Marriage Missions International

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 few articles posted on the Internet that might help you in your journey to healing.

The first article is written by Mary DeMuth, who was a past victim herself. What she wrote is posted on the Todayschristianwoman.com web site, along with a testimony that her husband Patrick wrote as well, telling his perspective on what had happened. You can learn from what they wrote by clicking on the link below to read:

OPENING THE DOOR TO HEALING

And here is an article 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:

IT’S NOT ALL HER —OR ALL YOU

— ALSO —

Below is a link to the Preachitteachit.org web site where, Pastor Roger Barrier answers the following question:

HOW DO I COPE IF I’VE BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED?

This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International

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133 Responses to “When Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Marriage Intimacy”
  1. Floyd says:

    (USA) I often read that women who experienced Child Sexual Abuse often choose husbands or boyfriends that are physically and verbally abusive. Could it be that if the woman doesn’t share her childhood story and the man has no idea why she cannot meet his needs of feeling loved and close “intimacy,” and feeling rejected, can it cause a man that typically would not have been abusive in a normal relationship become hurt and angry, and then he becomes abusive? I would believe that happens more often than not, but it’s never mentioned.

  2. Selena from United States says:

    I’m so glad I came upon this. I was only trying to think of a topic for my power point presentation. But I thankfully passed by this. I was going through some crazy things and this is a subject that takes me back ALL the time. I end up crying at some point in the day. I don’t really talk about what happened but I know I’m not the only one and I can be strong with my head held high.

    • Cindy Wright from United States says:

      Selena, I admire your courage for pressing on and trying to get past your past. Having been a victim myself of sexual abuse when I was a child, I know how difficult it is to keep the thoughts that can haunt us at bay. I would go along fine for a bit and then cry at different points. It was overwhelming sometimes and confusing. I even went through bouts of nightmares and such. I really thought that if I held my head high, like you are trying to do, I would eventually overcome my past and lead a good life without having my past haunt me. But I found out differently. These types of nightmarish memories don’t just disappear unless they are properly dealt with. If they aren’t, they find ways of creeping back into our minds in different ways.

      Yes, I’m leading a good life now –a great life in many ways, but it has been because I finally faced my past –with intentionality I took all the haunting thoughts and nightmares of my past and dealt with each one of them one-by-one. God helped in revealing the ones I had buried that needed to be faced and worked me through them so I could properly bury them (without them resurrecting themselves). I had the help of a counselor, and others (including a great husband who suffered a lot because of the way I was victimized by other men in my life). It was harder than I could ever describe. But it was also the best thing I ever could have done. My past is now past and the future looks bright, as it should.

      Selena, I’ve never met a woman who has been through sexual abuse that has successfully been able to ignore their past. The ones that are victorious are the ones who face their abusive memories head-on and give them proper burials. Otherwise, they keep living their lives as victims, hurting others along the way too (even though that is not their intent)… the victimization keeps spiraling on. That’s why the abuse HAS to be dealt with, so the victimization is stopped, and THEN the bad stuff can be left behind.

      I’ve been with countless women on this issue and I just want you to know this. You can delay the healing process by just trying to hold your head up high, but if you want to truly leave the past in the past, there is a day (or days, weeks or so) of reckoning that has to happen. I hope you are able to do this sooner, rather than later. I’d hate for you to keep dragging this along with you for the rest of your life. You don’t deserve this… you didn’t deserve any of the abuse that happened to you. I’m so sorry for the pain you had inflicted upon you. I cry with you as your sister. I also pray for you –pray you are able to beat back the past and come to realize the wonderful gal that you are –someone God loves very much –someone He wants to set free. May you be blessed as you lean upon Him.

  3. Veronica from United Kingdom says:

    Dear Cindy, I just finished crying and decided to check for relevant Christian sites on line when I stumbled on your site. My husband and I have been married for 7 years and its been great and at the same time painful for me. I have always believed in keeping one’s body before marriage. When my husband and I first slept together, I experienced a lot of pain and there were thick reddish brown clots but no blood. My husband didn’t really react much (but apparently he was shocked). I really didn’t think much of this incident because I felt an almost unbearable pain. I did not even dwell on the fact that there was no blood because I saw clots etc. As I had never physically slept with anyone, I didn’t think twice about anything.

    But throughout my marriage, my husband has had the habit of saying I am a liar, a deceiver etc., and that I have slept with others before meeting him. The painful truth is I have not, and for years, I have endured the pain and emotional abuse. I have always been very insecure and would simply cry and accept his apologies (after he must have shouted on me or tortured me to tell him the truth). I suspect I may have been a victim of abuse when I was very very young. The only flash back I have ever had was once when I saw a flash of myself as a baby on what appeared to be a kitchen work top surface. I cannot pinpoint clearly if this happened but this is my guess.

    My husband has always commented that ‘I am still very shy with him’. Even when I lived in the university campus, I was very particular about covering up myself whilst changing my clothes, and would often get comments from other students, that I was always covering up so quickly. I am so protective of my daughter and because of this, I never leave her with anyone apart from when she goes to the nursery. I was with foster parents when I was a baby (under the age of one) and I sometimes wonder if anything happened there. Looking back, the only thing I remember is that my older brother playing with my private parts when I must have been 6 or 7 but I can’t remember him doing anything other than this.

    I am a Christian and I love God so much… The past years have been so painful because of my husband’s on and off behaviour, one moment he’s loving and apologizes for ever doubting me and the next moment, he’s calling me all sorts and asking me to tell the truth. I just got an email from him saying ‘I didn’t meet you as a virgin so stop pretending to be one’. It’s like my heart has been ripped apart and I sometimes feel like killing myself. Thankfully, I know God cares deeply about me and this is the only thing keeping me sane.

    My husband even took me to see a Pastor (African) and explained our challenges to him, but the Pastor just asked me questions and told my husband to trust me. After that one visit, there was no follow up and my husband got even more irritated. I feel angry sometimes because I know he has had girlfriends in the past and slept with them in the past. Yet I have never slept with anyone but him and I am going through so much hell and pain. I don’t know what to do. Can you suggest anything? Thanks

  4. Ezekiel's Daughter from United States says:

    Thank you for posting!

  5. Nasreen from United Kingdom says:

    I have suffered childhood sexual abuse since the age of 6 until the age of 19 when I was nearly raped by my older brother. My 3 older brothers abused me. When everything came into the open I was told the police could not be involved. I was forced into a marriage at 21. I couldn’t consummate the marriage because of the abuse, and was beat up black and blue to live with this person for 6 years. My mother who condoned the abuse, forced me into the marriage, and started beating me until I was at my wits end and nearly committed suicide. I ran away but was found and beat up yet again for running away. I managed to get the jewellery out to hand back to my in laws so I could get out of the marriage.

    I was kicked out of house and home at the age of 26. I thought everything had stopped now and I was ok but that’s so far from the truth, I am still living the abuse, now suicidal, drinking myself to oblivion. I have managed to get myself into trouble with the law as well now, and wanting to die, I am on the mental health register, supposed to be getting support from the right channels but nothing is making me better. The only option I feel I have is death as I live on my own and the 4 walls are caving in on me, and my only friend is alcohol.

  6. Erica from United States says:

    I have been on the path to healing for a few years now. I wasn’t raped, so I had issues burying the situation really deep because I would accuse myself for making a big deal out of nothing. I have shared this testimony with my parents, other family, my pastor, my fiancé and I tried to make contact with the person involved through a letter but he didn’t wish to communicate so I let it go. He was a child himself at the time and he doesn’t remember what happened. That is enough peace for me. I’ve looked at other websites but I never felt comfortable posting on any of them. This is a great ministry you have established and I’m grateful for it…it has reminded me that I’m not alone.

    When I was eight my best friend a boy my age molested me. It was a one time event…The thing that remained with me was the point where he said “It is okay I’ve seen my parents do this”.

    I grew up in a religious home, the boy’s parents were our Pastors and his statement made me feel like whatever it is that married couples do is gross and I didn’t want anyone to convince me of otherwise. I kept the incident a secret until I was a teen and therefore I was left to my own imagining and I developed terrible misconceptions…I made a promise to myself I would never get married.

    I felt a lot of guilt and confusion on anything remotely sexual growing up and when guys started taking an interest in me than my past resurfaced…I was miserable in this sense but the rest of my life was very blessed. I have a close relationship with the Lord and this one point of pain was something I had trouble taking to Him. Why? I didn’t want God to convince me that marriage and sex could be a good thing for me. Isn’t that terrible.

    But then the one guy came along. We were just friends for a while and the reason we didn’t become more right away was me and my issues. Having to admit that someone liked me and that I liked him forced me to face my problems. I held off for a while because I felt it unfair to him be in a relationship with someone like me…touchy, unloving, unable to show physical affection and cold. God brought me to a place where I had to admit that I was in love…his words to my heart were “It’s okay to say you are in love Erica.”, “I’ll help you.”

    He did. I knew I had to come clean with all the right people ( those listed above), and I was surprised by how they were so good, encouraging and comforting. The young man showed his true character and he has been more considerate than I could have imagine. My healing has been miraculous.

    Still there are issues, I never pretended there wouldn’t be. My fiancé and I are saving sex for marriage. Our affection has developed slowly and at each new thing I’ve had problems…I have learned that I need to overcome these hurdles one at a time. He’s a vey affectionate personality and he needs to know I love him in this way. The current problem I have is that if he starts to passionately kiss me I start to disconnect and a have a flashback to when I was molested. I started to seize up and I can’t feel anything, sometimes I twitch and I can’t stop myself. It is all very unnerving and scary…I am trying to figure out what is causing it but I’ve had no success yet. It is exactly what happened to me that day when I was molested, I felt helpless because I disconnected and I couldn’t stop the boy because I felt frozen. He doesn’t do anything my molester did, he doesn’t look like him, and he doesn’t say the things he said. I do know that words have a huge affect on me for some reason.

    My fiancé is a UK citizen awaiting his visa to move to the U.S. We are just waiting and praying and missing each other. It has been a month and a half since we saw each other last ( when my latest problem occured0 and we have no idea when we can marry. It is hard because he gets quite pent up when we are apart for a long time and there is so much to sort out between us on this topic. Trying to learn what is best for us while being apart is confusing sometimes too. We are looking to God and seeking out help in trusted sources. But I know we will be alright. Things will never be perfect we live in an imperfect world, but we can be healthy and joyful and share the message that God heals.

    Any advise our good resources are much appreciated

  7. Monique from United States says:

    Hi I’m not even married but I stumbled upon this website via google. I was molested by my father, who was a “respectable” deacon in the church during my teens. I was also foundled as a young child by my cousin who is around my age before then. Back to my father, I didn’t even meet him until I was 5 – both my parents were teens when I was born and my mother stayed home with her mother. My parents got married when I was 9 and we all moved out from my grandmother’s shortly afterwards. Then while my 3 siblings were born, I was gradually abused by him in the name of loving care!

    I told my mother when I was 17 and she was devastated but chose to call the pastor first (who was an older woman) who advised her not to turn him in… instead, he moved out but still kept in contact. And me, I stayed home just as out of it as could be. Even prior to the abuse, I was very sheltered and had a hard time relating to my peers; plus I was raised in a strict Apostolic Pentecostal denomination where we thought nobody else was saved but us and women were going to hell for wearing pants, makeup and jewelry.

    Enter 2011 and here I am, in my early 30′s, in college and angry. I decided to report my abuser much to the anger of my mother and now former pastor. Last year I moved out and stopped going to that church. I felt I didn’t know God well enough and am starting a new personal relationship with Him.

    But I feel like a mess -a freak even because I’m almost 35 and am single with no kids. I’ve never been in a relationship just some talking and maybe one date. I have a hard time relating to folks and I feel bad about it. I feel confused about sex and relationships. I don’t know what it is to be in love. I took care of my family but didn’t have to. My mom didn’t work and was codependent and fearful (me too) so I didn’t know myself well. It even bothers me to see couples walk around holding hands. I’m almost 35, time seems to be running out for me and I feel naive and out of it. Help me please! Thanks for reading!

    • Erica from United States says:

      Monique, I don’t know if I can be helpful but I want you to know there’s hope. I thought love would never happen for me and that I was a hopeless case. But there is no such thing. I’m sorry that you have trouble relating to people I’ve been there. But God will make a way as you continue to walk with Him. Sometimes when we aren’t even looking for what we long for It finds us. The best advice I can give you is to focus upon God and allow him to light your way as a day to day exercise. He pushed me out of my comfort zone and He’ll probably do the same for you. It will be easier with people as He stregthens you, not perfect though…human relationships are never easy…but rewarding. You are a blessing God has given to the body of Christ. He wants you to touch lives…I have no doubt you have…are…and will.

      • Monique from United States says:

        Erica, thank you so much! Your words have really encouraged me to keep going forward!

        • Erica from United States says:

          I’m glad Monique, I never used to know that there were others out there who could understand what I have felt. It is good to know one is not alone. Blessings in the New Year!

  8. Rene from United States says:

    I will pray for you. I know God will help you. He always answers my prayers.

  9. Meagon from United States says:

    I’m trying to deal with past sexual abuse but it’s been extremely hard because I haven’t had any support from my husband and my mom. (My dad raped me and different family members and friends of family, etc. molested me in other ways.) My husband isn’t understanding in the start to deal with all the flashbacks and having trouble with intimacy. He used to accuse me of cheating and scare me so much that I knew I had to have sex with him even though I didn’t want to at all. He has changed some on things but he still is constantly pawing on me. I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t be intimate with him at all. I know that he won’t allow this to go on much longer. I dread him making me feel like I have to be intimate with him and him being insensitive to many differenent things that he does that I can’t handle at all.

  10. Belle from United States says:

    I had been molested by my adopted father from 11 to 21 years old. What was abnormal became normal that I was able to have a normal relationship around people with my stepdad but when it was just me and him it became completely different. He forced me to do things I never wanted, and if I refused he gave me a bad attitude and blah blah…

    I got married to an amazing man who I happened to share my childhood abuse and he understood me and wants to protect me. We’ve cut off my dad completely from my life. He wanted me to report him and get help. But part of me thinks no one will believe me and putting him behind bars will make the problem go away. The day he dies will be the day that justice is served. And talking about my past to someone just doesn’t set right with me. I have my own copping mechanism and it has worked well so far… My gma lived with us and she let it happen so did my mom (aunt) after I told her that my dad was playing with my boobs and it hurt… And she didn’t do anything except tell him to stop. Of course it never stopped.

    Today I hate the man and I hope there’s a special place for people like him. And yes, he’s a Christian and thinks God will forgive him. But repentance is about not repeating the old sin… But he repeated his for 15 years. Sometimes I hate myself for letting it happen… But it was the only thing I knew. And now I have to live the long term affect of my abuser. Yes, it bothers me deeply.

    I have a daughter and I refuse for my past to take over me and control my life completely. I will never let anything to my daughter. I already suffer for her and if anyone touches her the wrong way I swear I will kill that person in return for my daughter’s safety. I want her to know that someone protected her. No one protected me then and I’m sad and angry for that, that no one cared enough. Now I’m trying to live a healthy life and healthy sex life with my husband. He’s a good man and sometimes I think I’m blessed. Today I am able to fight whatever life throws at me… What is worse than when someone takes your childhood away? Rapes you? Abused you? Death will only finish the job.

  11. Curious and hurting from United States says:

    I was molested by my sister. She was molested by my mom’s friend’s son. As soon as my mom found out she kicked them out, as they were staying with us. However, after that abuse stopped, my sister molested me until I was 13. I think it began when I was around 5 or so. I am 25 now and I don’t think that I am angry with my sister but it’s like it never happened; we never talk about it. I am still a virgin and when I think about sexual intimacy all I can do is cry. I don’t know what to do. I want to get over this and I don’t think I will be able to lead a normal life, which I strongly desire, like marriage and children.

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