Reader Question: Do I Have to Have Sex or Do Sexual Things if Sex Grosses Me Out?

by | Nov 18, 2019 | Libido, Uncategorized | 44 comments

What do you do if sex is very distasteful, and you’d rather not be sexual in your marriage at all?

Last Friday I wrote a post about how withholding sex in your marriage is not a good idea (it’s better to deal with WHY you’re withholding sex). And last week I wrote about how our culture often teaches women that they don’t have libidos.

Today I want to turn to a practical example, from a reader who wrote in that sex is painful, and she finds everything sexual other than intercourse gross. She says:

Reader Question

I was raped in college and it was my very first time since I was still a virgin, I was upfront with my husband regarding this event in my past. I am not comfortable with oral sex and quite personally think hand jobs are really gross. I know that my husband loves me very much, but I don’t know how to get over the gross feeling of a hand job, and the pain is too unbearable for intercourse as I will be in pain for weeks afterwards. I really do not want surgery yet again, but I really do not see a way around it and still make the hubby happy. I am really confused, exhausted, and tired. I am just fine with no sex and just cuddling, but he gets very demanding and wants some kind of sex. We have been married for 21 years. Thank you for your time.

Let’s deal with sexual pain first: Vaginismus is real and it is a huge problem for many women.

Pain during sex is a terrible burden that many women carry, and there is not enough research on what causes it or how to treat it. I do not believe that women should be having intercourse if it is excrutiating, because sex is supposed to be mutual. A man should not be receiving pleasure by hurting his wife. (If you can achieve intercourse if you take your time, allow her to relax, etc., that’s one thing. But if it’s always excrutiating, that’s something else entirely).

At the same time, I wonder if she has been seeking out the best treatment? For most women, surgery doesn’t cure vaginismus. Perhaps if there is a lot of scar tissue from childbirth or early sexual abuse, surgery can help, and only a physician can tell. But for most women experiencing this pain, the treatment of choice is a pelvic floor physiotherapist. I encourage anyone going through this kind of pain to find a qualified physiotherapist to help.

What about the trauma from sexual abuse?

It could be that part of the vaginismus has been triggered from the rape, and so seeing a trauma therapist may also be warranted. Sexual assault leaves a huge wound. It is the ultimate degradation and humiliation, but it is also the ultimate rejection of you as a person. It’s saying, “YOU don’t matter to me except for your body. I am going to simply use you for my own gratification.”

Most sexual assault survivors do need some therapy to help them process what has happened. In this, I urge you to find a licensed counselor trained in trauma therapy, and not a biblical counselor.

It’s okay to have really bad associations with sex. But can you move forward?

I hope that she does seek out the treatment for both of these things that she needs. I think in her case those are the most important steps, and the rest of this post can wait until after she’s had that looked at.

But once she has received some help, I’d like to move to the next step, which is reframing how she sees sex.

I am glad that she told her husband about her struggles before they married. At the same time, though, it’s not healthy for anyone to define their marriage or their sexuality in terms of something that has been done to them. Yes, you were assaulted. Yes, that had serious repercussions for how you see sex, and how you see yourself, and how you trust.

But the person who assaulted you took something precious from you in the past. Please don’t give them the power to take intimacy from you now.

I’m sure that this woman’s husband married her with great compassion for what she went through. But I also don’t think he believed that he was signing up for a sexless marriage, where sex would forever be off the table. He obviously really does want to connect sexually, and 21 years is a very long time. Though she would rather just cuddle, his sex drive is not going to go away. And his sex drive is God-given; it’s urging him towards more intimacy. It’s a good thing. So instead of trying to figure out how to convince him to forego sex, how about seeing how to awaken your own sexuality?

How can you move forward sexually when everything that has to do with sex is gross or distasteful?

It’s understandable that she’d rather just cuddle. But that attitude isn’t good for her husband, and it also isn’t good for her. We were created for intimacy, and she deserves to experience that. She deserves to understand real passion. She deserves to not be stuck in the past.

But how can you get there?

Don’t define your future by what you’re comfortable with now. Define it by what is best for you.

It reminds me of a story from John 5, where Jesus healed a lame man beside the pool of Bethsaida.

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

John 5:1-9

This man had been like this for 38 years. Our letter writer has been living with this for 21 years. That’s a long time.

And Jesus looks and sees people who have been in bondage for so long, and has compassion. And he asks, “Do you want to get well?”

But instead of answering the question, the lame man here gives all the reasons why this isn’t possible. He can’t even picture getting well. He knows that it’s impossible. He’s gotten comfortable being where he is, having his existence smaller than it otherwise could be–but comfortable.

And Jesus challenges all that. He wants to take people out of their comfortable-but-not-thriving life and help them to live a full life.

You may be comfortable with where you are now, giving up on sex, and looking at a sexless future where you just cuddle. But you shouldn’t define yourself by your limitations and your past. Instead, define what you want based on what is good for you. You may not be able to picture it; you may not be able to even understand how it’s possible. But God tells us to get our minds in line with truth and to be renewed (Romans 12:2). We aren’t to be defined by what has past; we’re to be defined by what God has for us.

Believe what God says about sex and intimacy, not your own experience

So how do you renew your mind when it comes to sex? It means seeing sex as God sees it, even if that’s not in line with your own experience.

I shared in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage that this was the big breakthrough for me in our marriage. I had been living with sexual pain for several years, and was starting to get over it. And I was tired of always fighting with Keith about sex. I was tired of feeling inadequate. I was tired of the constant tension. I used to wish that sex would go away and that we could just get back to us. I even worked at trying to get Keith not to think about sex (and here’s a humorous take on it that I use in my sex talks):

But one day I realized that there was another way through this.

I thought to myself, “If God made sex to be amazing, and other people find sex amazing, then do I really want to miss out on something amazing that God has for me?” And I began a big research project in how to make sex amazing.

At the time I couldn’t imagine sex being amazing. But I knew that God was good, and that sex was supposed to be good. And I didn’t want to live my life missing out on something that great.

So what should she do now?

Allow yourself to feel pleasure

“Hand jobs” may not be as gross if you’re also receiving pleasure, and if he’s also stimulating you. If it’s not just about “lending him a hand”, but it’s also about you receiving some pleasure, then some of this negative association may go away.

I think the first step is to focus on how to feel arousal, rather than just how to have sex properly or even how to pleasure him. Allow yourself to start coming alive sexually, and then the rest may follow.

And please read The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex to try to get a different perspective on why God made sex the way He did. If you can see the beauty behind it, and the real meaning of intimacy and passion, perhaps all of this can seem less distasteful.

God made sex to be AWESOME!

It’s supposed to be great physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Feel like something’s missing?

What do you do if you hate sex?

What do you think? How would you answer this woman who finds sex gross? Let’s talk in the comments! 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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44 Comments

  1. Amanda

    While it is fair of the husband to want his wife to work on their sex life, it is entirely reasonable for her to not give him orgasms outside of intercourse. That’s not unitive or mutual; he’s using her. They both need to come at this conversation from a place of self-giving and it doesn’t seem like either is right now.

    Reply
    • Tiger Girl

      It’s pretty tricky if PIV intercourse causes her so much pain that she’s not interested in doing even that more than 1-2 times a month. I hope that they learn to explore erotic touch so she can learn to enjoy arousal that does not involve her vaginal area. For actually bringing her husband to a finish that doesn’t include a hand job or oral sex, try some outercourse. Outercourse is an option that her husband may enjoy and that while she may initially think is gross may help her learn to enjoy erotic arousal. By outercourse I am specifically talking about—after other cuddling and foreplay—his rubbing hard against her well-lubricated body till he ejaculates. This could be on her bottom, pushing her cheeks together to make a great path (not in to her, as in anal sex, but towards her back), or against her thigh, or straddling her, and running along between her breasts, while she or he pushes her breasts towards each other. If it is not too painful for her, she can learn to straddle him in a cowgirl position, and she can ride him, sliding along him with lots of lubricant, without having him inside of her, till he ejaculates. Since she thinks this (I’m assuming she means ejaculate) is “gross” he may want to keep a T-shirt or cloth handy to block the ejaculate from hitting her face or hair. And also they will want a soft cloth or wipes nearby any time they are intimate to deal with the mess. He should also take the initiative for always laying a soft beach towel under her when they are intimate, and for changing the sheets if they get messy.

      Reply
      • Tiger Girl

        I speak from a place where for the first five years of our marriage I avoided direct sexual contact while fertile, along with outercourse, to not get pregnant. I did not do the cowgirl listed above while I was fertile because one could get pregnant from that. I have orgasmed many times in all the ways described above. Outercourse for me is not being used.

        Reply
    • mike

      What? I give my wife orgasms in 3 ways. She does the same. What do you mean by using?

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amanda, I’d agree with you if intercourse was also happening. The fact that intercourse is also off the table, though, means that essentially he has no outlet ever for his sexual drive, which is genuine and is from God. So I think having the goal of being able to be sexual together, however that may look, is a good one. It won’t happen overnight, and I do think she needs counseling and physiotherapy. But I also think that should at least be the goal, and it doesn’t sound right now like that’s even the goal.

      Reply
      • Harriet Vane

        Umm, that’s why there’s such a thing as masturbation. I echo the Facebook commenter who pointed out the totally unbiblical prudishness in the Christian community about masturbation. I’m a military wife who was separate from my husband for a year. (There are some active duty spouses who can be deployed for 18 months.) I gave my husband my blessing to take care of himself while he was apart from me! Did the same thing at the end of my pregnancies when I was huge and tired and not wanting anything in the same continent as sex. I do not understand why we don’t freely throw this out as an option in cases of trauma/physical disability/separation (like deployment.)

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I can see that, Harriet. I really can. I think that deployment is a whole other kettle of fish, and I hope to get some military wives to write some guest posts on it soon. I just don’t feel qualified (perhaps more so because I’m so close to so many military wives. I don’t want to presume. My main right-hand person on the blog, Tammy, is married to a military chaplain and has been through four deployments, I believe, in his 35 year career. My daughter is married to a medic in the infantry. Another woman is married to a mechanic in the military. So I just don’t want to write as if I know what I’m talking about, when they have to actually live it. I hope I can get some to write soon!).

          My concern with masturbation isn’t at all the situations you describe; it’s when people use it to short-circuit the process of working through things or meeting each other’s sexual needs. When it’s something else entirely, then it really is a different story.

          Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      I disagree with you there.

      First of all, one can’t sign on to be their spouse’s only sexual release and then refuse to grant them any. That’s deceptive and unfair.

      Secondly, alternative finishes can be very unitive, even when they can’t be strictly mutual. There were times we’ve had to rely on them because PIV was impossible or too painful for me, and I initiated them because HIS pleasure was important to me. Using what we could of our bodies to love one another made both of us feel bonded and happy, even though there were avenues we didn’t want to explore at first. Her pleasure is probably important to him, but she doesn’t seem to want it bad enough to fight her past for it; and his doesn’t seem at all important to her. His pleasure, even his basic release, has been on the back burner for 21 years while she has not dealt with her trauma or tried to meet him halfway. It’s perfectly understandable and reasonable that he wants SOME kind of sexual congress with the woman he married. It is, after all, the only function of marriage you can’t hire out to someone else without breaking the vow on which the covenant is based. Wanting her to want to please him and love him is a perfectly reasonable desire for him to have in a marriage. That isn’t him using her- that’s him wanting to feel loved by her! God’s design for marriage is that each seeks His best for themselves and the other.

      Her mountain is an awfully high and rugged one to climb, and one I can only imagine is unspeakably hard. My heart really does go out to her, and I hope she works toward the good things God has for her!

      Reply
      • Andrea

        I am so with Tiger Girl on this one! For a while I did more outer than intercourse because it hurt for the first few years, but we still do a lot of outercourse simply because that’s the best way to make BOTH of us come (and sometimes mutually — we’ve learned to recognize each other’s timing). Sheila’s and Blessed Wife’s comments are focused on his needs and in a language I was hoping we were getting away from — “outlet” and “release” — as if she’s a receptacle. I’d go in the opposite direction and say she needs to get comfortable with her own body first. She needs to masturbate to figure out what she likes (and he also obviously needs to masturbate in order to get that release). They can fantasize about each other while doing it, then start doing it together and then proceed to the awesome rubbing Tiger Girl described 🙂 and she might relax enough with time and experience to enjoy intercourse without pain.

        Here’s another thought: what if we stop assuming that once a man starts thrusting he can’t stop? He totally can, even a young one. He can make just one or a couple gentle thrusts or stay half-way (don’t shove it all the way in!) inside her and let her adjust around him, then they go back to rubbing… again, this is what I did and the intercourse part of it gradually got easier and then amazing. I think I would feel used if uninterrupted intercourse were the main event.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I completely agree that she needs to get comfortable first–I don’t think you can force yourself to be sexual. I’m sorry if I came across any other way. But the problem is that she sees no need to do this or no benefit to do this. She’s quite content to cuddle her whole life, she’s saying. And until she reframes that and sees that she can receive pleasure and that it’s worth receiving pleasure, she won’t get anywhere. And I do think that the husband should factor into this discussion as well.

          But, yes, once she comes to that conclusion, then I completely agree that focusing on how she can feel pleasure is the way to go!

          Reply
    • Janet Henderson

      Men as well as women go through sexual trauma. My own husband amd his (female) cousin was raped repeatedly by his uncle and his uncle also forced my husband to have sex with his female cousin while he watched. This uncle was very strong and very violent. He threatened to kill my husband’s mom if my husband told. As my husband got older and stronger, he was able to defend and defeat his uncle and he moved his mom to another state (the cousin also moved). This uncle was convicted too of murdering other kids and burying them on his property. You can’t get much more dramatic that this. Why am I telling you all this? Because my husband worked very hard at moving through it to have a successful relationship with me and also prior to me. It’s even harder for a man to get over being raped because this is usually a thing that women experience and people usually can’t handle male rapes. My husband still sees a therapist. He knows I love him completely. We talk openly about sex. He doesn’t dwell on the past but deals with it. Ladies, if you really want to get over your past traumas, you have to want to move forward. It’s work, but worth it. I see too many women staying stagnant after a sexually traumatic experience. Yes – it was traumatic (and I am not making light of it). It is what it is.
      But so is the rest of your life. Don’t allow your marriages/relationships to fall apart because you don’t know how to move through a past trauma and don’t let it define you. Get the help you need – ask for help – and it could take several therapists before you find the right one (or you could find the right one off the bat). The point is, you must actively work at moving through it. Sex is normal and sex is good. If my husband can do it, so can you. My husband became a police officer where he could help many people. Perhaps you need to do something where you can step outside of yourself and help others in order to get over the traumas? My husband is disabled now and I am helping him with the trauma of how he became disabled and he is working again through this one too. Life is not always a bed of roses. It’s not perfect. You get some thorns along the way as well as some beautiful and deliciously scented flowers. Just live – truly live your life to the fullest.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you, Janet. That was wonderful.

        Reply
      • Christy

        You are assuming everyone handles trauma the same way, or that its a choice how one reacts to it. For me, my trauma caused a ptsd that just happens…. i have literally tried everythibg, but i physically black out during sex. I cant stop it and zero amount of help or councelling has changed it. You assume all people deal with trauma the same way and its not true. It isnt that women wNt to stay stagnant, sometimes its a ptsd reaction that they cant get around…

        Reply
  2. Doug

    If he has been denied a sex life for 21 years, while she deprives him of the intimacy she could provide, it is far beyond any interpretation of reasonable or normal.

    Personally, while I can sympathize with the woman, I believe that she is selfish beyond words. Her words reveal her heart, and it revolves completely around herself, and what she is fine with.

    You say he isn’t giving anything. He gave up any chance of that unity and mutuality you mention when he married her. They are both victims of what happened to her, but he doesn’t have to be. He chose to be, tho I am sure he didn’t imagine it would be forever. How long it lasts is up to her, but she seems quite satisfied to continue the status quo.

    If this had been going on for 3 or 4 years, I would advise him to be patient, to work things out, but 21 years, and refused a simple handjob because it offends her senses? No, she isn’t interested in any mutuality.

    Reply
    • To painful to speak

      As a child abuse victim, who has gone through this and worked on it, and actually i’m happily married… Reading this comment makes me just so sad. My husband knew about what happened to me since we started dating, I was already working on getting over it. But if he had felt “offended in his rights” everytime i had a trigger, sometimes simply a kiss or a touch or a hug, we couldn’t have come so far and have a healthy marriage and sex life today… And yes, sometimes this triggers still appear… After over 20 years… And on that occasions, nothing sexual is gonna happen… Just wanted to say, you only are entitled to question her attitude and feelings if you’ve gone through it.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m so sorry! That’s so much to get over. And, yes, triggers can still come for years (even the rest of your life). And if a husband doesn’t understand, that is not being loving.

        At the same time, I think attitude is really important. If a woman (or man, if he’s the abuse victim) feels, “I’m having issues, but I want to be free of them and I want to enjoy an abundant life which includes sex, and I am working towards that, even if it’s hard” that’s one thing. Then when triggers come, or you have a night where it just can’t work, that’s okay. But when a woman says, “I’m hurt, nothing will ever change, and I’m content with that and don’t want to work on it,” that’s something very different. If we have something that is hindering our life and our marriage, we do owe it to our spouse to work on it. That doesn’t mean that we must be healed instantaneously, and sometimes the healing will take a protracted time. But it should be the goal. The problem with this letter writer is that it wasn’t the goal.

        But, yes, recurring triggers are very common. And trauma can resurface when kids reach different milestones or when we do (same age as the abuser; a child the same age when you were abused; the death of the abuser; etc.).

        Reply
      • Doug

        I’m sorry I offended. That was not my intent. Shelia did a much better job of following up in her comment than I possibly could, so I will only add that I am very sorry for what you went thru.

        Reply
      • Janet

        I disagree with this statement: “After over 20 years… And on that occasions, nothing sexual is gonna happen… Just wanted to say, you only are entitled to question her attitude and feelings if you’ve gone through it.”.

        You don’t have to have gone through it in order to question a person’s attitude or feelings. People are going to question them. It’s human nature. They are curious and want to understand the why of something. What they can’t do is tell another what to do. They can suggest, but it is up to the person receiving a suggestion to take it or not. By the time a person is over 50, they’ve surely gone through at least something dramatic/traumatic in life. No one has the same exact experiences and everyone thinks that their experiences are unique (cause they are). But sometimes it takes others questioning a person’s attitudes/feelings in order to get them to look at the issues that follow them around. God wants each person to be able to heal and they can only do that if they see the issues (or else God turns up the volume and makes them look at it in a more dramatic fashion).

        Reply
  3. Jane Eyre

    Lots of thoughts here:

    Trauma changes how you process everything. Therapy can help you to learn to work your way through overwhelming emotions, and your husband to understand how to communicate with you.

    “Sex being enjoyable for women” is the graduate level mathematics of physical relationships. Learn the basics first – beyond cuddling. Do backrubs feel good? Do you enjoy your husband stroking your face or kissing your neck? Do you kiss when you cuddle?

    This kind of touching is important in its own right, and it’s the kind of touching that you don’t experience when being assaulted. It’s not about arousal (which might be a big leap); it’s about your body being touched in a loving, tender manner by your husband.

    The goal is to expand your repertoire of “loving, tender, and safe touching” beyond cuddling. After assault, it’s really really hard to connect physical touch with love.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love that, Jane! Totally agree. Try backrubs, try kissing, try other physical things that aren’t triggering. Try baths together.

      But at some point, I do hope they would also try arousal. But you’re right–it may be many steps down the road!

      Reply
  4. Arwen

    I always say, never miss out on partaking in all the good things that God has made just because humans decided to corrupt them.

    I loved that you empowered her, Sheila. I love that you let her know she has the right to partake in a commodity that was created by God but was unfortunately corrupted by humans in her life. That doesn’t make the commodity bad it just makes the human who corrupted it bad. The Bible tells us that, everything good comes from above. When humans take what God has created and bastardize it, in our human flesh we want to abandon it all together. Because we have associate evil to that thing rather than to the humans.

    It’s the same argument people use when they have been raised in horrible families, surrounded by horrible marriages, they declare marriage, an institution that God created, as defective, and are unwilling to participate in it. They give up, my generation is notorious for this. Don’t let the enemy win on this. She still has sexual needs it just might be harder to tap into because of the trauma but it’s there none the less. Don’t become hopeless in your trauma. Like Sheila mentioned we tend to get comfortable in our trauma but that is not healthy in the long run.

    I defiantly recommend counseling, i went to one for 10 years and it was God sent! Christ has provided so many avenues to partake in the healing process, jump on it. “In the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I totally recommend counseling too–licensed, qualified counseling. I know it’s expensive. But if you think of what you’re missing, it can be worth it (if you can swing the money; I know some genuinely can’t). And for many things healing isn’t instantaneous, or else it comes in stages. You could be doing really well until you’re triggered at the birth of a baby, or when your own child reaches the age you were when abuse happened, and then you have to go through things all over again. But it can be a real godsend.

      Reply
  5. Bethany

    I was going to counseling and I think it was helping me feel more freed, but then I had to stop. The family member paying for it, wanted me to volunteer information about my sessions and whether they were being affective. In a few months when our income goes up, I hope to go back for a while.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Bethany, that’s so sad. I’m sorry! That’s really inappropriate. I hope hat you’re able to return to counselling soon.

      Reply
      • BoundByLove

        Wonder if anyone who comes this this blog might have a use for this site I found. A youtuber I follow recommend this website in one of their videos. They offer online counseling and they are all LPC/properly certified. The cost is also much lower than traditional counseling.
        https://www.faithfulcounseling.com/faq/

        Reply
  6. Erin

    What if it’s the husband who was the abuser? I lived through 5 years of emotional abuse from a depressed husband. Kept having sex cause “that’s what good Christian women do”. I understand now it was not healthy. He has gotten help with his depression and is not emotionally abusive anymore. But I still feel nauseated with any affection. Even seeing it on tv.

    Reply
    • Doug

      Erin,
      It sounds like he has made efforts to address his issues.
      Have you had any counseling on the matter.

      The short answer is that your reluctance is understandable, but it is not right to hang onto his past sins as an excuse to not try to move beyond your own issues. You chose to stay, and with that choice comes some responsibility. You aren’t responsible for the damage from the past, but you don’t get a pass to stay there indefinitely. You might not believe it, or might not want to believe it, but you can overcome if that is what you want. It probably won’t be easy, and it certainly won’t happen overnight, but you can get there if you want to. If you don’t want to get to that point, then can you really say that you want to remain married to the man, or any other for that matter?

      The thing is, it is a process, that starts with a decision. Unless you make that decision to move beyond the past, you are choosing to stay there. Either way, it is a choice. Staying where you are might seem safer and easier, but I suspect you are not very happy there.

      Reply
      • Elsie

        Erin, I’m so sorry to hear what you have been through! Praying that you will find healing.

        Doug, just because an offending spouse has made changes doesn’t mean that all the pain they caused instantly goes away. Five years of emotional abuse is a long time. Your comment seems unsympathetic to what Erin is going through and potentially hurtful to someone who has experienced a lot of hurt. Please try to listen and understand the perspective of the women who post on this blog and don’t discount their pain. You dismiss her pain and struggle and act as though what her husband did to her wasn’t a big deal.

        Reply
        • Doug

          Elsie,
          I am not unsympathetic. Far from it. I apologize if I gave that impression. Actually, I empathize completely with her situation, and my comment was borne out of that empathy. I know what long term pain is. Perhaps my post came across poorly because I was in a hurry to post it, because I was about to go meet my counselor.
          I see her every week, because on the 22nd of August, I found myself with a loaded gun in my hand, because shooting myself seemed easier than dealing with the pain.

          24 years ago, my marriage was in a difficult place, and my wife concealed a pregnancy, and then had an abortion. The following 20 years were what can only be described as emotional abuse, because she never once acknowledged my hurt, and she shut me out emotionally almost entirely for much of those 20 years. Honestly, I didn’t do much in those years to make things better, and in many ways I made things worse. Our marriage was a sham for all those years. Each of us was so invested in protecting ourselves, that things inly got worse.

          5 years ago, I made a choice that it could not continue as it had. Part of that decision involved truly acknowledging the hurt and forgiving it. That decision involved opening myself up to the reality of abortion. I remember when my wife was pregnant the first time, I ised to love wrapping my arms around her and placing my hands on her tummy. Now, when I do that, I often feel a deep sadness. It isnt a deliberate thought, but comes on me un-invited. I still choose to wrap my arms around her several times each day, because it demonstrates my affection to her, and it also helps me to feel connected. When those thoughts cross my mind I have to choose whether to give in to them and withdraw or to push them aside for the good of the marriage.
          When we make love, I regularly have images of our unborn child being ripped apart and torn from her womb. I can not describe that. Horror and revulsion don’t begin to cover it. It would be easy to withdraw, but instead I choose to focus on what is good. I choose to be thankful for my wife. Without being to graphic, you can probably imagine how that affects my ability to continue intercourse, yet I almost always recover to continue.

          I think I am qualified to comment on Erins situation and while I am sorry if I came across as unsympathetic, I stand behind my words completely. It isn’t fair, but she has to choose recovery. It won’t happen by itself

          Reply
          • Cara

            Doug-
            My heart breaks for you. I’m glad you’re choosing healing and putting in the work. Goes to show that you just don’t know what someone has been through or is going through. ❤️

          • Elsie

            Doug, I’m so sorry to hear about the pain you have been through. I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions on my end. Praying for healing for you and your marriage.

          • Doug

            Elsie, and Cara.

            Thank you both for your kindness.

            Elsie, no apology is necessary. As Cara mentioned, you couldn’t have known. Looking back at what I initially wrote, I probably did come across as an unsympathetin know-it-all. As I said, part of that was me being rushed, but I suspect that angry me was knocking at the door when I typed that, so your initial impression of my remarks might have been more accurate than I like to admit. I assure you that it was not intentional tho.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Erin, that’s awful. I’m so sorry. Are you in counselling? Have you worked on rebuilding a friendship first? I think once you rebuild a friendship, the trust will follow, and you do need trust to be able to open sexually. If you can’t be open sexually yet, then I would throw yourself into trying to rebuild a relationship of some sort. If you can’t even do that, then that’s a much bigger problem.

      Reply
    • Maria

      Erin, you have my sympathies. It must have been an awful 5 years. It is good that he is not emotionally abusing you anymore. Here is an old post (guest post) from Sheila’s blog about forgiveness and what it really means. Hint: just because someone is forgiven that does not mean everything is fixed.

      https://baremarriage.com/2014/03/what-forgiveness-is/

      Reply
  7. Lyn

    ‘A man should not be receiving pleasure by hurting his wife.’

    I really appreciate how you give your readers practical and reasonable advice (like seeing a trauma specialist) and reframe intimacy in a biblical way. It’s so refreshing.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Lyn!

      Reply
  8. LM

    How about sexual activity in the shower? I’ve always loved it because it’s a great, clean, warm environment for intimacy without any messy cleanup. I also recommend taking things super slow in any area, even if that means he finishes himself while kissing her, etc. Sometimes, when you’re stuck, you don’t always think of all the options you have because your brain is too focused on the options you don’t have or want.

    Reply
  9. Brievel

    I have a question… what about if there’s no trauma or abuse, it’s just an ick factor? I find oral beyond disgusting, and the various secretions distasteful. I can sometimes brace myself enough to give him oral, and the difficulties with manual are mostly a stamina issue on my part… but I cannot *stand* the feel of any *sexual* touch down there with hands, and I don’t want his face below my waist or above my knees.

    Again, no traumatic reason, just dislike the dampness and the messiness. What does one do about that?

    Reply
    • Anonymous This Time

      I’d like to see this one explored more as well.

      I realize this is probably very uncommon coming from a straight man, but the mere thought of willingly putting a part of myself into a “damp, messy” body cavity is off-putting. It contributes to my virtually non-existent libido and aversion to any activities related to sex. I’ve literally had to pour myself shots before sex, and I’m not a big drinker. I’ve not shared this with my wife because it would be a tremendous blow to her self esteem, and at a more practical level, it’s a natural response within her; what else is she supposed to do?

      Again – no sexual trauma or closet issues; I just find it, as Brievel described, “icky.”

      Reply
  10. Christy

    I dont think people should be allowed to comment unless they have been abused. And even then…. one persons reaction to trauma, will not be the same as another’s Saying that one persons trauma was ‘more traumatizing’ than another persons or comparing their speed to recovery is unfair to any survivor.

    This woman clearly needs clarity and compassion and so does her husband.

    It is obvious to me that she feels grossed out by sexual contact because she has ptsd and people here only serve to make it worse when they compare.

    She is having a body memory and she cant get ‘ over it’ because it is ptsd. Even though her husband is not to blame, sex inadvertantly retraumatizes her.

    While its commendable that she told her husband about being raped, i doubt she had any clue about the future impact on her marriage. I doubt she would have forseen her aversion to sex. Im sure she carries alot of guilt to this end.

    Now, before God, does she feel trapped by her vows? Because feeling trapped will ignite fight or flight. she is confused. This IS not selfish of her.

    Many councellors, especially Christian ones, give the worst advice and dont know how to treat sexual trauma.

    God gave us marriage to become sanctified and more like him—— to learn to die to ourselves.

    When the wife is a sexual survivor, the man needs to learn to LOve, like Christ loves and she needs to learn that even though she was raped, she is deserving of her husbands love and ultimately God’s love. Ultimately, this laying down of the husband’s needs is what will likely heal her. Then, they could have a truly mutual sexual relationship.

    Both these people need the love of the Body of Christ, not judgement and assumptions.

    Reply
    • Doug

      Christy,

      I’m going to go out on a limb here, and assume that many of your remarks were directed towards me. Let me say, first and foremost, that I disagree entirely with your opening remark. I will explain more in a moment, but for now I will just let that stand.

      Second, I never compared my trauma to hers. It would be impossible to make any sort of comparison. What happed to her was horrible, but what happened to me was no less horrible, but I can no more put myself in her place, than she can put herself into mine. Both acts have impacts that simply do not go away, ever.

      Now, I will explain why I disagree with your opening remark. As a man who has been forced to live with the fallout of an unwanted abortion, I am very familiar with PTSD. As a combat veteran, I am all to familiar with it as well. In short, as well meaning as you are, it is you who probably has the lesser understanding of the subject. I seldom use the phrase when talking about myself, but yes, you could say that I am something of an expert on the subject. While I can not speak directly to someone’s experience that left them with PTSD, I can speak very knowledgably about what it is like to live with it. I don’t make it a day without some trigger or some setback that I have to address, just to survive myself, and to not damage relationships, or just leave a random trail of destruction.

      One of my struggles, common to both combat veterans, and to men who lost children to abortion, is anger and rage issues. It is something that I have gone to great lengths to address, and have largely been successful. By your logic, anyone who did not have the same background would be un-qualified to speak to that. They would be forced to remain silent and look the other way, simply because they don’t share my experience.

      Another commonly recognized side effect of abortion for men, is substance abuse or pornography addiction. I have yet to run across a single Christian who will hesitate to tell me that is bad, that it harms myself and others. By your logic, anyone who did so would be out of line. I think we can all see how absurd it would be for me or anyone else to say, you aren’t qualified to speak up because you don’t share my experience.

      When I told a close friend that I was so despondent that I had held a gun to my head, crying at the hopelessness of everything I felt, she didn’t let up until I made some concrete plans to get help, and followed thru on it. Was she unqualified to do so. Thankfully, she didn’t believe that.

      I realize I often come across a bit harsh. It is something I am working on. I also have to fight off a tendency to lash out when I read a comment like the one you made. It often feels more personal than it is, and I sometimes interpret it as an attack. I hope I have done a good job of just speaking truth and leaving the rest out of it.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Christy, I think the way that you’re seeing her feelings is likely right on. I do think, too, that there’s an element of feeling trapped, similar to feeling raped, when you do have trauma and now you’re married and you feel as if it’s a sin to not have sex. While that’s not rape in and of itself (obviously), psychologically it can definitely feel like that.

      I really do get it, and one day I may share another story that shows this in more depth.

      And I think that if the husband gave her absolutely no expectations for some time while she was going through therapy, that would likely help her a tremendous amount. I hope that that can happen, because she really does need the therapy and the space.

      At the same time, I do think that she needs to tell herself the truth, that intimacy is a good thing, that she deserves it, and that she can get there. I have found that people don’t heal until they begin to tell themselves the truth. Again, it doesn’t mean she has to feel it. It doesn’t mean she has to understand it. But even telling herself that and having that goal can help her move forward. Telling herself that her life would be better if her husband gave up his desire for sex and only wanted to cuddle does not promote healing, because it frames the problem as both the husband’s desire and sex, in and of itself. Those things aren’t the problem. The problem is that something beautiful was taken from her, and she’s suffering in mind, body and spirit because of that. That’s the problem. And God doesn’t want her trapped there. But the messages she’s giving herself here aren’t focused on the right problem, and that means that she’s unlikely to really address it and find the healing she needs.

      I agree with you–to heal from PTSD you need space and time. I would just add that you also need to be able to identify the real enemy and the real problem, that’s all.

      Reply
      • Christy

        Yes, i hear your compassion and understanding in your responses and comments—- im just hoping she doesnt find the above comments by some readers and feel condemned.

        Ptsd is tricky, cause telling herself the truth is merely mind over matter and trying to trick the mind into believing it if she doesnt actually believe the truth for herself. Right now, she doesnt believe this truth.

        Im so tired of the name it and claim it crap in churches. As long as ptsd is still in play, mind over matter, is only going to make her think something is wrong with her. She isnt ‘believing’ hard enough, she doesnt have enough faith, she isnt good enough…. blah blah blah…. this thinking further exacerbates the lie, something else she cant control, just like when she was raped. There is a fine line between having faith and speaking God’s truth over yourself and lying to yourself. Im not saying I have any clue how to fix that, Im just saying that I completely understand why she is stuck.

        Reply
  11. Christy

    Doug,

    Sure you have a right to comment, I just hope she doesnt misunderstand your heart on the matter. It is difficult to express one’s heart over the internet.

    Im sorry for your on- going ptsd, it is very difficult to live with.

    Blessings

    Reply

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