If the problem is a lack of interest, rather than a distaste for sex, see
How to Boost Your Wife’s Libido
If you do find some aspect of sex distasteful, I suggest you start with
The Abuse Survivor’s Ultimate Revenge: Reclaiming your Sexuality
Single women need to read this if they find the thought of marital relations so distressing that they intend never to marry. The webpage is primarily for marrieds and their partners who suffer some degree of fear, inhibition or revulsion about some aspect of marital relations. The most common reason for this problem – a woman’s past sexual trauma – is featured and it is written as if the woman were already married. Other readers will be able to adapt the information to their particular situation. Abuse survivors seriously contemplating marriage should read this, as well as men engaged to such women. Other singles, however, suffer enough temptation without reading this webpage.
The following is best read after reading:
“I Hate Sex!” When Wives Want a Sexless Marriage
Finally, the long-awaited wedding night arrives and they are alone together. Darren’s kisses are sweeter than ever. Before long, she can hold off no longer and exposes her chest to the most exquisite caresses she has ever known. Susie has barely begun to savor the experience, when Darren slips off his remaining clothes. Susie freezes in wide-eyed horror. Never has she seen up close an unclothed grown man other than when her uncle sexually abused her. Susie had always tried to put out of her mind the memory of that horrid sight that had assaulted her childhood innocence. She had hardly even considered what Darren might look like. This is not the Darren she had known. Never before having seen Darren undressed, she has never had the opportunity to associate what she is now seeing with dear, sweet Darren. She is looking at a normal man, but in the sum of Susie’s entire life experiences there is just one person who looks like that. She could hardly have been more shocked had Darren’s entire body transmuted to that of the beast who had mauled her childhood. Revulsion mixed with icy fear sweeps through her. Until Darren finally satisfies himself, the rest of what she had hoped would be her happiest night, is a nightmare for Susie.
Next night, Darren starts kissing Susie, but it’s unlike anything she experienced before her wedding. She’s tense, afraid of what the kissing might lead to. She goes through the motions but it is only mildly pleasurable as she worries about what might be on tonight’s program. By the time Darren touches her breasts she’s petrified. Her mind races. Will this be a repeat of last night’s horror? She no longer wants him touching her. That portion for their lovemaking felt nice last night but her mind is too filled with what is next on the agenda for her to feel anything but revulsion.
Over subsequent days there are repeat performances. Noticing that Darren’s kisses inevitably lead to sex, she can no longer be kissed without thinking of what will follow. So now kissing disgusts her. And it always happens in the bedroom. She’s beginning to feel uneasy about going to bed at night . . .
Note how the cancer is spreading, killing off more and more of Susie’s love-life. What began as an upsetting reaction to a tiny aspect of marital relations is infecting more and more of the marriage.
But if the chill of death can gradually spread through a marriage, so can the warm of love and life and pleasure. Just as feelings that make Susie recoil can escalate, so can feelings that make her long to be intimate with Darren. But it will take a new approach.
First, let’s prepare ourselves.
Suppose a sadist forces down your throat cream cakes, chocolates, ice-cream and delicacies until you vomit. He keeps this up hour after hour, day after day until, when at last the ordeal is over, you cannot so much as look at delicious food without feeling repulsed. From then on you can eat nothing that tastes nice and you find even blandest the food almost intolerable. You would still have the physical capacity to greatly enjoy delicious food, but smothering this would be a nearly impenetrable psychological barrier preventing you from enjoying this pleasure.
Had you suffered this trauma, I would want you never again to be forced, nor even to force yourself, to eat something delicious that you now find distasteful. What I would long for you, however, is for this ugly psychological scar to be painlessly removed so that you can again enjoy the delights of food, totally free from any unpleasantness.
It is very similar when a woman has suffered sexual abuse. Something that should have been an exquisitely beautiful, precious, uniquely delightful experience – far more significant than enjoying mouth-watering food – is kept from her because of a formidable psychological barrier. This barrier – a scar from a horrific past ordeal – is like a cold slab of concrete sealing off access to a warm, cozy bed. The corridor to one’s fulfillment might as well be crammed with vipers, scorpions and crocodiles.
The goal of this web series is that for such a woman to have all unpleasantness associated with sex disappear so utterly that she finds herself free to delight in what she was created to enjoy.
I would like every couple reading this web series to have four goals. It might be too early for some readers to set these goals right now, but I would like them to gain these goals by the time they finish this web series. The first goal is that from now on the wife never again endures any unpleasantness associated with sex. Without ever going back on the commitment never to experience unpleasantness, I would like your second goal – a long term one – to be that the wife eventually reaches the point where she thoroughly enjoys everything that her husband would like her to enjoy. Putting these two goals together: we want the wife always free from the slightest unpleasantness associated with marital relations and for her to enjoy every bit of the pleasure that God longs for her to enjoy. The third goal is that the husband suffer a minimum of sexual frustration from now until the wife enjoys a total and permanent breakthrough. The final goal is that God’s approving smile be upon the entire healing process.
It is exceptionally difficult for the average person to understand what awful and powerful fears, inhibitions and devastating feelings harass a woman who has suffered sexual trauma. And yet so much teeters on the husband gaining that understanding. All of this web series should be read by both partners but some parts are directed more towards wives, and certain other parts are more for husbands. This section, for example, is obviously particularly for husbands, but wives will also benefit.
The typical reaction of a sexual abuse survivor is almost incomprehensible to people who have been spared such horror. This makes it very painful for her husband, who is likely to feel hurt, rejected and/or offended by his wife acting in a way that could easily, but very wrongly, be mistaken for selfish, irrational or spiteful behavior.
Anyone with a severe phobia has a big advantage in grasping why a woman can deeply love her husband and long to delight him and yet find sexually relating to him a horrifying experience. If Romeo were terrified of heights, and Juliet were atop a high tower, love would not remove his terror as he contemplates climbing the shaky ladder. Fear could even make him tremble so much that he falls and seriously injures himself, thereafter further intensifying his fear of heights. His fear has nothing to do with his feelings for Juliet. In fact, the more he loves her, the greater his trauma, because part of him feels forced to do something that everything else within him recoils from doing. If Juliet were to make an issue out of this, feeling offended by his reluctance, she would be displaying her ignorance and inflaming what is already a dangerous situation.
Or suppose you were terrified of snakes or spiders. An expert has a huge, fearsome specimen. He completely convinces you that it is harmless. He then asks you to hold it. If your phobia is full-blown, you would still be petrified, even though you trust the expert and are certain that handling it is safe. Similarly, a woman can totally trust her husband and be madly in love with him, but love and trust will not of themselves turn terror into enjoyment. Of themselves, love, trust and will-power will no more bring inner healing than they would instantly heal broken bones.
Suppose a brute slashed your wife’s breasts. You can see deep, still-bleeding wounds. You would not take offense should she flinch if you attempt a mere hug. Only she can feel the pain, but the cause of the pain is easily verifiable. But what if her wounds were internal – broken ribs and punctured lung – with nothing external to betray the extent of her injuries? You would have to trust her assessment of pain. Emotional wounds are just as real and just as painful as gaping physical wounds but because they are internal, the cause cannot be observed. Only she can feel the pain, so you will need to trust her assessment. Such trust can sometimes be hard for partners who have little understanding of the devastating long term consequences of sexual abuse. Nevertheless, as Scripture’s Love Chapter affirms, love does its utmost to believe the beloved (1 Corinthians 13:7).
Ignoring physical wounds or treating them unwisely could lead to dangerous infection or excessive scaring or needless deformity. Similarly, much depends upon how emotional wounds are treated, and one of the most critical factors in that treatment is the actions of those emotionally closest to the wounded person, particularly the husband.
People often wonder why abuse survivors cannot simply put past sexual horrors out of their minds and enjoy lovemaking. That’s like wondering why someone whose broken leg has not healed cannot enjoy jogging. The trauma might have occurred forty years ago, but time alone does not heal. Healing is thrillingly possible, but it requires the right treatment and even then it is usually a lengthy process, and, as we have suggested, it will take more than love or will-power to bring about full healing.
A woman facing this challenge wrote:
My husband would never consider therapy. He doesn’t believe that anyone can help you except yourself. In his mind, you just don’t think about things that bother you.
This is a common male reaction to problems. In fact, vast numbers of men have been pressured almost from birth to take on this attitude. Whether it be the tragic consequence of childhood brainwashing or simply a mixture of stubborn pride and ignorance, out of control, this attitude can be deadly. It is on par with a man pressuring his wife to ignore a cancerous lump, and before he knows it he is a widower. The leftover trauma from sexual abuse will no more go away by pretending it does not exist, than ignoring a malignant lump will make cancer go away. In fact, the abused woman’s husband ended up ruining his sex life because of the way he tormented his wife with his heartless and shallow approach to a deep, complex problem.
To confirm that we are talking about something real and very serious, look at this brief article: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
One cannot set a timetable as to how long an abuse survivor’s healing will take. If she doesn’t heal within your time fame, the fault is not with her. The fault would lie only in your presumption to be able to forecast.
To feel offended because your wife has not yet healed psychologically, is as irrational as taking it personally if she has not healed physically. Her feeblest attempt to yield to you is probably a greater demonstration of love, trust and devotion than anyone else on earth would dare attempt for you.
“Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle,” croons the lover in the Song of Solomon. Suppose you live on the edge of wild country in ancient Israel and you go for a hike. Suddenly, you hear a rustle. You look up and in the far distance two blurs bolt off, literally like startled gazelles. Before they disappear you glimpse just enough to be awed by the fawns’ grace and beauty, and yet one is wounded. Your heart melts. Welling within you is an almost irresistible urge to nurture and love and protect, and snuggle into those gorgeous creatures. But the twins have fled in terror. When some men look upon these delightful creatures they see nothing but game food. The fawns had been too young and innocent to sense danger when a man stalked them. They had never known what it was like to be preyed upon, as he drew his bow and took aim. In an instant, one was wounded. They barely escaped with their lives. Now, confused and vulnerable, the mere sight of a human terrifies them. How could you ever get these timid creatures to have such confidence in you that they would let you pat them? To entrap these wild creatures or imprison them would be to exploit them and act as cruelly as the one who wanted to cook them. You would need to be ever so gentle and patient. You could never use force or put demands on them. You would have to commit yourself, week after week after week, for as long as it takes to gain their trust. It would be painstakingly slow. You could make no sudden moves. When you are near them you would have to wait until you they are totally relaxed before you take the smallest step towards them. Then you would need to wait again and ensure they are completely at ease before taking another tiny step. When you finally get close enough, you would have to restrain any urge to lunge at them and grab them. Yes, if you were swift enough you might get to hold one that time, but thereafter your task would be so much harder. You would need to put emphasis on patiently trying to entice them, and as much as possible wait for them to come to you.
It is with similar patience and tenderness, that a man must woo his wife after she has been preyed upon.
The Lord must always be the wife’s ultimate security, and no one should dare take God’s place. But as God’s children, we are all in training to be like Father. Husband, in humble, sensitive dependence upon God, you must always seek to be her protector, her security, her warmth in the cold, the one she runs to when she wants to feel safe. Achieving this is a triumph that will demand enormous effort, given that it was a male who caused her the greatest trauma of her life. Moreover, it was a male who, like you, wanted sex with her. It is up to you – not her – whether you achieve the honor of being the one who makes her feel safe. It won’t happen if you are given to anger. She is very sensitive. Slamming the door or banging your fist on the table can terrify her. She can feel you are imagining it is her body you are being violent with. One such outburst could ruin weeks of building her confidence in you. The memory could stay with her for life. Showing displeasure, annoyance or whining about her inhibitions will make her feel a failure and inflame the false feeling of guilt that already makes sex difficult for her. Instead of putting her under the slightest emotional pressure, you should always be the one who inspires and builds her up. She needs you to be sympathetic, gentle, soothing, encouraging; the one who always assures her it is alright when she feels defeated over not being able to meet your desires.
Building your wife’s trust in you is critically important. With it, your very presence gives her security and comfort, letting her confidence soar like a helium balloon set free. It makes you her solid friend and ally, as unitedly you fight the common enemy of horrific memories that continue to assault her. Without it, you are her potential enemy, in danger of worsening the situation whenever you are near.
An essential ingredient in building trust is that you never, ever, continue with anything sexual for a moment after she indicates she wants you to stop. Yes, this will demand self-mastery of heroic proportions, but with Almighty God dwelling within, you can tap into superhuman power to do what other men would find impossible. We will later discuss practical helps in achieving this.
If you have yet to discover the unique fulfillment that Jesus offers, the following section may seem over-endowed with religious terminology. You can skip it if you wish, but most abuse survivors have fallen prey to a psychologically crippling condition known to behavioral scientists as learned helplessness, and this serious need is addressed here. It will particularly help Christians gain needed motivation, but other readers will benefit as well.
Maybe you have sung in church about going to the enemy’s camp and taking back what he stole from you. That’s what this webpage is about – for the glory of the One who originally gave it to you, reclaiming what was stolen from you. I’m referring to your purity, your carefree innocence, your ability to find uninhibited delight in the man God has given you, and experiencing oceans of exquisite and wholesome pleasure that thrill you, your husband, and the God who loves you.
The Old Testament reveals God’s heart in declaring that when a thief is caught, he must restore to his victim everything he has stolen. In fact, God’s law required the thief to give his victim many times more than he had stolen. This divine justice reflects God’s longing for you. You have the right to expect not only the restoration of everything you have lost, but to end up with even more than you would have enjoyed had you never been abused. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise that all things will work together for good for anyone who truly loves God and yields to him.
Picture yourself living in ancient Israel. Your entire livelihood depends on your flock of one hundred sheep. One night someone steals the lot. In horror, you realize that without those sheep you could end up so indebted that in time you and all your family could be sold into slavery. As the shock hits home, you wish you were dead. But you must stir yourself and not surrender to defeatist’s thoughts. Everything depends upon getting those sheep back. You look for tracks, you question people, you travel everywhere examining sheep to determine whether they are yours. Days turn into weeks. It’s hopeless. You want to give up, but week after week you keep forcing yourself on. Finally you locate the thief. You notify the authorities. They enforce the law. The thief is compelled to return not only as many sheep as you lost but a total of four hundred sheep! (Exodus 22:1; 2 Samuel 12:6) What you suffered when you thought you had lost everything would have been so awful that you would not want a repeat, no matter how well it turned out, but nonetheless, you would be partying all the way to the bank.
To deny yourself fulfillment that is rightfully yours is to let your abuser win. But you can pursue that pleasure, doggedly resisting thoughts of surrender until you track it down and end up more blessed than ever.
The first two steps towards receiving your healing involve recognizing the value of what has been stolen from you, and becoming determined to get it back. Just before he became king, raiders attacked David’s village while he away, plundering his private things and kidnapping his loved ones. Upon discovering the tragedy, David was numb with shock. Then he wept, he wailed, he mourned, he lamented. He probably crashed through almost every negative emotion known to humanity, having waves of anger, remorse, blaming God, blaming others, and blaming himself. These feelings have a legitimate place. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time to mourn. David held nothing back in his emotional outburst, continuing until his strength drained from him. Then he began to encourage himself in God. He started preaching to himself; forcefully reminding himself that God is his hope, God is his joy, God is his provider. He shut off the questions and accusations against God; closing his mind to what he did not understand, and focusing on what he knew – that no matter how high the mountain of supposed evidence to the contrary, God is good, God will strengthen him, God will bless him. After building himself up in this fashion, David took the next critical step. He determined not to let the enemy get away with it. He decided that everything taken from him was his by right and that if he fought to get it back, Almighty God would be on his side, empowering him. He was convinced that what had been stolen from him – his God-given loved ones, prized possessions and personal treasures – were so precious that they were worth risking everything – even his very life – to get them back.
This should mirror your attitude. Yes, you’ve had a right to grief and anger and blaming and feeling sorry for yourself and every negative emotion ever experienced. You’ve had it tough. But you have a powerful God who backs you one hundred percent and wants the very best for you. Don’t pretend that what you have lost is of little value. It is priceless – worth so much more than every bit of effort it takes to reclaim it. Even though you might never as yet have experienced the beauty of God’s gift, by faith grow in the conviction that because God is the Creator, marital relations are a priceless gift, worth whatever it takes to get it back. Rise up with a dogged determination not to let the enemy rip you off any longer. Just as a fear of flying could keep you from all sorts of exotic adventures in faraway places that nothing else could equal, so sexual fears could keep you from unique joys. I’m not suggesting for of moment that you suffer the trauma of enduring fear, all I’m asking is that you begin to long for the removal of the fear so that you might luxuriate in pleasures what you were created to enjoy.
There are times when it is not only right to get angry but wrong not to get angry. Remember Jesus’ display of anger at the money changers in the temple. That was no moral slip. In fact, his anger added to his disciples’ conviction that Jesus was of God (John 2:13-17). Misdirected, self-righteous anger is wrong, but there is a holy anger that is glorifying to God. If you have ever felt angered by an injustice, you should feel angry at what has happened to you. Anger should not be directed towards humans, because ultimately our fight is not with flesh and blood but with evil spiritual powers who delight in using humans as pawns in their deadly games. The goal of your anger should be the restoration of God’s glory in your life. It is recognizing that sexuality is a precious expression of God’s love to you and a manifestation of God’s glory and that for a married person to abandon his/her sexual potential would be to let evil triumph. Sexual abuse must surely be high on the list of the greatest evils earth has known. This evil is not defeated until the beauty of God’s gift is restored in the lives of those who have suffered this offense. Don’t let the devil cheat you out of the joy that is rightfully yours.
Had you been blinded by your abuser, you would not only long for your eyes to stop hurting; you would want to regain your eyesight. Had he disfigured your face, you would want your looks restored. Similarly, your ultimate healing from the sexual trauma you suffered is not just an end to your inner pain, but for you to regularly enjoy great sexual pleasure in the way that puts a smile of your Maker’s face.
To a man’s despair, his wife became a “born again religious fanatic.” Because she is dear to him, he let her drag him to church. The dreary saga continued for years. Then, in one of those church services, he yielded to God. Suddenly his life transformed. For the rest of his life he was so thankful that his wife had the spiritual drive that he once despised. He was delighted that her longings combined with his love for her had moved him to do what at the time he had no desire for. Similarly, do not despise your husband’s sex drive. Like that wife’s spiritual drive, it is God’s blessing to you. It is your link to full healing.
Now that we have gained a deeper insight into the cause and nature of sexual inhibitions, and explored some reasons for girding ourselves with the stubborn determination needed to beat this insidious enemy, we are ready to return to Susie and Darren and discover how they can tap into bottomless wells of pleasure in each other.
Grantley Morris 2000. All rights reserved. Not to be copied except for personal use because this is not the final draft.
“Darren” and “Susie” are fictitious names used to illustrate important principles.