our wounds and injuries often stay with us for a lifetime. The pain is immeasurably worse when the one who wronged us was a parent or a parent surrogate. Nevertheless, the bitterness you feel today is hurting you. It will continue to haunt you unless you can come to terms with it.”
And that is what I eventually knew I needed to do. It wasn’t until a number of years into our marriage that the Lord started to impress upon me that I had “unfinished business” to work on, in dealing with what had happened to me. That’s when I first started the painful process of praying and reaching out to find the help I needed to settle what had happened to me and begin the process of healing not only my mind, but my love life with my dear husband.
God helped me to come to the same conclusion as a statement that Dr Hart made:
“Your [abuser] has stolen your childhood. Don’t let him rob your peace of mind as an adult.”
It had for me. And if you’re experiencing this as well, I plead with you to please, please, please reach out for the help you need to properly deal with all that happened to you —whether you were a young child or an older one when you were originally victimized.
I eventually got to the point where I pleaded with God to either help me stop the nightmares and flashbacks I was experiencing or help me to die. I couldn’t take it any longer. God spoke to me in a way that made Himself real to me and let me know that if I was serious, the road would be tough and it would be long, but that I would get to the point of reaching the healing I desperately needed, if I was willing. I was and I’m so glad I said, “yes” to God in this.
I won’t lie and say that it was an easy journey. It was very, very painful. And it took a number of years to get through. Yet, even when I was reaching out for help, I never truly thought I would be able to get to the place where I would be completely healthy and whole in dealing with the sexual part of my life and the memories that haunted me for so many years. I was willing for any relief that I could get.
And yet, I can honestly give testimony that God has helped me to do an amazing work, and my past is no longer being dragged around in my life. I am healed and I am whole. And my husband and I have an amazing connection in every way in or lives together.
I encourage you that if you are being haunted by your past, DEAL WITH IT. Make it your mission NOT to allow your own mind and your marriage carry the burden of this horrible emotional baggage. Persevere and be tenacious in opening every door you need to, in order to get to a place where your past no longer steals joy and peace from your present and future life.
You will probably need help. Your spouse will eventually need to be a part of the healing process. But most husbands and wives do not know how to unpack such delicate and yet powerful emotions without professional help. Some do, but not many.
If you reach out for help though, be careful. Don’t trust just anyone to help you deal with this type of problem. Not all friends, family members and counselors are “marriage-friendly” and many can actually hurt you and your marriage in the process more than help it. That’s what recent studies are showing.
I’m all for good counsel, but make sure it’s truly the type of counsel and counseling you need. We have several articles posted within the “Marriage Counseling” Topic that I recommend you read so you have a better grasp on this whole thing. And if you need help finding a “Marriage-friendly” counselor, you can look into the “Links” part of that topic to see if you can locate the one who can best help you.
Also, I found a two articles posted on the Internet that might help you in your journey, and your husband’s journey to healing. I bring up both you and your husband because essentially, you both became victims when you were sexually abused. You received it first-hand, and your husband has been receiving the repercussions —both of you innocent (you didn’t ask for it), and both of you have had your lives changed because of it.
This first article is written by Paul Byerly, posted on The-generous-husband.com web site where he explains how he not only tried to help his wife Lori heal from her past abuse, which she was willing to do, but he owned up to his own “stuff.” In other words, he saw that he had some things from his past that contributed to the problem, as well. So they BOTH made it their mission to work on their own issues. As a result, they have a very passionate, loving, and forgiving marital sex life together. I encourage you to read:
— ALSO —
Below is a link to the Preachitteachit.org web site where, Pastor Roger Barrier answers the following question:
This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International