When Past Sexual Abuse Affects a Marriage’s Intimacy

Past sexual abuse window-view-1081788_1920This is a very difficult article to write. And it is a very difficult message to deliver. If you are haunted by horrible memories from the past sexual abuse you experienced, I want you to know that you CAN experience freedom. I know. I know because I also lived in that torturous prison for many years. Yet today I am free.

However, even today, as I read or hear about the pain others are experiencing, my heart is clutched by the enormity of their pain. How I wish I could take every tear, every fear, erase every painful memory and replace it with only good. But I can’t. It’s not possible because it’s all part of living in a fallen world. People sin. And innocent people becomes victimized.

God’s Grace Despite the Pain

However, what I can do is embrace them in their pain and you in your pain, and breathe words of hope that it IS possible to be released. Freedom IS possible. I know. I live in its grace everyday. Everyday, I thank my God because of the redeeming grace of God, which has been given to me. And it is available to you, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For this reason, there is hope and release from living life as a continual victim of the abuses of the past. Christ paid the price so sin does not have to imprison us. And I hope and pray that for you.

I don’t know what your journey will be like for you to get to that place of release. May it be a place of being able to open your eyes each day to a new beginning rather than a rehash of painful memories, which burden you continually. But I can tell you that it will be a journey. It will be different from mine, and different from any other. That is because you are unique, all in your own. God knows this and is willing to help you take this personal pilgrimage.

My Journey Because of Past Sexual Abuse

I remember the day when my journey to healing actually started. I had prayed before that I would be released from painful memories of being abused sexually when I was younger. But it didn’t really start to happen until I was absolutely desperate. At that point I told God that I would do ANYTHING, and I meant ANYTHING it would take to be healed from the torturous thoughts. Those thoughts seemed to continually rape my feelings.

And just then, a lot like the incident in the Bible in John 5, I sensed the Lord saying to me, “Do you REALLY want to be healed? Do you really want to get well?” To that I cried, “Yes!” I knew that this was a pivotal moment for me. Bible teacher, Beth Moore calls it a “defining moment.” A defining moment is one in which we often have to put actions to our convictions. Do we really mean what we say? If we do, it’s important to note that there may be additional pain involved. But it’s a type of healing pain that can change the course of our/your life.

Just like it is when we have surgery, if we are going to get to a better place in our health, more pain will occur. The infection needs to be cut out from our wound. But eventually, if it is done right, we will experience healing. And we will experience relief from the pain.

A Rough Journey

When I said, “yes,” it’s at that moment that I heard the words in my spirit, “Then hang onto your hat, because you have a rough journey ahead of you.”

Now normally, someone who is in pain —whether emotional or physical, does not want to hear those words. But somehow I knew that this was a journey where the end result would be worth the extra suffering it took to get there. I sensed peace in my spirit and in my heart.

From that day forward, it seemed like everywhere I turned, there was something I read or heard somewhere, that brought up junk that was buried inside. And I had to deal with it. Often it was dealt with through tears. Many people (other than my husband) may have wondered what was happening with me being tearful so much of the time. And yet I couldn’t share with them what it was that was stirring me emotionally. I knew this was a journey on which God was taking me, where I couldn’t invite others to travel with me. (At least I couldn’t at that particular time.)

No Longer a Victim

God worked and continues to work within me to help me to experience freedom. He helps me to not live like a victim of my past. It’s not that I don’t remember that it happened to me. But just as it is when you see a healed over scar from a past wound, it doesn’t hurt like it did. I hope you get to that point.

I remember the first day it occurred to me that I had gone through an entire day and I wasn’t haunted once by what was done to me in the past. It stunned me. I NEVER thought I could go through an entire day without being hurt at least once because of painful memories. They seemed to continually ambush my peace of mind. And I did go through a whole day.

And since that day, I’ve lived days, weeks, and months without my past hurting me. If something happens to stir a memory, it’s not as if I don’t remember it, but it no longer hurts. It’s something that happened to me. But it’s not something that is relevant any longer to who I am or how I will live, other than the fact that it has made me more compassionate. I am more caring toward others who have been victimized.

Hope That For You

I hope that for you. Obviously, I don’t know what you have been through in your past. But I hope you will reach out for healing wherever it is healthy for you to do so. Not every avenue is safe (as you know from your past). So I encourage you to go with God on this journey. Ask Him to be your Wonderful Counselor. At that point, the only pain you suffer will be redeemed in some way and purposeful, rather than just downright hurtful.

He will most likely use many different people, and many resources and circumstances. And through this healing path, He may allow certain things to happen, which may not make sense. This could include silence, or other puzzling circumstances. But I hope you will trust Him as you put your hand into His.

Something else that Bible teacher Beth Moore said, which may help you is:

“God never hangs a veil over our understanding accidentally. He is intentional. There is a reason. And the reason may be that He is calling you to faith.”

It’s Tough Being a Woman

She said this in a Bible study I participated in on the book of Esther. It’s titled, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman … and it is. If you get a chance, I recommend you go through this study. Use it with the Esther Leader’s Kit: It’s Tough Being a Woman with other women (if you are a woman). You might really benefit from it, ESPECIALLY with your circumstances. She discovered her destiny in a different way than she probably ever dreamed.

Below are a few quotes I wrote down, which might minister to you in some way. Just glean through them, seeing what the Holy Spirit tells you personally through each one.

She said:

•  “God uses the book of Esther during times when we do not see Him. We can trust Him when there is the ‘apparent absence of God.'”

• “Sometimes God works through miracles and other times through the individual.”

• “When we trust our lives to the unseen but ever-present God, He will write our lives into His story. And every last one of them will turn out to be a great read, with a grand ending.”

• “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny. You cannot become the person you’re to become without your history. God will tie it together —that’s what redemption is.”

• “The point is not that Esther abstained but rather was restrained” (which she needed to do, to be a queen in those days because she had NO rights… her every move was the King’s call).

•  “Maybe God allows ‘Hamans’ (or troubles) to come along so we’ll quit being so at home here on earth.”

•  “God will often use something huge to turn us into another direction —a direction He wants us to head down (instead of the path we used to be headed down). It will often be a crisis that God will use to pivot our direction.”

Also:

• “Remember, destiny appoints one, but affects many.”

•  “God never hangs a veil over our understanding accidentally. He is intentional. There is a reason. And the reason may be that He is calling you to faith.”

• “Esther came to what many would call her ‘defining moment.'” It’s important to be on the watch, for what ours is as well.

• “You may be one brave decision away from an important step in your destiny.”

• “Our culture is training us for impatience (impatience, when it comes to anything we think God should hurry up and tell us or do for us). If we will not wait upon the Lord, we will not fulfill our destiny.”

• “If God puts a stay on things, something is up… things in heaven are coming into play with things on earth.”

• “We will lose our strength when we wait upon the event, but our strength will be renewed when we wait upon the Lord.”

• “We can find our significance and satisfaction in the shelter of the Most High.”

Reach Out For Help

I hope these quotes will help you in some way. I hope you can go through this particular Bible Study to fill in the rest of the richness of what Beth Moore teaches on this subject.

Beyond this, I can’t help you too much more as you work through these issues, except to point you to a few additional resources, which have helped many and could help you.

Whatever you do I encourage you, with every fiber of my being, to reach out for help. Please don’t allow yourself to continue to live as a victim. If you are married, it’s especially important to break free from this bondage of your past. Your spouse shouldn’t have to be victimized by this perpetrator or these perpetrators. Your spouse shouldn’t have to be blocked in being able to have an intimate relationship with you. He or she becomes another victim, and doesn’t deserve this victimization either.

For your sake, for the sake of your spouse and your marriage, I urge you to seek healing in the ways God shows you. Seek Him and His guidance.

Recommended Resources

Below are some additional resources that may help you.

A book that many, many women have found healing is, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse. It is written by Dan Allender, and is published by NavPress. It’s one you may want to read and glean through the help you can gain.

Below is something Dr Allender wrote in this book that I certainly found to be true (among many, many other statements).

He Wrote:

“There are many options available to the Christian for dealing with past abuse. But the outcome is unappealing: forgive and forget —denial; pressured love —passionless conformity; quick cures —irresponsible passivity. It is not difficult to understand why the Christian who has been abused often chooses either to seek help outside the church or to learn to handle the damage by pretending it does not exist. I strongly believe the Scriptures offer better ways of hope and change.

“What is the better path? The argument of this book is that the best path is through the valley of the shadow of death. The crags of doubt and the valleys of despair offer a proving ground of God that no other terrain can provide. God does show Himself faithful. But the geography is often desert dry and mountainous-demanding, to the point that the path seems too dangerous to face the journey ahead.

“…The journey involves bringing our wounded heart before God. This is a heart that is full of rage, overwhelmed with doubt. It is bloodied but unbroken, rebellious, stained, and lonely. It does not seem possible that anyone can handle, let alone embrace, our wounded and sinful heart.”

Relatable Truth

I have to say that when I read his statement about walking through the “valley of the shadow of death” I could certainly relate. At times it seemed that was the route I was directed to take. It was often so very painful.

This type of valley is referred to in Psalm 23:4. In it we’re told of the help that is available to us as we walk through it. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

That’s especially true as I made the decision to trust God’s heart and love for me. It did this even though I had been victimized by humans who claimed to “love” me. But when you reach the end of yourself, and every other road is a dead end, looking up to God and trusting HIS heart is especially the wise way to go. He IS trustworthy.

Dr Allender explains more in his book and then he writes: “With sadness and joy I invite you to join this quest for perspective.”

That is the sentiment of my heart for you too. How much I wish this didn’t have to be such a painful journey to healing, but it is. And yet, please know, that it is not without relief, clearer thinking, and hope on the other side of it. THAT is what I pray for you.

On Your Journey

To start you on this leg of your journey, here’s an article written by one of our former pastors, Roger Barrier. It’s one that I believe you will find helpful. I encourage you to read:

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

And here is a tool to help you can be found below. It is labeled as a “Do-it-Yourself” type of “free and effective” therapy for healing from sexual abuse. This may be truly effective for you, apart from anything else God uses in your healing. Or perhaps it is one step of many. I don’t know. Often times (as was the case for me) God uses certain therapists to assist in the healing. But if you read throughout the Bible, God heals in different ways. So we can’t limit ourselves to a “one size fits all” approach.

I encourage you to read through all the material this web site makes available on this issue. See if this will be what God uses to help you. With this and with any human information you receive, glean what you can use and disregard the rest as possibly being there for someone else.

I believe there is a lot of great help in the following resource. Please see for yourself by clicking onto:

DO-IT-YOURSELF HEALING FROM SEXUAL ABUSE

Additionally:

Another point I want to make is that unless you have grabbed onto full healing in this area of your life, it is possible that the life of others will probably be affected. I’m not saying this to put a guilt trip on you. I want to help you to better open your eyes to the need to get the help. If you are married, it’s your husband that will most likely become another victim to the horrible abuse you suffered. Whoever did this to you, also did this to your husband. That is because most likely, you are withdrawing from him in different ways because of the past abuse.

Please know that this is very understandable. You have been deeply hurt. And certain actions can trigger painful memories. But it’s not something you and your husband have to continue to suffer in your marriage. Marital intimacy is a wonderful thing. It’s much, MUCH different than the perversion pushed upon you. You need to learn how to separate those actions. I know… After years of pushing away memories and withdrawing from my husband, I finally realized that by NOT working through these issues in my own life, I was allowing them to taint and hurt my relationship with him.

Others Can’t Fully Understand

HE didn’t abuse me. Yet I saw some of his actions as hurtful, thinking he wasn’t as understanding as I thought he should be. But that really wasn’t fair. How COULD he understand? How could anyone, who had never gone through such horrible things, understand? I finally woke up and decided that I was no longer going to allow myself to be victimized by my past, and I was no longer going to allow my husband to be another victim of what happened to me.

I prayed, and step-by-step followed God’s leading to get the help I needed. I’m so glad I did. And I pray that for you too, if you are married, that.

Here’s an article that might be a good starting point for you to prayerfully read. See what direction the Lord takes you, so you can more fully grasp onto healing:

DOES YOUR SPOUSE PAY FOR YOUR PAST?

And here is an article, posted on Sheila Wray Gregoire’s web site, To Love Honor and Vacuum. It’s written by Paula where she gives insights into actions that spouse’s can take to help them to progress towards healing:

HAVING A HEALTHY SEX LIFE AFTER SEXUAL ABUSE

Most Importantly:

I hope you can comprehend that there IS hope that better days can be ahead for you. You can experience freedom, despite the feelings of hopelessness and emotional captivity you may be experiencing.

I encourage you to view the following CBN video. It features author and counselor Linda Settles telling her testimony of being held captive and sexually abused for 28 years while her mother turned a blind eye. She eventually escaped, in more than one way —both physically and emotionally and spiritually.

LINDA SETTLES: A Girl Among Thorns

Linda has even written a book, The Girl Among Thorns: Why Did She Stay So Long. In it she tells more of the details of what she lived through and her personal journey in more recent years. It’s a story of heartache. But it’s also one that gives hope —hope I pray for you. Please know:

 “Even in the darkness light dawns for the upright.” (Psalm 112:4)

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this blog.

 If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.

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10 responses to “When Past Sexual Abuse Affects a Marriage’s Intimacy

  1. (UNITED STATES)  I’m 25 yrs. I was molested from around 11-16 yr. of age by two different men. It was never intercourse, but by touch. I was never raped physically but mentally, which it made me think for the longest time that my molestation didn’t really count. I blamed my father and held a lot of bitterness toward him for not protecting me or being there to guide me.

    Now, I’m a mother of two boys (2 yr, and 7 month old). After having my 1st son my body and mind started to feel different about being intimate with my husband, but it wasn’t until about 5 months ago that I don’t feel any desire to be with him. I was always angry and wanted to argue and make my husband feel like crap. He is a man that fears God and is so patience with me but he says that even though he feels sorry for what happened he tells me often “I’m not them and I wish I could understand better. I’m here for you the rest of my life”.

    I feel so terrible, I hate myself for not wanting to be with him. This past week was our 5th anniversary and he tried so hard, took me to a romantic restaurant, the kids were being babysat by my mother in law. He wanted to go home and make love. All I thought about was picking my kids up and going to sleep. We picked up the kids, and put them to sleep. He told me we were gonna watch a movie but before that he started to kiss me. I was so rude, for as much I wanted to desire him as much as he desires me, all I did was to push him away, saying don’t like the way you kiss me. He just pulled away and nodded his head and say I’ll leave you alone.

    I wanted to explain and he listened. I said that I felt attacked and that I know he didn’t it was just the way I felt. He turned around and went to sleep. I cried so hard, just kept begging God to help me, heal me, restore me, that I want to desire my husband again. I love him and I can’t fathom the thought of him leaving me.

    I went online and googled “I was molested and it’s taking a toll on my marriage” and started reading blogs about women that went and are going through a similar situation. Some of them have ended up separated and THAT SCARED ME SO MUCH! Him and my kids are victims as much as I have been. After so many years of me thinking I got over this, my feelings have changed and I’m living the past.

    I’m willing to listen and do God’s will. I am so ready to go through what I need to go through to heal and be a better wife and mother. I’m not letting satan steal my chance of living in peace and joy. Pray for me and for the journey that awaits for me. Reading this has helped a lot. I want to say thank you. If you have any advice I’d appreciate it. God bless.

    1. Joan, I have to say that I’m so proud of you. You are seeing this from so many angles and even though it hurts so deeply, you’re willing to do what you can to stop the victimization. You began as the victim, and now your husband and marriage is being victimized, as well. I’m so glad you recognize that. That’s real progress. So many women don’t see that and won’t make any moves to change it. As a result, they continue being victimized (and so do other family members). It just shouldn’t be.

      I was in this same place as you, a number of years ago. I was the one who wrote the article. All I can say is to talk to your husband. Tell him that you are leaning into being healed of this –that this isn’t his fault and that you are sorry that he is an added victim to the abuse you have suffered through, but that you are determined to get to a better place emotionally and sexually. Let him know that he is your hero for sticking with you and that you will do all you can to get well. And then do it.

      If you need one, find a marriage-friendly counselor, who is good at working with these kinds of issues. You may at least need help in the beginning (or the again, beginning) of this journey to healing. Like you, I had a time when I thought I was past it all. But obviously, deep inside, there was more under the surface that I wasn’t aware of, or that the Lord knew that I couldn’t handle all at once the last time I thought it was all resolved. I dug in again and was determined not to live the life of a victim.

      However many times it takes, lean into the healing. And just keep loving that husband of yours in the way you can, until someday, you can give him your all, and no matter what he does, you won’t see him in the same way as these abusers. My husband is my hero. He’s been through so much with me and yet he has loved me through it all. Sometimes he lost patience (but who wouldn’t?), yet over-all, he has restored my faith in men again that there are good ones out there. THANK GOD!!! I pray for you Joan. I pray for your husband too, and for your marriage, that someday you will so thoroughly enjoy being intimate together, and will so thoroughly enjoy him as your marriage partner in every way that is possible.

      1. (USA)  Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. I have read through several of your pages and they are bringing comfort to me. I, too, am going through another layer of healing which seems almost deeper than when I came to terms and acknowledged what happened. Thank you so much for sharing about something so intimate and personal.

  2. (USA) My wife has not touched me in ten years. Sometimes I feel like I should put a bullet in my head. She can’t seem to understand I’m here for the long haul, even though she has pushed me away, knowingly pushed me away. I still love her and forgive her. I just don’t want the 10 yrs to be 20 yrs. Maybe I should leave her. But I feel life without her would be empty.

    Wives, please don’t do this to your husbands. It just hurts too bad for us guys to not ask for sex. We or I don’t want rejection in my life. That is worst than not having sex. Please understand your husbands urges. Please don’t hurt your husband the way I’ve been hurt. Please be a wife God would be proud of. And by the way, I feel worst of all for staying around for 41 yrs begging for sex or just some kind of attention. How could I have allowed her to deny me for over 10 yrs with zero attention and 31 yrs of begging? I feel like I’m not a man, just a empty shell.

    1. It sounds like Larry is talking about something else than the article about abuse and the healing process and not wanting sex. I have been going through not wanting to have sex and the touching because what happened to me everyday as a child after dinner time. I am trying to work on the sex part of the marriage. He knows my past but I have to be more open about what is going on. It is not my husband, it is me. I blamed it on the medication I am taking but I really do believe it’s because of the abuse. Larry, has your wife been abused? She may have to talk to someone and start the process. Sorry to hear the marriage is struggling just like mine.

  3. My wife was sexually abused as a child and it continued through her life. I had some idea of this before we got married and I thought that we could work through it due to how open we are. I love her dearly and she is a wonderful woman but due to the abuse that she has endured over the years we are not making love at all. I have tried to explain that just because I want to kiss her and “make out” does not mean that it is always going to lead to sex.

    I have pulled back on how I approach her physically and it is like walking on egg shells just to kiss her. Now it seems that since I have pulled back, she is questioning if I want her or not. I’m darned if I do or darned if I don’t. I’m not sure what to do. I try and support her in all aspects of our marriage but I am a 42 year old male.

    Things might change for a bit. We might have sex for a week or so but things go back to not making love again. It’s an emotional roller-coaster. I don’t want to leave her.

    Now one other thing that has me concerned and very personal but I will share it. I am incontinent and have to wear a diaper 24/7 to manage it. She has told me that this is not why we are not making love and I do believe her. She is very supportive of this issue. I just don’t know here to go or what to do from here.

  4. What if you married your abuser and you still can’t get past it?! He made me do stuff when we were dating against my will and robbed me of my innocence!!! I felt I had to marry him so no one would find out! We’ve been married for 17 yrs and have 4 kids together! I NEVER want to have sex! I always feel like I’m being forced against my will! It has gotten so bad my husband has started saying I owe it to him and if I don’t he will divorce me and take everything from me! I have so much build up hurt, anger and resentment towards him that I can’t let my guard down! I have built a wall up where he is concerned! I love him and don’t want a divorce but I am severely depressed! I can’t continue living like this! I don’t know what to do!!!

    1. Judy, Please contact the ministry of Focus on the Family and talk to a counselor there. They also have a great referral list of marriage-friendly counselors who can talk to you more in depth. You NEED to talk to a counselor in depth. This is a very deep-seeded problem that won’t go away by wishing it to do so. Eventually it will wear you down, and him down to the point where the marriage WILL end up in divorce. It sounds like you both need help. But even if your husband won’t go, you need to get help yourself… just to get to a healthier place in your own mind and in your relationship with your husband.

      You may say that you can’t afford a counselor. And that may appear to be true. But with 4 kids involved and 17 years invested, plus the lack of peace of mind, you have no idea how much more costly a divorce could ever be than the up front money you would spend (monetarily, plus in other ways, divorce can be MUCH more costly than more people realize). Plus, you never know what arrangement a counselor could come up with to make this possible. Even if you had to get a part time job to pay for it, it would be worth it. Please contact the ministry of Focus on the Family to talk about this and see how they can help you. If you go to their web site through the following link, you’ll find their contact info: http://family.custhelp.com/app/home. Pick the one that works for you. I hope you will.

  5. We stopped having sex shortly after getting married. It’s been probably 8 years since we made love. I can’t even touch or caress my wife. She claims my slightest touch tickles. My wife has admitted to being tickled mercilessly at some point. She now says that sex is painful. My wife won’t seek medical advice or rejects it. I suspect she was abused at some point. She had 4 children prior to our marriage. This is my second marriage as well. I am totally lost!

    1. From someone that has been married for 50 years INTIMACY will never return so plan accordingly. My wife has been content to treat me as a commodity that she can benefit from. A new term called INTIMACY ANOREXIA best defines my wife. Briefly this married partner will protect themselves from ever having to engage in INTIMACY or recovery. Although I am the victim here, this same treatment would be given to any spouse no matter what. I question why am I here and further research by myself revealed that these anorexic personalities are very able to select a partner that will tolerate the INTIMACY desert.

      We are strong family people, and a belief in Christ with a tolerance for mistreatment beyond understanding as well as being totally unable to be assertive in matters of conjugal marriage matters. The problem is yours; the solution is not attainable unless the spouse chooses to move forward. I emphasize the solution requires active participation from the distant spouse.