Last month there was a movement of sorts among a certain group of bloggers. Bloggers brave enough to talk about S-E-X, with no filters and live to tell about it. Bloggers like J. Parker (Hot, Holy & Humorous), Julie (Intimacy in Marriage) and Sheila (To Love, Honor and vacuum). Even Paul from the Generous Husband joined in the fun. I loved the honesty and the humor. Their posts challenged me to be a bit more daring in this area of our relationship. It’s a wee bit embarrassing to admit THAT…but it’s true.
After an amazing week together, which involved a few sweet times alone and one emotional breakdown on my part over an abuse trigger, I felt prompted to write this post. When you are sick, and you’ve never felt well, you don’t know how sick you are … until you feel well. I did not know how badly the abuse had affected my ability to function in this area until this year.
They didn’t tell me this about sex and intimacy
It doesn’t hurt. Before you say, “DUH!” realize that I believed it shouldn’t. So I was surprised that it hurt for the first few years we were married. I made several trips to my doctor for a mysterious infection that never went away. It became a viscous cycle. I was supposed to try to relax so I wouldn’t be in pain, but I didn’t want to feel the pain so I wouldn’t relax … which would cause pain. So then I’d go back to the doctor because the infection was back. We fumbled through a couple years of this and then it went away. We now believe I experienced vaginismus, which happens to many sexual abuse victims. I remember my doctor specifically asking me if it was psychological but I refused to tell my own doctor about the abuse. I now tell women that if they are abused and experiencing pain to go see a counselor, after ruling out any infections.
He expresses love through sex. Intellectually, this wasn’t a difficult concept to understand. Numerous books explained the difference between women and men and sexuality. Yet, I still didn’t believe this was actually true for us. The abuse and the church’s teaching had me so twisted that I didn’t see love at all. I only saw my husband wanting something that had brought me shame and pain in the past. No matter what he said or did, I didn’t feel loved, I felt used. It wasn’t his issue, it was mine. One of my biggest regrets in our marriage is that I spent years rejecting him.
Sex is not just for him. I had a few well-meaning older women tell me that this was my duty. I was reminded of the admonition in 1 Corinthians 7:5 to not deny my husband’s right…need…desire for this. I was warned that if I didn’t meet his need, another woman would. Not one single woman shared that it was ok for me to enjoy sex with my husband. I didn’t even know that my female body has a small “part” that is only there for pleasure. They didn’t tell me that I’d desire to be beautiful, attractive and sexy for him…and it didn’t mean I was sinful. I am thankful for the older women who came into my life and released me to embrace my sexuality.
Sex is not intimacy. Intimacy, I was told , was sex. Sex was bad, therefore one should avoid intimacy. Then I had an *aha* moment. I realized the reason I was feeling used was because there was no intimacy in our relationship. I began to pray for intimacy. Intimacy is not sex itself. It’s the depth of a relationship between two people. It’s the yada….the deep knowing of one another’s soul. I’m thrilled that Abba answered this prayer!
Fantasy damages intimacy. I’m not talking just about pornography or erotica, but anything that takes a person out of the reality of the current relationship. To be truly intimate with another, a person must be vulnerable, honest and open, including the good and the bad. I developed a fantasy world where I would retreat whenever I faced emotions I couldn’t handle. It kept me safe when I was a child. As an adult, married woman it made me miserable. I spent most of our marriage feeling disconnected. I’d imagine what it’d be like to be in the type of relationship I wanted & desired. (Where it wasn’t sinful). I resented the husband for not being the person in my dreams, the movies I watched or the books I read. I couldn’t see the good in our relationship and only saw the bad. My reality now is SO FAR better than anything I could have imagined.
Sex is spiritual. I’m sure my mentor would be rolling over thrice in her grave, but this is true. Sex is taboo in our churches and cheapened in our culture. It’s not meant to be forbidden nor meant to be something casual. It is a gift. An expression of a relationship between a man and a woman designed to reflect the creator. I was most surprised, when I rejected the teaching from the church, how much BETTER my spiritual life is. COMPLETE opposite of a teaching that told us we should strive to “overcome” being sexual. There’s a GOOD reason why Song of Solomon is in the Bible.
Sex is NOT what makes the relationship better — the relationship is what makes sex better. The sweet ladies who tried to help me as a girl facing marriage did their best. After all, it’s no secret that males truly need/desire/want a healthy sexual relationship. The logical response is to have a wife who is willing and able to fill this need. The problem is it causes two people who are supposed to “become one flesh” to be at odds with one another. If the relationship is healthy, with both people giving their best to one another, then sex will be born out of the relationship. The relationship IS the most important thing. The relationship is what creates the intimacy. The intimacy creates sex. It’s designed this way and when it works…it’s amazing.
Honesty is best. The few times we attempted marriage counseling when asked “How’s your sexual relationship?” I’d immediately say it was fine. But really, it wasn’t. Sexual and Spiritual abuse had left me wounded. The husband had his own issues. We were two friends with benefits and responsibilities. There was no intimacy. No sharing our lives. No connection. No love … at least not a passionate, romantic love. When I finally came to the end of myself, admitted who I was and was not and was willing to lay my soul bare before Abba and the husband, healing became possible. I’m a lot more honest about things now. (Thus this blog post) The husband is honest too. We don’t let each other get away with hiding from one another. Even though it hurts, we continue to talk through the last twenty years. I tell him if I like or don’t like something. I’m honest about words, situations and songs that will trigger me. I let him see me falling apart, knowing that when I’m weak he is strong. He is learning that I can deal with his weakness, and be strong for him. Being honest has increased intimacy and improved our marriage.
It’s taken me almost a week to write this post. I want to share enough to help, but not too much. I cherish the relationship that we now have … I don’t want to do anything to harm it. Both of us feel compelled to share the story of us if only to give others hope. As Switchfoot sings, LOVE alone is worth the fight.