Opening the Door to Healing

When childhood sexual abuse affects a marriage's intimacy
Opening the Door to Healing

Don'tcha wanna be married? Or have kids?"

I nodded, tears streaming down my five-year-old face, thorns and brambles cutting into my backside.

"You gotta do this, then, or you can't ever be married." The voice—which came from a teenage boy, accompanied by the snicker from his kid brother—would haunt me for 18 years until I got married.

It still haunts me.

The statistics about sexual crime both alarm and numb. According to the Department of Justice, by age 18, one in four women and one in six men have been sexually abused.

I thought if I hid my pain I could magically improve sexually. But not addressing the truth was disastrous my sexual relationship with my husband.

What happens to the titanic number of sexually abused men and women when they marry and enter regular sexual experiences with their mates? One study published in Contemporary Family Therapy estimates that 56 percent of women who were sexually abused as children feel discomfort during sex and 36 percent seek some sort of sexual therapy.

Although I told my husband, Patrick, about the abuse while we were dating, after we were married, I pretended immunity from my past trauma. But keeping up the charade wasn't so easy since sex reminded me of the abuse. I didn't tell Patrick, though, because I felt guilty, as though I were a poor wife.

I hoped somehow I could work out everything through sheer willpower. So throughout our early married life, I tolerated sex, never letting Patrick know how much I was hurting. I'm not sure if I even knew the extent of my pain, at least enough to verbalize it.

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May 25

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