When Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Marriage Intimacy

abuse - 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 of Abuse

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 Abuse 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. He became another victim of my abusers because we couldn’t be as intimately close to each other as we should be. I eventually saw this and recognized that I needed to put an end to our future victimization.

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 abuse in my earlier 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. Also, work to stop the victimization your abuser pushed onto you, and now, your spouse. Your spouse is now being victimized by this abuser, as well. This is hurting your marital intimacy. Work to get the healing you (both) need.

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 to Heal from Past Abuse

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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206 responses to “When Childhood Sexual Abuse Affects Marriage Intimacy

  1. I was abused by both my older brothers. One would have me do things in front of his friend(s) and the other would emotionally torment me and abuse me. He would hold me above an old wood stove and tell me he would drop me. He would throw dogs or cats on me or pretend like he would. He was always hiding in the house and then jumping out to scare me. This started when I think I was around 6.

    I can’t really recall when it stopped. I just remember my brother asking me if I got my period yet. I’m now 40. I’ve been diagnosed with PSTD, Anxiety and Depression. My mother found out from reading my journal when I was 16. She never really dealt with my issues. She took me a counselor but it never continued. I may have seen a counselor about 3 times as a child. My mother never talked me about it and asked if I was okay.

    As I got older I started to resent her and I remember arguing about and she told me I could have called the police. It was then that I really started to dislike my mother. She was supposed to protect me. How could a child know what to do?

    Anyway, now I’m in a relationship with a man that loves me but my PSTD and anxiety have taken a toll on our relationship. I’ve always been able to hurt others by my words. I’m known to say very mean things. When we argue my words are very hurtful to him. So many of my triggers have come out and he asked that I go to counseling. I did in the beginning but shortly after stopped because the counseling said she couldn’t be my therapist anymore because she wasn’t trained. I think I went about 4 times.

    My boyfriend has asked me to go to counseling again if I want this relationship to grow and be successful. He says he loves me but that I need help. He has said it might takes years before I’m healed but that he needs to see me trying.

    I love him. I don’t think he understands how hard this is. I’ve read articles and books for so many years just to understand what I’m going through. My problem is that I have very poor coping skills and it’s hard to control my emotions. It’s not something I can just wake up and say okay I am all healed. Sometimes I don’t think he understand the affects of sexual abuse and how different is from other forms of abuse. Maybe he does…I don’t know. I know he cares about me or else he would not still be here with me.

    I pray that I can one day not cry when I think of what happened to me and I pray that I will not feel all this hurt that I do but right now. I just don’t know how that is supposed to happen. I’m seeking therapy again. I also started looking into group therapy with others who have been through the same. I’m hoping my tears will one day stop.

  2. I’ve been married for 35 years to a woman who was sexually abused by a family member. I knew within the 1st year that something was wrong. There was no closeness, no intimacy, no emotional connection, nothing. She put on a good front before we got married, but it was all for show. Finally after 20 years I spoke up.

    I was praying on the subject, about her, and I had this burning in my bosom, that she had been sexually abused in her younger years. About 4 weeks later, she told me that her grandfather had abused her. We’ve tried counseling together, but it didn’t last. She’d always pull out and quit when the counselor would get too close on personal issues.

    Speed ahead 15 more years, and now it’s worse than ever. She sleeps on the couch now, still no intimacy or closeness. She won’t go on any one-on-one vacations with me. In fact she won’t even talk to me, unless there is a third party in the room.

    She was fooling me, and playing me, for the first 20 years, and it makes me wonder, now, what she is still keeping inside her soul. I married her not knowing all this stuff about her. If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn’t of married her. It has been very painful, to say the least. For many years, she’d just tell me that I wanted too much sex. I just want her to love me, instead of being fake, and not a genuine person. She is still hiding stuff from me, that she’ll probably never bring up, and close out. Yes, she has “unfinished business” that she needs to take care of.

    1. Been married 41 years here. Your story is my story. I feel like I have wasted the best years of my life being married to this woman. She won’t take any responsibility for making things better. None! Zip! I could have been married to someone that loved me. After 41 years it is a bitter pill to realize she never loved me.

  3. My wife was sexually abused as a girl. As a matter of fact so was the rest of her siblings, (a sister and two brothers). My wife was very promiscuous before and during our marriage. I tried to be understanding and sympathetic, but in the end she simply couldn’t stop cheating and she would not seek help. Today we remain civil for the kid’s sake. I still love her more than anything, but she made our marriage a NIGHTMARE!! My daughter says she is currently doing the same thing to her current husband.

  4. I was abused from the age of 4 til 15. I had it so bad I had a crush on one of my uncles. Now I am 41 in a relationship and these feelings pop up. I feel to be held by a man. I tried all my life to put this behind me. And when I left the home I started hating myself and every one. It was bad but I know these things were from my childhood and I had been tampered with. I need some counseling please.

    1. I am so sorry. Please remember that you are a victim, you didn’t choose any of this. I can only advise you to get professional help, I have started therapy and counseling and even though it will be a long journey I am so glad that I reached out to get help. God loves you so much, you need to now that. Stop beating yourself up for what was done to you; it’s not your fault. I wish you all the best!

  5. I really appreciate these lessons. I have struggled for years trying to figure out why my wife can be so romantic one day and distant the next. She is an absolute survivor, abused by father, uncle and first husband. We’ve been together for 20 years, married for 18 of them, and trust is still difficult. After reading your teachings I better understand how to support her, words of encouragement and also phrases/comments to avoid. Thanks to this information I now know how to support my wife and help her to thrive.

    1. We’re so glad you found this helpful. I pray the Lord helps you as you walk this very difficult journey with your wife. May the Lord continue to give you wisdom and help as you reach out to Him for the strength and insight you need. “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)

  6. My husband told me a young girl used to sexually abuse him everytime he was taking a shower. She would come through the window. He was 6 or 7; he tells me he liked it. I told him he was confused. He now seems to be over sexed. He also cheated on me. We’re getting divorced. I think he has a problem from his past. I also think she was a family member. He won’t tell or remember. Shouldn’t he have gone to counceling?

  7. I knew my wife was a victim and a survivor of this horrible abuse, as a very young girl, over several years by family members, before we were married. We have been married for almost two years, she recently left.
    While I am heartbroken, she is in much more pain, my advice is to listen, and listen more. I said some things, instead of listening, that hurt her even more. I hate myself for this, and hope she finds peace sometime. I love her so. But she is gone from my life.

    1. I truly feel your pain. I met and married the most wonderful woman I could hardly have imagined (after having 2 marriages end in infidelity). My wife had a few sexual abuses that haunt her even to this day. Even though I married her knowing this I really had no idea what our life would be like even years later. I was brought up that one needed only to “pull up his bootstraps and move on”, “just get on with your life.”

      Now I can’t believe how ridiculous that sounds. That’d be like telling my wife you’re half way through the Sahara and you won’t need any water till you reach the other side, just keep your chin up. I too feel so lonely and ‘deprived’ sometimes for a few months at a time that even though I know and think I understand her pain, I end up saying hurtful things sometimes without even thinking just how my words sound to her. I love her so much it embarrasses me to admit I do such idiotic things.

      I thank God she has never left me. Actually I’m here because she asked me to look for sites like this so that I may be of more help and comfort to her. I’ve always felt that if I’m not part of the solution then I’m part of the problem. So here I am. I hope I find ways for me to contribute to her healing and to learn to be more compassionate. I wish you the best of luck.

  8. I’ve read this in desperation this morning. I don’t even know if anyone will read this but I have to get some of this pain outside of my mind or I’ll burst. My husband of 18 years and I have split up for the sixth or seventh time because of this very pain. My husband was molested when he was a boy and in spite of every effort I have made, he won’t get help and we have hit the ground; hard. I’m hurting so much. I have become vicious. In the beginning I was compassionate and long suffering but over the years I have become angry. My heart is broken. I myself was molested by two siblings. One source of my anger is that women have had to deal with unwanted attention from men and my view of my husband is that he is somehow special, more special because of what happened when he was a boy. I despise that concept. He is scarred and I understand that but I can’t allow him to continue to lean on me for his identity. We have been Christians but now I feel I’ve lost my faith and my husband. Truth is I’ve never had a husband, he has been a man/boy this whole time. His tolerance of pain has finally beaten me. I have minimized myself this whole time to accommodate his suffering so as not to add to the problem but my dragon has been unleashed and now I feel guilty and ashamed. I can’t go back but I need help going forward. All of the articles about this topic are about the person who was molested, what about the ones who married them? I feel duped and betrayed and now I have been molested by my own husband. Every time I have heard him snoring next to me instead of touching me I die a little more. I think at this point I’m kind of like the walking dead. I want to live.

    1. I understand your situation completely. Trying to decide what to do as well with what’s left of my life. I wish good things for you in future

  9. We’ve been married for 36 yrs and I can count on both hands how many times we’ve been intimate. I love her but I find myself getting resentful. It’s been soo long since I’ve felt wanted or needed by her. She was abused as a child and I try to be patient and understanding but again it has been trying for me. She wants no sex at all. I can’t touch her in anyway, and that hurts so much I feel so inadequate like I’m just in her way.

    I was at the store the other day and an attractive woman looked at me with those eyes and smiled and looked again. I have to say I was very flattered and haven’t felt like that in soo long. I miss my wife I miss our intimacy. Please say a prayer for us. I feel like I’m running out of air. When we are together we are like roommates. That’s no good. Please help God, cuz I’m soo tired!!!

    1. Danny, I’m so very sorry that your wife has taken her victimhood to the level of pushing you into being a victim of her sexual abuse, as well. Please get help for this from a marriage-friendly counselor. 36 years is too long to let intimacy be shoved away. You and your wife are both missing out on so many wonderful, loving moments because of her past abuse. Enough is enough. Yes, you will still need to be patient while she is getting help but those are the operative words, “GETTING HELP” …with an end to this painful situation in sight. Your wife has nursed this hurt too long. Yes, she was a victim and that is horrible (I know, because I was victimized as a child, as well). But she has to quit shutting down that aspect of your marital life together. She married you and needs to quit subjecting you to the temptations you are experiencing and blocking you off from being intimate with you, as a husband and wife should be. She needs to reach out for help.

      I recommend that you contact the ministry of Focus on the Family at http://focusonthefamily.com… looking into their contact info. They have counselors on staff that can get you started on getting the deeper help you both need. You need to know how best to help her as she is getting help, and she needs to wake up and reach out for the help she needs to close up the abusive part of her past so she can grow closer to you.

      You did not do those things to her when she was younger. She needs to face that. And you shouldn’t be another victim of that abuser, which you have been for 36 years. PLEASE reach out for help on your wife’s behalf and from this counselor find out how to best approach her with the tough love stance you will need to take to get her out of this disillusioned state of thinking this is okay to keep denying you intimacy as her husband. When I woke up a number of years ago that I was passing abuse onto my husband and reducing him to living like a eunuch as I kept denying him, and then I reached out for the help I needed, it absolutely put our marriage one a whole different footing –a very good, healthy, and mutually loving one. I will pray for you and pray for your dear wife. She needs help. I hope she will be brave enough to do so for both of your sakes. Her abuser has had power for WAY too long!

  10. How long did it take you to become sexually active with your husband again? My wife of 20 years started working on her issues about 15 months ago and I’m getting frustrated with the length of time it’s taking.

    1. Dude, I’m in your same boat. My wife got serious about this stuff about 13 months ago. My problem is that she won’t let me “see behind the veil” so to speak. I even get accused of being jealous of her therapist when I ask how things are going. I try to explain to her that I don’t need details, but that asking is my attempt to be supportive and involved in some way. Of course she knows that I’m having difficulty being patient, so she angrily tries to frame my asking as a demand when it’s really just a request for a status update…

      I’m really struggling with temptation from all sides but I just keep holding onto the fact that Christ loves me and that he doesn’t see me as deficient or lacking in any way.

  11. A real man would never rape or molest… Sex is beautiful and should never hurt. A real man knows how to please his wife. A real man supports his wife through all problems. That’s life and being there. That means through thick and thin!!! Some men have mental health issues and should join in programs ect to help with sexual tendencies… There is always help. Your partner should never have to be afraid of you period… To all the non abusers keep it up. And don’t forget guys… No matter whom you pray to. GOD will always make a way… Peace aka… Cap10

  12. Hi. I am a person who was sexually abused as a child and I think I am doing a great job. I just don’t cope with my past. But now that I am reading more into my past I realize that I am still recovering from my past and I don’t see that I am hurting. I have someone professional to talk to but I realize I need more talking about my abuse and how I am coping then dealing with my everyday problems. Don’t get me wrong, I need to talk about my everyday problems too but I feel like I am stuck and I don’t want to upset my family by bringing it all up again and I don’t know how to get them to support me.

    And my family is really messed up. Some of them don’t want to be near me or have anything to do with me. They just act like a family when I know they don’t care about me. It is just my impression on them and I feel like I love my family but to me I don’t know what and how to feel. The fact is my family to me didn’t care if I got hurt or not. My sister never cared about my feelings and I even heard her say so. But anyway, I think I need more help and I am trying to get on google.com and search for books and articles on child sexual abuse and everything and I don’t know what to read and such to get a clear mind that I feel that I can relate to and help me with my feelings of anger and frustration and loneliness and betrayal. I just want to have reassurance … I want to know how to have healthy and romantic relationships with my husband. I am afraid I’m too late on that level, but I can always get my act together because who knows what the future holds, right?

  13. I’m finding that my past is affecting my marriage and sexual life. I am quick to shut people out but my husband is my hero. I feel guilty for not satisfying him at anytime. What do I do? We argue about it all the time that I don’t want to. I don’t talk to anyone about my feelings. My mother let me decide what we’d do when she found out of me being molested years ago. I believe that is why I don’t connect emotionally. Am I wrong. What should i do?

  14. While I no longer have the terrible flashbacks I used to, I am still plagued with with this unwanted thief in my marriage bed. I cannot connect with my husband in an intimate way. If it were up to me I don’t think I would ever have sex again, but my husband not only wants to be intimate with me, he needs it to feel connected and loved by me. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’m at a loss. I thought I had dealt with this junk already…feeling weary and defeated.

  15. Thank you for your strength. It is not me, but my husband, who was horrifically abused. I pray every day to hold on. The guy who abused him is now dead, thank God… This guy screwed two lives, mine and his… It’s so hard, too, being the spouse of someone who was abused. That IDIOT LOSER stole my husband’s life and then stole mine for loving him. I am so deeply sorry for all the victims of this sick psychosis. IT WAS NEVER YOUR FAULT AND I AM SO TERRIBLY SORRY THIS HAPPENED TO YOU.

    1. Vladimir, I definitely feel your pain and your husband’s. I pray for both of you that you are able to break free and NOT give this horrible, horrible abuser anymore power in your lives. He isn’t worth the energy spent. I have no doubt there is a hideous place in Hell for him. May you never give up on your husband, and may He never give up in reaching for healing. It IS there, but it’s a dark journey to get to that place. I pray for both of you that you make it there.