When we get married we agree to bear all of our spouse’s burdens with them. We take on their debt, their demons, and history. Marriage is a sacred commitment that says to the world and God that you will be with this person no matter what.
But what happens when you bring the hardest thing you’ve ever had to deal with? What if your baggage hurts your spouse? Sexual abuse and marriage is a tricky combo that takes effort to work through.
Sexual Abuse and Marriage
More than any other abuse, I believe sexual abuse can harm a marriage the most. Now, this isn’t a fact, it’s just my opinion and you may disagree. But let me explain why I feel this way.
God created sex to unify man and woman in their marriage. It is more than a physical act. It is not just an animal instinct like our left wing media culture tries to convince us. Nope. Sex is emotional, physical, mental and spiritual. When you and your spouse come together in the most intimate of ways, you are tying your soul to theirs. It is the ultimate act of alignment and loyalty.
For this reason, your spouse should be the only one to know you in this way. That’s why God intended sex for marriage. Sex is sacred.
I was “lucky” in most people’s eyes because my husband and I have only ever had sex with each other. Many believed it was going to be impossible for me to obtain my goal of saving myself for my husband. I wanted to be abstinent from the get-go and my husband, while he didn’t pledge abstinence, he did want to make it special. Thankfully we met young and so I was his first and only.
However, as a child, I was molested. So my plan for abstinence, while ultimately due to my faith was also in part a way to keep me safe from my fear. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to be touched by another man without crying and falling apart. I was terrified of sex and for most of my life saw it as something to be feared and not celebrated.
When you are sexually assaulted or abused, this soul tying, life-altering act is infringed upon by someone with serious demons. It affects how you see and feel about sex. It affects how you have sex and how you think about it. Furthermore, the damage the trauma does enters the marriage bed with you and can harm not only your marriage as a whole but your spouse as an individual.
Sex is meant to strengthen our marriages. And when we can’t enjoy it or it becomes a source of pain, it can hurt our marriage. And instead of strengthening, it weakens.
Remembering Your Spouse Isn’t the Enemy
Depending on how, what age and by who you were abused, the hurt may carry to your spouse. You might, like me, have an already skewed perspective on how you think THEY see sex. You may unintentionally attach less than pure intention to their actions and hold things against them they’ve never done.
Sometimes we punish our loved ones for the crimes our abuser committed.
It is important to remember that your spouse is not your abuser. (Assuming this is a factual statement. If you are married to your abuser, please seek help.) When my husband and I first became intimate there were many times when the trauma would overtake my brain. Suddenly I wasn’t being touched by my loving husband, but by my abuser. I would panic, push him off and begin crying.
Like the white knight he is, my husband would hold me and comfort me while I regained my composure. Once calm, I would remind myself that my husband is not my abuser. His intentions are not the same. This is consensual, beautiful marital sex. I have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to be afraid of. Then, we would try again, if I was up to it.
It is important not to villanize your spouse because of your trauma and triggers. I could have easily tried to pin the problem on my husband in an attempt to avoid the real problem. I could have easily accused him of malice intentions and blamed him for my triggers. And sometimes, I did.
But accusations and pushing your spouse away won’t solve the problem and it certainly won’t help your marriage. You must confront the issue and bring in your spouse as your partner to help you combat the issue.
Tending to Your Spouse when Your Trauma Hurts Them
We are not the only victims of our trauma. When we act out in response to a trigger in a negative way, our spouses can get caught in the crosshairs. Your spouse isn’t the source of your pain so you need to learn how to not punish them for it. It’s true that what happened to you wasn’t your fault. But that doesn’t mean you can live a slave to your emotions and triggers without a care as to how they affect anyone else, especially your spouse.
It is not our responsibility to comfort our spouse when we ourselves need comfort. However, the same is true for them as well. So when you are both hurting because of trauma that was inflicted upon you, it is probably easier for you to take the lead. I say this simply because chances are you’ve been dealing with your trauma longer than them.
In addition, your spouse did not hurt you. (Assuming they were not your abuser). So when your triggers cause you to lash out and hurt your spouse, apologize. Your trauma is not your fault, but you are still in control and responsible for YOUR actions. Take the time to explain why you reacted the way you did and what you and your spouse can do TOGETHER to help prevent a repeat situation.
Create a Game Plan
When working through sexual trauma, let your spouse help. What that looks like is between the two of you and perhaps a licensed therapist. For us, it meant discussing with my husband the specific situations that triggered me and avoiding them until I felt more comfortable and able to move forward. There isn’t anything wrong with saying you won’t do a specific position, wear a certain thing or even change the environment.
Your spouse will be happy to help make you comfortable and help you heal. They love you after all. So don’t be ashamed. I fought the shame for a long time. I was certain that not wanting to have sex or having specific concerns would disappoint or upset my husband I would try and push through sex. But all that did was hurt my healing and hurt him! Because by forcing myself to push through meant we weren’t having an honest connection and it was dishonest to him which hurt his feelings.
Let your spouse be your partner in working through this. They love you and want you to heal and be happy.
Trauma is difficult to work through and it can affect everyone in our lives. When it comes to sexual abuse and marriage, you want to make sure you are working through it. Your spouse should be a helper and not a spectator in this instance.
Try a counselor or therapist, or simply keep reading articles and books on healing. However, you get there, just get there.
Comment below some of your favorite resources! Tell me, what has helped you and your spouse work through sexual abuse.
And don’t forget to pin this post!