Sexual Intimacy – Getting Past Challenges of Abuse

by Sharon Leukert

My husband is crazy about my body. Through it, we’ve had three children and I suffer the effects of Crohn’s disease, but he’s still crazy about it, so I consider myself blessed! I’ve learned to love his desire for me, and even tease him playfully on a regular basis. A healthy love for your spouse’s physicality is a key part of sexual intimacy, so of course I’m glad he loves to touch me, but it hasn’t always been easy.

Everything was great right after we got married. All of the nuances of married life were so new, so wonderful, that you would never imagine problems creeping into the bedroom, but they did. Aside from a few “risky” encounters (like sex outdoors on the edge of a cliff), I’d always felt safe in my husband’s love and protected in our lovemaking. After our first child was born and we relocated to a new job for Karl, things began to change. When things got tough for my him at work, high amounts of tension came into our home. As his job situation grew worse, so did the stress and frustration. The longer the work problems continued, the more stress made itself known and brought a new dynamic into our relationship – fear.

Fear does a funny thing to you. It reaches into your file cabinets of painful experiences and drags out every single one it can find, focusing especially on the ones that we don’t like to talk about. It thrusts these painful experiences to the forefront and – all of a sudden I was there again, trembling, confused, violated. I had just been molested by my grandparents’ elderly neighbor. I was seven years old.

Suddenly my husband’s caressing of my breasts became an ugly reminder of my painful experience. I knew my caring husband who I wanted share my love with wasn’t that deceitful elderly man who lured me to be alone with him so he could force himself upon me – but all of my emotions were tied up with the new dynamic of fear that had entered our home.

31890942_m

Sex didn’t stop, but it changed. Our marriage didn’t stop, but it changed. When my husband resigned from his job, and we moved to be near family, healing began. But by this time we were both more than a little emotionally damaged. It was a dangerous time to be angry with each other, dissatisfied with each other, to be tempted.

The intense stress that Karl had at his previous job, and the baggage from the past had a deep impacting on our marriage, including, our sex life! We both had to feel safe again. We had to eliminate fear from the bedroom. It took time. It took much effort. We still made so many mistakes, but somehow, miraculously, we came out on the other side more in love with each other than we had been – and expecting our second child.

What this experience has taught us in our own life and as we help other couples is that:

1. We’re not alone. Many people have gone through the same struggle, that when a large negative impact comes, old fears and painful experiences can come to the surface. And it surprises us. We aren’t prepared to deal with it, because we weren’t expecting it. In speaking with one friend in particular, our stories were so similar it was uncanny. This happens to many people. You are not alone and you don’t have to go through it alone.
2. We have to share, even the painful experiences, with our spouse because they impact us and how we relate to others. My husband could have demanded that I get over whatever peevishness I had and said I’m going to touch your breasts whether you like it or not, you’re my wife! But because he knew my past, how deeply it had impacted me, he understood. He didn’t like it, but he understood.
3. It’s okay to ask for help. This was one of our biggest mistakes. We didn’t ask for help as a couple. We tried to do it all on our own – and healing took much longer. After this painful experience is where we began to lose our “you can’t talk about that” attitude. Yes you can talk about it. You need to talk about it. Yes it should be done appropriately. I would suggest speaking with a licensed counselor or therapist instead of the drunk at the corner, or the gossip columnist who can’t wait to spread some juicy news, but yes you can talk about it and get help.
4. Do something together for healing. This is what we got right. We were living in Arizona the year the Arizona Diamondbacks took the baseball world by surprise and won the World Series. At each step along the way, we bonded with “our team.” Their victory was our victory. As they progressed, so did we. It sounds silly, but we needed something to identify with, something that could remind us that we had overcome just as they had. When Luis Gonzales hit that ball that scored the winning run and everyone cheered – our marriage hit a home run. We knew we were going to make it.
5. It sometimes takes more than once. I’d like to say that no more stressful situations ever came into our lives, but that would be a lie. However, the lessons we learned helped us to deal with it much quicker and much better. We know that stressful situations can damage our relationship, so we take more time outs for ourselves when we see it coming. We nurture one another, instead of pulling apart.

Sexual intimacy was created to be a dynamic and beautiful part of marriage. The original plan is that it is to be experienced – unashamed. When painful experiences of the past threaten that intimacy, bringing shame and fear, it’s time to deal with it. Get help. Share with your spouse. Heal together. And experience love again – unashamed!

3 Spiritual Warfare Mistakes in Marriage

One man, one woman, united together forever in the closest human bond possible and able to experience life together with no hesitations, no holding back – complete trust and transparency. That is the goal of an Unashamed Marriage, as depicted in the Edenic Marriage Model – the man and his wife were naked and unashamed.

Regardless of your “religious” persuasion, if any, if one were to do a review of every poet, author, philosopher, statesman, musician, and comic from the beginning of recorded history to present, there is no denying that humans are “spiritual.” We can go about our lives, careers, plans, hopes, dreams and bucket lists, and find ourselves at a dead stop when we begin to ponder things such as the meaning of life and the future of planet Earth. These thoughts seem much bigger than the normal pontifications of our day to day life. We can’t deny our spiritual side, likewise we can’t hide it from the one we are the most intimate with. To do so would crush our growing awareness of where we fit in this world and put up a barrier in the marriage. Barriers take away from total trust and intimacy. Barriers are the thief of an Unashamed Marriage.

So just being able to talk about your ideas of the meaning of life with your spouse is all it takes to satisfy the openness needed in the spirituality aspect of an Unashamed Marriage, right? It’s not that easy, you see Spirituality is a Double-Edged Sword.

From the beginning of history, including such events as the Crusades, the Puritans, the Hugenots, the Reformation, Communism, and the history of Rhode Island – we can see that whenever religion – defined for our purposes as a particular way of interpreting spirituality – is forced, mandated, or regulated by the state, it gets ugly. The last thing you want in an Unashamed Marriage is for spirituality to become about religion getting ugly. Here are 3 spiritual warfare mistakes couples make in marriage that give opportunity for religion to turn ugly.

35818517_l

 

1. My experience trumps your experience. He prays for a sports car, she prays for a cat. When both things come to pass, he assumes the greater religious fervor because he’s aware that a car is much more expensive and therefore valuable than a cat. But look deeper. He wanted proof of his recent promotion and thought the car was the best thing. She’s wanted a cat all of her life, but her parents are both severely allergic to animals and after college she lived in apartments that didn’t allow pets. The cat is a fulfillment of a lifelong desire. The point is that spirituality goes much deeper than the surface and as humans we tend to judge on the superficial. Couples that respect each other’s spiritual experiences without trying to prove that one was better or more important than they other, are the couples that heighten total intimacy instead of taking away from it.

2. Ignoring religious differences. Earlier we defined religion as a particular way of interpreting spirituality. From flavors of Christianity to Buddhism and secularism to Islam and so much more, the world is full of differing religions. What many couples fail to account for as they begin the dating and eventually engagement and marriage phases of their relationship, is the level of influence in framing our perspectives and worldviews that our particular religion has on our lives. Then suddenly we wake up one morning next to our spouse and realize that their secularism is clashing with our Hinduism. Does this mean that couples who failed to negotiate religious differences before marriage are doomed? It doesn’t have to. But neither will we sugar coat it and say that religious differences don’t add any ripples to the pond. Ignoring religious differences means someone is going to explode when they see the cost of Catholic school tuition for their children when their conservative Protestantism had prepared to homeschool. If religious differences weren’t negotiated before marriage, it is going to be an issue of give and take and agreeing to disagree. Respect for each others’ viewpoint will have to exist. There can still be intimacy in marriage in the area of spirituality, but it will take more effort. Those who married a spouse of like religious beliefs have a common ground to start from and greater ease in achieving total intimacy in spirituality.
3. The Spirituality Hammer. This is where the history of forced religion takes on a personal tone. Couples often mess up when they try to “fix” their spouse with their preferred hammer or religion. Every religion has do’s and don’ts. Beating up your spouse about their thoughts, ideals or behaviors in the context of your religion is going to destroy your marriage. Chastising your wife because she hasn’t been in the habit of buying Kosher items for the pantry isn’t going to make her love the Jewish laws of Kosher. Likewise beating up your husband over his “wasting time” on video games by quoting Scriptures about idleness isn’t going to make him want to jump up and clean the garage. A man convinced against is will is of the same opinion still. Whether it be the Laws of Manu, the Torah, The Bible, or any other holy book, it is easy to find some list of things to do and not do and start telling your spouse where they are wrong. Instead there is the Unashamed Marriage method of sharing form a holy book. If it is about needed changes or correction, that is for you. Apply it to yourself. If it is encouraging, uplifting, inspiring and full of peace, hope and joy – that can be shared with your spouse as well as applied to yourself.

Sexual intimacy has often been called a spiritual experience. It is undeniable that something so intense and personal could be purely human in origin. We’re far too selfish for that. No barriers in the area of spirituality is going to open up marital intimacy in ways that may make you shudder with pleasure. Couples desiring an Unashamed Marriage must keep in mind that Spirituality can be a Double Edged Sword. Used correctly, it can cut deep into each and every life experience taking it to levels of richness and fullness we never thought possible. But that same sword used incorrectly can cut apart our connection as a couple, severing closeness and intimacy. Wield the sword of Spirituality carefully. Experience all that an Unashamed Marriage can be, instead of severing the closeness that marriage is intended to have.