Free to Say Yes

Choices for sexually abused women and their husbands

Our smoldering 15 year conflict over sex flared into flame one night in the fall of 1986 when my husband, Jerry, began to touch me.

"Not tonight, okay?" I said.

He rolled over without a word.

Heart pounding, I turned my back too. If I can't say no, how can I say yes? I thought. I felt like a prostitute. And that felt too familiar. Several times, beginning when I was four years old, my father had molested me.

Uncharacteristically, I stayed angry for three days, barely talking to Jerry. He spent the next three evenings in our detached garage. The fourth night, as I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes after an uncomfortable dinner, I watched him through the window as he walked away.

Am I so angry I don't want to resolve this?

I dried my hands and followed him to his shop.

"Can we talk?"

He glanced up from the workbench where he was building a birdhouse. "If you want to."

"I don't want to be mad at you," I explained. "We keep coming up against this sex thing. I have to be able to say no, do you see that?"

"Yes, I do," he said. "But do you see I want to make love with you? You're the only one I can have sex with. If you want to talk theology with someone, you can have breakfast with Pastor Paul. I can't go have sex with anybody else."

"Yes, I get that," I said. "I want to make love with you too. I'm working as hard as I can on being available to you. But I don't think you have any idea how much sex feels like abuse."

Though I understood Jerry's logic, I didn't feel he understood the repulsive effect of the molestation images that flickered in my mind during our lovemaking.

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