Posts Tagged ‘sexual abuse’

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. Read the rest of this entry »

When a History of Sexual Abuse Impacts Marital Intimacy

Trust is vital to marital intimacy.

Unfortunately,  sometimes through no major fault of a spouse, trust may be lost — or at least buried–beneath feelings of anxiety, fear, or even an emotional shut down.

Why?  Because past hurts caused by other people can become mentally associated with one’s spouse.  Once these links are made, even subconsciously, these feelings of hurt, despair, shame, hatred, and more need to be dealt with or they will continue to haunt the marriage.

One life experience that can intrude on marital intimacy in this way is a history of sexual abuse, especially a history of sexual abuse as a child.

photo by  Stuart Dallas Photography--cc flickr

While a history of sexual abuse may not always interfere with marital intimacy, it would be a very rare couple with whom it never has any impact on their relationship.

Occasionally, the effects of prior sexual abuse will be evident early in a relationship.   In such cases, an alert couple will educate themselves and be consciously prepared to persistently and patiently work through these issues as they unfold through the early years of their marriage.  Bravo!

In other cases, a couple may be taken by surprise by issues arising out of a history of sexual abuse.  Or worse, they may have no insight at all as to how this past is contributing to the disintegration of their marriage.  This can occur because survivors of sexual abuse are often unaware of its lingering effects and impact on relationships.

Indeed, if an affected spouse believes the past abuse is not something that needs to be addressed (much less has successfully suppressed memories of the abuse), it is quite likely that their spouse, too, will treat it as a non-issue presuming he or she has even been told about the past abuse.

As a general rule of thumb, however, sooner or later it will always become an issue.   As trust, love, interdependence grow and wane, and as unexpected events in life create emotion sapping tension and hurts, unresolved feelings will be triggered, misdirected, and misinterpreted.

In many cases, a couple may enjoy period of normal and pleasurable marriage for several years.    During this time, the affected spouse may actually be coping well, and healing on many levels.   Alternatively, the affected spouse may mostly be suppressing the all the little hurts and resentments which are due to normal marriage experiences rubbing up against unhealed trauma wounds related to trust, self-esteem, control, sexual boundaries, and more.  In such cases, the affected spouse may be working hard to convince themselves and their spouses that they are happy when in fact they are getting by, coping, doing their best to their “duty,” while inside true marital intimacy is not growing but is instead eroding.

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Sex, Success, and Security

Best selling author Dr. Warren Farrell’s Women Can’t Hear What Men Don’t Say  is filled with lot’s of valuable insights for both men and women.   It’s given me much to ponder.

One line of thought that I would like to share with you stems from his thesis that men seek women for sex while women seek men for success.  Put even more bluntly,  men seek “sex objects” and women seek “success objects.”

Farrell’s would agree that this maxim describes just a “tendency” that does not sufficiently reflect all of the more complex and noble aspects of human relationships.

Clearly, men want more than sex and women want more than financial freedom.   On the other hand, it is sometimes useful to boil down even the most complex systems to the most base generalities.

Acknowledging that caveat–and with your promise of tolerating the following over generalizations–let’s follow the lead of a few of these stereotypes to see what insights they might give us.

First, it it noteworthy that Farrell’s formula can apply to both people who are avoiding marriage and people seeking marriage.Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say: Destroying Myths, Creating Love

For example, men avoiding marriage are attracted to beautiful women who offer sex without commitment. Women avoiding marriage are attracted to wealthy men who offer gifts, meals, housing, travel, and excitement without commitment.

For those seeking marriage, men marry seeking sexual security and women marry seeking financial security.

 

Marriage as A Promise of Security

Again, if we temporarily ignore all the many beautiful and important nuances to look at the differences in focus on sex and success, this is difference between what a bride and groom hear when they make their marriage vows:

  • a groom hears his bride promising to do her best to always be available to him for sexual intimacy, and
  • a bride hears the groom promising to do his best to always provide the necessities of life which will allow her to form their household, raise their children, and pursue all of her dreams for a happy productive life.

Read the rest of this entry »

Marital Expectations — Ingredients for Marital Intimacy

 

Be wary of stereotypes.   They often hold elements of truth, but not the whole truth.

Stereotypes about men and women, for example, may be helpful starting points in discussions because there are true differences in men and women.  On the other hand, since there is so much variation between individuals, both men and women, stereotypes often don’t apply to particular individuals or couples.

Acknowledging that caveat (and with your promise of tolerating the following over generalizations), let’s see what we might learn by contemplating a couple of stereotypes.

(1) Men want sex more often than women.

(2) Women want conversations more often then men, especially about topics (and in feeling terms) which women experience as especially meaningful.

So, man meets woman.  They fall in love.  They promise to marry with the expectation that their spouse will dispel the loneliness  in their lives by giving them the security of (a) a sex partner forever and (b) someone to converse with forever.

Put another way, they are looking for sexual security and emotional security which are distinct but very intertwined.

Typically, for men satisfaction of sexual desire produces feelings of emotional closeness.  For women, emotional closeness produces feeling of sexual desire.

This is why women want to be romanced before sex and also why men have a tendency to want to move quickly toward sex . . . not just for the sex act itself but for the afterglow of emotional closeness which sex is the shortcut to.

So part of the “mismatch” between men and women is that while they both want true intimacy, which is both emotional and physical, they have a natural tendency to want the first steps to be down their own preferred path . . . emotional for women and physical for men.

This difference can lead to unintended hurts.   A wife can feel emotionally hurt and used when the husband neglects to emotionally warm her up before sex.   Conversely, if the wife refuses a “quicky” because her husband has failed to romance her, or she just doesn’t have the time, he is going to experience rejection.   Not just a rejection of sex, but rejection of emotional intimacy with him.   He, after all, is seeking not just sexual release but profound emotional intimacy. . .or at least a short cut to it,  especially in the afterglow of sex.

So remember this fundamental principle:  both husbands and wives want intimacy.  Deep, profound intimacy.  But they often see different paths to greater intimacy.  

While they both want sex and conversation in the mix, it is likely that they each want sex and conversation in different proportions.   Add on top of this the fact that either spouse, feeling that one’s desire for intimacy (verbal or physical) is being rejected feels like a rejection of one’s very self.

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