When Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Marriage Intimacy

Dollar Photo Couple sleeping back to back after an argumentA 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.” At that point everything will be “just fine.” After-all, the past is the past, right? Wrong.

Personal Experience

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. My past would then 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 even more. But that was not his intent to hurt me further. It just happened. Unfortunately, I didn’t handle matters very well at all. I made matters all the worse because of my inability to know how to best work through my issues.

Past Has to Be Dealt With

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. The memories kept poisoning my mind and our love-making experiences. Eventually my husband also became a victim of my past sexual abuse. I kept pushing him away more and more until I couldn’t be intimate with him at all.

Understanding Doesn’t Erase Facts

Yes, Steve understood why I acted as I did (at least he said he did). However, it didn’t erase the fact that he wanted to be close to me, but 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. It’s 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. I needed to deal 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. I needed to settle what had happened to me and begin the process of healing. Healing was needed, not only in my mind, but in my love life with my dear husband.

God Opened My Understanding

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 reach out for the help you need. It’s important to properly deal with all that happened to you. This is true whether you were a young child or an older one when you were originally victimized.

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. He let me know that if I was serious, the road would be tough and it would be long. But He also let me know I would get to the point of healing that I desperately needed, if I was willing to take the tough journey. I was and I’m so glad I said, “yes” to God in this.

It Was a Tough Journey

I won’t lie and say that it was an easy journey. It was a very, very painful one. 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. 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 our lives together.

Make It Your Mission

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. Do what it takes to get to a place where your past no longer steals joy and peace from your 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.

You May Need Counseling

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.” Many of them 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 you need. We have several articles posted within the Marriage Counseling & Mentoring Topic that I recommend you read. It’s important that 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. There are ministries, like Focus on the Family, that you can locate the one who can best help you.

Further Help

Also, I found a two articles posted on the Internet that might help you in your, 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. Your husband has been receiving the repercussions. Both of you are 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. In it he explains how he tried to help his wife Lori heal from her past abuse. She was willing to do what needed to be done, 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?

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

Print Post

Filed under: Sexual Issues

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.

Comments

190 responses to “When Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Marriage Intimacy

  1. There is always so much help for women that have been sexually abused. I’m having a hard time finding help for myself, a woman that was married to a man that was sexually abused as a child. I feel like I’m hurting more than him. He won’t get help and I understand why. He’s a man and it’s embarrassing but it has destroyed our marriage and ripped our family apart and I can’t accept it. Every time we attempt to work things out he promises he will talk to someone but it never happens and there is not a lot offered; it seems like, not for a man anyways. I have suffered so much abuse, emotionally and psychologically the last 17 years.

    Even after our divorce I kept going back because I have never given up hope and I love him so much. But It affects me so bad to where I had became so depressed I started abusing alcohol and thought about suicide because I am so broken. I know he doesn’t mean to make me feel this way but he has and I don’t know if I will ever recover. I feel like I’m dying inside. We are separated at the moment, but when we were together I had never in my life felt so alone and unwanted. The signs where always there and I drove myself nuts trying to figure him out. When he finally told me it made so much cense but I didn’t know much about it. Since then I have read books and reached out to people but its always women, no men! This really sucks and I don’t wish this on anyone. I cry everyday when I think of everything this man has done to me and the way he has made me feel. What makes me the most upset is all the years I wasted with a man that I feel was selfish and deprived me of love and a sex life because he did and still refuses to get help. It was not fair to take advantage of my love and to continue to keep being lied to when he had no intensions of getting help. Just wanted to keep me around for whatever reasons I don’t know because the man never wanted to have sex with me or be affectionate unless he had found out I had moved on.

    1. Welcome to my world. My husband of 29 yrs came out with his sexual abuse from his father when he was a young teenager three year’s ago. We’ve been in couples therapy, HE goes to individual therapy and a support group. Our strong healthy marriage has crumpled to a zero. No sex in over 3 yrs. No touching, no joy, no intimacy of any kind. Let me mention we also adopted our granddaughter since birth. She is now 5 yrs old and autistic. This requires a lot of energy which I’m happy to give but I’m not a young woman anymore. I’m doing this solo which isn’t what I bargained for. I am crushed and heartbroken to see what has become my life. He sleeps on the couch now and I’m a step away from having him just leave. No one undermines the score of the destruction he has dealt with, however I lose a piece of my soul every day and I deserve better. He knows all this but still nothing changes. Almost single again at 58, oh boy. Any ideas?

      1. Oh, I hear you both. We’ve had bed death for years. Intimacy 6 or so times a year. He recently told me he was abused by his mother and brother. He felt forced to disclose the past because he was concerned about our marriage and wanted me to understand why he doesn’t interact with me. He said the choice was to disclose it or kill himself. I’d wondered if he was gay but realized he seemed to have no sexual interest at all.

        We are both in individual therapy and I have read a few books to help me wrap my mind around this trauma. Which in our house is brand new! He will not read a book at this point and seems to only deal with the past during therapy sessions, then the door closes until the next session! I wish he would share his feelings with me. I wish he would read and educate himself. He is so ashamed of the past.

        1in6.org is a good site for resource material and your (male) spouse can join online group therapy. “Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child” By Laura Davis was my first book and a very good one. I find it helps to educate myself on the issue so I can have some understanding about what happened, why it happens, how it happens, how people react to it and how they carry the burden of the past into the future. And how to handle this new revelation and relationships with people who were involved.

        I am frustrated, hurt, angry, lonely and I feel cheated out of the intimate part of my relationship. I only know bits and pieces of a story my husband can’t bear to discuss. I wish he would share feelings and thoughts when they come to him. He doesn’t trust anyone.

        Patience is required but truly hard to maintain. At this point I find it very hard to get past my own hurt and need. In all other ways we have a very good relationship but it is very hard to live like I’m a sister. I matter too as do my feelings and needs. And I matter as much as he does.

        I also am raising a grandchild (since 5 mos old) 50% of the time for the past 7 years and I am in my 50’s. Whole other story.

        I feel the key to his freedom is in educating himself about this topic and understanding how the medical/mental health community at large feels about the subject so he has a pivot point or reference point to start from. Bottom line is it doesn’t matter what his roll was in it, he was too young to make adult decisions. He was easily manipulated, dependent and in need of nurturing. He is not the responsible party. It seems he can’t forgive himself.

        So we will keep working and trying and praying.

  2. Hello, I was raped in the month of February 2013. I wanted to get checked and evidence seized. I don’t​ see a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak but, I still have spiritual faith. I am experiencing my upcoming 32nd birthday in early June and when I feel fear, I pray. I remember that Jesus died on calvary for our sins. And the sins of others. To forgive others has been somewhat of a trial in a way but, (in the final analysis, it is between you and God, it was never between you and them anyway. (Mother Teresa) and I forgive others. The person who I have been trying for a few months over 4 years to forgive myself for other traumatic events I experienced in childhood.

    The most devastating year of my life was the preteen age of 12 when my father passed away from a neuromuscular disease and I remember that I did everything that exceeded what a 12 year old girl should have to do alone. He didn’t have a common cold or flu virus as I was growing up. So this will pass too. But he was in a weelchair and could not speak or chew and swallow solid food, so I would puree his food and spoon feed him but he continued to decline. And a few days before Christmas, my father had been called home with the Lord. I could not forgive myself for not being able to save him. Being able to type this and share this has honestly just helped me in ways I can only describe as a peaceful calm. Forgiveness isn’t for the other person, or people, it is for you. I will journey as long as the lord calls me. I will always be a child of god. Each of my parents picked a name that had meaning to them for me at my birth. My mother chose mary after her sister and my father chose his mother’s name, grace. I am marygrace and I am precious in the lord’s eye’s. I pray for peaceful blessings and the lord’s love for all of his creation. I have therapy twice a month and past drug and alcohol addiction. Freed from drug addiction since may 11th, 2011 and I have not had an alcoholic drink since the night I was raped. It happened and I have asked for forgiveness for the choice of drinking to the point of passing out drunk and it was ironic and I have been diagnosed throughout life with ptsd, severe anxiety, and at times, it’s not always easy. My husband and I are both committed to each other. We are getting help. We remind each other that we vowed til death do us part. Then we pray for our spouse. Putting father god before each other. Have courage. I have not always been curagous. But I am not a victim. Sometimes I need to read encouraging scripture or inspirational quotes. Pray several times a day and write in a journal. I have dogs and 2 cat’s. They are extremely loved and a light hug from a Chihuahua named Chico has been quite a bit of stress reliever. I’m still recovering from reckless behavior in my 20’s. My cousin who suffered with narcotic abuse and distribution and 2 prison sentences warned me as a teenager to stop traveling on the road I was on at the time because I was going to end up in prison. She had her lessons and I have learned from mine. God has the comfort for you! Just ask. I hope that someone is helped or a kind thought was actually thought. If not, I understand, I have been through some very tough times, it gets better each day. A prayer I said every night I was a child, Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul to keep. Protect and guide me dear lord I pray. Please wake me to a bright new day. Amen.

  3. I was sexually abused from the age of 6 until the age of eleven by 4 different individuals. I never told anyone except my husband two years after being married. I hate sex and it’s killing my marriage. I am recently having these flashbacks of what happened to me. I even still remember how they smell. I can’t cry; I don’t know why but I am really hurting. I feel like letting my husband go because he is also being negatively affected. When he touches me, most of the time I just pretend to enjoy while I am not, at times I even blatantly reject him. I am not sure if this has to do with self condemnation or unforgivness. I really need help, I can’t even pray about this.

    1. Grace, I am so very, very sorry for all you have gone through sexually before marriage. My heart cries for you, truly. I understand all too well when you talk about flashbacks, smells, etc. I went through this too. But I finally came to a place where I said, no more. I would not continue to live in that prison of horrible memories. And I would not let my husband become a further victim of the abuse that happened to me. This gives the perpetrators victory, and gives the enemy of our faith victory–the one who is orchestrating this assault over and over again.

      I also contemplated leaving my husband to “release” him. But I eventually saw that this is giving victory to the enemy, rather than living in victory. I needed to do what it would take so I could show love to my husband without the hauntings. That is God’s way of approaching this matter. My husband and I did not deserve to have our lives horribly changed because of abusers who don’t deserve the time of day. I sought help. I leaned into the healing the Lord could give me. I wiped out the whispers of the enemy and leaned into seeking help until there was victory.

      I can tell you that this was so terribly difficult. But what was even more difficult is continuing to live in the prison of memories. I’m SO GLAD I did it. And I know you can be too, if you do this. Letting your husband go is not a good solution. That only causes more damage in other ways, and it doesn’t resolve the healing issue that is bumping up against you. I believe God is allowing this so you will let go and let Him help you gain total victory. You are listening to the lies of the enemy and are living a defeated life right now. God wants more for you than this.

      Fight the enemy in a different way. Get the help you need. Don’t let any excuse stop you. First, read the following article to get a better footing on all of this: https://marriagemissions.com/discerning-the-difference-between-the-conviction-of-the-holy-spirit-and-condemnation-of-the-enemy/. As you read that article you will see that the enemy is trying to fool you into thinking God is condemning you. He isn’t. The enemy is. Don’t buy it any longer. Fight.

      Please find a counselor (who is marriage friendly) who can help you to fight. I’m thinking the damage is so deep that you need extra help. I did, and most victims of abuse do, as well. If you don’t know a counselor, please go to the web site of Focus on the Family – South Africa. You can put that term into a search engine and it will take you to their web site. They do counseling through their office in a number of different ways. And if they can’t help you, I’m sure they can refer you to someone. Please reach out for the help you need. Don’t live in this nightmare, nor give abusers or the enemy any more of a foothold. You are a lovely woman of God who is very valuable… and the enemy knows this. Don’t give in; fight in a different way from now on. Fight the enemy. Don’t fight with yourself or push away your husband. Pray, fight, pray, and lean into God on this one. I know you can do this. If I could, you can. God can and will bring victory as you fight this good fight. “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

      “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11) Please know that: “The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18)

  4. I am going through something so similar. My fiancée of 11 years left me this year. The reasons she gave me were so confusing. Once I went to counseling on my own I realized and recognized that the main reason was that she never dealt with the abuse that happened to her in her childhood. As it came up, she seemed to feel that dealing with it and having a relationship with me was not something she could do. Since, she has apologized for blaming me for things I did not do. Regardless, the relationship has ended and this is a very large reason why. I’m not perfect and I know that, but I never did anything that would cause her to leave without having this past abuse be part of it. It’s sad and tragic. I still share a great love with her (I know that is true) and have a great deal of compassion towards her. Just wanted to share my story.

    1. Andrew, Thanks for sharing this. I know it has to be extremely painful to go through the breakup after you had invested so much of your life for 11 years. But I can tell you that as long as she is unwilling to deal with her past hurt(s) you would be held a prisoner because of what someone else did to her. I’m also glad you are in counseling to deal with the pain. This should accelerate the healing process before you ever move on into a new relationship. It sounds like you’ve been given insight and wisdom that can help you as well. Blessings! ~Steve Wright

      1. Thanks so much Steve. I have received some very good advice and counsel over the past several months. It is heartbreaking and I know that it is out of my control. The unfortunate part (one of them at least) is that it seems that she has stopped therapy after only a few months. The therapist she was with didn’t seem to have the proper training to fully bring her through this and she stopped seeing her. I pray for her, wish her the best possible future and hope she finds her path through this. Thanks again, Andrew

  5. What should I do? I forced myself on my wife once before we were married, before I knew Jesus. Now, it’s been years and we haven’t had sex due to the trauma. I don’t know how to fix it. I am trying to be a good husband. I caused this pain and she has forgiven me but there is still this barrier we can’t get past. Any ideas? Please be praying for us.

  6. Hi, It was not until 29 years into our marriage that my wife told me (she could barely say it), in two sentences that she was repeatedly sexually abused around age 7 to 8 by a man in her neighborhood. Our sex life was a catastrophe. She rarely shows much emotion. She says it is nothing. My confidence was destroyed and my depression escalated as the years went by. She thinks my struggles now have nothing to do with that. She has never sought to resolve this. It’s not her fault but she needs to hear from those who know how profoundly this affected us.

    1. How I wish she would open her eyes and see that when something like this happens… when someone steals your innocence and violates you, it can’t help but discolor most everything from that day forward. You’re right; it’s not her fault. But it isn’t yours either. This man stole something precious from her, but he also caused you, her husband, to suffer too. I hope she will read what I wrote in this article. Having gone through it with 2 different relatives, I understand all too well how it can affect someone, and affect the marital relationship in very real ways. I was also in denial that this affected my husband Steve until the Lord opened my eyes. And now I am so sorry that I allowed this man to hurt my husband, as well. The victimization kept multiplying until I worked through all of this properly rather than from a child’s perspective.

      I dealt with the sexual abuse through counseling and through other means. I can’t even start to describe the freedom that I have been experiencing since. As a result, my husband is experiencing freedom too because we are now enjoying intimacy in a wonderful way. Men feel close to their wife through the sexual relationship. It brings a sense of well-being and emotional closeness with their marriage partner.

      Those who are sexually abused often deal with it by either being overly emotional, or by being overly closed to emotions because they have shut off the world so they don’t have to deal with it. Mike, I’m not an expert, but I’ve been with multitudes of sexual victims and I can tell you that they never experience true freedom until they properly deal with it. I cry with your wife, and I cry for you too. This man hurt you in different ways, but very real ways. And your wife is handcuffed to this past abuse, which no one should ever have to go through, until she can work through this. I’m thinking that a really good counselor should be able to walk her through this so she can also experience freedom and discover feelings she didn’t know were possible. I pray for her and for you… may you both partner in getting to a healthier place in your marriage and in your love life with each other.