After talking with husbands whose wives have an aversion to sex, I discovered that every one of the wives had experienced childhood sexual trauma. No wonder they were unable to enjoy a healthy sexual relationship with their spouses! As is common with childhood abuse victims, memory of the abuse was buried so deep that many of the husbands were unaware.
Adding to the confusion and misunderstanding is that the husbands reported that their wives did not appear to have sexual aversion early in their relationship. “Although it wasn’t like she was sexually wild or anything, we still had a decent sex life,” one confided. As time went on, she began to make excuses for avoiding sex and soon, it became apparent that she viewed it as a distasteful chore.
Arguments and accusations led to less sex, and soon years—three years four months to be exact--passed without any intimate relations between them. “It’s driving me crazy,” this husband wrote to me. He had suspicions that his wife had been sexually abused as a child, but she refused to talk about it or seek counseling. Every other aspect of their lives was fairly smooth-running and content. High morals and a strong love for his wife kept him from straying in order to fulfill his sexual needs which he partially fulfilled by masturbation. “But it just isn’t enough,” he said. “I want sex but I want it with my wife!”
His wife is fortunate in that he loves her and wants the marriage to work. Many men simply leave or seek outside relationships. Sex is a natural part of human biology. It is a vital part of marriage. While some people might seek out partners who are sexually compatible in their low need for sex, typical couples deepen their bond through sex because it is a shared emotional, psychological and spiritual experience as well as a physical one.
Is a childhood sex abuse affecting your marital sex life? Consider these possible clues:
*Sexual dysfunction. Disinterest or an aversion to sex is one of the signs of past sexual abuse. Not all cases of sexual disinterest are related to abuse, but it should not be ruled out. Childhood sex abuse seriously impairs the natural development of a person’s perception of sex. The victim does not relate sex to a healthy and loving act between committed partners. Sex instead conjures up buried feelings of terror, shame, self-reproach, and hate.
It is unlikely that a former abuse victim will be able to enjoy healthy sexual relations until the emotional and psychological wounds are healed.
*Self-destructive behaviors. Alcohol and drug abuse. Overeating and excessive weight gain. Self mutilation. Sometimes, childhood sex abuse can lead to promiscuity and prostitution.
*Emotional disturbances. Depression. Anxiety. Suicidal tendencies.
*Medical and health problems. Frequent illnesses and medical procedures. Psychosomatic illnesses.
No matter how frustrating your situation, do not force or coerce your spouse into having sex. This will underscore the unpleasant associations to sex. Instead, show an outpouring of intimacy through non-sexual behavior. Many times, victims bristle at being held or caressed if they know that sex will follow. Build up a sense of trust and safety.
The husband who patiently—and impatiently—endured years of a sexless marriage finally managed to get his wife into counseling where they are making slow progress. Although other men may not be as understanding, he is helping her through the healing process. Not only because he wants a fulfilling married sex life, but he wants to help the woman he loves and promised to stand by through good and bad times.
If you suspect that childhood sex abuse might be the cause of sexual dysfunction in your marriage, please seek help. Go alone until your spouse is ready. The victim needs to reprogram his or her thinking towards sex and sexual feelings. Therapy and a re-introduction to sex in general can help you both restore your loving sex life.