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:


— ALSO —

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


Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

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Filed under: Sexual Issues

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176 responses to “When Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Marriage Intimacy

  1. (USA) I have been with my wife for 4 years. We lived together for 2 and a half and have been married for the last year and 2 months. I found out she was sexually molested by her father just after we married and a little over a year later she left me.

    We still talk everyday but she said she didn’t want to hurt me any more by living a false marriage. She said all the past feelings of the abuse surfaced as soon as we got married. I love her and want to help her. I’m researching the symptoms of others who have been abused and they all fit. I don’t know if she’ll ever come back to me, but I pray she does. I just don’t know what I can do to help.

    1. (USA)  Has she ever been to a doctor to talk about it? I know a lot of times, people do not get the help or support they need to get through something like that. I’m not sure when I was first molested, but I have memories from age 6 up to age 13 (he got caught). He went to a shrink to help him (didn’t work, he did it again when I was 15).

      My point is, his father and his wife were more worried about him than they were me. They made sure he got help for his problem, but I was just supposed to forget about all those years and act like everything was great. I have been dealing with it myself for so long. I do okay most of the time, however, I think it causes a lot of problems in my marriage. I have trouble trusting my husband. I can’t be what he wants in bed, because it makes me feel dirty (brings back awful memories from what this man had me do or say to him). I know that is was not my fault. I didn’t do anything to make this happen. I would like to talk to a shrink myself, but I guess I’m scared. What if it doesn’t do any good? It did happen all those years ago.

      Anyway, if she still loves you, but just doesn’t feel comfortable enough to stay with you, she needs help from someone. Maybe that someone is a shrink. I do not know if I helped any, but it is a touchy situation for most people who’ve been there.

    2. (AFRICA) The same thing happened to me when I was a child. The worst of all is my husband knew about it when he got to know me when we were just friends. He assured me that he supports me, accepts me as I am. He knew I was broken and I tried all forms of ministry, counselling, professional help.

      He even said before we got married (all of a sudden one week before our wedding), that he will not marry me if I don’t go to a specific ministry’s counselling. I did go through it because I believed that I can get healing and he made it very clear that that is the ground rule. He changes the goal post whenever he wants and feels like it. He is not predictable. One moment he loves and support me and the next moment he blames me for everything and even tells me I schemed to make him marry me (this is not true –he proposed fully knowing of my past and my willingness to get victory –but still, I get the blame for everything).

      However, even though I went through it, I did get some healing and did grow in many other areas. It wasn’t enough for him. Where he knew from the beginning of my past and issues in the intimacy department, his over sex expectations and lust only surfaced after the wedding.

      I’m at a stage now, where I feel I cannot go through this anymore. He pushes me to get my past sorted out but in the same breath he doesn’t have patience for the road of healing and hurts me even more because all he needs and WANTS is sex. My whole being feels like I can’t take this anymore.

      At the moment I am getting professional help, while I am working through a situation and getting healing in that department (really grasping that it was not my fault that I was molested and sexually abused by my grandfather), though I do communicate to him what it is I am going through, he “supports” me to a degree and only to what he is feeling like that day.

      I do not know to do anymore. On the one side I feel I’m going through this journey of getting healing of what happened to me BUT at the exact time I need to deal with my husband that constantly reminds me how selfish I am, how I am not obedient to God –that my body does not belong to me, that I don’t serve my husband as the Bible instructs me. Thus, it feels like I’m in this tormented place where I need to deal with my past and in my present I am being reminded of bad I am and selfish I am.

      I’m all for getting healing and being the best God created me, but how do I go about it if my husband doesn’t really support me or calls me names because my healing process is not quick enough and not feeding what he wants? I don’t feel I can trust him anymore because he changes how he feels about me the whole time. I’m starting to believe that I am selfish and can’t get victory. Please give guidance, I feel at the end of it…

      1. Dear Distraught, It’s no wonder you are confused and distraught with all you have been through and what you are going through now. I find myself frustrated and confused just reading the situations you have written about in your comments. My heart truly goes out to you. Having gone through these problems as a child from relative(s) myself, I understand how difficult it is to get to a place of healing. I can testify though, that you CAN get to that place. But when you have someone pushing at you that doesn’t understand, and has his own issues, it’s difficult.

        You said that you are “at the moment” getting “professional help.” I hope this “professional” can help you to sort out the abusive behavior your husband is putting you through right now, as well. He may mean well (I’m not sure of that, though), but he is complicating matters all the more by yanking you back and forth emotionally playing blame-games and being supportive one minute an acting out in the opposite way the next.

        You may need to separate for at least a time (if possible) so you can get to a better place emotionally, clearer in your thinking so his controlling ways don’t push you backwards before you even have the opportunity to gain solid ground and are more sure of yourself and who you are. You sound like a wonderful woman who is trying her hardest to stand up and no longer suffer as a victim of your past. I SO admire you for reaching out for help. Keep doing so. I hope you will.

        I’m all for marriages working out and rarely recommend couples separating, but in your case I recommend you pray about it and go the way God shows you. I’m thinking that you need a time to work on your issues without someone controlling you and yanking you back and forth while you’re getting the help you need. But again, pray about it and prayerfully talk to your counselor to see if this would be wise. Sometimes when we are trying to heal from an injury (yours is emotional injury), it works out best to take a “time out” to let the injury properly heal. If you can’t do this for some reason, then keep your eyes upon the Lord and ask Him to help you heal even with this added pressure. It will be more difficult, but it’s possible. Work with this “professional” in the way you can and don’t stop leaning towards healing. I hope for you and pray for God to help you to get to a better place emotionally and sexually. I pray the Lord helps you, and guides you, and comforts you, and speaks to you, and works in and through you in this situation. I also pray God infuses hope into your heart that you will eventually experience better days –ones that will bring a smile to your heart.

      2. Dear Distraught, I have been in a similar situation where I was abused at an early age by one of my parents. My wedding is in 10 days and I just called it off. Want to know why? My fiancee is someone I have been with off and on for the past 4 years. His father was extremely controlling and abusive towards him as a child. He became intensely mistrustful and controlling as an adult.

        After undergoing counselling, I realized that my own defectiveness and submissiveness was feeding his narcissism. In psychological terms, I had become a codependent, a magnet for narcissists. I empathized with his pain and sacrificed myself in unhealthy ways as a result.

        I hope this response sheds some light on the matter. I too have gone to two counselors, though I do not think they helped very much. Their advice was generic and it seemed they were more interested in getting through the hour so that they could get paid.

        I feel terrible for my fiancee as I know his coping mechanism taught him to externalize his pain by learning how to dominate and manipulate, which he has become an expert at. He refuses to accept blame for anything and isolates me from family and friends. He is unable to separate my identity from his own and expects me to behave, act and speak in a prescribed manner, or he blows a fuse.

        I knew this going into the engagement. Unfortunately, he contacted me after months of separation and promised to go to counseling himself. Later, he blamed me of calling him crazy when I reminded him of this promise. He is frequently abusive and I would never have taken this treatment from anyone. He fluctuates between overly generous and terribly abusive. He becomes immensely apologetic when I leave. When I threaten to leave, he says “its because you are interested in other boys.” I wish I could help him because we have consoled each other in the past. However, being with him is detrimental to my own recovery process.

  2. (JAMAICA)  I just read an article titled in the mind of the abused. It was truly a blessing to me and explained things that I couldn’t otherwise explain to my husband. I made a copy for him hoping that he will read it.

  3. (CANADA/COLOMBIA)  We too are facing something similar to Tom. My husband was abused as a young child and I fear that it is taking a toll on our marriage. He doesn´t share too much with me but I do know that it is hard for him to be intimate with me because his abuser and I are both overweight.

    I am at a loss but am am willing to be patient, I will wait for him but I don´t want him to leave. He says he wants to leave so that I don´t suffer anymore. How do I help him recognize that his lack of LOVE for me is because of this and not necesarily because of who I am. We are a Christian couple working full time in ministry and we know that separating isn´t what is right, but we don´t know where to go from here.

    1. (USA)  You are not alone. Check out mysarahsdaughters.com. It is a group of women standing in the gap for marriages, loving, strong, transparent and encouraging.

  4. (U.S.)  I don’t know if anyone will read this, but I am 19 years old, and have been in a relationship for almost 2 years. I love my boyfriend with all of my heart, but as everyone has been saying in this blog, I feel almost empty after we are intimate. I was touched when I was little. I only remember two times that it happened, but I can’t tell if the feelings I feel after intimacy are because of this. I don’t think about what happened in the past during intimacy. I was just wondering, is it possible that it is because of my past that I feel empty and dirty? Does it matter that it was only two times? I’ve been debating on whether or not I should see a therapist, but I’m scared they won’t take me as seriously. Help?

    1. (USA)  Even if you just remember being touched 2 times… that is 2 times too many! I was sexually abused throughout my childhood sporadically. I have been seeing a counselor to just talk through the incidents and my counselor is a Christian. I don’t know what you think about God, but having that Christian perspective of your worth being in Christ is amazing. I have to remember that even though man has stripped me of something that is supposed to be beautiful in marriage, I can find that freedom again in Christ.

      I kept all this bottled up for 19 years before I told anyone for the first time. That first time of sharing is such a burst of freedom-a weight is truly lifted. I get a little more freedom as time passes and I have talked to my counselor. I am now in a master’s program for professional counseling. it has been 10 years in the making, but that is where God is leading me. I want to help others, mainly women, to deal with all the garbage before entering marriage. I’ve been married for 12 years and it hasn’t been easy. But, my husband is supportive of me. I pray for you and hope you find someone to talk to, whether that be a friend you can trust, a counselor, etc.

    2. (USA)  Wow – I am in the same boat as you. But mine has always been that when I first date someone, it’s all sexual for me -I make them desire me. Then when it turns into a relationship, I lose all that sexuality and prefer to not have sex at all.

      Once I met my husband, it was similar, but the feelings lasted for a long time, so I thought it was me and the guys that I had dated in the past were all jerks and maybe that is why every relationship turned out the same.

      After marriage, once again, I lost the feeling of being intimate. I feel terrible because I do not enjoy sex at all. I am feeling violated all over again when I have sex… and it is terrible because he didn’t marry me knowing this was how I would turn out. I feel like crying every night because I can’t give him what he wants. So, I think I am on the same boat as you. I don’t know how to get past this. I have tried therapy, but hasn’t worked so far.

      1. (USA)  I have been through the same thing. Instead I drank a lot and had sex all the time when I was drinking. I married my husband who I had only slept with while intoxicated. Then I quit drinking and cannot be intimate with him. He is unable to understand enough to go through the process with me. And I am afraid this will ruin us!!

      2. (USA)  I am exactly the same. It is ruining my marriage. My husband married me without knowing this would happen. I didn’t even know it would happen. I don’t know what to do. I want to fix myself. He thinks I am not in love with him anymore. I want my butterflies back. Instead I feel like he is going to hurt me or maybe my children. Help!

    3. (USA)  Kelly, I have been debating the same question for some time. Like you, as a child I was touched a few times and saw things that a 6 year old should not have. Now I have been married for 14 yrs and my marriage is falling apart. I feel I don’t love my husband and when we have personal time I will say I don’t feel anything. I’m numb.

      When my daughter was young I always watched when anyone in the family would hold her. I never yet have received any help with these problems. I wish I had. However, I didn’t really remember any of this until I was in my 20’s. That’s when I started wondering, why is all this coming back to me? Did I block all that out? I now want to get help. I hope it works out for you. Good luck.

      1. (USA)  Becky, you just explained how my wife feels. I was one of the first that she had told about the abuse to when we were dating. She said she felt comfortable and trusted me. Our relationship was great and grew. But over the past year she couldn’t be intimate with me at all. She said I don’t want you or anybody to touch me. She couldn’t even kiss me eventually.

        This drove me into a deep depresion and I couldn’t function. This lead to resentment for us both. I knew what it was as we had gone through this when our first son was born 7 years ago. We had been married 6 months at that time. It wasn’t that bad and she gotten some help. Things got better (nothing as good as when we were dating).

        A little over a year after our second child was born say March 2011, is when it started over a thousand times worse. She said she felt numb, which lead to her saying she didn’t know if she was in love w/me. I told her she needed counseling and she went. I went a couple times but the counsler realized that my wife needed the help (not saying I didn’t either) and I needed not to come back. She had said for a while she needed her space.

        Eventually things happened and she moved in w/her mom and stepdad. We seperated 2/2/12 and my heart is broken. She is 42 & I’m 34. I keep the kids half the time and she the other. She says that she should miss me more than she does and doesn’t have feelings for me. I know that it is over but I cry every day knowing it is not right to give up on our marriage but there is nothing I can do except pray for His will to be done. She is a beautiful woman and I trust and love her very much, though I know she is very confused.

        She doesn’t think it will affect the boys but I know better. I look at them as they sleep and whisper to them, I’m sorry; Im so sorry with tears running down my face. So please get help from a Christian counsler and marriage counselor, as well, if you need to. Keep praying!

        1. (U.S.A) Hello Everyone, Here I go. I was molested by my uncle when I was 11 all the way up til I was 14 and he died. To everyone else he seemed like the perfect person and he called me his favorite niece. He would tell me that he loved me and if I told anyone they wouldn’t believe me or they would be mad at me for causing problems in the family. At that age I was totally into God. He had three small little girls and I thought God let that happen to me so it would not happen to them so it was like I was making a sacrifice to save others as Jesus did.

          I told my husband all this when we first started dating and getting intimate because I wanted to be totally honest with him in the beginning of our relationship. I was very sexual active with him and was able to hide my feelings of feeling dirty and empty afterward from him for a long time. I would just push the bad memories that kept popping up to the back of my mind, paint on a smile and go on. But when we got married and we had our first set of girls it became too much. I was always on the look out thinking everyone wanted to molest them, checking them when we had to leave them with family his or mine, or to go to work.

          In the bedroom I would become a robot just watching the clock and praying for it to be over soon. He wanted me to see a counselor but we live in a small town. I am afraid someone will know me, see me going in there or something, and tell my family. So he tells me to pray, which is a sore subject being that I recently lost both my parents. I don’t see how God can help me unless he is going to bring them back…

          This became the routine, I would watch porn while he was at work, not for pleasure but to study how the women made facial expressions and sounds so I could become a great pretender and fake it enough to save our marriage. It worked for a real long time unil the memories got worse. I would cringe at his touch. Eventually he stopped asking for sex and had an affair with my cousin. Yes, the same one I called a sister who I thought I was making this great sacrafice for, by protecting her from her father. So she sleeps with my husband. Wow! I guess I deserved that.

          Eventually after a year I forgave both of them and took my husband back even though everyone else said I should have divorced him and physically harmed them, as well. I just didn’t feel like fighting anymore and I knew the real me was this really nice person and I didn’t want to give them the pleasure of changing that about me. My husband claims he hasn’t cheated with anyone since. I don’t know about that but I feel if I am going to forgive him I have to make an effort. So how do I stop my past from controling my present or what’s left of it? Anyway, I want to really enjoy being sexual with my husband without feelimg like a dirty whore afterwards. Help, please.

  5. (CANADA)  Hi Kelly, I have three sets of memories – I don’t know how many times it really happened… but it’s affected my marriage, especially sexually. I’m seeing a really awesome Christian counselor who is walking me through healing. I’ve felt the same things to the point that I simply can’t/won’t be intimate with my husband. The number of times it happened definitely doesn’t change how traumatic it is – I really hope you can find someone wise and understanding to talk to you. I’ve prayed for you and your healing in this area! Peace.

  6. (U.S.)  Anon, thank you so much for replying back. It really means a lot to know that someone is listening and praying for me. I’ve been thinking about seeing a counselor for a long time and I think I will. I just need that confidence to open up. I hope your counseling is going well too, and thank you again for support. -Kelly

  7. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I need some answers. 6 and a half years ago I went through a divorce, my husband left me for some younger girl. I’d not yet been over this, when the pastor and some church members talked me into getting married with my second husband but I didn’t want to get married again. Now after 6 years they still deny that they talked me into getting married to this man. We have a huge age difference of 18 years. I’d also been raped and molested as a small child and I don’t know if this has an effect on my marriage now. I know that there must be a clean sexual relationship between a man and wife. This is fine with me, but there is this something that is not feeling right, It doen’t matter what I’m doing, ex: doing dishes cooking then he comes past and always want to touch my private parts in a way that makes me very uncomfortable. Is this feeling a thing that comes from my childhood abuse or is it stilll abuse even though I’m married? I’m now 37 years old. Please, I’m very confused at this point.

    1. (ENGLAND)  I think this comes from your childhood abuse. I think childhood abuse for me meant that I lost control of the deicsion making. The abuser decided to enagage in sex without my consent. From then on anyone who takes away this right from me makes me feel the abuse again.

      I think you have to gain your self respect yourself if others won’t give you that. You have to say I don’t like that approach and I don’t want it. When you respect yourself maybe then others will respect your decisions too if not that is not right on you

  8. (US)  I was in an incestous relationship for a big part of my childhood. It has impacted every relationship I’ve ever been in including my marriage. My husband is always telling me I stay angry for no reason. My marriage is failing. I stay so tired but I don’t want to sleep. Nightmares and flashbacks haunt me almost every day. There is a 20 year gap between me and my husband and sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t have married at all. I catch myself hating my husband and that’s not fair to him. It’s not his fault. I just feel so alone all the time. I wonder will if it ever be different.

    1. (UK)  I sympathise with you. It is difficult to be in a marriage when you have had a history of child sexual abuse I think. I think myself included are very sensitive to how others treat us – especially our mates. I find intimacy more difficult as I grow older and especially as my husband also comes from a background where his father violently abused his mother. So the respect for women was not evident.

      I think my husband has learned his fathers attitude though he is not physically violent he uses coercian and other means to intimidate if I don’t give him sex. I am not saying he is a evil husband or not supportive but with my experiencing sexual abuse as a young child it makes life more difficult. We talk out our problems and try to understand how our lives effect us.

  9. (CANADA)  Dear Dr. Stoppard, after 25 yrs of marriage my wife informed me that her father sexually abused her from 10 to 14 yrs during family holidays in the countryside. Due to lack of space she used to sleep with her parents, with her dad in the middle. He would fondle & massage her breasts & make her touch his genitals by placing her hands inside his sleepwear. Sometimes she slept with her mother between her dad & herself. He would still move over next to her & molest her thru’out the night. He acted very normal in the mornings, as if nothing had ever happened.

    Her dad is a Doctor of medecine & is regarded with respect by the family, relatives & community that they live in. He is 78 yrs old now. Over the past 2 yrs my wife & I have had personal problems with each other. My daughter was engaged to a guy who was paying a lot of attention to my wife & she was affectionate towards him… like massaging his shoulders in public. I objected to this behaviour. She, my daughter & her family claimed that I was insecure.

    Eventually, my daughter’s engagement was called ‘off’ by the boy, after two yrs of dating. This made my wife & daughter very angry with me. I work overseas & visit my family every 3 to 4 months for the past 8 yrs. We call, text & skype regularly. Our relationship is now strained.

    She is always angry & irritated with anything I do or say & my daughter & her family are exacerbating the situation. She is also undermining my relationship with our 15 yr old son who lives with her. She is very cordial towards me at the end of every month as it is time for her monthly expense check. At other times she is bitter & angry towards me. We have seen a couple of marriage counsellors to no avail. I don’t know how to deal with all this. No one in the family knows that her father sexually abused her except our daughter. Should we confront him? Should we inform her brothers & mother about the abuse? What can I do to help her? We had a loving relationship before. How can I have it back? Doctor, plz help me. I’m sad, depressed & confused.

    1. (USA)  MO, Although your wife may not have told you or may not want to say it outloud, but her mother already knows what her father was doing. The same thing happened to me but it was with my grandparents. I have always known what my step-grandfather had done but it was just a few years ago that I started having flashbacks of my grandmother being in the bed with us and knowing that she was doing nothing to protect me. I can honestly say that I’m mad at myself for being so small but still wanting love from my grandmother and not remembering until I was much older that she was allowing my pain. Now I have nothing to do with her, she can’t figure out why, and I have no desire to confront her.

      The worst part about it is that my mother later claimed that this very same man raped her which is why she ran off with my father at the age of 17. Not only is my step-grandfather and grandmother at fault but my mother left me with her rapist. Her only excuse is that she had no one else to care for me. My parent’s marriage only lasted about a year but my mother did remarry. My step-father’s brother also saw me as opportunity for his sick mind. This abuse went on for several years until I woke up to him in my bed. My parents were at the hospital with my little brother and my aunt went into labor that same night. Without waking me they left me with him. I got up and ran down the street to another family member’s house but just said that I had a bad dream. A few days later I told a friend what had happened. My mother cried and spent that day acting as though she was going to take care of the situation but I ended up living next door to my second abuser for another 3 years.

      I did my best of stay a virgin, then my senior year I had a very aggresive boyfriend. I’m not going to say I was raped but I did not stay around for the afterglow of sex and the word “No” came out of my mouth enough that he should have gotten the picture.

      Trusting men has not been easy and I can’t say that I truly trust anyone for that matter but what I do know is that I want to always feel safe when I’m with my husband. My husband loves me as much as you seem to love your wife and always wants to be around and also wants to touch me. The problem is that I don’t always want to be touched. I have control issues and yes, I want my husband to want me but what is important is that he understands my desire for security. What I know he doesn’t understand is the uncomfortable feeling of random grabbing for my body, mostly while we are in bed. I love my husband but scared that I was not cut out for marriage b/c I’m not doing a very good job at it so far. What if he never opens his mind to what I’m feeling and refuses to try and understand? My biggest desire is, to want my husband sexually all the time but I can’t force myself to feel this. What has happened to me as a child has put some major thoughts/fear in my head that I’m not sure will ever be fixed without his love and support.

      Mo, I think your wife looked at this young man as someone she was possibly in control of. I’m not saying that the flirting is ok, b/c it is very much wrong. She is hurting really bad and although you may tell her you love and support her, she may not be ready to deal with it herself so flirting and ignoring it is the best way she knows how to make herself feel better while not excepting her reality. Keep doing what you are doing and never stop telling her that you love her!

      Sorry that I got off of your subject and shared a little too much of my own pain but this is the first time that I have visited or talked about my situation on-line. When I read about your wife’s abuse it was also the first time that I heard of another family member that was so close yet did nothing. I still have a lot of anger that I can’t seem to let go and understand that ignoring the problem sometimes makes you feel better even if you are only pretending. God Bless! Angela

  10. (CANADA)  My girlfriend was sexually abused as a child too. We are having intimacy problems, but I don’t mean sex [we put that on the back burner for at least several more months, if ever]. It is more like I cannot get close to her mentally. She just doesn’t seem to be willing to embrace the idea of “partnership”, like maybe she is afraid to be emotionally close to anyone anymore. I guess that is it, right?

    At first I had hoped to help her, but maybe that is pretentious – what do I know? Still, there has to be some hope… Is it reasonable to say that she “keeps the abuse alive by letting herself think about it all the time”, and that by reducing the amount of life she gives those memories she might start living in the present a bit more? That is the “meditation” way, I just wonder if it can apply to the childhood sexually abused people. Has anyone found it helps to focus thoughts on the present, and to reduce the time engaged with the horrible memories?

    1. (UK)  If I am right here. I think once the sexual abuse is recognised by a “victim/survivor” I think it is not about remembering the abuse for the sake of reliving the horror. It is that you can’t forget the abuse because it keeps impacting your life in so many different ways. I think everyone wants to heal its just that to what extent we heal and at what speed we do so is relative to perhaps how we are treated and how we allow others to treat us.

  11. (CANADA)  Hi Barry- I am sorry about your wife. I am also a wife with a history of abuse and also have intimacy issues. I am very engaged mentally with my spouse and love him a lot. But physical intimacy is a challenge.

    You asked about what your wife thinking about it– many of us would trade those thoughts for early onset dementia!! I know that I cannot stop though I have had extensive therapy and tried many, many forms of more aggressive treatment such as meds and EMDR (awful!) and exposure/extinction where you talk about it for up to three hours… (WORSE!) Nothing has helped. I would like very much never to think of it again and would welcome dementia because it is veritable torture. So I would assume that even though I do not know you wife, she may be tormented, too. But we are all different, so I don’t want to make assumptions.

    Sometimes onlookers who have not been abused think we indulge in those thoughts but that is not true. Often when you think we are having fun and engaged with others, we are still thinking about it. We are fighting so hard 24/7. Because it LOOKS like we are not thinking about it, we may still be.

    My spouse is very patient and knows how hard abuse is on some. I know there are some who are recovered, but we are all different with different genes, different blood types, different neurological makeups. Some can handle huge abuses and still go on and others have minds that analyze and feel it for decades.

    I just wanted to put in my two cents. I hope that you can continue to try- I know it’s hard, but let her know you love her, even in little ways. The spouses of those who are still struggling deserve medals.

  12. (US)  I was just recently told (in-depth) of my wife’s abuse from a cousin early in her life. It went on for several years, and her mother only found out a couple of years later.

    We have been struggling many times with intimacy and sex (months on end between encounters), and I just thought it was me being pushed away for whatever reason. I felt angry, hurt, undesirable, unwanted, etc… and thought my wife was just becoming selfish in her wants to be on the go all of the time, with friends, excluding me.

    With the recent revelations, I now feel like I was the one being selfish. I hurt for the scars my wife has had to carry for 22+ yrs, want to help, but now she wants me to leave, let her tackle it alone, and clearly states that after she comes to terms with this on her own, she seriously doubts there will be a “us” afterwards.

    We have 4 children 22yrs to 6yrs old. We are in the process of letting them know of my wife’s “demon” that has been haunting her.

    My problem is I feel I am being “locked” out of my wife’s and my family’s lives. I want to be there for her for support. I realize there really is nothing else for me to do, but she now has surrounded herself with a younger crowd, partying, clubbing out, etc… and I am always excluded.

    I don’t know what to do. I am beginning to feel depressed, recently been demoted for performance issues at work, and basically feel lost in life. All this while my wife seems to be happy-go-lucky, and even told me she is afraid to confront herself with her issues. She has gone to therapy, but is again afraid to continue for what might be ahead for her in facing and confronting that horrible thing in her past.

    We have been together 15 years (the two oldest daughters are from my first marriage – I received custody). She has helped me in so many ways during that time (until recently), and I feel I have her. It all just seems to be thrown away, with me being kicked to the curb, with no effort to concore herself, and our marriage after that. HELP!!!!!!

  13. (UK)  I’ve been with my partner 14 years, due to get married soon. She was abused when she was very young by a relative. She’s never told her parents, even when her brother had his first child (a girl), which I thought he needed to know about, who the abuser was etc. Our sex life is non existent. She’s never enjoyed it. It makes me feel empty inside, like I’m crying inside. I sometimes wonder what it would be like with another woman. I do love her but I’ve felt dead sexually for years. She won’t get help and cries if I ever mention anything. Help.

    1. (USA)  I feel very much for you and your partner. My advice to you is to encourage her to seek therapy with someone who will understand her abuse. It sounds like she’s nervous to seek help and her defense is to make an emotional appeal to you and get upset, to dissuade you from making her go.

      Seeking treatment is the only way victims can get over their trauma. I am a victim of abuse and the only way I finally got passed my deeply rooted fears was to go to therapy and get help from someone who understands how sexual abuse affects people as they grow up. I still fall sometimes and I don’t doubt that I will need additional counseling in the future.

      It is a neverending process, but she needs to understand that she doesn’t have to go through this terrible ordeal on her own! It’s understandable that your gaze has been wandering because she is too uncomfortable to give you the intimacy you crave. You have to understand that she can’t help feeling the way she feels, until she gets help. My advice to you is get that help for her asap, so you can work together towards a common goal of having a normal degree of intimacy. Have patience and keep encouraging her!

  14. (SOUTH AFRICA)  I have been married for 3 years and know my husband for 11 years. I knew about the abuse before we got married and supported him. I didn’t know that things would change. He does not want to be intimate with me, we don’t kiss. We have sex every 3 months. He fakes orgasms; he is addicted to porn. He fantasizes about girls I know that have done dirty things with men. He makes excuses for not wanting to be intimate with me.

    I so much want to have kids and I suffer with policystic ovaries which makes it difficult to fall pregnant. I have supported my husband, gone for counseling. He was with a support group but his work keeps him so he doesn’t go but chooses to work. He has become cold towards me and does not show me he cares. I feel that maybe he does not want to be married to me as he shows very little interest in me. Our dogs and other people get more attention than me.

    I have tried communicating with him but I guess it ends in me talking to myself and him not saying a word. I try not to pressure him or make him feel forced to make love to his own wife. I am starting to think very little of myself as a woman. I cry in the quiet and I have no one to speak to. I love my husband and want to continue supporting him but sometimes feel his killing my spirit. I read about peoples experiences of abused spouses cheating, having sex with men and it scares me.

    1. (USA)  I totally understand, my husband used to be interested in being intimate with me when we were dating, but as soon as we got married that all changed. He stopped initiating sex with me and then started to reject me when I would initiate.

      We’ve been married for five years and in those five years we’ve always had this problem. I would ask him what was wrong, what could I do to change things, and he would always say there was nothing wrong that everything would be okay.

      Just last year he told me that the reason why he was that way towards me was because I had gained weight. He revealed to me several years ago that he was molested but he didn’t go into any details and I’m the only person he’s told. He doesn’t think that that has anything to do with the lack of intimacy in our marriage. I’m at the point now where I need that love and passion and desire from my husband but I feel that he is not capable of providing those things to me.

      I want to be patient and be what he needs me to be but at this point he doesn’t feel that there is anything wrong with how he’s perceiving the situation. He thinks it’s just my weight. So what do I do? Do I leave or wait it out to see if he acknowledges his part and find the help he needs.

  15. (UK)  Has anyone experienced the fall out from their partner’s childhood sexual abuse, affecting their sex life?