How Past Sexual Abuse Affects Sex With My Husband

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I have wanted to write about this for a long time, but I never felt like talking about it or dealing with it. But today seems to be the day, so here it goes.

I was molested by my mom’s boyfriend and my babysitter’s husband when I was between 8 and 11 years old. I never said anything to anyone and just dealt with it on my own until I was around 12. I’m now married and have my own family, but that abuse that happened more than a decade ago still haunts me and follows me until this day. It deeply affects my marriage, especially sex with my husband. In many ways, I feel that being sexually abused is what created who I am today: all my life choices and emotions that I feel and display to others.

I’m trying to move towards healing by talking about the abuse, by facing it and not just ignoring the way it affects me. Even just talking about this takes so much courage. I hope by sharing my story, I might find greater clarity and others might find hope and healing.

The biggest place that the abuse affects me is in my relationship with my husband, and in particular, our sex life.

Abuse is not something that can just be forgotten. I get triggered rather easily. If my husband gets angry or has a behavior that seems aggressive, even if he is just playing around, I get very nervous and can have panic attacks. I consider myself to be a very strong person, and I am very vocal. But when something triggers me– memories like the sound of the way someone breathes, the feeling of facial hair, a smell–I can feel so small and insecure again, regardless of how far I have come. I try to just get past it, but I can’t. I have to say “stop” or just walk away because of how it evokes flashes from my past.

I have been married for a while, and in the beginning sex was an issue to me, though not my husband. It wasn’t until a year into our marriage that I explained to him how the abuse was still affecting me. But the bottom line is that I have never enjoyed sex, and I have zero sex drive. I do like cuddling, as long as that’s all it is.  I prefer a sweet forehead or cheek kiss over the normal lip kissing because it just seems robotic. The problem is, my husband needs this: his love language really is physical affection and therefore he is extremely needy for it. We were more intimate in the beginning of our relationship because I wanted to please my husband, so I used to always just go with the flow. But at this point I am completely closed up toward him and I hate sex.

Hate is actually an understatement. I turn him down multiple times a week. Once I can force myself into it, I still hate it. I feel dirty and annoyed by the fact that I had sex just to make him happy even though I didn’t want to.

I will go out of my way to avoid sex in my marriage. I’ll try and shower when he is not home so he doesn’t see me naked, because he’s just going to comment about it. Or I’ll try to be in bed or fall asleep quickly. He complains that I never show him any affection, and I don’t blame him: because I don’t. Sometimes I feel like I’m only good for one thing for him. But it’s not fair to pin all the blame on him, because it’s not his fault; it’s something I’m holding onto from the pain of my past. In other words, it’s not that he actually sees me as an object, but it’s that because of my past I perceive his physical affection that way.

So, here I am now: feeling like I am trapped in my own body because I hate sex and I feel so … weird, and not normal. All I can keep thinking is “Please, God, fix me. Because I am so tired of feeling broken.”. I feel stuck, and I don’t want to be.

I know that I’m a work in progress. And that’s okay: at least I’m trying. I could have held it in and not told anyone, not even my husband. But I think that would make me miserable. By talking about it I am able to bring the pain to light and begin to move forward. Talking about it in a safe space with people who love me is the most important thing I could do.

I know that abuse comes in many forms and that it affects people young and old, men and women. Whether it’s emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, it happens a lot—at least a lot more than many people would think. And I know there are a lot of people out there still holding onto it like I tend to do, and that’s hard: because the past is never the past if it’s still playing in the present. I do hope that down the road the abuse can become the past for me.

 

Flickr/ Gisela Giardino

 

 

Anonymous

All stories published at I Believe in Love are real stories, by real people, about real love.Sometimes, our writers may choose to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of friends or family that may be referenced in their stories.
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7 Comments

  • My father tried to rape me when I was 6 years old. After that, it was an uncle and then another uncle. I thought I was past it. I only recently discovered that my lack of sex drive is probably related to my childhood experiences and the way they made me feel. My husband has decided to take sex off the table while we try to face this together. He is completely aware of my history and has chosen to put his own needs aside to help me.

  • Thank you so much for opening up and having the courage to share your struggle. I wonder if it might be helpful to be abstinent for a time. This would give you some space to heal and work on your perception of physical intimacy, and would offer your husband an opportunity to offer sacrificial love to you. I know you might feel guilty for making your husband go without sex, but to me it is similar to if you were in a car accident and had several broken bones and internal injuries. Of course you would be unavailable to him for a time while you healed. In reality, you are still physically able to have sex, but your injuries are no less severe and no less real just because they are hidden.

    If your husband’s love language is physical touch, make a lot of effort to give him non-sexual physical affection, hugs, backrubs, and cuddles. Be sure to nurture the other aspects of your relationship (the spiritual, intellectual, creative, and emotional aspects) as well.

    And for your part, your first sexual experiences were instances of abuse. The damage from this is terrifying and huge. I don’t know what your religious views are, but for me what really helped heal my perception of sex and my view of my body was learning about John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Sex was created to be an act of love, of self-gift of the partners to one another, and a renewal of wedding vows – the spouses saying to one another ‘I would still chose you. Again I vow to honor and love you and stay true to you all the days of my life.’ For me at least, reading works that challenged my perception of sex (and the prevailing cultural perception) was really helpful in helping me make the transition from sex=abuse to sex=expression of commitment, honor, and love.

    I’m not a therapist or anything, so if this advice doesn’t sit well with you, please ignore it. But if you think it may be helpful for your situation, feel free to take from it what you want. I hope and pray you will eventually be able to experience sex with your husband as enjoyable, safe, and life-giving.

  • I’ve been married for 17 years and struggle deeply with avoiding and hating sex and intimacy because of my past abuse. I’ve been to therapists, I’ve taken antidepressants, I even tried brain spotting for ptsd. I’ve prayed so much with God to be healed from this pain, but He hasn’t answered yet. I know He is here and He knows my suffering. I just don’t know why He hasn’t healed me. It doesn’t seem fair to my husband or to me.
    Sometimes I think I should divorce my husband so he can find someone who can give him what he needs and I can be free from the struggle of physical intimacy. The whole thing just sucks all around.

  • Thank you for your article. I’ve been struggling with sex in each of my relationships as I too can feel like a sex object because of childhood abuse. Im learning to say ‘no’ more often because I don’t want to have sex anymore only to please someone else. Then again it doesn’t seem fair on my partner. My previous relationships have all failed because of this struggle. I hate sex for making my relationships so hard. I go to a therapist once a week, it helps at times, but sometimes it feels hopeless and I wonder if it would be easier to live a single life. All we can do is keep going and know that you are not alone in your struggle. Good luck to you!

  • I’m blessed by reading this and proud of you for dealing with this sleeping dragon head on. I pray God continues to give you the strength you need to find the truth about yourself. xoxo

  • So appreciative of the courage and nobility it took to share this, and wholly encouraged by the fact that you chose the path to healing instead of many other paths you could have chosen that would have been harmful to your family. Thank you for taking steps to break the cycle!!!

  • This is such a sad story, but I am so grateful for this woman opening up to share her experiences. I work in the child welfare field, and, unfortunately, am aware of many young people in my community that have been the victims of similar abuse. As hard as it is, we need to hear their stories, especially of how childhood abuse impacts people well into their adulthood. Thank you, so much, for trusting the I Believe In Love community with your difficult truth. I hope that you will find healing through this process.

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