When we carry trauma into our marriages, we are likely to experience difficulty in the marriage bed.
This is the fourth and final of several posts about healing from sexual trauma. You can find the first three posts here, here, and here. This post gives an overview of some ways you can pursue healing.
I do not claim any expertise other than my heart. I am not a Biblical scholar, nor am I a counselor. I am speaking here as I would to a woman in my real life who came to me and said, “I had this awful thing happen to me, and I don’t know how to make things better now. My husband is suffering, and I’m miserable and scared. What can I do?”
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I began this series with these two questions that have been on my heart recently:
- How can a Christian wife who carries trauma triggers in her body, heart, and mind grow toward a healthy sexual relationship with her husband?
- How can she work on this without the added burden of guilt about whether she is depriving her husband on top of all else she carries?
Healing is possible! Despite childhood sexual abuse and rape, women can heal from their trauma and share a joyful marriage bed with their husbands.
As I have read stories of healing from women who once carried the burdens of deep trauma to their sexual selves, several answers to these questions emerge.
- Get good help in healing from your past. Although pastoral counseling may work well for some women (especially if the pastor has some experience in this area), many believe that childhood sexual abuse requires more intensive counseling than most pastors can provide. Many recommend professional counseling. You can use the Find a Counselor feature at the American Association of Christian Counselors) You will also find excellent resources from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Find a local survivor group. A reader recommended this resource on my Facebook page.
- Be encouraged and inspired in the stories of other women. I want to point you to three women in particular: Mary DeMuth, Christine Caine, and Lori Byerly. Cheryl Meakins shared some of her journey and resources on this comment on one of my recent posts. Check out these links, find more resources, explore to learn what helped these women, and be in awe of how God has transformed their pain for His good.
- Enlist your husband’s support—carefully. You don’t have to tackle your trauma alone. Let your husband be on your team. Ask your husband to pray for your healing. Encourage him to look at the many resources available to help spouses of those who have experienced sexual trauma understand a survivor’s pain and the process of healing. It can be difficult for some husbands to hear the details of your abuse or assault because they are powerless to go back to prevent the pain you experienced. Work with your counselor to talk about what to share with your husband and how. Encourage your husband to seek counseling to help him cope with his feelings of anger, helplessness, and even rage toward those who hurt you as he supports you in your journey of healing.
- Learn self-defense. The training of self-defense gives you new body memories that are empowering rather than crippling. Knowing that you can protect yourself can be healing. Additionally, it will give you a physical outlet to help process some of the very difficult feelings that healing can pull out of you.
- Be good to yourself, and give yourself some grace. The process of healing can be difficult at times. As you examine a memory or a feeling, your body, heart, and mind may re-experience some hard things. Tell yourself—out loud—that you are God’s beloved daughter. Tell yourself that you are loved and that you are worthy of love. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of what was stolen from you in your abuse or assault. Cry when you need to, and know that God’s love for you, dear sister, is big enough for your anger and rage.
- Continue to work on sexual intimacy with your husband. While there may be a week here and there that calls for a time to refrain from embracing, so to speak, healing requires building healthy patterns even while working through the unhealthy patterns. Putting off the work on sexual intimacy makes it harder, not easier. Over time, you may find that your husband’s arms become a place of safety and comfort for you. You can find joy in his love for you.
- Seek the miraculous healing of Jesus. Read Acts 3 and remember the beggar who was healed at the gate called Beautiful. Read Mark 5:34 and be reminded, “He said to her, `Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” You are beautiful, you are a daughter of the King, and you can be freed from your suffering and go forward in peace.
Past sexual trauma can lead to difficulty in the marriage bed—but it does not have to stay that way. We can stay trapped in victimhood by letting our triggers keep us trapped into old patterns. Or, we can step out in faith—and sweat and tears—and reach for the great and mysterious gift God has given to us to enjoy in our marriages.
Your sexual relationship with your husband can be so beautiful.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11
Other posts in this series
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