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Sex in Marriage Sexual problems are common in many relationships. This section is for discussions about sexuality. Please limit discussions to those asking for help with a problem and those offering advice. Any other threads may be deleted.

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Old 11-16-2011, 12:34 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default needing encouragement and suggestions

My wife of 10 years that I love dearly informed me about a month ago that she was sexually abused as a child. We have been having issues for about 4 months before she finally told me what was behind it. We have both been going to see a mc weekly, she has requested that she go alone for now to work through her issues with the abuse. I agree and understand this.
I am wanting to support her in any way possible, but she has become so cold and distant from me I am unsure what to do? She doesn't want any touching, kissing, hugging anything. I am one that generally needs those things from my wife. She doesn't call me during the day while I am at work (she is stay at home mom) and when I come home I am lucky to get a hello.
I love her so much, but not sure how much of this I can stand. Do I need to "man up" more and not be so needy? Do I treat her like she is treating me? Her acting this way has been going on for about 5 months so its been really hard. I haven't seen any progress with the mc sessions she has been attending, if anything it seems to be getting worse. I have been trying to help her around the house even more so she has more time to go out with friends and or do whatever she pleases..giving her the time she has requested. I'm beginning to feel like a single father with a roommate. Thanks for any suggestions
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Old 11-16-2011, 12:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: needing encouragement and suggestions

How do you normally approach sex in the relationship? Even before this, was it the same? So you usually pursue through progressive intimacy, or is it asking? There could be some triggers within your approach, so its important to focus on the right dynamics.

Obviously no two people respond to sexual abuse differently, but I'll offer what helped when dealing with my wife's sexual abuse (we were both abused sexually as children).

The trigger for my wife was when she felt like I wanted sex from her, instead of wanting to connect, or give her pleasure. This even translates outside the bedroom. If she feels safe that you touch, massage, or hold her because you want to make her feel loved, she might open up over time. For a time, have you considered telling her that sex is off the table, so you can help her to feel safe with closeness? Maybe let her own the timetable for taking steps to get closer, but your expecation is that the two of you should hold each other and share non-sexual intimacy at a minimum.

For some people, the key trigger is feeling like she is being used. That subtle dynamic is hard to change, but if she knows that you want closeness primarily to help her through this, it might help.
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Old 11-16-2011, 12:56 PM   #3 (permalink)
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How do you normally approach sex in the relationship? Even before this, was it the same? So you usually pursue through progressive intimacy, or is it asking? There could be some triggers within your approach, so its important to focus on the right dynamics.

Obviously no two people respond to sexual abuse differently, but I'll offer what helped when dealing with my wife's sexual abuse (we were both abused sexually as children).

The trigger for my wife was when she felt like I wanted sex from her, instead of wanting to connect, or give her pleasure. This even translates outside the bedroom. If she feels safe that you touch, massage, or hold her because you want to make her feel loved, she might open up over time. For a time, have you considered telling her that sex is off the table, so you can help her to feel safe with closeness? Maybe let her own the timetable for taking steps to get closer, but your expecation is that the two of you should hold each other and share non-sexual intimacy at a minimum.

For some people, the key trigger is feeling like she is being used. That subtle dynamic is hard to change, but if she knows that you want closeness primarily to help her through this, it might help.
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Old 11-16-2011, 01:10 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: needing encouragement and suggestions

Previously it was through intimacy and asking, sometimes she would be the one starting it. I have always wanted sex to be pleasurable for both of us but especially her. She does say that she feels used and that I only want her for sex at times, which isn't true at all. I do try to cuddle with her in non sexual ways but she doesn't seem to care one way or the other. When we talk, she generally will not look me in the eyes and just closes up. It will be difficult, but I think I just need to leave her be and see if she comes around at all.
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Old 11-16-2011, 01:22 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: needing encouragement and suggestions

Have you considered going the the therapist alone as well so they can help you assist her as she heals from this?
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Old 11-16-2011, 01:24 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Have you considered going the the therapist alone as well so they can help you assist her as she heals from this?
Yes, I actually left him a voicemail earlier today asking for an appointment.
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Old 11-17-2011, 01:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: needing encouragement and suggestions

4, I have gone back and read your posts and want to respond here publicly for the benefit of others who may be in a similar situation.

How will this play out? Do things get better? How long will it take? Those are all excellent questions but without a clear universal answer.

In your case you have found out during a period when your wife is obviously suffering from flashbacks, nightmares, or general PTSD anxieties. I did not find out at such a time, but I do remember how difficult it was. My wife would have unexplained rages. She would be hyper-critical of me. She withheld all physical and emotional intimacy for years.

So it is good that your wife has let you know now because you have an explanation to much of what is going on. The bad part is that she is going to have to deal with her issues and it is going to be difficult for both of you.

She absolutely needs to be in individual counseling with a qualified person with a lot of experience in this area. You may need to see this counselor once in a while for her benefit and for your benefit. You two may also need marriage counseling, possibly with a different therapist but who is aware of your wife's individual counseling and sex abuse history.

As she explores her memories and confronts things, she may have some bad days or even bad weeks. You can expect her to lash out at you sometimes and for her to say hurtful things. Try to decipher if these are related to her abuse/recovery or if they are from another place. For example she may recoil from sex and call you a sex fiend. That is probably due to her abuse, and so you should not take it personally as an insult or a serious permanent opinion of you. But if she complains that you don't communicate well or you don't do enough housework, those kinds of things you should evaluate as perhaps needing some attention from you.

My wife also had (has?) a distorted view of sex as being illicit and simply a way for men to get their bodily function serviced via using a female body. She is really working hard at rebuilding our sex life, and I am amazed with her efforts. I had to have several discussions with her about my beliefs on sex and emotional intimacy. I told her directly that I could get my bodily function serviced myself or by hiring a hooker, but since I want a deep emotional experience I want to be sexual with her.

I also explained that for me there is a huge emotional rush with simple non-sexual touch. Holding hands is like an IV drip straight to my heart. I told her that whenever I touch her it is me saying "I Love You". She always took it as "I want sex from you now".

I never made the connection that she saw touch as a manipulation for sex, and she never made the connection that for me touch is love, separate from sex.

Things will get better as long as she feels safe telling you what is going on. Even if she tells you she hates sex right now, she needs to feel safe telling you that.

You may feel quite betrayed by her. I know I do by my wife's secrecy. But your wife will not be able to understand it. The flip side is that your wife probably doesn't trust you much right now either. It is a twisted psychology, but the abused woman will generalize her distrust to all men. Her intro to sex was as a young child, so she has no 'normal' perspective on it. So be aware that she is likely to fear your response to her revelations and actions. Be very supportive and encouraging, using positive discussions such as expressing your desire for her to be happy and for you to have a happy and fulfilling marriage. Don't tell her she has to get over it or you are going to leave! Your desired outcome is the same, and you have the right to leave if she can't fulfill your needs for a loving marital relationship. Just don't say it the same way you might have approached other issues before knowing of her abuse history.

You are likely going through a major emotional roller coaster ride. I have known of my wife's abuse for about 4 months. I am still on the ride but it has calmed down somewhat the last month.

From what I have read, and from talking in person to other men who are in similar situations, you cannot expect your wife to ever fully be over her trauma. There will always be the random trigger for her (or you!). But over time things should become nearly normal for her. She should be able to engage in a nearly normal sex life, with the exception that there may be some things she cannot deal with. For example she may not be able to have sex in a particular position because that is the position she was raped in. Emotionally she should be able to learn to trust you and to have a loving relationship.

I would say you are looking at 1 to 5 years recovery for her, based on general stuff I've read about typical abuse survivors.

Probably the biggest help to me has been talking to someone in person who has been through pretty much the same thing as I have. This forum and aftersilence.org have also been a big relief valve to me. Knowing I am not alone, and knowing I am not wrong or unusual in my reactions has been hugely important in being able to keep perspective and hope.

Last edited by Thor; 11-17-2011 at 01:13 PM.
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