Today I want to tackle a difficult subject: how can you enjoy sex after sexual abuse in your past? 

Your whole outlook on sex has often been poisoned, so that it’s something icky, destructive, manipulative, and even evil. And now you’re married to a man you love, and your husband wants to make love, and you find yourself resenting him, resenting God for even creating sex, and truly struggling.

What do you do?

I had a comment from a woman named Carol that I want to share with you, and then give my thoughts for why there is hope. Here’s what Carol said:

I have had many problems in this area for our WHOLE marriage of 20 years. I wanted to offer some advice to those of you who suffer from a sexual abuse background. When I met my husband he told me that he was not interested in sex and I thought to myself YAY!!! Finally I found a guy who doesn’t want to jump in the sack with me every moment of every day…I was thrilled, beings I had been abused and had a toddler, my mind just was not into that at all!!! We were 20 and 21 when we met.

Well, turns out that he was interested in sex he just didn’t know it because he hadn’t had it the way I had. Turned into a whole lot of problems and arguments and crying. He didn’t really know how to help me with the abuse factor and in turn made it worse so it just took a little longer to deal with. A few years ago he gave me the greatest gift a man could ever give his wife, he gave me full control of the sex life. He still initiated but if I didn’t want to, there was no pouting, no asking why not? or making me feel guilty and unsafe.

Last year on Mother’s Day I broke down and even though he had done this great thing for me the guilt was still there, every time he wanted to and I didn’t I felt guilty (not his fault at all). That guilt was coming from inside me. I cried and cried and screamed at God for letting this happen to me and why did he do this to me, I got angry. My husband said he had never seen me cry like that before and I really don’t remember ever crying loud and angry like that before either. Something happened in that moment…I let that little girl that I had been shoving away for so long and telling her to shut up, I let her let it out and then in my minds eye I hugged her and told her it was ok and that I can handle it now from here on out and whenever she needs me to let me know and I will take care of her.

See, I had been pushing her away because she was ruining my marriage I thought all these years if I could just ignore her she would go away…Nope that didn’t happen, I needed to pay attention to her and give her comfort and let her know that it is all ok now and I can do this without her screaming at me that it is unsafe. She was stuck in that abuse and I was moving on, it was like having a split in the core of my being and now we are one. I hope this helps another abuse survivor to not have to go through 20 years of torment and guilt or if you are going through it for a long time already to understand why and maybe this will help. God Bless!!!

Isn’t that beautiful? She truly was able to put it in the past, with God’s help. Let’s look at how you can do the same thing.

Sexual Abuse Survivors and Sex in Marriage: How to put the abuse behind you and enjoy your marriage

1. Realize that the Abuse was the Problem

This may sound strange, but try to get angry at the abuse, and not at sex. What often happens is that people transfer their anger onto God for making sex this way, because it seems impossible to believe that sex could be anything other than painful or awkward. And so we get mad at God. They figure the rest of the world is lying to them or mocking them when they say that sex is great, because they don’t see how that can be the case.

You may not be able to see a way out now, but pray and release it to God, and say something like, “I know you created sex to be beautiful. I know that you created sex for my enjoyment. I know that you created sex to help me show love to my husband (and for him to show love to me.” Say the things you know are true, even if you don’t feel them. Because they are true! It is not that sex was made wrong; it is that someone poisoned it for you in the past.

2. Realize that God is Angry That You Were Sexually Abused

Just like Carol had to, you need to grieve for that little girl and what she lost. God was angry when the little girl inside you was hurt. He was livid. Matthew 18:6 says:

But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

God is angry at the abuse. He will fight for you. You may not see it, but there is justice. But God will take care of it. You don’t need to. You don’t need to stay angry because God is going to fight on your behalf. You can let it go. And if you let go of your anger, then you’ll find it much easier to move forward.

3. Seek out a Counselor

Letting go of your anger, though, is something that’s much easier to do with a trained person to help you.

When you’ve been a victim of childhood trauma, you’ve been wounded. Those wounds may be invisible, but they’re still there and they need to be treated. Licensed counselors have different therapies that have been shown to work with sexual abuse survivors, including EMDR. Seek out a licensed therapist and really get some help. (Not all therapists are created equal; if your church offers only biblical counseling, please be aware of these issues and ask these 10 questions first). Yes, it will be painful, because you’ll have to dredge up a lot of stuff. But if you don’t do it, then that stuff will still be controlling you. Don’t give someone who stole your childhood the power to steal your marriage, too.

4. Reframe How You See Sex

Now let’s get to the sex part.

Past sexual abuse has likely warped sex in your mind, so it’s going to take a while to make it seem beautiful again. Take things extremely slowly with your husband. You need to believe that your body has a healthy sex drive, that it can respond to touch, that you can relax and trust, and none of that can be rushed.

Your husband may have a hard time taking it slowly, but let him know why, and what it is you’re aiming for. Let him know that you want a great sex life, but you have to find a way to reawaken your body first.

And then here’s what you do:

Get used to being naked

Learn to enjoy your body. Lie naked and just your husband touch you. Sometimes that’s easier in a bathtub, but ask him what he likes about your body, what parts he enjoys, and really listen. Listen to what your husband thinks about your body. That is truth.

Get used to his body

Then take some time and turn the tables and just touch him. Explore him, with the lights on. Have him talk while you do this so that you can hear his voice and keep remembering “this is my husband’s body”.

Let him arouse you

Like I said last Friday, sometimes the goal needs to be arousal, not sex (or a particular sex act). Now your body may feel as if it can’t get turned on, but it can. You just need to be very relaxed and have some time. So one night, with the heat turned up in the bedroom so you’re not shivering, let him just touch you slowly. Even set the timer for 15 minutes, and don’t let him stop during that time. Don’t do this with the goal to have sex, because that can add stress for you. Just do it with the goal to become aroused, so that you can see that your body can respond.

And if there are certain parts of your body that have really negative connotations to you, because of what was done to you, have your husband concentrate on other parts first. It’s okay to leave that until after more counseling. Even start with something innocuous, like sucking on fingers and massaging the backs of your knees.

Talk

Finally, when you do make love, keep talking. Keep hearing his voice. Ask him to say “I love you” a lot, so that you remember what this is about. And whenever you make love, don’t rush it, at least for the first few months when you’re trying to retrain your body. You need confidence that your body can respond, and so you don’t want to slip back into bad patterns.

Listen, ladies. If you’ve been sexually abused, something was stolen from you as a child.

But you’re an adult now, and it’s up to you whether or not you want to let that abuser keep stealing from you, or whether you’re going to pursue wholeness again. Please pursue wholeness. I know it may seem impossible to believe, but you can achieve it. God can fight for you. He can bring justice. You can let go. And you can have that full life that should have been yours to begin with. You can win the victory here, with God. But that will only happen if you decide to deal with it.

Your marriage was meant to be wonderful--don't let someone who hurt you in the past keep hurting you today.

Don’t believe the lie that sex was created for everyone but you. It wasn’t. You were created to enjoy sex, and no matter what happened to you, you can enjoy sex. I will pray that everyone reading this will one day experience that.

I’d love to know–if you have abuse in your past, what helped you? Or how is it affecting you today? Let’s talk!

SheilaSidebarAboutMe - Reader Question: What About Sex after Sexual Abuse? Sheila Wray Gregoire has been married for 27 years and happily married for 22! She loves traveling around North America with her hubby in their RV, giving her signature "Girl Talk" about sex and marriage. And she's written 8 books. About sex and marriage. See a theme here? Plus she knits. Even in line at the grocery store.
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