Help for couples facing relationship problems, including both the victims and perpetrators of spouse abuse. Share your story and your marital advise.

Extraordinary Reasons for Sexual Problems in Marriage

Every marriage goes through cycles of intimacy.

Sometimes we will feel close to each other and yearn for ever more emotional, physical, and spiritual intimacy.  At other times, we will feel that we are drifting apart.   If the drift apart becomes too severe, we may actually begin resent our spouse’s efforts to renew and restore emotional, physical and spiritual intimacy.

Some of the driving forces which tend to push couples away are what I will call normal circumstances.  These encompass the normal competitors for time and energy — like jobs, parenting, hobbies, et cetera– and the normal vices of human nature — self-absorption, selfishness, envy, boredom and the like.    These are “normal circumstances” because they arise in nearly every marriage and are addressed in nearly every book on marriage advise.

But there are also extraordinary circumstances.  Unfortunately, these extraordinary circumstances are not rare.   I call them extraordinary not because they are rare but because can loom so large in the psyche of one or both partners that they may render a spouse truly unable to even work at being who or she wants to be without professional counseling and an extraordinary effort on both partner’s part.

What marks these issues as extraordinary is that they can embody psychological obstacles which undermine even the most sincere desire to renew one’s relationship.   When this happens, the other spouse needs to call on his or her own strength and patience to endure rather than blame the affected spouse for his or her incapacity, which is almost always curable.

On the other hand, the incapacitated spouse should also strive to make a commitment to address these issues with the help of an appropriately trained professional counselor.photo by KatB Photography cc flickr

A history of sexual abuse is one such extraordinary issue.  It is estimated that one in every four girls and one in every six boys has experienced some level of sexual abuse.  Very often, neither the the victims of childhood sexual abuse, or their spouses, understand the impact that this may have on their marriage relationships.  Whenever a history of sexual abuse is known, or even suspected, it is important to address this as soon as possible in a relationship, preferably even before a marriage.

Other traumatic experiences, such as a history physical or emotional abuse or a history of abortion can also give rise to extraordinary issues in a marriage.   Many addictions and mental illnesses, such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, can also be extraordinary issues.

Sometimes these extraordinary issues are known prior to marriage.  Sometimes they become evident only after the marriage.  In either case, the spouse affected by these mental health issues may be unaware of them, or may believe these issues are “in the past” and unimportant, or have been resolved far more completely than they really are.

In other words, extraordinary issues may be latent or hidden for years during which both partners may agree the marriage was a happy one.

But with an accumulation of stresses in life, or just exhaustion, the affected spouse’s coping mechanisms may falter or even collapse.   At that point, these unresolved extraordinary issues may begin to rear their head . . . and often in a disguised fashion.

When this happens, affection for each other will not be enough.  Indeed, affection may disappear completely.  This is where feelings of love become unreliable and the commitment to love must step forward to carry the couple through.

In this time of stress, past grievances may be resurrected.  New and present hurts may elicit exaggerated responses.  And there may be a new tendency to imagine the worst on one’s spouses actions and motives.

This is why professional counseling, and the support of friends and families is so important in such times of extraordinary martial crises.

For the marriage to survive, both spouses will need to draw upon their wills, their determination, and their commitment to their marriage vows, to work through these crises.

The good news, however, is that when couples do work through these extraordinary issues, together, they almost always deepen their love and emotional intimacy far more than they ever could have without facing these crises.  For in this process, they will have touched with love, patience and kindness, the deepest and most scarred portions of each other hearts.

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