Intimacy’s Enemy

In Kate’s post, “Yes I Can” she encouraged wives to be thankful that they have the ability and opportunity to experience physical intimacy with their husbands. In think in thinking about how to reply I thought this was a perfect time to talk to husbands about one of the legitimate reasons that women say, “No I Can’t”
We live in a world where unfortunately 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted. That is ¼ of all women that have had someone violate their boundaries, mind, and bodies. It is essential to understand that when this occurs the effects on boundaries, minds, and bodies can last for a very long time. A husband who both understanding and supportive of her saying “no I can’t” is essential in order to bring beauty to these specifically heinous ashes.
Before you stop reading saying “this one isn’t for me”, remember more than 60% of assaults are never reported, and many women never tell anyone of their experiences, including their husbands. Add to that these issues can be influenced by many things, not only sexual assault.

Boundaries:

More than 90% of sexual assault is perpetrated by someone who the victim trusts and loves, who has manipulated the relationship and crossed some very significant boundaries. As a result survivors of sexual assault are inherently boundary challenged. Sometimes survivors have poor boundaries and will appreciate loving guidance on how to set and maintain boundaries in their relationships. Other times they will have to firm boundaries, retreating in toward themselves and not allowing others close enough to hurt them again. In this case a loving husband will have to be exceedingly patient. Forcing or guilting your wife in to tell what she is thinking or feeling will only cause her to retreat further away and put up more walls. The best thing to do is let her know how much you love her, how you are feeling, and how you are ready to listen when she is ready.

Mind:

Our memories are a complicated network of connections. Have you ever had the experience of the smell of chocolate chip cookies transporting you back to your grandmother’s kitchen? This is just one example of this complicated network using something in your current environment to “trigger” a memory of a past event. This happens to all of us thousands of times a day, it is how God wired our brains. When your wife has survived a traumatic event connections can be unpleasant flashbacks. A sexual assault survivor can be walking down the street and see a red shirt, smell Old Spice, hear a specific word, or any number of things that immediately transport her right back to the emotions of the event, and sometimes back to the actual picture of the event flashing in her mind.

Will you notice this is happening? Not at first, you can start learn the signs, but what is important to remember is that at any given moment something can happen to take your wife down an unpleasant memory lane.

Body:

Some of the consequences here are obvious. After all the violation occurred to their bodies and many survivors carry a great deal of pain and memories in their bodies. For some survivors this will impact their entire sex life. For others, only specific sensations, or actions will create difficult situations. There are two times that this is most important to remember. First, some guys use the ol’ grabby hands technique to poorly communicate that they would like sex. This is especially a bad idea for anyone who has lived through a sexual assault. (I’ll go on record again saying it isn’t a good idea for any guy who hasn’t been specifically invited). Second, anytime that you are trying something new in your sexuality it is important to move slowly and with ample communication. Triggering a flashback during sex can be traumatic for both partners, so move slowly and communicate!

Intimacy’s Enemy:

One flesh marriage as God designed it is all about intimacy. An intense intimacy on all levels, physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual. It is an intimacy that is draws two people together so that nothing separates them. Past sexual abuse can be the thief of that intimacy. It tries to separate, to bind a survivor’s emotional, physical, and spiritual self into a hidden place that makes them feel that they are alone. Only through the great care of a supportive spouse can a couple work through the separations and find God’s intended One Flesh Marriage.

If you or your spouse are dealing with past sexual abuse it is good to seek a third party to help you sort through these things.  A trusted Pastor or Christian Counselor are two resources that we would recommend! 

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4 Responses to Intimacy’s Enemy

  1. This was a great subject to write about. I really enjoyed hearing a stance that wasn't just "you give it to him, all the time, no exceptions."
    Would you be willing to explain some of the different effects it would have on a man if he was the one sexually abused? That would be really helpful for me as my hubby was abused.

  2. Great and very much needed topic! This is kind of hard for me to comment about because I've experienced abuse in the past, and I'm in the healing process now. All I can add is that it very important to forgive the people that hurt you in the past and let go of the pain. Talk about it with your spouse and fully trust him not to ever hurt you in that way. It may take some time and a lot of prayer but I believe that this sensitive problem can be solved. I'm soon to be married and I dont want to re-live another moment of my past with my husband in our future. He is good to me, Loves me uconditoinally and deserves all of me which includes unpacking the baggage and healing the open wounds. Prayer is powerful and If your sensitive to our needs as womenthe marriage bed willl be wonderful and fulfilling!!

  3. Laurie,
    Thanks for writing! Your question is obviously a big and important one! I will have to make it a whole post soon, but in the mean time I thought I would give you a quick answer here.

    Male sexual abuse survivors will often experience the same violation of boundaries, minds, and bodies. The main difference is how men express this violation differently then women. In many, but not all cases men will show anger when they are experiencing these violations. A trigger memory can bring up the emotion of the incidents and then trigger an intense anger response. Unfortunately, this anger is usually directed at the ones who care rather then at the ones who caused the pain.

    This can be a challenge for any couple to work through, but again, with time, care, understanding it is possible!

    God Bless,
    Brad

  4. Tabitha,
    It sounds like you are headed in the right direction and turning past abuse into current and future surviving and thriving! I will give you a warning of a stumbling block that could be in your future. Many survivors find themselves year after "healing" has occurred angry that another phase of live has brought up new flashbacks, emotions, and pain. They get angry that this past pain they thought they were "over" is back again. Unfortunately, this pain has a tendency to resurface from time to time. Keep talking, keep praying, keep forgiving, keep healing!
    God Bless,
    Brad