If your spouse was a victim of childhood or teen sexual abuse, she may be unknowingly bringing some of the aftereffects of her abuse into the marriage bed. It can be confusing and frustrating for both of you, blaming yourselves or each other for a lack of connection and intimacy you can’t explain. However, there are ways in which you can support her in feeling safe and loved so that she can open up to deeper and richer experiences of sexual intimacy.
When children are threatened with any kind of inappropriate behavior, whether the threat is real or not, they learn to protect themselves. They may tense up their bodies, find ways to be “invisible,” or act out in rebellious ways. Often, these behaviors become embedded in the psyche and are unconsciously carried into adult life. It takes time, courage, and patience to unwind the protective behaviors, but it is possible to successfully shed them and be free to experience a joyful sex life.
Fears and tears
No matter how much she loves you and wants a beautiful sex life with you, the unconscious need to protect herself may trigger puzzling fears, tears, and boundaries when you approach her for sex. Your natural male exuberance can feel like pressure if she has shut down her own innate responsiveness. The result can be that she either pushes you away or says yes when she really means no.
Downplay the drama
The first way you can support her is to talk about it. Open the lines of communication and understanding, letting her know that you want to support her and are willing to be present with whatever happens. If emotions arise that don’t make any sense, simply be present with her and encourage her to feel whatever she is feeling. More than likely, it’s not about you, so don’t take it personally. There’s often a tendency to want to make the emotion mean something, but it may be completely unrelated to the present circumstances. There’s no need to assign a story or drama. Invite her to just feel rather than stuffing the emotion back down, and that will give it a chance to release and clear.
The second way you can support her is to create times for closeness and sensuality that do not have a goal of sex. Give her time to warm up and let her guard down with touch, kissing, and cuddling with no agenda. Set these times up with the verbal agreement that they are not about sex, but about building intimacy. As you build intimacy together, you are also creating safety and trust, which are solid cornerstones of a happy sexual relationship.
The third way you can support her is to invite her into a gentle healing space that is focused on her. In this situation, she would be in a receptive, partially reclined position. You would sit facing her with her legs draped over yours, either on a massage table, bed, or padded floor. Make sure she is propped up enough to maintain eye contact with you without strain. Let her know that this time is for her to simply receive your love and healing energy. Be present with her and look into her eyes.
Ask permission to place your hands on her body, and if she agrees, place one hand gently over her heart centre (between her breasts) and the other over her lower belly and rest them there in stillness. As she relaxes into receiving, ask if you may place a hand over her pelvic area, and if she says yes, move the hand from her belly and lay it gently over her pelvic mound. The idea is not to stimulate the area, but to bring presence and healing energy.
With one hand on her heart centre and the other on her sexual centre, breathe and invite her to breathe as well. Stay present with whatever happens, even if it feels like nothing is happening. If emotions arise, invite her to feel them fully and let them move. Ask her if she would like your hands to be anywhere else on her body and follow her direction. Stay with it until it feels complete.
Simple and powerful
This very simple, powerful healing can bring up feelings and memories that may have been long buried. While it might seem inconvenient to stir things up from the past, it’s actually quite beneficial in the long run. She may need additional professional support to help her sort through whatever emerges. As it emerges, it can be released and healed, and she will be well on her way to being open and available for a loving, joyful, and connected sexual relationship.