Sexual Abuse and Marriage

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I am a new “convert” to the LCMS because of my marriage. I was raised Baptist, in a very strict home. My parents seemed intent on keeping ALL things sexual in nature from our home. Not a mention of it, not in movies, music, nothing. I rebelled a ton as a teenager and wound up being sexually abused by a couple of men, one of whom was double my age, when I was only 15. My husband, likewise, had several one night stands during a short phase in college. We never realized how these things affected our marriage until recently. Neither of us feels any palpable jealousy or upset over it but it seems to have been affecting us all along. We have had several kids in just a few short years. But after marital issues finally came to a head about a year ago, we realized our main biggest marital issue is sexual.

I HATE sex and feel repulsed over being pursued, but after years of silently suffering and giving in so as to fulfill my duty (thanks, Baptist Purity movement), his soul is crushed and he is a broken man (I weep for him more than anyone) and I am disgusted, scared and so frustrated. I love him so much but am feeling past the point of no return, where I feel like there is no hope for a wife who literally wants to throw up with fear over the potential of sexual pursuit that the evening brings. With the current Ashley Madison stuff going on, Ive literally been plunged into despair, hearing in my head over and over that he would have every right to cheat, because he is completely unfulfilled in this area, to the point that I have completely bought this lie and told him he has permission because I dont think I can ever change.

But if there is one thing Lutheranism has done for me, it has turned God into a gracious loving and forgiving Father, from a righteous one I constantly was trying to please.I don’t want to live like this and hurt my husband or myself, every day. I just want my marriage to be safe and whole and healed but I dont have a clue what to do and am mortified over the prospect of someone finding any of this out. But i know I have a headache tonight isn’t a joke for no reason. Please tell me Im not alone and i am forgiven. Thank you.

Im dying a thousand deaths even writing this, much less sending it. But I feel out of options to feel hope. Private confession is a concept Ive only heard of and I have no trust for men in general. So its out of the realm of possibility. But books, movies, therapy, praying. Its all been hopeless feeling at this point. So, Thank you.

Im so, so sorry that youre going through this. I can tell that you are embarrassed and overwhelmed right now, but I have to tell you that you are incredibly brave for seeking help. This is a great first step! And your asking this way, even anonymously will help others who are in similar circumstances. Youre not alone in this trouble. The Spirit who is clearly working in you to bring you this far. He will not forsake you or abandon you in this time of need even if it feels like He has. I promise. He has provided you with more resources than you may realize right now in the depths of your despair.

Abuse, particularly sexual abuse, has a way of sneaking up on a person. You think youve gotten past it and moved on with your life, but then when you least expect itits like it just happened yesterday. The best thing you can do is just what youre doing figuring out how to deal with it productively.

Given your experiences, its normal (and somewhat expected) that you would be repulsed by sex and by being pursued for sex even by your beloved husband. That its coming up now shows that there are unresolved issues from it. The best way to handle these are in therapy with a good psychologist who specializes in recovering from sexual abuse, and with your pastor whom the Lord has given to you to care for your soul.

I dont want to offend you, but Im guessing you are probably aware that youre not thinking entirely rationally when it comes to this issue. The pain and fear you feel is probably taking charge more than it would on other things. Pain and fear is whats leading you to give your husband permission to commit adultery. It seems logical, in its own way, given that you are presently unable to fulfill your wifely role and dont want to deprive your husband of affection. Remember Abraham and Sarah? Similar to your situation, Sarah thought her husband would be better off having a child with someone else since she couldnt provide any for him. While such a solution may seem to take care of the problem in the short term, in the long term, it will only make things much, much worse for everyone.

Your husband loves you as Christ loved the Church, and will give everything he has to do what is best for you, to save you and redeem you. Even from this. Thats what he promised to do when he married you. This is a dark, difficult time. But its not where either of you are stuck forever. Not since Jesus died and rose for both of you.

Sexual intimacy is extremely important in a marriage. You know this, and you want to provide it for your husband. Thats a GOOD thing! This would probably be a good time for your husband to sacrifice his needs for sexual intimacy for other kinds of intimacy in your relationship. Open and honest conversation between the two of you, as awkward and difficult as it will be, is one way to attain that without crossing uncomfortable physical boundaries, and it will help to keep the lines of loving communication flowing between you.

Specialized psychological counseling would also be a good route for you to investigate. Your familys health insurance should cover mental health care and, if it doesnt, many counselors offer sliding scales for their fees to make it as affordable as possible. Please look into talking with a psychologist who is experienced in  helping people with the trauma of sexual abuse. I know its awkward and uncomfortable to bring up such personal information with a stranger, but that persons entire job and relationship with you is to help you heal from those experiences, so you can live a whole and healthy life in the here and now with your husband and kids.

Pastoral care is essential as well. The Lord has given you a pastor! This is more good news! He has given you his representative to care for your soul and provide for your spiritual needs. I completely understand that you have serious qualms about trusting any man, and having only male pastors can make pastoral care challenging. But it is not impossible. You dont have to meet with him alone or in a private place if youre not comfortable with that. You might find it more comfortable to bring your husband with youor a deaconess (if your church has one, or theres one in the area who would be willing), or female friend you trust. But I really, really recommend that you do talk to him about this. He has such amazing words of comfort to bring to you from God Himself.

And in time, with love and patience, you will get through this. Your relationship wont be like it was before this all bubbled up and complicated everything. But its not the end of your story either. The Accuser, the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh will use your past against you, to separate you from the Lords gift of your loving husband and from your pastor who delivers forgiveness, life, and salvation directly and personally to you in Word and in the Sacraments. Dont cut yourself off from this gift.  Trust what you only know by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit. Its scary and difficult, but the Lord will not fail you Hes given His only Son for you, to save you from this!

Photo Credit Andy MorffewSome rights reserved.

 

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Comments

Sexual Abuse and Marriage — 9 Comments


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  1. Passion Pursuit DVD: What Kind of Love are You Making? by Linda Dillow and Juli Slattery is a great resource. It’s something you could listen to while folding laundry or when little ones are napping. The authors have a gentle and sincere approach, like talking with an older, wiser, and trusted friend who has your best interest at heart, which is so important when dealing with such personal and potentially painful issues. A large portion of it is directed toward the healing of heart issues related to one’s sexual past or incomplete teaching when it comes to God’s design and purpose for sex. Their greatest hope is to encourage healing and understanding in wives so they might grow to fully enjoy the gift of marriage God has so graciously provided for them.

    http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Pursuit-DVD-What-Making/dp/0802410057

  2. I think the advice given regarding pastoral care and seeking professional help is sound. But I think that advice likely should have been given in private along with, if possible, a referral to competent professionals. I think several things she mentioned were not properly addressed and just left hanging out there. Which matters if this is shared publicly. In particular, the way vague mention of abuse is mixed up with promiscuity and teenage rebellion and the way Baptist theology is portrayed as the cause for this woman’s problems.

    I think sexual abuse is a terrible thing. Sexual abuse of minors is even worse. And this is something that goes unreported (and untreated) far too often. Also, I realize I’m a man and so the site isn’t really targeted at me. And I accept that not being a woman may contribute to my perhaps flawed perceptions of this post. But I really do think that reading this some might get wrong or at least incomplete and therefore harmful ideas about Lutheranism, sexual abuse, and sexual promiscuity.

    I could say much more but am uncertain about how much to say publicly. I have used the site’s contact function to send a more thorough message.

  3. I don’t know who the writer was. It was sent to me anonymously for a response, so I have no other way to contact her. I didn’t think it was necessary to address every single point she brought up, but to do more of a triage on what I thought was most dire. This is a blog, after all, not to be a substitute for actual counseling and pastoral care. I did make sure to refer her to competent professionals

  4. Some comments have been removed. Please remember that all sorts of people are reading. We need to comment in kindness and love.

    Holly

  5. My dear, sweet sister,

    I, too, am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. The thing that struck me most about your letter is your comment:

    >>>Please tell me I’m not alone and i am forgiven.

    If no one has ever told you this, I will tell you. What happened to you was not your fault. You are not to blame. Being sexually abused as a child is not a punishment for sin. And you are most certainly not alone. Your paralyzing fear of sex is perfectly normal.

    I second the suggestion of counseling. You will know when you’re ready to take that step. You may need to speak to more than one counselor before you connect with the right one, so don’t give up if you don’t feel an instant connection with the first counselor you talk to (and you may need to meet with someone for a few sessions before you feel a connection, too). I tried both secular and Christian counseling, and personally, secular counseling didn’t work for me, though there are some wonderful, knowledgeable, trained secular counselors out there. But my faith is foundational to my life, and they couldn’t understand it, and it was impossible for me to discuss the abuse without discussing God. Thankfully, God brought a wonderful Christian counselor into my life when I needed her most.

    Healing from the trauma of sexual abuse, especially childhood sexual abuse, is a journey, and often a slow one. I’ve been on the path for many years, and sometimes, I feel as though I’m just starting out again. But you are not on this road alone, and it does get better. It is not hopeless, even though I know it feels that way sometimes.

    Please remember:
    It is not your fault.
    You are not alone.

    I will be praying for you.

    P.S… there is a book that might help you to feel less alone. It’s called Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse by Mary DeMuth. She is a Christian woman who was raped as a child, and the book details her journey toward healing (a journey she is still on), including her struggles with sex in her marriage. At the end of some of the chapters, her husband has written a few paragraphs to provide his insight and point of view.

    You are definitely not alone, my dear sister. *hugs*

  6. One of my best friends is a Lutheran Christian professional therapist with much experience in the multitude issues the writer of the question brought. Knowing of her wisdom in this issue, I asked her to read this, in case she had anything to add. She does not do public online discourse, but she gave me permission to forward her comments because I loved her message of hope.

    “I can tell that this woman had a burning question, which she didn’t asked outright. That is, “can I actually change, can I actually be healed and whole from this experience. Does God care about this, will He help me. Can I ever enjoy the marriage we both want?” She didn’t ask that directly, she just expressed her hopelessness thereby “solving” her problem with the husband affair idea.

    A resounding YES healing and wholeness is possible and right around the corner. Health care workers can perform brain surgery, extract rotten teeth, set broken bones, prescribe penicillin and yes, they can help fix human emotions and broken places in human sexuality. OF COURSE we know that all healing ultimately comes from God, we know this. She can get started TODAY with a therapist WHO SPECIALIZES.”

  7. Private, intimate details of this nature are just that: private an intimate.

    A blog is no place to publicize this.

    And by the way, while we are grateful to God for His gift of pastors, the chief focus of our faith is Jesus Christ and His Word. That Word works even apart from pastors, and so encouragement to this dear person should include a discussion of prayer (individual, with one’s spouse and family, and corporate prayer with the Church), and daily Bible reading and worship at home.

    I’ve grown very, very tired of “confessionals,” especially women, obsessing over men in dresses. It’s time to stop.

  8. Robert,

    Many women struggle with matters of physical intimacy with their husbands and are ashamed to ask for help. When this woman wrote to SKL, we thought it appropriate to address the issue in a post in order to help her, as well as other women who have similar concerns. Continuing to shroud them in shame and secrecy helps no one. We have received feedback that many women have been comforted and encouraged to seek assistance.

    Prayer, daily Bible reading, and worship at home are indeed great things to do. However, they are no substitute for individual pastoral care and counsel or the regular hearing of God’s preached Word or receiving the Lord’s Supper; nor are they replacements for professional, specialized psychological care.

    Of course, the Word “works” apart from pastors. But the Lord, in His vast wisdom and generosity, has given us pastors — just for the purpose of delivering Christ to us in Word and Sacrament! What a gift! At no time was the focus of faith in the article anything but Christ and Him Crucified for our sins. Apart from Him and His sacrifice for us, we have no hope whatsoever as Christians.

    And precisely *because* the above is true, at no time should we pit the working of the Word against the ministry that God instituted in order for us to obtain faith in Christ for salvation. Therefore, SKL will not be stopping from referring readers to their own pastors — those are the men, called by God, to care for their souls. Not a blog. In fact, I strongly suggest you discuss your unkind characterizations of the Office of Holy Ministry with your own pastor.

  9. Robert,

    Many women struggle with matters of physical intimacy with their husbands and are ashamed to ask for help. When this woman wrote to SKL, we thought it appropriate to address the issue in a post in order to help her, as well as other women who have similar concerns. Continuing to shroud them in shame and secrecy helps no one. We have received feedback that many women have been comforted and encouraged to seek assistance.

    Prayer, daily Bible reading, and worship at home are indeed great things to do. However, they are no substitute for individual pastoral care and counsel or the regular hearing of God’s preached Word or receiving the Lord’s Supper; nor are they replacements for professional, specialized psychological care.

    Of course, the Word “works” apart from pastors. But the Lord, in His vast wisdom and generosity, has given us pastors — just for the purpose of delivering Christ to us in Word and Sacrament! What a gift! At no time was the focus of faith in the article anything but Christ and Him Crucified for our sins. Apart from Him and His sacrifice for us, we have no hope whatsoever as Christians.

    And precisely *because* the above is true, at no time should we pit the working of the Word against the ministry that God instituted in order for us to obtain faith in Christ for salvation. Therefore, SKL will not be stopping from referring readers to their own pastors — those are the men, called by God, to care for their souls. Not a blog. In fact, I strongly suggest you discuss your unkind characterizations of the Office of Holy Ministry with your own pastor.

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