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, I’ve 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 don’t 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 don’t 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 I’m not alone and i am forgiven. Thank you.
I’m 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 I’ve only heard of and I have no trust for men in general. So it’s out of the realm of possibility. But books, movies, therapy, praying. It’s all been hopeless feeling at this point. So, Thank you.
I’m so, so sorry that you’re 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. You’re 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 you’ve gotten past it and moved on with your life, but then when you least expect it…it’s like it just happened yesterday. The best thing you can do is just what you’re doing — figuring out how to deal with it productively.
Given your experiences, it’s normal (and somewhat expected) that you would be repulsed by sex and by being pursued for sex — even by your beloved husband. That it’s 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 don’t want to offend you, but I’m guessing you are probably aware that you’re 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 what’s 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 don’t 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 couldn’t 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. That’s what he promised to do when he married you. This is a dark, difficult time. But it’s 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. That’s 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 family’s health insurance should cover mental health care and, if it doesn’t, 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 it’s awkward and uncomfortable to bring up such personal information with a stranger, but that person’s 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 don’t have to meet with him alone or in a private place if you’re not comfortable with that. You might find it more comfortable to bring your husband with you…or a deaconess (if your church has one, or there’s 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 won’t be like it was before this all bubbled up and complicated everything. But it’s 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 Lord’s 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. Don’t cut yourself off from this gift. Trust what you only know by faith through the working of the Holy Spirit. It’s scary and difficult, but the Lord will not fail you — He’s given His only Son for you, to save you from this!
Photo Credit Andy Morffew. Some rights reserved.