God intended married sex to be life-giving – mutual, satisfying, exciting, comforting, bonding, nourishing, joyful. Evil has so hijacked sex, even married sex, that it’s too often become life-destroying – exploitative, demeaning, or even violent. If sex in your marriage has been life-destroying, rebuilding your marriage will be a challenging process.
At marriage conferences or in pastoral counseling people often hear, “Go have sex with your spouse.” That’s sound Biblical advice when both of your hearts are right. But for those who hear that as a license to demand sex as a right, or feel therefore obligated to subject themselves to further trauma, that advice only adds to the shame, guilt, and alienation from each other and from God.
If you have been traumatized by married sex, the road back is not easy. Reading one article such as this is not enough. But I want to offer a picture of what the process of rebuilding your marriage can be like. Here are a few things that will need to happen along that journey.
For the Wife
When I talk with a wife whose body and soul has been traumatized by years of demeaning life-destroying sex, I want her to hear, You can say NO to the hurtful or toxic sexual relationship of the past. The religious (or cultural) messages that say you must subject yourself to harm are distorted lies.
God made you a queen. You are a daughter of the King! Ask yourself if the way you have experienced sex has been bringing life to your royal heart and soul.
Saying NO to being objectified is a first step. Saying No does not give you license to treat your husband, or anyone, with disrespect or contempt. Remember, Proverbs twice describes how impossible and damaging a contentious quarrelsome wife can be. (Proverbs 21:19, 27:15) Learning to carry yourself as a daughter of the King may be quite a journey in itself.
Once you draw a line in the sand and say No, the next question is, What is God calling you to say Yes to? That might be rebuilding a new relationship, including an entirely new sex life, with your husband, one that is truly life-giving. You can learn to take a mental step toward him, and together discover what mutual giving of yourselves to each other can become. That requires both you and your husband commit to the long hard journey, for as long as it takes. It means developing honesty and safety first, and then working on trust.
In order to say Yes to a new marriage with your husband, you will need to become a new person. You’re a daughter of the King! How would God want you to display that in your own personality and life?
For the Husband
If as a husband you recognize that the way you’ve conducted yourself sexually with your wife has traumatized her, I honor you for even reading this. You probably didn’t get here by deciding to harm your wife. What you learned about sex “way back when” may have set you up for distorted expectations. You may have been sexually harmed yourself. You may have no mature idea about how to address your own sexual desires.
First, deal with your own soul. Refuse to accept any excuses. As the 12-step programs say, make a searching and fearless moral inventory of your life before God. This is not to condemn! This is to be honest about your own story, your own beliefs about God, sex, women, and marriage, and the true needs and desires you have.
God created you with the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy. That does not give you license to use your wife for your own pleasure. You are not entitled to sex! Your wife’s behavior does not excuse any of your own. But your heart needs tending. Learn what it means to daily submit your sexuality to Jesus.
And second, if you want to have a chance at rebuilding the relationship with your wife, be humble. Listen to her and believe her, without becoming defensive. Study what it means to be a safe place for her. Your wife may not even be able to talk about this for now; you may need to give her time and space for some healing work of her own. It takes as long as it takes.
In short, learn to seek your wife’s heart, not her body. And believe me, she will know the difference!
Coming Together Again
It may take weeks. More likely it will take at least many months, perhaps years. That’s why one article like this can be dangerous; it can seem like reading this can quickly make things OK. But God’s restoring grace can do its work if both of you give Him that chance.
If you’re at the beginning of this journey, here are a few forward steps:
- Husband or wife, oppressed or oppressor, start with dealing with your own heart. Seek to understand how God sees you. Deeply invest in healing for your own trauma. Work on becoming the person God created you to be.
- Learn about sex. Not what the world teaches, which is terribly distorted and destructive. Study the gift as God intended it to be – an earthly object lesson of the intimate covenant love God has within Himself and offers to His people.
- Learn mutual vulnerability and communication. If both of you are on this journey, you will need to develop new patterns of sharing your hearts with each other, and learning to address conflict in a truly mutual way.
- Learn what it means to cherish. You cannot cherish someone who you hold contempt for, or who you selfishly exploit and use. Study what it means to see each other as God sees them, and to love each other well as He loved them.
Only then can you explore sex together. I contend that when sex in marriage has been deeply traumatic, you will both need to be well along the journey of understanding the previous points before engaging in sex again can be life-giving. Remember, you are building a whole new relationship together.
And you can experience the miracle-working power of God as you do so.
Your Turn: Where are you in the process of rebuilding your marriage after traumatic sex? Will you accept God’s grace for where you are right now? Leave a comment below.
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Is Your Sexual “Stuff” Affecting Your Marriage?
Your relationship with your spouse is affected by your attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and history when it comes to sex. That’s why we’ve created the Sexpectations online course – to help you deal with your sexual story, find the transformation Jesus offers, and write the next chapter with hope. You can do this regardless of what your spouse does or doesn’t do.
Join me in the Sexpectations online course, and take the next step in finding the wholeness Jesus offers.