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.
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!
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!