Church

February 26 2013
445

 

____________________________

Note from Mary:

Thanks for reading “the sexy wife I can’t be.” Honestly, I’m amazed by how much my words have stirred so many of you. I’m humbled and grateful and beyond thankful. (I’m also prayerful. I’ve breathed so many prayers for so many of you in the aftermath of your brave stories).

Because the response has been so big, I’ve barely been able to keep up with the comments here at Deeper Church. I’ve written a follow up post, An Open Letter to the Boys (Now Men) who Molested Me. Feel free to connect and comment over there.

_____________________________

 

I sat in the audience, taking notes, my heart sinking deeper into itself. Failure hollered so loudly I wondered if others could hear it. Women laughed, turned redfaced, then laughed some more. I sat quiet, alone with my condemnation.

The woman at the front of the conference talked about sex, about being a hottie for your honey. She spoke of livening up the marriage bed, that God made sex to be amazing, fulfilling. That it was our duty to make it a joy, to lavish our husbands with our sexuality. Maybe he could eat strawberries from our bellies, or we could sneak little hot notes to him.

I looked around the room, wondering if I was the only one who felt unable to do any of these acts. I felt like a skinny girl sitting in on a sumo wrestling seminar, wholly incapable of carrying out the tips and tricks offered.

I remembered the statistics, that most likely a large swath of these laughing women had been sexually assaulted at one point in their lives. That as I listened to the speaker share her story, fifteen people had experienced unwanted sexual touch (one every two minutes).

And then I got mad. It was one of the first times I’d ever considered interrupting a speaker. But of course, there were hundreds of women, and they were laughing, listening, making sexy lists, and engaging.

If I’d had the gumption, this is what I would’ve said: “Could you please address those of us who find this impossible? Please don’t place yet another yoke upon us. We’re just trying to work through the past, barely able to understand sex as ‘beautiful.’ To many of us, it’s dirty, and it serves as a constant reminder that we were violated against our will.”

Have you ever felt this way? Am I the lone voice calling out to adventurous spouses who don’t at all struggle with this? When my husband and I wrote an article for Marriage Partnership about the marriage bed and past sexual abuse, the response was overwhelming, so I’m guessing I’m not writing to an empty internet here.

When I speak one on one with people who have been sexually abused, a great majority of them have a difficult time with sex. They either border on addiction or have sworn off sex entirely (even in marriage). Some divorce because they simply cannot have sex with their spouse. It’s a real problem, but so few talk about it.

My own story and journey of healing is chronicled in my memoir Thin Places copyThin Places. I was molested at five years old during my kindergarten career by neighborhood bullies, who eventually brought their friends in on the violation. I told my babysitter. She said she’d tell my mom (but never did), and the boys continued to violate me, which led me to believe that not one adult on earth would protect me. I grew a fierce determination to protect myself, so I feigned sleep to get out of the attacks. Providentially, we moved at the end of that year, far enough away from those boys that I didn’t have to endure their violaton any more.

But boy did they stay with me. They haunted my dreams. They obscured my view of sex. They made me think that my sole purpose in this life was to be used and violated.

I don’t know how I was able to walk the aisle of marriage a virgin–it’s truly God’s grace. Technically, of course, I wasn’t. All those violations from the past ensured that. But when it became my choice, I found the strength to say no.

Truth be told, I walked a strange line between yearning and utter terror. As a fatherless girl, I wanted nothing more than to have a boyfriend fill up all the empty spaces of me, but when my love interest became interested, I ran one thousand miles away, completely terrified. I worried they’d try to make me do things I didn’t ever want to do.

When I got engaged, I worried a lot about sex. My wedding night was not something I anticipated with joy or expectation. The terror refrained inside me. I felt five again.

I shared those fears with my husband, and we made it through. And I’m frankly quite surprised (it is the gift of God) that I can enjoy sex.

But it’s taken many years over the past twenty two to get to a healthy place. I still disconnect. I can’t seem to engage my emotions or my whole self. If I enjoy sex, I still have the feeling that I’m legitimizing the abuse. I’ve come to a place of acceptance, too, that I may never be the sexy wife who is “all that” for her husband. My growth has been tremendous, but I still have scars.

We’ve learned to talk about it, not an easy thing to do. My husband knows I’m trying, that I’m not giving up. I’ve been able to communicate my triggers to him, which has helped a lot.

And through it all, I honestly have to cry out to Jesus to give me a healthy view of sex. It absolutely does not come naturally to me. My fallback is revulsion.

All this stinks. It’s not fair what those boys stole the most precious part of me. It’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to my husband. They violated, and I’m left to navigate the minefield of memories and feelings.

I walk with a giant limp in the sexy wife arena. I still feel outright rage when I read that for the sake of my husband, I’m supposed to be adventurous and wild, that to be this way represents true spousal godliness. Because honestly? Those words just make me feel less than. Those are a set of guidelines I’ll probably never meet.

I haven’t given up. I press on to be whole. But I also know my limitations. And I know that many of you are reading this and saying, yes, yes. Mind if I offer you grace?

It’s okay to struggle in this area. It’s normal. I give you permission to say it’s frightening and bewildering. I pray you’ll find the words to communicate with your spouse how you feel, how this is hard for you. I hope for an understanding spouse who loves you utterly for who you are, not how you perform. I want to tell you that it does get better, but that you won’t improve by simply trying to on sexy clothes or offering your body as a fruit plate. True sexual liberation comes from the inside out, where Jesus walks into those terrible memories and mourns alongside you. I don’t have the answers. I still can’t reconcile my own sexual exploitation with a loving God, other than to say He has used those awful events to make me more empathetic to those who have walked similar paths. And the thrill that comes when I’m able to offer words of encouragement and truth salves the wound a bit. Whether you’re a man or a woman, hear this: You are beautiful. You are worthy of being cherished. You are worth healing. Stay on the course. Holler your anger if you have to. But keep asking Jesus for healing. And keep offering grace to fellow strugglers.

I’m considering writing a book on this topic. Let me know what you think about that. But mostly I want to hear from you. What’s your story? How have you healed from the past? What are your struggles?

 

 

 

445 comments

  1. You KNOW you are not alone. It seems it is easier to talk about being married to an alcoholic than to talk about sexual addiction or intimacy anorexia. You were brave to sit through that discussion. I would have walked out.

    I’ve learned-through Whole Heart Counseling- that most likely a third of every congregation is dealing with this issue somewhere on the spectrum. I am writing a book called Marriage Prep for Prodigals, and it will have a chapter on this subject/our subject. If you write the book you mention, I will quote you.
    May the Lord bless you and keep you and give you peace-give us all peace.

    Reply
    • It’s good to know I’m not alone. Yes, I agree. There are many of us, but few bring this sensitive subject to the light. I’m so glad you’re writing your book!

      Reply
      • Angela

        This is a topic that constantly runs through my head. Having lost my virginity at 16, now 22, not married, but theres a fear that I will find it really difficult to be with y husband on our wedding night, and even after that. So all that to say, If you wrote a book, I would definitely read it. Thanks for the post.

        Reply
        • So glad it helped, Angela.

          Reply
  2. Oh Mary…those boys can’t take the most precious part of you…your heart, turned to Jesus. No one can. So blessed that He has given you the strength to use for good what others intended for evil. The marriage bed is a terrifying place for so many people. I’ve been there with no answers but “try harder,” and heaps more guilt for having been a victim. I think a book on the topic would be well received, a light of hope for so many who can only see shame and fear and expectation adding to the struggle. Thanks for sharing the dark places that we all can find God’s light within it for ourselves.

    Reply
    • Cara, you’re a blessing and an encourager. I must admit, having this post out there is frightening (and that is odd for me, the girl who isn’t afraid of sharing her heart). So knowing that you’re cheering helps.

      Reply
    • Cara,
      I thought the same thing. Why have we been told that our sexuality (or worse our virginity) is the most precious part of us? Where does the Bible say that? Isn’t our being made in the image of God the most precious thing about us?

      Reply
      • love this thought.

        Reply
      • Laura and Cara,

        Thank you for that. So spot on. I remember being a teenager in youth group feeling like less because it was too late for me to be pure again, and I hadn’t lost myself by choice. It’s a trap.

        Reply
      • Hannah

        I don’t think she necessarily meant that her virginity or sexuality is the most precious part of her… but the purity and innocence of being a child. There is nothing more repulsive than to rob a child of those two things. I was raised in a family where sexual abuse was happening. My brother molested my two very young sisters (they were 3 and 5). There were multiple sexually related things that happened to me and my siblings… you grow up thinking you are dirty, sinful and worthless.

        I’m still working through forgiveness to myself and others for those things that happened… its definitely not easy. Love to you, lady.

        Reply
      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I thought the same thing. Why have we been told that our sexuality (or worse our virginity) is the most precious part of us?

        Because Sex-uber-Alles and Virginity-uber-Alles are just the flip sides of each other. One group (eroticized mainstream) chooses & firewalls one side, the other group (Chrsitianese purity culture) has to choose & firewall the other.

        Like Red State & Blue State, or the half-black and half-white aliens in that third season Original Star Trek episode.

        Reply
      • Claire

        Thank You for saying this out loud! Virginity, possibly the biggest cross, as young women, we are given to bear. So precious and tough.

        Reply
  3. This is a brave, vulnerable post, Mary. By baring your soul, your past, your continuing struggles, your desire to grow and your faith, you will help a lot of people. Bless you for writing on such a sensitive topic with bravery.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Sheridan. I so appreciate it.

      Reply
  4. Thank you. This post means a tremendous amount.

    Reply
    • I pray it blesses many and opens up communication about an often neglected subject.

      Reply
  5. Rose

    Thank you so much for your posting. So many things I wish I could say but my words just don’t seem to come.

    Reply
    • It’s very hard to bring words to this subject. So I get it. I pray my words help bring words to frame it.

      Reply
  6. I am sure you were not the only one in that seminar who felt the way you do. Statistically, it would be impossible. Given what I have experienced myself and observed among my own friends and acquaintances, I am convinced that you were not alone.
    May God bless your book project with courage and fortitude. It won’t be an easy book to write, but it is a book many women need.

    Reply
    • Thanks Katherine. I appreciate your encouragement.

      Reply
  7. Thank you so much! I have felt the same things and sat in those kind of discussions feeling angry and condemned but God showed me there is no condemnation in Him. His yoke is easy and burden is light. It has been hard to get there. I love my husband because he understands completely and he was my violator. God has brought us a great way of forgiveness and redemption and trust but sometimes instill struggle and he and I both wish we could take that selfish moment(s) back. God has worked a miracle that it can be enjoyed now but I too struggle with being that “sexy” wife. We were different people 20 years ago but it still comes up at times. I appreciate your sharing. It helps. I am sure a book would be helpful for others. The stats tell us truthfully how many this affects. Blessings lady!
    Much love,
    Angela

    Reply
    • Angela, there’s a book in your story. But it would be hard to write! I’m so grateful there’s been grace and healing.

      Reply
  8. Beautiful, painful post, Mary. Thank you for being vulnerable.

    Reply
    • Thanks Nicole. It helps to have friends like you, encouraging me.

      Reply
  9. Mary, you are definitely not alone in this, and bless you for sharing your heart with us. I have mostly overcome my past with the help of my Savior, but at times I also feel “disconnected” still. Thank God for a hubby who loves me for ME…

    Reply
    • Amen, Anna. Healing takes so much time. I wish I could just snap my fingers and be done with it. But the struggle makes me turn to Jesus.

      Reply
      • Amen, Mary, and isn’t that actually the most important part? turning to Jesus, I mean.

        Reply
  10. My story is similar and different. It is my own. It comes from years of different forms of abuse. It comes with a different reaction than you had but yes I agree my church, my “people” don’t get it so I get angry and hide it with laughter and lib jokes. My husband knows, he is amazing. I would share my story, but honestly it will hurt others and though years of therapy have helped I can not tell them because their anger is already too large and I can not handle it getting bigger. My story is mine and I would share it but people don’t honestly what my real story or they pity or they tell me that I need to get over my past. Thank you for sharing yours.

    Reply
    • Kristin, sharing what you have here is a gift. Thank you.

      Reply
  11. Thanks Mary for this post – a survivor of child sexual abuse myself – I know what this post is for you. Love and prayers your way sister. He does heal – I’m still a work in progress – but with Him we can get there!

    Reply
    • Thank you for the grace and prayers and encouragement, Jerrod. I’m sorry you walked through it too.

      Reply
  12. Mary, I relate. And I think a book on this topic would be wonderful and much needed. Another related topic I think is not touched upon in Christian circles is spiritual abuse leading to spousal rape. Where the husband says it’s your duty and you have to, and then takes what he wants and of course the Christian wife doesn’t fight him and is left feeling abused and confused. These women are hurting and don’t know who will even listen or care, since they’re supposed to be the sexy wife you described, after all. But when husbands are controlling and otherwise abusive, it’s hard to want to give to them sexually.

    A wonderful book I’ve found that has a good and healthy view of sex, not this Christianized secular version you encountered at the conference, is Sacred Sex: A Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage by Tim Alan Gardner.

    The way that you felt at the sexy wife conference is how I feel when people teach on submission. Why don’t they mention where the boudaries are? Why don’t they explain that this won’t work with a controlling, abusive, or manipulative man? I get outraged.

    Reply
    • Dina, thanks for sharing that. I can’t imagine how confusing that would be to have a spouse abuse in that way. So scary and painful and bewildering.

      Reply
    • Cheryl

      Thank you Dina for bringing up this topic. I had a Christian marriage counselor tell me one time that my husband had a God-given right to my body and that it was my duty to submit to his needs. I’ve never felt such despair. After 18 years, I left him because I couldn’t continue living that way. I was tired of the pain and the humiliation. Someone needs to tell this story too, to write this book.

      Reply
      • There needs to be an article written about this counselor’s advice.

        Reply
  13. Dear Mary,

    I’m sitting here with tears. Until you, frankly, I have never known of another woman who struggles in this way because of their abuse. I know they are out there, but I haven’t found them. I have struggled for years with the pressure and expectations of marriage intimacy. So much of this post rings true for me and I thank you for your words of encouragement at the end. It’s nice to be reminded that it’s okay to struggle in this area because for too long I have felt that it’s not. My husband tries to be sympathetic, but I’m not sure he knows how to support me. And I want to fulfill his needs, too. I’ll never be a fruit plate, but things have improved with my own personal healing. But I’m not healed and maybe this will always be a hard thing for me? And I should reconcile that? I’ve said before, I would implore you to write a book about this and along the lines of the article you wrote with your husband (which I’ve read), include his side of the story. How does he love you through this without being bitter?

    With much thanks, Christy

    Reply
    • Christy, you are not alone. One thing I’ve learned not to do is throw my hands in the air and give up. For the sake of my husband who I love dearly, I keep pressing toward healing. And, yes, if I wrote the book, I would definitely include him because spouses suffer too.

      Reply
  14. Kimberly

    I struggle so much in this area Mary. I had 5 abusers from age 2 to 15 and I got married at 17. Because of sex I was divorced by 21. But remarried same guy again at 24. The problem was me and I just learned to cope with it. When it comes to sex=love I have a block. Because my abusers would tell me everyday they did it because they loved me. I have been married now for 24 years and I continue to cope. I would love to understand what God intended it to be (BEAUTIFUL). I have a wonderful husband who has put up with me for years and truly loves me. I would love to share more with you. Too much to put it here. Plus, I would for you to write that book on this topic it would help lots of women!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is exactly what I have been looking for for 24 years!!!!!

    Reply
    • Kimberly, thank you for sharing your story. I’m so sorry you walked through that. And I can see why love=Sex is wonky in your head. It messes with you when abusers use those terms. I’m grateful your husband has been a blessing to you.

      Reply
  15. Mary, thank you for your bravery to write so honestly about this. While my past does not consist of that kind of abuse, it does consist of wrong teaching, which lead to bad choices on my part (and some abuse because of them) that inevitably led to my own struggles in my marriage with all of this…as I read your prayer I find that it hit a deep, emotional chord…I think your book would meet a lot of women in their pain…There is not much written from a Christian women’s perspective about struggling with sex within marriage and how complex and complicated that can be emotionally…I think it is a needed story/book!

    Reply
    • That’s good to know that the book is needed. I’d like to write it for men and women because I think there are men who have been abused who struggle, and there are women who struggle to understand their feelings too.

      Reply
    • Norm Deplume

      I too struggle, even though I was not abused in that way either. I made many poor choices in my youth, for many reasons, and they haunt me. It’s difficult to feel like the only woman in the world who isn’t deliriously happy in the bedroom.

      Reply
      • Erica

        Oh my goodness, I am so relieved to hear that I am not the only christian woman on earth who greatly struggles in this area. I have seriously never heard or read another person say anything about this. I have felt a heavy weight on me for so many years trying to follow all the “christian” teachings out there. I can completely relate to you Norm. And thank you Mary for writing this

        Reply
        • I’m so glad to be a voice crying out in the wilderness, though I don’t wear camel’s hair…or eat bugs.

          Reply
  16. Colleen

    Posts like this speak to the deepest, most injured little girl in me, Mary. I wonder, sometimes, if others have been told, as I have, to “get over it, that happened so long ago and look how much you’ve accomplished.” I wonder if those others understand that there is no getting over it, though there is slogging through it. It does help to know vulnerability is okay, and we can still manage to live a joyous life despite this thorn in our flesh. I am so emotional right now that I don’t even know how to say anything but “thank you.” Thank you for being our advocate through your writing. Hugs.

    Reply
    • I’ve definitely felt that way. It’s such a long, long healing, never instant. I’m glad I could offer words to your struggle. And I’m so sorry you’re that injured girl. I wrote a chapter in my book Everything that might be helpful. It’s called “Be an Am” about living in light of today.

      Reply
      • Mary, I just had to comment here because of that second sentence, “a long, long healing, never instant.” A Long Healing…I would definitely say that for me, those three words describe perfectly my walk from brokenness toward healing in the area of prior sexual abuse, and making sense of it all in the midst of marriage.

        I am grateful for your courageous openness here, Mary. I would read this book…

        Reply
  17. I am right there with you. I do get so tired of this being ignored especially when we both know the statistics of victims is so very high. That means such a large portion of the audience and society is struggling with this. I have heard speakers and writers says to just get over it. It’s our duty so just do it etc. Well gee, if it were that easy, wouldn’t we just do that? The author who said too bad, get over it because it is your duty to your husband? Well, his book went in the woodstove. I find I often have to pray before sex. That does help. But there’s never a guarantee that somehow I will end up suddenly feeling sick to my stomach or violated afterwards and again, I have to pray and pray and pray. Thank you for standing up and talking about this when so many won’t. It can’t be ignored.

    Reply
    • Best comment so far: “Well, his book went in the woodstove.” YES! And praying before sex…good point.

      Reply
      • :) It made me angry but it also made me want to be sure that MY copy never made it to another broken woman’s hands :)

        Reply
  18. Lynn

    you put words to it. i can’t ever seem to find the words,often i’m a muddle inside trying to find a way to talk.
    write your book! let’s bring this darkness to the light!
    thank you.

    Reply
    • Most likely this book will be self pubbed because although I think the audience is huge, I’m not sure a publisher will see it that way.

      Reply
      • B. Ladd

        you are right…publishers will call it too small of an audience. don’t listen to them. self-publish if that’s what it takes. God will bless your efforts! Thank you for daring to share!

        Reply
  19. I get it. I’ve been there. I’m still there. Fifteen years of marriage and the progress has been so painful, so slow. But I rejoice that there has indeed been progress, however small. And I cling to the promise that God specializes in redemption–taking those things that seem so hopeless and flipping them right upside down. He. wastes. nothing. Praise Him!

    Not too long ago I was sitting with some dear friends, all of us either pastors’ wives or missionaries. Three of us had been sexually violated as children. Three out of four of us.

    Thank you, Mary, for your transparency and grace.

    (And I vote for that book!) :)

    Reply
  20. Amaris

    Mary, I was just talking over this subject with a friend the other day! She helped rescue a young girl from a horrible sexual abuse situation, and praise God, that girl has grown into a beautiful young woman of God. He has done a mighty work in her life! But now this young lady is yearning for a dating relationship and wondering about marriage, and she is facing the same challenges. I shared your book _Thin Places_ with my friend and recommended your website. I think a book on this subject is MUCH NEEDED! Thank you for being brave and writing this post!

    Reply
    • I wonder how important this ministry of sexual reconciliation will become as more sex trafficked / abused victims come to light. How many of us need to be heard and healed…

      Reply
  21. Timari

    Write your book Mary! I so appreciate your willingness to walk with us by bringing your story. Revelation says that the saints over came Satan by the power of Blood and the word of their testimony. You proclaim both and I am blessed. So are thousands of others. Thank you.

    Reply
    • I love that we overcome by Jesus and the words we share about our stories.

      Reply
  22. Erin

    Mary! Thank you for writing this!!! I have been thinking about this a a lot lately!I I was never sexually abused, but I often experience a lot of anger when sex is discussed in the way you describe. One reason might be because I had an overbearing father. I need to feel really safe to be vulnerable with a man in any way. The other thing is that I think “hot” wives, “hot” sex is the new prosperity gospel. I hope my husband finds me lovely and attractive, but when pastors refer to their wives as “hot” from the pulpit it makes me angry. It’s as if their wife’s sexual attractiveness is the first and last word of her worth. I’m sure they don’t really feel that way, but why bring it up from the pulpit? How about just saying my beautiful, lovely, smart, inventive, intelligent, gracious, gentle wife? How about using an adjective that isn’t so starkly about looks and desire? A speaker at my church a few Sundays ago said that young men now feel that not only do they deserve a “hot” wife, but a wife that is seen as “hot” by the masses. I just feel that when people talk about sex in the way you mention, they are taking their cues from the world. Our whole selves have to be sanctified, our sexuality absolutely included. When my husband and I engage in the mystery of sexual union, I want it to be from a place of deep Christ filled love and sacrifice. I want to be from a safe and willing submission. The world doesn’t have to think its “hot” and fruit won’t be involved.

    Reply
    • Thanks for bringing up the “hot” wife point. I so agree. I cringe when I hear it. Because it reduces women to an object, not a person.

      Reply
      • I am disgusted that Christians would encourage this verbiage because I agree that it reduces the person to an object. That kind of dehumanizing another person is exactly what lets abusers (like those neighborhood bullies) mistakenly justify their behavior.

        Reply
    • cynthia

      Erin you’re spot on. Women taking their cue from a worldly philosophy about their sexuality, worth, beauty, has indeed become the new prosperity doctrine. Luckily I’m older (hitting 50 soon), and perhaps it’s easier for me not to be so swayed by it. I don’t know. At any rate it’s just another stupid and, harmful really, thing being thrust upon women on a continual basis. When Christians begin buying into it we’re really in trouble.
      I too have never been abused but, I can only imagine how awful it must be for those who have. On top of which they’re being told that in order to be sexy to their husbands they need to morph into an inventive acrobat. Preposterous. Supposedly we’ve come a long way, baby. I guess that’s why we give ourselves away without love and marriage, bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan, shrug at the sanctity of life, and try to convince ourselves we actually enjoy and want to emulate the women paraded as what sexy is by the media. Most of whom have private lives from hell. No thanks :-) I’m blessed enough to know the difference between “hot”, and what really makes me happy being a woman, and trust me, when mama’s happy, everyone’s happy. Don’t drink the kool aid.

      Reply
    • Beatrix

      Unfortunately exactly that is satans strategy and always will be, God said the Women will crush his head and he will bruise her heal. Satan hates the family structure because it is powerful and dynamic.Look how rampant homosexuality is becoming. Women are amazing and beautiful, if one reads Genesis again one almost senses the tenderness of the Fathers heart towards her, she was not formed from the dust as Adam was (just lends to his earthy strength) but from his side (taken out of him) and he saw her as part of him ‘bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh’ familiar(family), when the two realise they needs one anothers strengths then the two can become a powerhouse, this is what satan hates, he is so jealous. Ladies I salute you and am so sorry for your woundedness, God is the god of all comfort, lovemaking is simply symbolic of completing one another and becoming into His image and likeness, I suppose a thought is God could have made it be without any emotion but He didn’t, perhaps its harder for you if you have negative emotions in your memory bank because of your abusive first encounters and your husbands don’t. Satan would like you to believe God doesnt really love you and that your husbands dont really love you but He does more than you will ever know, sorry about the misguided pastors terms of reference…he so does not get it xx

      Reply
      • I truly believe Satan’s most insidious weapon is sexual assault.

        Reply
    • Wonderfully Made

      Yes! My pastor actually sang out “and when the lights go ouuuut” about his wife. It stunned and saddened me, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. Great point! This is a very important topic and a thoughtful thread- thank you!

      Reply
    • Incredible point, Erin. Thank you

      Reply
    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      One reason might be because I had an overbearing father. I need to feel really safe to be vulnerable with a man in any way.

      Funny thing, Erin. I had not an overbearing father, but an overbearing grandmother and stepmother. I need to feel really really safe to be vulnerable with a woman in any way.

      The other thing is that I think “hot” wives, “hot” sex is the new prosperity gospel.

      I’d figure that as a crossover from porn, specifically Perfect Pornstar Syndrome with a Christianese coat of paint.

      Reply
  23. Bless you for this beautiful, courageous article, Mary. As I read through these responses with the hearts you’ve touched by being so open about your own difficult path to healing, I think the world needs to redefine “sexy”. Much more than strawberries on a tummy or hot little notes, the quality that is most appealing and the one that builds intimacy is something you and these women already share. Honesty. In my view, there’s nothing sexier…

    Reply
    • Agree. It’s sexy to absolutely love and adore your husband!

      Reply
  24. Brit

    Mary,

    Thank you for writing this vulnerable post. This is something that I often think about although I am not married yet. I have a lot of guy friends but not very many I let close and to me they’ll never be more than a friend. I’ve found I’m resistant to relationships that leave me most vulnerable. I’ve healed considerably over the years. I enjoy my time with the guys I know and some are my closest friends. I do desire to get married and have a family in the near future. But this part always concerns me. I was molested as a child over a period of years by multiple people. I don’t trust easily and I stand in a place where on one hand I feel resistant to having that and on the other hand I’m allured by it. God so protected me and has been gracious to me. I fear not being able to enjoy what should be a gift of God.

    Reply
    • It’s so good that you’re seeing this now because now is the time to pursue healing. Find a friend to pray you through this, or see if you can join a sexual abuse support group. It’s a gift you’ll give your future spouse.

      Reply
      • Brit

        I’ve been through counseling and God has healed me so much. There was a time where I wouldn’t even want to be friends with guys. I’d avoid them at all costs for years.

        I have received a great deal of degree of healing. Some days and reading posts like this brings out the 5 year old in me….back when it all started. I feel a sense of release and healing and redemption. Sometimes I feel vulnerable and wish I had someone who has been there too and understands those days.

        My ministry has been birthed from my past pain. But this can be rough at times.

        Reply
        • I’m glad your ministering out of this. Very redemptive to hear. But, yeah, I agree. This healing journey isn’t a one-time event. It’s a lifetime.

          Reply
  25. Thanks for your vulnerability and for having the gumption to speak up here. Please do write that book.

    Reply
    • Thanks Becky. There seems to be a positive consensus about the book.

      Reply
  26. Timari

    Another quick thought Mary – I understand if it is outside of your desired scope but have you ever thought about hosting a forum for survivors to swap encouragement? I haven’t found anything that talks about things like loving your husband as you walk through this together or how to live well and bless your children as you are triggered often (sadly, even by them). I’ve thought about writing a blog that just talks in real life about how you take it back to Jesus daily when the reminders are daily. How do we praise Him… I’m learning the answers but there doesn’t seem to be a place where we can come together to talk about it.

    Reply
    • Very interesting idea, Timari.

      Reply
  27. I think your book would help a ton of people! I, too, hate the “spice up your sex life” banter that is thrown around so casually these days thanks to magazines, casual hook-ups, movies and books.

    I also agree with sexual abuse holding some of us back. I was abused as a child, raped at 16 and very promiscuous after that. I didn’t feel worthy and thought that was the way to get love. Now married for 12 years, I am struggling through all that. Sex has become something I have to do, instead of something I look forward to. I have flashbacks occasionally too and I recently found out my husband was sexually abused as an adolescent so I am trying to work through all those issues at the same time. There are way too many thoughts in my head during our intimate moments!!

    I applaud your openness and know that God can use you in mighty ways for His purpose.

    Reply
    • That’s a difficult stew, Erin. To be honest, sharing this openly about this issue is hard for me, but I’m glad it’s freeing others up to talk/write about it, or at least not feel so alone.

      Reply
  28. This post left me in tears. I struggle with this area daily. My husband tries but he just cannot understand. Sometimes even I don’t understand.
    I would LOVE to see a book that both spouses could read. Just lost right now.

    Reply
  29. Yvonne Donaldson

    Thank you for being so open and vulnerable. This was a powerful post.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Yvonne. My pleasure.

      Reply
  30. Sydney

    PLEASE write a book on this, and when you do I’d like to know where to get it. I was just talking to a friend about this. I’m only 20, and in my eyes i have a long way to go in the healing process and have no desire to get in a relationship/get married yet (in respect for me and my future husband). But, it’s a big fear of mine that when I do finally get married the sex Jesus intends for me will still be viewed as repulsive and harmful. Would love to read a book I can finally relate to and will help me as I grow into that part of my life.
    So many blessings to you! And I loved your article.

    Reply
    • Sydney, thanks for the book writing encouragement. Please know you are not alone.

      Reply
  31. Thank you for so bravely and beautifully writing about something so many of us relate to but don’t know how to talk about…

    Reply
    • Thanks Alece. And thank you for your friendship and deep, deep encouragement.

      Reply
  32. Jennifer

    Thank you so much for your bravery to articulate what too many of us Christian wives struggle with. I’ve sat through “how to be a hot sexy wife” type talks too, feeling like damaged goods but have never been able to speak what was in my heart and mind.

    Reply
    • I’m glad I could put words to it, Jennifer. You are certainly not alone.

      Reply
  33. Ah, Mary. This is beautiful.

    I don’t have these same triggers, but I carry my own insecurities and hurts from abuse. When I was single, I read a book about relationships (by a Christian!) and they basically encouraged the reader to not marry someone with past sexual abuse— there would just be too much baggage— and I cried and threw the book against the wall. Thankfully, my roommates surrounded me (poor things came running to see what was wrong!) and prayed grace and truth into me.

    I think addressing the “baggage” that comes from abuse is important because it takes the weight and darkness out of it. When I share my struggles with my husband, he looks at them in a factual, “I love you and we’ll work with what you are, not what you could have been if you’d never been hurt.” way.

    God redeems pain. Even the pain of abuse. And that is something I believe with everything in me.

    I love that you’re addressing this. I truly believe your message will bring freedom.

    Reply
    • I’ve felt that same way. Given my past, I certainly wouldn’t be good “wife material.” Or if some parent had prayed for their son’s future bride, I doubt someone like me would be the ideal choice. But God. He can take all that mess of me and make something beautiful. I rest there. And I see that you do, too.

      Reply
  34. Fortunately (although molested) I love sex; I guess I blocked the whole thing out. UNfortunately, is that after 31 years of abuse; being alone for 8 excruciating years…..I have no one to have sex with.

    I was born standin up an talking back, so I say….write about it; talk about it, find a place which will allow you to speak about it; obviously there are so many in your situation.

    I absolutely REFUSE to be ashamed of what others did to me, and so I speak up about (my) passion, which is verbal abuse: 1 in 3 women will be assaulted on the planet in their lifetimes; that is my mission; to appear on national tv to speak about that.
    We ALL HAVE A voice, so….use yours to make a difference I say. “If it is to be, it is up to me!”

    Unfortunately, I was voted out of a 31-year church membership, with my name up on a big screen, followed by the words, “Conduct Unbecoming aa Child of God.” Called to a meeting of deacons, not allowed to have a woman with me and asked:”Are you still having sex with your ex?”

    I am not able to attend any church and religious words trigger me terribly. WE have to be the change we want to see in the world, nand had I been you in that situation, I would have spoken up….but that is because I was born standin” up and talkin’ back; good thing or I might be drooling in a corner somewhere.

    Childhood of poverty, molestation, abuse, fatherlessness, etc., etc….but I WILL make a difference and I have begun to do just that; invited to present my paper/work: Society’ Hidden Pandemic, Verbal Abuse, Precursor to Physical Violence and a Form of Biochemical Assault at the Michigan Counseling Association……won a scholarship because of what I wrote about my life.

    People live their own lives not really thinking about things in a different way other than their own experiences……it is up to US to point that out, so they can become aware……..that everyone isn’t like them and are mightily struggling with so many things.

    People “living lives of quiet desperation.”

    I hate how-to books, secrets, tips, etc….ick

    Reply
    • Sometimes I can’t stand up for myself (like way back when). But I’m so grateful Jesus does. I’m so sorry you walked through what you did. Sounds extremely painful. Thanks for speaking out.

      Reply
  35. Trezlen

    Thank you Mary. No one ever talks about this. It’s as if every woman goes into her marriage healthy and whole and undamaged. Or the one that do not make it into marriage sexually whole are not worthy. I know that neither of these is true. I keep my mind focused on this fact so that I don’t give up on the prospect of marriage. Thanks for saying addressing what a lot of us are thinking about.

    Reply
    • I hope this post shows that there is hope in this area. There is healing. And you aren’t alone.

      Reply
  36. Leigh Ann

    Mary, you really touched my heart and drew some tears with this one. I’d love to read a book you write on this subject. I, too, will never be that “sexy wife.” I just recently attended a marriage seminar as well, and when the subject of sex came up, even in the context of it being a wonderful gift from God for married people, something inside me withered. You are definitely not alone!

    Reply
    • There really needs to be (and I can’t say/write this with enough emphasis) a new session at marriage conferences about this. Do marriage conference people realize just how much pain they’re causing?

      Reply
  37. Anonymous

    I got to your blog post via a Twitter post, and normally I would not read anything like this (at first I didnt know what your were talking about, only that it was about sex, and I’m bugged at how the world sexualities women and tells us what to wear and how to behave in the bedroom, it is none of their business and I don’t want their influence in my bedroom, so I typically would have walked away before I got to the heart). Yet for some reason I kept reading. It was eye-opening. Heart-breaking. Enlightening. Enraging. It wasn’t salacious, titilating, or disgusting (what I’ve come to expect from articles about sex). It was real, down to earth, faith filled, and hopeful. It didn’t glaze over hurts or pretend pain wasn’t real. It admitted imperfection and frustration. It was beautiful. I haven’t been violated nor do I suffer in my romatic life, and yet through this post I felt like I could begin to sympathize. I could see how women the world over suffer from their tragedies of rape, sex trafficking, and abuse. Please do write a book. You have a message to share with the world.

    Reply
    • Tears. Thank you. Thank you.

      Reply
  38. Sandi

    healing doesn’t come easy…it takes time and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to NOT think about it. It’s not daily, but it comes up at the strangest times. I’m grateful for a God that keeps loving and drawing me to Him. I’m grateful for His grace and love that covers me. I’m grateful to be reminded that He grieves those deep hurts right beside us. I’m grateful for a precious husband that holds me when those hurts surface and doesn’t condemn (just as Jesus does not).

    Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty. Many of us feel the way you do about being sexy. I almost cringe when my husband says I’m sexy. I’ve tried the “fruit plate” approach and I end up in a puddle of tears. I know there has been healing for me, but the memories don’t go away.

    Reply
    • There are scars. And the scars remain. I’m also grateful for an amazing husband. And of course, Jesus, who helps me limp the journey at times, at other times, dance.

      Reply
  39. In full disclosure, I couldn’t read your entire post. You are so brave, and when time permits the tears to flow freely I will go back and finish reading.

    Although I wasn’t abused as a child, I experienced sexual violation and betrayal as an adult. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I think you should write your book. In my experience, sometimes you think you’re better or you’ve fully healed, and then something triggers you and you have to start the healing process all over again.

    Reply
    • I agree. Posting today is a huge fear of mine, worried that more triggers will come. But it’s worth the risk because I’m seeing just how many people struggle in this area.

      When you re-read (read) the post, I pray you’ll experience more healing and even some joy.

      Reply
  40. Tinymango

    This post resonated with me as a “wait until marriage” Christian woman, even though I have not had an experience of abuse. I think many of us still struggle with the concept of sexuality, despite coming from different backgrounds and experiences. I would love to read a book on the topic, especially if it makes me feel more normal for having reservations and mixed feelings. Go for it!

    Reply
    • Thanks Tinymango. I do agree it’s a universal struggle, no matter what your past is.

      Reply
  41. Amber

    I have not been sexually abused, but I have struggled with this my whole married life. I battled endometriosis and infertility, and sex has always been very emotionally and physically painful for me. My husband tries to understand, and I do love to make him happy. But it is so very hard for me to hear so often that sex should be this amazingly joyous thing. It makes me feel dirty and unworthy. Can anyone help me?

    Reply
    • My only offer of help comes from my story. I am far better (whole) than I used to be, and I attribute that to the gentle healing of Jesus.

      Reply
    • Kate

      Amber, I’m right there with you. I’ve not suffered from abuse, but years of reoccurring endometriosis. It”s scary to have sex because of the pain. I luckily have a great husband who understands why we abstain in periods of my greatest pain. The guilt is tremendous, but more so when I hear about the “sexy wife talks” described here. While I don’t have the answers, trying to find those myself, know that you are not alone! And even better, we have the ultimate love and support with us always- Jesus.

      Side note- happy to see this article, wonderfully helpful to all women and much needed.

      Reply
  42. Yes, Mary. Write the book.

    Reply
  43. “You are worth healing” Thank you for your graceful words. They are most certainly needed. I especially appreciate you sharing this truth although you still struggle at times. Many are right there with you.

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s not a done deal, unfortunately. Healing comes in layers.

      Reply
  44. I’m sure the presenter who talked “about being a hottie for your honey” meant well, but I see this as being part of a bigger problem of how Christians don’t know how to talk about sex.

    It seems like “sexy Christian wife” is a reaction to years of saying sex is wrong and dirty. But, unfortunately, they have looked to the secular culture to fill the void. The problem is that the secular view of sex suffers from the same deficiencies of separating sex from love that the old Puritan views did.

    What is missing is a conversation on what love means and the physical dimensions of showing love. How do friends show physical love? How do exclusive/engaged couples show physical love? How do married couples show physical love?

    What is intimacy? What is togetherness? What is the purpose of marriage and sexuality?

    This is a far more complex, involved, and delicate topic than merely talking about sex. Talking simply about what happens in the bedroom is going to leave a lot of people feeling lost, especially those who really do have issues in this area.

    Reply
    • I love the way you’re thinking. There’s a strong need for a holistic approach, a deeper conversation, something away from either extreme. YOU should write a book! :)

      Reply
    • Beatrix

      marry me!

      Reply
    • Phil

      Well said, except you’ve libeled the Puritans. Do some reading of them, and you’ll see they weren’t this way *at all* with marriage and sex. I think you’re talking about some in Victorian days.

      Reply
  45. April

    I think you can see that you aren’t writing to an “empty internet” here! Please, please go write that book. I think it could give hope to many, many hurting women.

    Reply
  46. Shannon

    OMG! As I sat here reading this I felt so many of us hurting and reliving those moments in time. I know I was opening one box after another. Not many that know me know I was also there. This is not something that any of us chose to truly share. I say God is calling for you to help the young and old. I know I have worked through some of these issues myself and still have a long way to go. I still to this day can not speak of the name who did this and feel that it is not their foult as they were the same age as me and were being attacked at the same time. Then years later I had a boyfirend whom tried to rap me and beat on me ,and another who controlled me and told me how ugly I was. I wore so much shame from those three. Your story will touch so so many lives. And will help many going through the same issues. This is the frist I’ve spoke about this outside of my spouse now.

    Reply
    • Wow, I feel wholly privileged that you’re speaking this story in the open for the first time. May that truth set you truly free. I’m sorry for what happened to you back then.

      Reply
      • Shannon

        I just spoke to my spouse, he didn’t know what to think that I shared. One of the hardest things is sharing, but I do believe that with so many sharing one by one we help each other. I see that more today after reading this than ever. I thank God that he has blessed you with this gift. I’m not sure how many have been abused by the same sex, but that was the case for me. As I was abused by both. Talk about what could have been more confusing…. I thank God he has always been with me, even when I feel like I’m far from him I know he is still walking with me. Thanks again truly from my heart that you have shared.

        Reply
        • Shannon, I just wanted to let you know that I was the victim of a same-sex abuser. It was horribly confusing. I struggled with my sexual and gender identity for many years (all under wraps of course, because I was a Christian!!). As far as I know, only about 2% of women who’ve been abused were abused by a woman. That’s the only statistic I’ve ever found. Far more boys are abused by same-sex abusers than girls.

          Reply
          • Shannon

            Thanks for sharing Genevieve.

  47. Thank you. I pray (and work!) for a day when the church has a robust theology of sexuality that embraces sex as a gift while acknowledging the widespread pain of sexual abuse and the need for healing. Too often, “Christian” teaching on sex only makes feelings of guilt, shame a disgust worse. Let’s also remember men who have been victims of sexual abuse and who have to live in a world where their manhood is judged based on their virility.

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s not a women’s issue, it’s a humanity issue.

      Reply
      • Meg

        There is a WONDERFUL Tedx talk by a man named Jackson Katz that is about domestic violence and sexual assault. He talks about domestic violence and sexual assault being centrally about men and the problems stemming from them being lumped under “women’s issues.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=KTvSfeCRxe8

        Reply
        • Thanks for sharing that, Meg.

          Reply
  48. mary

    OMG, you are so not alone. I have never been a victim of abuse, just a victim of being told how bad sex is until you are married, and like it is supposed to magically be good after the wedding?? To be shamed as a teenager and then we are supposed to be what we were taught was a whore for our husbands? At 46 I still struggle, but was blessed with a husband who does, for whatever reasons, love me and deal with it, but it does get ugly sometimes. WRITE, please!!!!

    Reply
    • There have been some good posts about this very idea lately.

      Reply
    • KimT

      I too was a victim of the “True Love Waits” theology. I have struggled with sex through both of my marriages. The message being send that you are a whore if you have sex before marriage and then are suppose to be a whore for your husband after marriage is horribly abusive and confusing. I always felt guilty for enjoying sex with my husband and had a very hard time initiating anything because as long as he started it, then I could feel ok doing it. My head was messed up for a long time. I am 41 and finally, FINALLY able to talk about it with my husband and find some healing and healthy perspective.
      Thank you for sharing your journey!

      Reply
      • I’m so glad you’re free and able to talk about it openly.

        Reply
      • Meg

        YES! This is so common and so painful. Thanks for posting so accurately.

        It’s not a daily issue for me, but occasionally I feel a wall go up. Things I really enjoy (or things he really enjoys that I’m happy to participate in) suddenly feel dirty or wrong and I have to consciously remind myself that we’re adults who love each other and operate within a healthy, respectful relationship.

        Reply
  49. Thank you for sharing, Mary. I know having your heart and life out there so much must be very difficult. I know you will touch many women – a book would be great!

    Reply
    • Thanks for your kind words, Kristen.

      Reply
  50. Headless Unicorn Guy

    The woman at the front of the conference talked about sex, about being a hottie for your honey. She spoke of livening up the marriage bed, that God made sex to be amazing, fulfilling. That it was our duty to make it a joy, to lavish our husbands with our sexuality. Maybe he could eat strawberries from our bellies, or we could sneak little hot notes to him.

    i.e. “Just like a Porn Star, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

    After and combined with a Purity Cult where you’re not even supposed to think about something as Filthy as Sex until you get the ring and say “I Do”.

    I have long maintained Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everybody else, just in a different direction.

    Reply
    • Yeah, we’re all a mess!

      Reply
  51. Lisa

    What about me? I’m a Christian asexual. That’s right: I lack any sexual attraction to men or women. I have no history of any sexual abuse at all, but I still no that I CANNOT get married due to my asexuality. I absolutely hate this about myself, because if I could change it, I would. I want to want sex with people, but I don’t. I feel especially broken because I don’t have a history of abuse. I grew up in a Christian family, I knew that sex was a wonderful gift from God, and I never associated it with negative emotions. But when I dated my first boyfriend, I realized that I absolutely could not have sex with him whether I was married or not. We broke up, and I’m thankful we did. As I get older (I’m 26) I am starting to realize that this is how God made me and He had to have a reason for it, but it’s still something I wish I didn’t have.

    Reply
    • That sounds like a difficult, confusing journey. I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this.

      Reply
    • What are your thoughts on 1 Corinthians 7 and how it relates to your situation?

      Paul talks quite a bit about the benefits of not being married. Christians can get so focused on the good of marriage that they forget that NOT being married can be a spiritual blessing as well.

      Reply
      • Lisa

        I have taken 1 Cor. 7 to heart and know that God has called me to be single. However, I do want to have kids in the next 8 years or so, and most Christians don’t condone single parents by choice. But this is the conclusion I have reached.

        Reply
    • I’m a Christian asexual too, though heteroromantic and currently dating another heteroromantic ace.

      I hate the way all the romantic relationship advice the church seems to want to give is based on ‘spice things up in the bedroom’.

      I hate the way purity culture rules mean there’s an entire list of completely normal relationship things I was taught you should never ever do unless you were in a sexual relationship or you’d be at risk of being forced into things… and that does wonders when the

      Reply
      • (I accidentally hit post before I meant to)

        …that does wonders when the ground rule of the relationship is that neither of you actually wants sex, so all the things you were told at 14 you should never ever do or You Asked For It are things you have baggage with for life. And I did go through one bad relationship with mismatched orientations and mild personal-boundary-crossing, so I’ve been careful ever since – the two things compound each other.

        And it’s messed up because I’ve had more support from certain people in my church who know and from a few Bible passages than I have from the same people outside the church who claim those purity rules and relationship codes are off-base and unrealistic, but it’s the things I heard in church as a teen that have done the longest-lasting damage.

        Reply
        • Lisa

          Oh, AMEN! The most damage for me has also come from what I have heard in the church and from other Christians. It took me a long time to come to terms with how I was told it would be SO hard to remain “pure” until marriage, but I never desired those things. In fact, it was only by forcing myself to do “impure” things with a very patient guy (non-Christian boy, I might add) that I came to have a somewhat healthier attitude about everything sexual. It left me very disillusioned about the Christian sexual ethic (or really, lack thereof).

          Reply
      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        To me “asexuals” (you call them “aces”?) have always been just the other end of the bell curve from the horndogs. As some have high-to-insatiable sexual drives, so others have low-to-none.

        With some of the real crap I’ve encountered on the subject of sex, I wouldn’t mind dating a heteroromantic ace. I’ve always taken “Cuddly Companionship” over orgasm any day. The one time in my life I had a girlfriend, what I remember best was experiencing her beauty, “enjoying her presence”, and sharing lives and experiences.

        And a lot of churches (like the one at the top of the original posting) have gotten on the barn-burning orgasm bandwagon. Like the main culture, reducing everything to meat-in-meat and humans to sets of genitalia.

        Reply
    • (I accidentally hit post before I meant to)

      …that does wonders when the ground rule of the relationship is that neither of you actually wants sex, so all the things you were told at 14 you should never ever do or You Asked For It are things you have baggage with for life. And I did go through one bad relationship with mismatched orientations and mild personal-boundary-crossing, so I’ve been careful ever since – the two things compound each other.

      And it’s messed up because I’ve had more support from certain people in my church who know and from a few Bible passages than I have from the same people outside the church who claim those purity rules and relationship codes are off-base and unrealistic, but it’s the things I heard in church as a teen that have done the longest-lasting damage.

      Reply
    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      What about me? I’m a Christian asexual. That’s right: I lack any sexual attraction to men or women.

      All that means, Lisa, is that you’re on the other extreme end of the bell curve.

      As I get older (I’m 26) I am starting to realize that this is how God made me and He had to have a reason for it, but it’s still something I wish I didn’t have.

      I wish I didn’t have a 160 IQ and a brain so constantly hyperactive it doesn’t even slow down when I sleep. So you’re not alone in experiencing the downside of what everyone else thinks is really great. (In your case, Purity and Virginity; in mine, Being a Genius.)

      Reply
      • Lisa

        Thanks, Headless Unicorn Guy. (Great name, btw!) I sympathize with your genius…haha! I don’t know my IQ, but I went to college at 16 years and had my master’s degree when I was 21 with a really high GPA. Oh, the burden of being smart. :)

        Reply
        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          The handle comes from an art piece I did over 10 years ago — “The Age of Reason has No Need of Unicorns” — showing a unicorn mare getting chopped during the French Revolution. Remember that in the West the Unicorn used to be a symbol of Purity and you can guess where I was coming from. I started using it as a comment handle because I have a pretty common name and when you have six “Kens” on an Internet Monk thread, you have to use handles to tell who’s who.

          And all I can say about being a fast-tracked kid genius is:

          1) Conservation of Neurological Energy — as fast as your IQ races ahead of your chronological age, your emotional and personality development lags behind. You end up 16 years old, with the knowledge and brainpower of 30 and an emotional age of maybe 5.

          2) Being a natural-talent speedreader makes it worse. When I was 10 I’d read more than most people do in a lifetime — with no idea how to fit all that raw data together or even evaluate it for BS.

          3) Wesley Crusher and Doogie Houser (brain surgeon at 14) is the FANTASY of the Kid Genius. The reality is more like Dallas Egbert III (the kid who disappeared in those college steam tunnels back in ’79).

          Reply
          • Emily

            I love that Wesley Crusher is one of the fantasy geniuses you mention. Most TNG fans did not look upon him with favour.

  52. Erica

    Hi Mary,
    It is so great that you are able share your experience. It takes so much courage to do so and it is so helpful in not remaining a prisoner of the abuse you were a victim of. What a blessing that you have such a supportive husband.
    I know that your story and the way you have sought to not remain a victim is a huge inspiration to the women who read it.
    Just a word of caution, and I say this as a fellow victim of childhood sexual abuse: While I wasn’t at the seminar and didn’t hear the approach of the speaker, we have to be careful about judging and being angry at those who haven’t gone through abuse. There are a lot of women(who dont have abuse scars to work through) out there who need godly encouragement to make more of an effort with regard to their sex lives. They get stuck in making excuses to not participate sexually with their husbands- too tired, headaches, etc. we are all selfish by nature, and it’s easy for us as women to use sex as a form of power or control with our husbands, instead of considering his needs and desires. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we are just objects for our husband’s pleasure. I am saying that there are a lot of Christian women out there who need to hear from someone (other than their husband) that sex is an important part of marriage that is worth making an effort in.
    So while I completely relate to feeling like you can’t relate to these other women or the speaker as she shared, and again, I wasn’t there, I would just say that maybe that talk made a huge difference in someone’s marriage and was Gods way of speaking to them to improve their marriage. We have to be careful in not letting our pain cause us to be angry with others who don’t share our same pain.
    I do think others should be sensitive to our pain and vice versa, but we also need to have realistic expectations of others. Was the talk advertised as “Being a hottie for your Honey”? If so, then maybe it’s targeting women who need to hear that and it will help them to be a better wife to their husband.
    Again, I think there are thousands of women out there who would receive great comfort and encouragement in hearing your story, but if you do end up writing a book, just be careful to keep from condemning others who don’t have the same struggles in the process. Channel your anger at Satan who robbed you of your innocence and caused you so much pain, and then let God continue to heal that pain.
    I hope you understand where I’m coming from in this. Like I said before, I am a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse. <3

    Reply
    • Oh I so agree. I was more mad at the situation. I’m sure the people speaking meant well. They just didn’t have a filter to understand how powerful their words were to folks like me.

      Reply
    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      There are a lot of women(who dont have abuse scars to work through) out there who need godly encouragement to make more of an effort with regard to their sex lives. They get stuck in making excuses to not participate sexually with their husbands- too tired, headaches, etc.

      I remember being told that if you marry a virgin bride, be prepared to hear “I have a headache” every night for the rest of your life.

      Reply
    • Beautifully worded, Erica.

      Reply
    • Terri

      I’m puzzled as to how you got this out of it, Erica. If it’s OK for people who weren’t assaulted to get good things out of the presentation, why wasn’t it equally OK for her (with her trauma) *not* to? If that was OK, why would you write a lengthy reply admonishing her?

      She was perfectly accepting of others’ very different experiences. All she asked was that her experience, which is very very common, also be addressed. I don’t understand why you felt the need to write this response. *This* is what you got out of her post? Her post was was heartfelt and beautiful and does not need any correction, nor does she. You did correct her.

      Her anger at her abuse is normal and healthy and she did not take it out on anyone. She didn’t condemn anyone. You have, though. It may be that your own survivor anger was pointed in the wrong direction at some past time. Hers wasn’t. She had a healthy rage at being told what to do when her genuine injury and pain had not been addressed. That is a sign that helped her seek help–a good thing. As common as abuse is, it should be equally common to address it. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

      Reply
  53. Maggie Walker

    While reading your story above, I occurred to me that the common thing invaders did was to RAPE and pillage. Men have used rape as a weapon for millennia. To my mind, more women than not have been violated over the centuries.

    So what I don’t understand is how these warmongering men can demand that women have to overlook the indignity of their actions and women still have to be the ones to make the bedroom alluring. I am pretty much tired of women buying into this expectation as well. Men get to make the mess and women have to clean it up? That, in my opinion, is very wrong. Women need to change their line of thinking.

    By the way, congratulations on finding a man who is willing to work with you. The man to whom I was married insisted it was my problem and I just had to buck up. Not to mention his idea of foreplay was to say “I am going to rape you.” or “I want to rape you.” That really instills a sense of adventure and love, don’t you think?

    Reply
    • Wow, I’m sorry to hear that about your first husband. So scary!

      Reply
    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Not to mention his idea of foreplay was to say “I am going to rape you.” or “I want to rape you.” That really instills a sense of adventure and love, don’t you think?

      With 20 years in Furry Fandom, I thought I had heard (or heard of) some of the WORST pickup lines in existence, but that takes it to the Next Level right alongside the Heaven’s Gate cult.

      Reply
      • Maggie Walker

        Thank you. It is comforting to know that a man thinks his words were not appropriate.

        Reply
        • Headless Unicorn Guy

          “His words were not appropriate” is about as much of an understatement as saying Little Boy “went bang” over Hiroshima. This guy sounds like a rapist waiting to happen — I mean, “I’m going to rape you” as foreplay? Role-playing a rapist was what turned him on? I would not be surprised to learn he escalated to actual rapes.

          (Understand, I’ve never been able to emotionally understand the horror of rape, but even so, this is just SICKO. I know in a culture as erotically-saturated as ours it’s near-impossible to get to adulthood without developing some sort of paraphilia, but his was genuinely destructive instead of just embarrassing.)

          Reply
          • Maggie Walker

            To say he is/was a sicko validates how I felt/feel about him. To my mind, he is/was a pervert. He thought it was perfectly natural to invite friends over to watch porn.

            Understand, I am his first wife. I have no doubt he has NOT participated in these kinds of activities with wife No. 2. Now he believes he is some sort of upstanding citizen and that what happened with me just didn’t – happen that is. That I am making it all up. Different version of gaslighting I guess.

            I told him the day after my daughter was born that if he ever touched her inappropriately that I would kill him. I had not told him of my childhood at this point. He didn’t understand, but he kept his hands to himself when it came to her. I am comforted to know she went to her grave (yes, she died last year – from being pregnant – seriously!) without having to deal with this kind of treatment. I did my job to protect her from that kind of treatment. I would still prefer to have her back,though, but that kind of trade off is not acceptable either.

            Thank you for your support.

  54. SexuallyFree

    I am saddened to hear your great struggle I respect where you are, as others should also. I have been abused myself but I have gone in the opposite direction. I am determined to redefine sex for myself. I am determined to embrace a healthy sexuality, and in general embrace my femininity. It has taken me years to feel comfortable being a woman–not that I ever wanted to be a man, but I felt as though if I wasn’t a female, none of those bad things would have happened. I am just starting to learn about the beauty in femininity versus the vulnerability and the susceptibility to being sexually violated. I call myself a very late bloomer but I am happy where I am and content that I have even made it this far. Blessings in your journey. Each journey is unique and God is with you every step of the way.

    Reply
    • I really like the way you articulated this. Sounds like a compelling blog post.

      Reply
    • I love your perspective. If you do write a blog post about it, I would love to read it. :)

      Reply
  55. Mary, I’m almost afraid to one day find out who this speaker is or what event you were attending. Maybe we’ll never know, but by far, that’s not the story here. I’m so glad you put to words what my heart has screamed for years (in other topics, venues, seminars, retreats, etc.) “We’re not ALL the same! We have diversified journeys. Don’t be preachin’ stuff that divides, separates, or assumes…”.

    I’m so proud of your courage and wisdom. This, by far, is a greater teaching than what’s experienced in many so-called women’s conferences or events – pertaining to this subject. With your permission, I’ll be quoting you and passing this along to my audience. It’s a different world now. Or maybe, it’s just that we are indifferent in being exposed to generalities. This campy, fluffy, candy-coated gospel doesn’t stomach well – anymore. And ironically, I’m a humorist! So, in humor, I find that women respond to the life and death of truth.

    Reply
    • LOL maybe this is why I don’t get asked to speak at big women’s events! :) Yes, feel free to quote and pass on!

      Reply
  56. Elizabeth

    thank u for being so vulnerable and real! i shook as i clicked on the link to read and then i tried my best to read every last word through tear-filled eyes. all i can say right now is thank you.

    Reply
    • I’m just so glad.

      Reply
  57. Amanda

    While I’ve never had any unwanted sexual advances in my lifetime, I really appreciate the spirit of this post. My husband and I are not “wild and sexy” people. Neither of us can just turn it on and go crazy. There is such a terrible pressure to be that way and it is very frustrating because it creates a very real sense that you are failing or not getting all you could if you aren’t having mad, hot sex.
    So thank you for speaking out against that.

    Reply
    • And God has blessed the marriage bed individually. It’s mutuality, not conformity.

      Reply
  58. rebecca

    i guess what frusterates me (aside from the issues you addressed) is why am i “supposed” to be anything special for my husband. i get having fun, i get enjoying sex, i don’t get all of a sudden having to be this “christian hussy” for him. not that i think its wrong to be that,in fact it can be fun. but telling me this is what i should be doing makes me crazy. i am frusterated that they are trying to tell us what we are supposed to be. what our sex life is or isn’t supposed to be. the church always wants to tell us what sex should look like. before marriage its one extreme, after marriage another and one size is supposed to fit all. it doesn’t matter what your background, personality, or life circumstances – they give us a LOT of pressure!

    Reply
    • I agree. I’m tired of that pressure.

      Reply
      • rebecca

        btw, i forgot to say thank you! i appreciate you taking the time to write.
        the other side of this is – it feels like a lot of guys with in the church are into porn as well. when one of those guys happens to be your husband and you have abuse in your past it really can send the “christian hussy” into a tail spin. why not teach respect.acceptance.communication.love. i am not convinced strawberries off a tummy (that in my head is not flat enough) is going to do anything for a marriage. thankful after many years of marriage we (husband & I)are getting better at this – but it took throwing out a lot of christian bs to get here.

        Reply
        • So glad to hear you’re finding joy and healing even though it’s been hard. You bring up a great point about porn.

          Reply
    • Kristen

      Yes, TOTALLY!

      Reply
  59. Thank you, Mary, Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Reply
    • It’s my pleasure, Brenna Kate.

      Reply
  60. Rob

    Your message is a powerful reminder to us men who sometimes forget mutuality and self-giving as if we ever deserve something. Many tears with gratitude for your strength and witness. Shalom!

    Reply
    • Shalom, Rob. And thank you! I like the way you see things.

      Reply
  61. Thank you, Mary. My sister and I were molested by our paternal grandfather. Neither of us spoke up about it until we were adults and then our parents refused to believe that it actually happened. Please write your book.

    Reply
    • I’m so so sorry, Susan, especially about your parents’ response in the aftermath. Ouch.

      Reply
  62. Mary, your post leaves me with a lump in my throat–because I felt that discomfort of sitting in that room, feeling pressure to perform and feel free with sex, when it can feel so much more complicated, due to wounds from our past. I just shared about this last week. Yes, keep writing about this. We would be so grateful.

    Reply
    • Thanks Jennifer. It’s good to know I’m not alone in this.

      Reply
  63. Pyonkun

    This is such a brave post. Thank you so much for writing it – it means a lot, especially to the still-victims that sit in silence. You have not just written your own story, but you’ve also helped those silent victims tell their story as well. For that, thank you so much.

    And also, there is a part of me that is angry at those women who tell you that you must be xyz to be a truly good Christian wife. Since when was this a requirement to be happily married? I believe that Christ told us that love is a mutual relationship where one completes the other, not this stupid idea that you *have* to do something to be perfect. By working together in love and honesty, by building a mutually fulfilling life together – isn’t that all a marriage needs to be perfect?

    Reply
    • There’s no perfection on this broken earth, but love trumps so much.

      Reply
  64. Mary,
    This is an area that the enemy has gone to such great lengths to pervert, so much so, that even the Church is confused and lacks a united front. That tells me it’s something powerful and sacred. I don’t think the average Christian knows how to deal with someone else’s “dirty laundry”, it’s never really been taught or at least, not well. The freedom that I’ve found hasn’t come from others helping, it has come from me struggling on my own, with Christ. It’s easy to fall into bitterness (but we must choose to forgive). At the same time, we need to cry “foul” when it’s appropriate and bring clarity & understanding in light of scripture. Satan will use anything to “divide and conquer”, his barrage of lies are easily believed and we remain trapped, right where he wants us. The thing is, there’s some truth in some of his lies, most people don’t understand and the ones that do aren’t talking or walking around with a sign saying “I’ll talk to you about sexual abuse”, or anything sexual for that matter. I guess my point is, while the Church doesn’t have a great track record, we can change that, without condemning. We can be the people who change that. While satan seems to have most victims gagged, he doesn’t have all of us. The ones who have and are finding their voices need to find each other, link arms and say, “We’re here!! In Jesus name, we are here!! We will not be silenced anymore!”. Freedom only comes when the Light of truth shines into the darkness, dispelling it, making it flee. We can be the Lightbearers for God’s people. We may not be perfect, but with God, all things are possible! Thank you for your courage. The rest of us need to see it. :)

    Reply
    • I read this with William Wallace’s voice in my head! :) Well said, passionate too. Thank you.

      Reply
  65. Hi Mary, Thank you so so much from the bottom of my heart for writing this. Here is a little of my story and why I appreciate you saying these things so much. We the church needs to hear this message loud and clear!
    I heard you speak at last years Exodus Freedom conference and was really blessed, thank you for sharing !

    http://tourniquetblog.com/2011/07/04/belong-to-me-by-kristin-graham/

    Reply
    • Beautiful post about your struggle and your parents. Wow. Thanks for sharing it. Tried to comment, but it didn’t work.

      Reply
  66. Katie

    Thank you, thank you for this post. It was re-posted by one of my favorite bloggers, and I clicked it because of the intriguing title. I had no idea the power or depth that it would bring, and it has rocked my world. As a youth/children worker, I can’t tell you enough how important this reminder is. Women (and men for that matter) carry so much abuse and baggage from very early on and it is simply insanity to say that children are innocent, or assume a 9, 15 or 18 year old is free and just beginning life. So many of us faced so many things in our childhoods that cannot be overcome with age and time alone, but your strong faith and trust and work through those incredible barriers that have been set up is so inspiring. I personally have father issues and it brings pain in intimacy that I can’t begin to explain to my partners. This post is incredibly vulnerable and I can’t imagine what it took to write it, so I had to join the chorus of affirmation and deep thanks. I pray for the children that I work with and for, and for the grace to remember, I have no idea where they’re coming from. I can give them love and let the spirit work through me, for whatever it is they need to start their own journeys toward healing. Thank you for your words!

    Reply
    • Some folks who work with kids have read my memoir, Thin Places, as a means to understand where some of those kids come from.

      Thanks for your kind words.

      Reply
  67. Janet

    Mary, thank you! Thank you so much for your honesty and vulnerability! I know that if you write that book, I will read it and find healing in it. My own story is a little different, but still resonates. I was never sexually abused, but a family member was, and it affected the whole family. As a child dealing with a trauma that was never explained to me but still felt, I grew up believing that sex was all about exploiting women and something to be feared. On top of that, I heard plenty of teaching in church about wives submitting to their husbands, and it just played into this belief that sex was about the man dominating the woman in the most intimate, violating way. I never wanted to be married, was scared to date… God has been slowing healing my fears. I’m still single, and like it, but can honestly say that I’d like to be married too. It took me a long time to get to that point, to be open to dating, to even be able to acknowledge intellectually that sex could be fun and affirming and positive for both men and women.

    As for this speaker you heard, besides everything that you write about, it troubles me that she seems to have the attitude that sex is something that men want and women go along with. Women are there to be sexually pleasing to men, but men don’t need to be concerned with being sexually pleasing and alluring to their wives. For me, that mindset triggers some of the fears about sex that I grew up with. I wasn’t there, so maybe I’m projecting what I’ve heard from other speakers onto her, but I wish that people would emphasize more that both partners have sexual desire. It’s not just up to the woman to tantalize and feed the insatiable sexual desire of the man, but the man also needs to find ways to allure the woman and satisfy her desires as well.

    Thank you again, Mary! Thanks for writing such an helpful piece, and thanks for giving all of us an opportunity to share a little bit of our own stories.

    Reply
    • Thanks. I’m sure the speaker had no idea how her words were affecting many of us.

      I wish I could gather everyone here and give a group hug. :)

      Reply
    • Carol

      So true! I have often wondered why God created sex. It has been nothing but pain for me emotionally and physically. Physically these last several years because of my cancer treatment. Why is there so much pressure in the church for women to fulfill and satisfy the needs of her husband with no mention of a wife’s needs?! We are told it is our duty and worse that if we don’t keep him satisfied that he will undoubtedly cheat. These are the messages I received growing up and have been reaffirmed over and over by marriage seminars and councilors and christian books. It makes my blood boil! Not to mention what it is teaching Christian young man that their wants/needs come first. I was raised that in order to receive love I needed to please, do what was wanted of me. I entered into a marriage very young to a man who was raised with similar mindset that it was his right, that my body belonged to him that if he wasn’t being satisfied at home he had the right to look elsewhere. I submitted dutifully for a long time until every time we had sex I was left feeling that he must hate me or he would never demand so much of me. I finally found my voice and set some boundaries and we are both trying to heal and grow through this. He is a wonderful man, truly, and we have both been the victims of wrong and twisted thinking about sex but how do you ever get over the feeling of being taken advantage of? Of being less than him? Of being used and seen only as an object to please someone else? Of feeling abused by the one you love and still love? I often have said that if it wasn’t for sex we would have a perfect marriage. I often ask God what He was thinking when he created sex. Satan has twisted and used sex as a huge stumbling block to put in front of so many. Our world is so messed up in regards to sex. Ugg. I hate it but am trying to discover what God intended it to be. I’ve been married to the same man for 25 years now. It is a journey to be sure. Thank you for the article and yes the book is needed.

      Reply
  68. Heather

    Oh my gosh! Truth on the internet…. relevance and reality on a “Christian” blog. Courage to speak of a very very hidden, painful reality. I am left speechless for a while…. Yes, I know God hears, but somehow I feel more connected to other flesh and blood women, that live in unity with God….

    I could tell my story, because (this may be the first time…. in several decades) I might actually be heard…..

    Reply
    • I would hear you because I’ve been there. And I’ve heard many, many sad stories of abuse. I’m grateful that many have found healing, albeit slow healing.

      Reply
  69. YES! Echoing the many responses who have come before me!!

    Thank you for writing this post and being honest about your situation. While I don’t have extreme examples of sexual abuse in my past I do have some. Even as I was thinking about it, I was putting it down “that’s not that big a deal” – and that is why this whole “sexy hot wife” train is so messed up! (Again, there is a difference between, “Hey, maybe try this or think about this to help out your sex life and marriage” vs. “This is what you should be and you are the sole responsible party.”)

    Sexual abuse or not, women are trained to be good, not think about sex, not think about their bodies, ward off any advances but don’t be too hard to get and play the whole innocent little girl and then WHAM, all of a sudden we are supposed to be sex goddesses because we’ve married?! All of a sudden we are supposed to be comfortable with things that we haven’t ever been (and have been told not to be) comfortable with?

    It is just the good girl message changed and revamped for adults. If you enjoy that type of thing and are able to do it – that’s great. But putting the pressure on women that all of a sudden we are supposed to do all these things when just years (and whole lifetime before) we’ve been subjugated to it in an offensive, disrespectful and inappropriate manner. (Or told to ignore it all together because good girls don’t think, ask or talk about sex.)

    When you take into account past sexual abuse, it can make this whole message even uglier and more disrespectful to those listening (if they are still listening.) I know how I feel about it and again, I don’t have “serious” abuse (as if we can categorize severity!) in my past but thism message hurts and upsets me too.

    I have been married for 5 years but been with my husband for 14. He is the only man I have had sex with though I still cannot relax and worry about it more so than I believe I should. Enjoy it? That can be very hard at times. And even in our open and respectful marriage (now) there has been some abuse due to dated notions at the time (assuming that I should want it and do it because he does being one of many, so most was done unknowingly and unwilling). Though it was many years ago and weve worked through sometimes it still comes back to haunt me.

    I hope you do write the book. It is a topic we need to talk more about. The less alone we feel I think the more we can help each other heal.

    Reply
    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Sexual abuse or not, women are trained to be good, not think about sex, not think about their bodies, ward off any advances but don’t be too hard to get and play the whole innocent little girl and then WHAM, all of a sudden we are supposed to be sex goddesses because we’ve married?!

      Virgin-Whore Dichotomy at the flip of a switch. I always thought the idea that you could make the switch on the wedding night as pretty stupid and unrealistic — I figured more likely it would take weeks to months to make the transition from virgin to sexually-active wife/husband, and rushing the process would make it worse.

      For the record, I’m a 57-year-old male virgin (not for lack of longing or trying), a Cold War Kid Genius who got the emotional/social retardation side effect hard, a very late bloomer whose bad experiences have left me with a deep distrust of women (and probably the biggest Virgin/Whore Syndrome this side of an Islamic Republic).

      Reply
    • This: “The less alone we feel I think the more we can help each other heal.” Truth.

      Reply
  70. Adele

    I have healed but in a very different way. My abuse occured when I was a child, between the ages of 6 and 8. It was at the hands of a neighborhood kid but they were not a bully. That is what I struggled with. It never felt good but I would always go over to their house to play. Therapy helped me to let go of that guilt. As a young adult I came to a place that I could not be in a committmed relationship with another man, who in the past I had strong attractions to and enjoyed great sex. But that was the problem, it was just sex. The idea of becomeing vulnerable to another person and sharing this struggles id more than my mind can handle. I have discovered sinc ethat I love my singleness, that it really suits my personality. A personality that consists of non-conformity, rebellion and individuality. I just turned 40 recently and I have never felt better about where I am in life. So healig has come, just not through marriage.

    Reply
    • Yes, it’s the vulnerability that is so so hard. And God can heal any ol’ way He pleases. Certainly doesn’t require marriage to do so. :)

      Reply
  71. So well said, Mary!

    Reply
  72. I feel silly adding to the many comments here, but your story is mine. I was horrifically abused by a woman for 6 years, and sex has never been an easy thing for me. I wrote a letter to my husband about the skeletons in my closet, and it has remained one of the most popular pieces on my blog – leading me to believe there are MANY out there who share pieces of my story.
    http://www.turquoisegates.com/2012/04/letters-to-aaron-skeletons-in-closet.html

    Reply
    • beautiful post. thanks for sharing the link, Genevieve.

      Reply
  73. Amy

    Mary,

    I have never read your blog before today. I came here via Rachel Held Evans. Thank you for this. I was raised in an evangelical church which instilled a view of sex as “dirty” from a young age. Then, when I was in college, I was sexually assaulted on spring break. I was very drunk when it occurred, and spent a great deal of time believing that my poor choices were the “reason” it happened. That it was my fault. I had been taught to believe in a God of retributive justice. Because I had made bad choices, and because sex is dirty, God surely would abandon me for my sinful actions, or so I believed.

    This post spoke to so much that goes unspoken in my heart. My journey to healing has been a long one, and though I have made great strides to forgive myself, I sometimes forget how much these things still affect me. You have been a blessing to me today.

    PLEASE write that book!

    Reply
    • Amy, this really blessed me: “This post spoke to so much that goes unspoken in my heart.” That was my desire in writing it. To give words to those who have walked that painful path.

      Reply
  74. Julie Buol

    Mary, I too have this struggle. Many years of therapy and groups and healing from Jesus, and it is still a prescence in my life. I feel a deep desire to walk along side and encourage other women who are working through the wounds of sexual abuse, especially childhood sexual abuse. I am currently involved in The Wild Flowers Group, headed up by Julie Woodley. It’s a great program. She has a website with information on joining a group and what her mission is about. Thank you so much for bringing this into the light. We need more awarness in our churches and our culture. Here is a link for The Wild Flowers.
    http://www.rthm.cc/

    Reply
  75. Megan

    My story sometimes seems illegitimate because I don’t have complete memories of sexual abuse in my past. Just problems that have plagued my marriage from the start (16 years ago). So, on top of intimacy issues with my husband, I feel like I have nothing to be worried/whining/hurting about.

    But I’ve been pursuing counseling for a few years now – not necessarily to “get to” those memories – but to pursue wholeness and reconciliation in this area. For my sake and my husband’s. It has helped tremendously, and my wise, comforting counselor has never made me feel like I don’t belong there.

    This piece really, really resonated with me, and I was there in that Allume session when you joked that you’d never let your husband “eat a strawberry off my belly.” I knew right then that I liked you. And I appreciate your transparency in telling your story. You have and will bless many with this post.

    Reply
    • No story is illegitimate. Every story is different.

      Reply
  76. Elisabeth Nelson

    I wrote a novel about this very issue. A young woman, violated, who cannot connect with the gods (it’s a fantasy novel, “A Wall Ever Higher”) or the man who loves her. Immense patience and not a little bit of magic are required to get her to her wedding night.

    We know, in situations like this, that we are being unfair to our lovers, but that it’s not something we can just “get over” with the right man or woman.

    It is, to a large degree, a form of PTSD, and should be recognized as such.

    Reply
  77. Maybe it’s just because I’m not married, but why in the world would a conference even mention this? I assume it was at a church…Why would they not focus more on partnering for the work of the gospel and being the image of God? I agree that sex is designed by God to be a joy, but the words “duty” and “joy” rarely go together.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s just a single man’s ignorance, but the very premise that started this chain reaction just seems wrong to begin with. Though I certainly don’t blame your reaction, and well-composed response.

    May God’s grace continue to heal.

    Reply
    • Alas it was a conference specifically aimed at married women around the issue of intimacy. So it made sense in that context.

      Reply
      • I think the problem is with the definition of intimacy. One can be physical, and even have amazing sex, without having real intimacy. Real, deep, intimacy is rooted in community centered on the gospel. Even then, I don’t think there’s a Biblical mandate or argument to “be a hottie for your honey” or anything like that.

        We see much in the way of sacrificial service and love, even to the point of loving despite lacking some of our desires (which are probably selfish if we stop and think about it) because that’s how Christ loves the Church.

        Idk…the whole thing just seems backwards to me.

        Reply
        • This is a great thought. Thanks for the intimacy thread.

          Reply
  78. April

    Thank you for this. It is what I needed to hear NOW.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad, April.

      Reply
  79. Liz

    Thank you so much for sharing your story; I’m sure it’s hard to be so vulnerable, but it’s so needed. You can see the comfort your are bringing to others written all over these comments.

    A few years ago, I would have been one of the eager women sitting next to you. My husband and I have been out of sync sexually our whole relationship, but “surprisingly” to most of Christian culture, it’s very rarely been me putting on the brakes, either in our courtship or our marriage. I’m sure that some of the women in that seminar were really eating up the tips to spice up a healthy, if somewhat rote, marital relationship, but for some I imagine they were desperate to find a way to avoid feeling undesirable, yet again. It’s a dirty little secret that guys who let the purity messages overtake the “boys will be boys” messages in our culture end up with issues, too, and I’m so very grateful for the nuanced discussions that are starting to appear. “Just be more sexually available and adventurous” is terrible advice for the (previously and currently) abused and the undesired alike.

    Reply
    • Yes, I agree that there’s more talk about it now, thankfully.

      Reply
    • “And the undesired alike.” Ditto.

      Reply
    • anonymous

      Oh, my goodness, yes! My husband has a low sex-drive. He has, nine and a half years into our marriage, finally started to talk about seeing a doctor and/or a counselor, just to make sure there’s no physiological reason.

      This issue is complicated by the fact that I grew up in a borderline (physically and psychologically) abusive family and was raped by an acquaintance in college. I responded by running TO men and “sexual-but-not-actual-sex” relationships. I want sex, but it is painful and I still have a lot of hang-ups. My husband rarely wants sex, which I assumed was my fault for years. I was terrified of counseling on my own, because all I ever heard at church was, basically, it must be YOUR problem if your husband doesn’t desire you. My husband is terrified of counseling because he feels like a freak. I finally went on my own, and it has helped some.

      I’ve been in those “hot wife” conferences, and I have totally faked it. I could never betray my husband by talking about our issues with people who know him, so I just laugh in the right places, make general comments, and no one seems to notice.

      I don’t think I’ve ever written or said all of this before. Seeing it in print makes it seem crazier.

      Reply
      • It’s not crazy. Thank you for sharing openly. NOT crazy. I know folks who deal exactly with this type of situation. It’s painful both ways. I do pray your husband gets some help, and that you begin to see how beautiful you are.

        Reply
      • Liz

        It’s not crazy… You’re not alone. I could have written your comment, almost exactly. Not many people will know what to say because our situations don’t follow cultural scripts, but that doesn’t mean we’re above-averagely broken. Hang in there!

        Reply
        • anonymous

          Thank you for the solidarity! It helps, really. I think it’s time to call my counselor back…

          Reply
  80. Kristin

    I think it’s absolutely a book that should be written and a topic talked about. I was raped in college and bringing that to my marriage took many years of healing. But our God is big and faithful to restore those broken places. There are so many who are still suffering, alone feeling like they can’t talk about the struggle. My teenage son came home the other day, weeping because of the many friends (girls) of his who have been violated, who don’t see their own value or beauty. He sat in my kitchen feeling helpless. Maybe if they knew they were not alone, healing would begin sooner.

    Reply
    • Good for your teenage son for having sweet empathy!

      Reply
  81. rebecca erwin

    The one thing I still wrestle with and even the thought makes me nauseous are all the verses talking about God as my protector. These verses keep being thrown around like meaningless life preservers. He didn’t protect me from my sexual abuser nor from my abusive mother and father.
    He did however grant me the tools of survival. He was a refuge. He was a strength. Holy Spirit’s wisdom was a constant whisper to my heart that I was loved, created and purposed to live. I exist because He wanted me to. That is the life line I cling to.

    Reply
    • I agree. It’s very very difficult. And I don’t always understand because if it were up to me, and I knew someone was hurting my child, as a loving parent, I would intervene.

      Reply
    • rebecca erwin

      Interestingly, my mother has personified blame that I do not put on her. It it is possible, the sexual abuse is a separate minor to being raised in a legalistic, same oriented mentally ill system. I wish there were more ministry to those raised by such parentals. It makes honoring them tricky.

      Reply
  82. Please write the book x

    Reply
    • Lord willing, I will.

      Reply
  83. Hi, Mary. I am smack dab in the middle of pursuing healing from my childhood sexual abuse. I am working with Holley Gerth on her God-sized Dream Team. Part of the commitment to the team is to pursue my own dream. While most women identified things like writing a book, speaking, getting published, quitting a job, starting a business, etc., I said I want to be free from the hold that the abuse has on me…As you know, it’s a heavy duty subject, and I feared no one would want to read about it…yet I write about it most Tuesdays. I started out trying to read A Wounded Heart and discovered that’s not the path God has for me. My core wounds from the abuse are in my self-worth. He is teaching me how He loves me and what my worth truly is. That’s something I have yet to embrace well at the heart level. I’m working on not letting my self worth be the filter through which I view life. So many thoughts on this, Mary… I’m grateful for what you’ve shared here. Thank you!

    Reply
    • I love Holley! And I love that you’re walking through The Wounded Heart. That helped me so much.

      Reply
  84. When I was in college, I was raped twice, almost exactly a year apart by two different men. Shortly after the second attack, I came across a passage on rape in a college psychology textbook which said that women who experience multiple violations tend to be “losers” who make self-destructive choices and are basically failing at life. And yes, it actually used the word “loser”. In my vulnerable state, I came very close to embracing this as part of my identity. I was one of those women who were losers and I would deal with my pain by making self-destructive choices. But then I realized, I had already had two men decide for me what was going to happen with my body, I was going to decide for myself what sort of person I am and what sort of life I have. Some idiot – no matter how supposedly educated or informed – wasn’t going to put that label on me or tell me how I would behave.

    Of course, like most anyone in my situation, I did wonder if there was something about me which had lead to this happening to me. I refused to accept the idea that what happened to me was somehow my fault. But I also knew that people who rape are experts at recognizing those who are vulnerable to being victimized. What I realized was that I wasn’t vulnerable because I was a loser – I was vulberable because I had been brought up to believe that I didn’t have a right to protect myself from things which made me uncomfortable (like the physical abuse masquerading as discipline which I experienced growing up). Once I was able to recognize that I held this false belief – and that it was no fault of my own – I was able to start rejecting it and learning a new way of thinking about myself and my right to my own body.

    It’s been hard, but over and over again I pushed myself to recognize and reject the false beliefs and ideas which have threatened to make me a hostage to the ugly things which have happened to me. Those people took enough from me and I’m determined not to allow them to continue taking from me what doesn’t belong to them. I also learned a lot about trauma and the way it affects people so that I could recognize its effects before I got completely caught up in them. I do recognize that with everything that’s happened to me, there will always be telltale signs and struggles. But I also believe that the idea of the carefree, sexually uninhibited woman who is always fully present, fully engaged, willing to do anything is mostly a myth. Even women who haven’t been the victims of sexual violence have to deal with the effects of our falleness and our cultural dysfunctions surrounding sex. My struggles don’t mean I’m damaged – they just mean I’m working out my own particular set of issues and confusion, just like everyone else.

    Today I have 5 kids. Their dad and I have chosen to be very open with them about sex and sexuality. And we have talked with them about sexual violence when it has come up. One of the things which we’ve really stressed to them is that when someone has been the victim of sexual violence, that has nothing to do with who they are as people. It doesn’t make them dirty. It doesn’t make them damaged. If they were a virgin before, they are a virgin after – and not just technically. Rape isn’t sex. Sex is something two people chose to do together. Rape is something one person does to another. A person who has been raped didn’t have sex any more than a person whose debit card gets stolen went on a spending spree. I hope that none of my kids ever have to deal with this issue themselves, but should it ever happen, I hope that they will be able to reject the tendency towards personalizing the event which is so common among those of us who have been victimized in this way.

    Reply
    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      But I also believe that the idea of the carefree, sexually uninhibited woman who is always fully present, fully engaged, willing to do anything is mostly a myth.

      You find that sort of woman in only one place: PORN.

      Reply
    • I adore the way you’re talking to your kids about this. Bravo!

      Reply
    • anonymous

      “A person who has been raped didn’t have sex any more than a person whose debit card gets stolen went on a spending spree.”

      Thank you! Great analogy!

      Reply
  85. Sarah

    Thank you so much for writing this post today – it truly resonates and makes me feel RELIEVED to know that I am not the only one out there struggling with these intense intimacy issues, (though it’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone). I have never been abused, but I have and currently experience the same dirty, shameful, remorseful, etc. feelings that counselors tell me are typically attributed to clients with past histories of abuse. I’ve only been married for a year and a half at this point to an amazing husband who loves me despite all of my faults, but I can’t help but feel bad for him that I can’t live up to this ‘sexy’ persona of what a good wife ‘should’ be. I often feel guilty that I can’t encompass this persona at the drop of a hat, and instead I usually end up in tears with tremendous disappointment at my own feelings of failed expectations – not my husband’s. Since working with my counselor, we’ve unburied various underlying factors and there has been improvement, but it is still my number one struggle and is something I hope to conquer and assist others with one of these days. Thank you for sharing, and I’m sure I would gain much insight from your book if you choose to write it!

    Reply
    • Sarah, I hurt for what you’re walking through. I had SO MUCH guilt over this issue, particularly in the early parts of my marriage. Keep doing the hard work of healing. You will get through this. You are wildly loved by Your Creator.

      Reply
  86. Meredith

    Thank you for putting words to things I’ve felt but have not yet been able to articulate fully. Your post was a real blessing to me today. I’m staying the course, doing the work and letting Jesus in to heal my inmost wounds. It’s a process. I wish it were easier, but praying I can encourage others someday just as you’ve encouraged me:)

    Reply
    • I’m sure you will encourage others with your story, Meredith.

      Reply
    • Keep at it.

      Reply
  87. Dearest Mary, this is beautiful, and you are beautiful. Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty. Thank you.

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so I don’t know if this has already come up, but the truth is that even women who weren’t sexually abused can struggle in this area. The world (and Hollywood in particular) paints such a false picture of what sexual intimacy looks like. If a woman feels shy and uncertain in the bedroom, feelings of inadequacy and guilt may soon follow — especially if her husband expresses disappointment or places sexual demands on her — complicating her ability to enjoy and offer intimacy.

    Honestly, I’m not convinced that being a tigress in bed is the way to the most fulfilling sex life. True intimacy goes much, much deeper than physical pleasure. As strange as it may sound, the fact that you and Patrick have had to be patient with each other and learn to communicate is a gift to you. The James Bond model of sexuality is just one more counterfeit our enemy has tried to sell us, robbing us of the better gift God created and longs to give. The marriage bed is meant to be HOLY. So, be holy, my friend. Be holy, and your husband’s heart will desire you beyond his wildest dreams.

    Love you so much.
    Jeanne

    Reply
    • Amen. Be holy. Be whole. I love you so much too, dear Jeanne.

      Reply
  88. Ro elliott

    Oh Mary…what a beautiful brave heart….thank you for speaking up for those who don’t know how to voice their own conflict. I have not experience such pain myself….but have walked along side others who have….bless you dear sister for living a vulnerable life…so others can find a healing process too.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Ro, for walking alongside others who have.

      Reply
  89. Anonymous

    Thanks for this!

    I have not experienced sexual abuse, but have health issues that complicate my sexual life. I share your frustration that women are often told to be sex goddesses when some of us struggle just with the basics.

    Praise God our sex life continues to improve, but what DIDN’T ever help it was all the pressure to be the perfect bedroom dream every day.

    Reply
    • Agreed, the pressure only causes stress.

      Reply
  90. please write this book Mary… will be glad to email you with my own thoughts… but this is such an important topic and I’ve never seen it addressed before with such grace. thank you!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much, Carrie.

      Reply
  91. Mark Allman

    Wow Mary… I ache for those that have been abused.

    Reply
  92. S

    I was sexually violated in childhood. I started experimenting sexually as a teenager which culminated in a rape experience. I was then raped repeatedly in adulthood due to exploitative circumstances. The trauma. just. kept. happening. Over and over again. And because of this, I felt — and still struggle with feeling — that there is something inherently wrong with me. That I must be bad or worthless that this would keep happening to me. I wish I could logically explain why this has all happened. It doesn’t seem to make any sense at all.

    I am not married. In fact, one of the reasons I have not pursued this path — or allowed myself to be pursued too far along on it — is because of the sexual trauma I’ve experienced. I fear the marriage bed as much as I fear marriage. If there is a husband in my future, I pray he is loving and kind and accepting.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry this happened to you. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

      Reply
  93. Melina

    I was abused sexually by extended family members, starting at age 8 til 14 or 15, and no one ever knew because I never told. Somehow I had blocked out the memories from those 6-7 years until, at the age of 24, I finally went to see a therapist about my aversion, and sometimes violently emotional reaction, to physical affection. Even after almost 2 years of emotional reversal therapy, I am still afraid of touch. Thank you so much for sharing your story and reminding me, once again, that I am not alone and that I am still worth something. Its a truth i know in my head, just not always in my heart.

    Reply
    • It’s such a long route from head to heart. I still struggle with this. Melina, you are brave for airing out your story here. Thank you.

      Reply
  94. oh my how i relate to this! and i’ve done some pretty creative things to try and be “all that” but they always leave me feeling like i’m a fake. sexually abused by my coach at 14, i have struggled my entire life with feeling my only value is in my body! and to have a group of women reinforce that would have made me super angry too! it all just feels too heavy. and yet here i sit, in my old sweats with food stains and unkempt hair…with a loving husband who finds me irresistible!

    Reply
    • I love that your hubby loves you, Leigh.

      Reply
  95. Dear Mary,

    “Thank you” does not express my gratitude to you for addressing those of us who cannot be “the sexy wife”. Oh, how the sermons from Song of Solomon on ecstasy and sexual abandonment make me groan inwardly and prompt me to self-deprecate. I do not share your tragic story, but I have my own history of disease and sickness. My husband and I have been married for only eighteen months and I have been hospitalized a total of nine times during that short time. We have fought hard for one another’s well-being and have fought hard to serve each other through these painful experiences. Sexual difficulty has been the norm for me (for us) and I thank you for beginning a conversation on behalf of those for whom sex does not come easily. We deserve more than condemnation and reproach from the pulpit and we must applaud one another for bravery, selflessness and healing. I commend you for your voice. I commend my dear husband, who has consistently chosen my good over his needs. I commend myself, for still fighting. I commend all of us to our Savior, who loves persons and not performances.

    Reply
    • So much great commendation, Annie. Thank you. Your comment reminded me of the Song of Solomon study that I haven’t attended/watched/listened to. I just can’t.

      Reply
  96. Fruit plates are overrated. Strawberries and more could not keep my first husband from wandering, nor my second from rejecting me. In fact, any initiative or desire on my part only served as reminder that I had (shamefully) been there before. I am tired of rejection and tired of glib gimmicks. Why should once person have to be manipulative to another to receive love and attention?

    Reply
  97. Reda

    Thank you for this! And I would say this is salve even beyond the scope you think. I have never been abused sexually. I approached my wedding night with stark naivete, another kind of terrified. I married another “christian,” expecting that provided me with some assurance of understanding that sex was a learning process. That expectation was incorrect. My then-husband, who did have experience with sex, expected from me what he had seen in x-rated movies. When I didn’t live up to his fantasies, he was cold, cruel, even hateful. For nearly five years, sex to me meant falling short, pain, and hurt.

    Fast-forward eight years and I am now married to a wonderful man who understands my difficulty with sex and is incredibly patient with me. But still, when I think of sex, it triggers in me feelings of inadequacy and pain.

    Reply
  98. I would love it if you wrote a book, I would buy it and your post itself helped me as a victim of child abuse, now married. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  99. Rena

    Mary, my friend posted a link to this blog on her Facebook wall with the following comment: “for my friends who have survived sexual abuse.”

    Here was my reply to her as a woman who has not suffered from sexual abuse:

    “I think this article can be relevant for many of us…The surface story definitely targets survivors of sexual abuse, but many carry fragmented understandings of sexuality into our partnerships and marriages. Thankfully, (Mary) had a supportive husband who didn’t reject her–that’s a real blessing. But sexuality in marriage is (in my opinion) an extension of an intimacy that should already exist in our relationships, as well as in ourselves (and our relationship with God.) The fact that it doesn’t, the fact that this abused little girl trusted a babysitter more than her mother, that she suffered in silence and disassociated from a part of herself in order to survive the trauma of her childhood…there’s more to the story than just the pressures of a Christian speaker uttering yet more platitudes, rules and regulations (albeit informal) from the podium. Also,why do these speakers have such authority in our lives in the first place? Why do we even wrestle with them for power and control within us? It’s definitely a great, thought-provoking article!”

    I share my initial response to your article because I think it’s relevance extends far beyond the arena of sexual abuse, though I know that’s the main focus. As I said, I have never been sexually abused, but I have suffered from physical and emotional abuse and have experienced some major blockages in the area of sexuality. Any assault that takes us out of ourselves, that makes our bodies, our physical selves an unsafe place, seems ripe for insecurities with regards to sexuality (as well as weight/size/appearance.)

    I applaud your courage as well as your vulnerability.

    Reply
  100. Randy Clement

    Mary,

    I am a chaplin at a women’s prison and with your permission I would like to share your post with them. I also plan on buying some copies of your book to put in their library. So many of the ladies have been abused sexually and verbally and I know your story and struggles will help them.

    Peace and Good,
    Randy

    Reply
    • Yes, yes, please share, Randy.

      Reply
  101. Oh, Mary! This is so important. And you have written about it so very well. How did we fall into this trap of believing that 1.) it’s up to the woman/wife to make sure the sex is up to snuff; 2.) that all problems of intimacy can be solved by a hot time in bed; 3.) that everyone’s enjoyment will be the same; 4.) that something is wrong with US if we carry psychological burdens from past abuse at the hands of others?? Criminy, this is just wrong. Yes, write the book. Yes, tell your story and stories of others who are willing to be heard. Speak back to this reductionistic view of life and sex and marriage. Lord, have mercy on us! We can really, really mess things up, can’t we?? Thanks so much for this. Truly.

    Reply
    • SO well said, Diana. Yes, Lord have mercy.

      Reply
  102. Yes, Mary, write that book!!

    Usually I do ok, but lately some of my triggers got trigged.

    Not only would I have walked out of that session, I would’ve run out–bawling.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry. I certainly felt like crying. Triggers are problematic b/c they come at strange times, usually.

      Reply
  103. Ben

    I would love to see counseling or presentations for men which speak to the struggle of women. Don’t we all deserve to be brought closer together in spirit with discerning hearts? Peace to all who have shared and those who are reading without comment.

    Reply
    • Thanks Ben, I agree. Which is why my husband would help write this book.

      Reply
  104. Erica

    Thank you so much for writing this article. My friend sent it to me who knows my struggles.
    I was sexually abused as a child by my Step-Grandpa. I knew as a child that something had happened, but I had blocked the worst part of it. I did not deal with it as an adult until my Wedding night when I could not physically have sex. My husband and I found out that I had developed a condition called Vaginismus (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002457/). It took a year of therapy and different kinds of treatment before my husband and I could have sex. I prayed to Jesus every day for a solid 4 months asking Him to give me strength to overcome this condition.
    It is something that I still battle with every day and we have been married almost 5 years now. It has been in the last year that I have made the most progress in our sex life. I finally got to a place where I was tired of giving this man (who is now dead) so much power over my life. Yes he sexually abused me, yes he took away something so precious, but I want to be able to own my sex life, and enjoy it with my husband. It also helps that I have a husband who stood by me, loved me and supported me through all of this.
    I can say from experience that I feel like a woman who is at a place that loves sex, desires it, and wants to explore things that I used to consider “dirty” and “wrong”. I have healed over the years, and view my sex life with my husband in what I consider a very healthy and natural way. I do not just want to embrace sex for his needs, but I have gotten to a place where I have needs as well. I look at us as equals in this way, and I do not see it as he has more of a sex drive than I do. I initiate just as much as he does now. I do not say all this because I desire to overshare, I simply feel the need to express that sexual abuse victims can overcome their past, heal and truly find their sexuality. I have been surprised over the last year just how much I value my sex life with my husband. It is through the work of Jesus, therapy, support, and being vocal about my past that I have healed as much as I have. I believe that I will always be on a road of recovery from my childhood abuse, but I also feel that I am on a journey of discovering how God intended a sexual relationship to be. It is beautiful, powerful, and one of the loveliest acts I have ever discovered.

    Reply
    • I’m so so so sorry that happened to you, but I’m proud of you for realizing you didn’t need to let your grandpa control your reactions today. You are brave.

      Reply
  105. Gina

    Thank you for saying this! I am 5 yrs into marriage and we have our fair share of troubles and most of them come from my childhood abuse and attachment issues. I have vulnerably opened up to other women about our lacking sex life and have had comments like, “Just have sex with him, it’s not a choice.” “It’s not about you, it’s about meeting his needs.” Comment after comment that just buries me in guilt and shame. I feel like I am being disobedient to God, and not a good christian or wife because of it. Please write a book about this!! I have no friends with abuse like mine in their childhood which seems strange statistically, so I needed to hear what you wrote. I have been able to speak about my past and how God has used it (I actually spoke at a retreat with Sarah Markley and she gave me your book!) I see God redeeming my story but I just wish He would do some redeeming in my sex life! Thank you for the encouragement, thank you!

    Reply
    • Ouch. Women! Listen up, don’t heap guilt on your friends about sex! Saying, “Just do it,” makes it even harder.

      Reply
  106. Misty Lou

    I am so embarrassed to write this. My sexual dysfunction comes from a past abortion. Fortunately my second husband has his own issues and hasn’t noticed that I’ve never been able to … you know…during relations. It’s just too hard and I pray for healing, but that hasn’t come yet. Thank you for this writing. God bless you, and I pray He will guide you in writing the book that can comfort many, many people!

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry, Misty. This must be so hard to walk through.

      Reply
  107. Tanner Beebe

    Mary,
    I’m a 21 year-old pre-seminary student at a Bible College who has been addicted to porn for the past 3 months. I can’t tell you how disgusting I have felt coming to grips with the reality of the physical and emotional trauma that so many of those women went through as men shot images and videos of their nakedness for the sexual greediness of other men (like me). By God’s grace, He has been showing me the horror of that sin, a deeper sense of His glory, the holistic beauty of my sisters-in-Christ, and examples of imperfect, but beautiful, Christ-centered marriages (as well as His power and grace to restore both people in that covenant). Thank you for your painfully authentic, but God-dependent and glorifying article. It helped me see again the ugliness of sex distorted, the pain that my future spouse might have gone through (if he gifts me with one), as well as the potential pain my sin will have caused her and myself. I was really tempted tonight to look at porn again before I found this article through TGC. I hope you write that book. If you’re able to complete it, I think that it could be a powerful testimony that both men and women could benefit from. (But so will your faithful witness as a daughter of God, even if the responsibilities God has placed in front of you prevent you from completing it.) Thanks Again!

    Reply
    • Tanner, God loves you. He does. And that overwhelming, powerful love will deliver you.

      Reply
  108. Laura

    Mary, thank you for writing bravely on this topic. I am getting married in 25 days and honestly, while I am so excited to be sharing a life with my fiance, I am terrified of sex. He has been incredibly understanding of me so far, but I have struggled with that same thought–that it’s not fair to him that I am afraid/sometimes disgusted by his body and mine (and we aren’t even married yet, so I have no idea how sex will affect this mindset). I was molested for years of my childhood and while I have learned to trust him and accept parts of sexuality as good and God-given, many still strike me as intensely painful and dirty. I am still unsure how to sort it all out, but knowing I’m not the only one trying to do so is a comfort.

    Reply
    • Jesus, be with Laura on her wedding night. Bring huge doses of joy and peace, and help her to communicate openly with her new husband.

      Reply
  109. I was molested 3 times and raped once by age 11. I totally shut down but I acted out in promiscuity, giving sex to get the holding I so desperately wanted. I felt NOTHING sexually. I couldn’t remember the rape and prayed to do so thinking it would heal me. I got my memory back in a dream, but not healing. I have worked on it, and I’m way better. And I married again and it was better, but there was still, way too often, this mind floating over there where “it” wasn’t happening. And this year my husband had an affair and I left him. I would NEVER survive a talk like that, I already feel so guilty that I’ve failed my husbands. I will watch for your book in anticipation if you write it. I think there is a HUGE audience for this, sadly.

    Reply
    • Debra, what a difficult story. I’m so sorry about the molestations and rape, and the further injury of your husband’s affair. There just aren’t words for pain like that. I’m sorry.

      Reply
      • Thank you. It’s been a long rough road. Harder because I finally was able to respond to a man and then lost him anyway. Makes trusting another relationship well nigh impossible.

        Reply
  110. I am always so amazed of, inspired by, and proud of men and women who stand up and speak honestly from their spirit. You comfort so many through that. Many people are afraid to speak too brazenly, but special people like you help those to jumpstart loving themselves more and to diminish the negative self talk, the terror and fear, and guilt and shame of their past. Thank you. I am proud of women like you. You deserve love for the both the well and hurting part of you, and I presume your husband has grown to care for both of these parts of your mind and spirit. Many blessings and hopes for your intimacy going forward.

    Reply
    • Monica, thank you. It’s a pleasure, really. Because then I get to hear stories of others finding freedom.

      Reply
    • My hubby’s been a gem of a man.

      Reply
  111. Jennifer

    Wow. Your brave and beautiful words reminded me that I was thirsty for this perspective. I have often felt this way but have never been brave enough to say it. My husband is a gem and has lived with my demons and loved me through many sad moments over the past 21 years. I am starting to get a handle on it but……it’s tough and absolutely ONLY with Jesus help and love is any of my growth possible. Thank you for being brave. A book? YES! Please!

    Reply
    • Oddly, I don’t feel very brave. I feel raw and tender all at the same time.

      Reply
  112. So %#}*ing brave. You are so brave! I am so proud of you for being a voice for so many who cannot put into words their painful past and painful present. Bless you friend.

    Reply
    • Thank you Andy. I feel quite small in the aftermath of this post, so your words mean a lot.

      Reply
      • Small like.. “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

        Reply
        • I’d like it to be that kind of small.

          Reply
  113. Nicole

    PLEASE write a book on this. I would definitely read it. I haven’t been sexually abused, but was definitely in an abusive relationship and it so skewed my view of men and sex because I didn’t want to be used or manipulated by someone ever again. I married an incredible man, but that’s an area of my marriage that has struggled because of my past. It’s so difficult to embrace being “the sexy wife” when I struggle to engage in that arena at all. Always good to hear I’m not alone. thanks!

    Reply
    • True, true, you are not alone, Nicole. Can you bring this very sensitive subject up with your husband?

      Reply
  114. This paragraph….”Truth be told, I walked a strange line between yearning and utter terror. As a fatherless girl, I wanted nothing more than to have a boyfriend fill up all the empty spaces of me, but when my love interest became interested, I ran one thousand miles away, completely terrified. I worried they’d try to make me do things I didn’t ever want to do.” You just described ME with that paragraph! But, no husband. So, when I “run away” and am that single female…ugghhh. You can imagine the assumptions that go on in the church. I hate it. But, even more so, I hate the nauseating stomach pain I get whenever it might become an issue, or is talked about or brought up, etc. Yes, it was hard to read this(my choice), but it helped in a relieving type of way knowing I am not the only one who has thought/done that!! But, my next step??? I don’t know and I have been in and out of giving up. Meaning, if counseling all of these years didn’t help, I am not sure it will. And, I just do not want to even go there so, I haven’t been dating.

    Reply
    • You are certainly not alone! The lion’s share of my healing didn’t come through counseling, but by sharing my story with people who dared to believe God would heal. They prayed me through four years of healing. I pray you can find some amazing folks like that.

      Reply
  115. Galadriel

    Woooow!”Thank you” for writing this post will be an understatement! It really touched me, as corny as it is to say so. I haven’t really been sexually abused and I think I have a moderate view of sex, but I also get extremely annoyed, uncomfortable and even angry with talks like “be a hottie for you honey”. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to go through everything you’ve gone through, and those who shared their stories in the comment section. My heart, thoughts and prayers for all of the brave women(and men)! Please do write the book! It is needed to help healing and also inform and lead us to empathy. Blessings.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the prayers and cheerleading thoughts, Galadriel!

      Reply
  116. Linda C

    Mary, thanks for sharing this vulnerable post. I think a book is a wonderful idea, and, clearly, your story resonates with so many who have struggled with similar wounds and who have felt utterly alone. While we wait for you to publish your own book on the subject, there is one by Wendy Maltz entitled The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse that has helped some others in their healing process. Perhaps you are familiar with it, but if not, I recommend it to you. I look forward to reading your book as well. Peace and healing…

    Reply
    • Thanks for that book title. I’d read The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender, but not this one.

      Reply
  117. Richard C

    Wow Mary. Stunningly honest post. It is not just that you have shared so much of your story but that you have demonstrated how an often assumed way that Christians communicate about married sex (God thinks sex is great, Yay! Let’s enjoy it!) can be so hurtful to many. I treasure what you have written here and hope that churches will learn to communicate in a way that reflects the One who humbly came to meet us in our pain, anxieties, hopes and hurts.

    Reply
    • There’s a need to be honest but sensitive, open, yet grace-filled. And the hardest place to be honest (I think) is talking about sex with your spouse. It’s awkward and stressful! But worth it.

      Reply
  118. John

    Mary,
    thank you for posting this. I’m slowly reading my way down the comments so I hope I don’t make the same point as everyone else.
    I am a newly married man. My wife was raped before I ever met her. We’ve now been married three months and haven’t had sex because of the mental scars of her past assault. Even though we discussed that this might happen before we got married, sometimes she gets very sad as she doesn’t feel she is ‘serving’ me if we aren’t having sex. I wont lie and pretend I don’t get sad as well sometimes, I hate the fact that my touches, which are intended to be loving, can bring on such intense feelings of pain, shame and fear. But I love her absolutely and I just like being able to lie with her, hug her and kiss her.
    One day we may be able to have sex but perhaps not. It might mean we need to choose to adopt when we decide its the right time to have children.

    So thank you for sharing your story. It’s not an area that seems to be covered very well for wives or their husbands. If you write the book then I would look forward to reading it.

    Reply
    • I love that you’re being sensitive and patient, John. It’s a hard line for you because in the long run, you do want to see her whole and healed. My husband had a hard line to dance, wanting to give me space, but also learning when to be honest how he felt and his longing to see me whole (which meant I had to grow too).

      Reply
      • John

        Thanks Mary. That’s one of the areas I find really difficult. Supporting her and being sensitive but not wanting to wrap her up in cotton wool either.

        Reply
  119. Traci

    All I can say is WOW! So refreshing to hear someone else articulate what I have felt for so long and thought was a fault of my own to carry. Thank you for sharing words to help heal! Raising 3 girls it is my biggest fear that someone or something will damage them like most women are damaged. And I feel powerless to help them because my view of sex is so twisted, despite years of counseling.
    Thank you for being willing to be open and honest. Would love to read your book when you write it;).

    Reply
    • My pleasure, Traci.

      Reply
  120. Goodness, the reminds me so much of Elora’s stunning post from two weeks ago: http://www.eloranicole.com/2013/02/when-theres-always-another-story/

    Between the two of you, I think there’s such an important conversation to be had. Maybe that book could use a co-author. ;-) I think it’d be brilliant.

    Reply
  121. Jennifer

    This post was heartbreaking for me to read. Our two daughters were sexually molested by 2 neighborhood brothers last year. It’s been quite a mess to work through and one that leaves me in tears & prayer most evenings. I would love it if you would write a book on this topic. My biggest struggles are forgiving myself as a mother who feels she did not protect her daughters and also just wondering how this will all affect my daughters in the future.

    Reply
    • I am living proof that God can and will heal. Rest there. He is bigger than the abuse. And the fact that you believed your children is huge. So many share and don’t get heard. You are a good mom.

      Reply
  122. This post was hard to read, but thank you for sharing it. This is such a huge issue for me as well…that would take more than a comment to touch on, but yes there are so many issues, yes it affects my marriage sometimes. Even though my husband is so patient and understanding, I feel guilt about it, as heaped on by Christian women who talk about sex as the most important aspect of marriage, and that you should do it on demand no matter what. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your comment, Crystal. I appreciate your honesty.

      Reply
  123. Dianne

    Thanks for writing this! My story is a tad different but I have the same feelings.
    Thanks again!!

    Dianne

    Reply
    • You are not alone, Dianne.

      Reply
  124. Heather

    By the time I got done reading this page, I have to admit I was so angry. I’ve never been sexually abused. But just everything in this article just screams to me about a Christianity that makes sex a woman’s duty, rather than an intimate tender exchange between a husband and a wife.

    For instance, you mentioned Mary about being scared about your wedding night. I hurt for you that there was this *expectation* that because you had just gotten married, that you would have sex that night.

    I worry as I read this that Christians look at sex as a mechanical sort of thing – insert object A into slot B…and that what really matters in the Christian bedroom is getting that task accomplished. An understanding and patient husband is defined as one that can help you get the task accomplished in a way you can …deal with? And then, we pray to Jesus and ask him to give us a healthy view of this? He can’t give us a healthy view of THIS, because THIS is not what a marriage bed is about!

    Sex is NOT “insert object A into slot B.” If it is like that, especially if it is an obligation performed for a spouse, it will ALWAYS feel filthy and dirty and awful. I told my husband when we were dating, “Promise me you will never have sex with me – promise me that you will always make love to me.” He promised, gladly and enthusiastically.

    Sex for us does not have an end point in mind. Cuddling, kissing, licking, touching each other in every way we can think of just to say “I love you” can go on for hours and hours, and may or may not end up in object A going…ahem…to slot B. Realistically, the gentle caresses often leave us so fully hungry for one another that it would take a freight train to stop us from going there. But it doesn’t have to go there. Our goal in bed is not to “have sex.” Our goal in bed is to just be with each other, touch each other in ways that communicate our affection, longing, love, desire.

    I think in our culture we have been so inundated with ideas about “how to spice things up” and what acts to perform that somewhere in all that, intimacy and togetherness and closeness are just overrun with acts needing to be performed to keep someone’s attention. And somehow it is always believed that it is the man whose appetite is strongest, and it is the male whose appetite needs to be ‘appeased.’ But this isn’t making love, this is using one another! Or more importantly, it is using the woman as if she is the sex slave to her husband.

    Maybe if you guys could just cuddle and kiss foreheads gently and laugh and lick noses and chew on fingers and rub bellies for a few hours each day, and not think at all about having sex, you’d discover a part of you that likes it and wants it when it’s not about performing for HIM, but about sharing each other because you’ve been loved and stroked and nuzzled to the point of knowing that every touch that is being given out and received is really just about knowing and loving and enjoying your best friend and life partner, and not about giving him some use of your body to get off on.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your well thought out comments, Heather. Yes, agreed, sex isn’t mechanical per se, it’s designed to be a mutually loving act.

      Reply
    • Heather

      The difference between that and porn is that in porn, people aren’t in a relationship with one another beyond the time of filming, really….

      I was thinking after I wrote this earlier today that historically, the church believed that marital intimacy was for one purpose only: procreation. So the activities that were forbidden (premarital sex) and the activity that was prescribed (marital sex) completely focused on the one part of spectrum of sexual behavior that related specifically to procreation: getting A into B.

      There’s nothing there about peoples’ hearts, or emotions, or pleasure – although if pleasure should enter the picture, it does with a patriarchical bend to it – ya better please that husband, ya hear?

      But should the wooing of courtship disappear once the man “has her?” If the relationship started with him trying to win a woman’s heart, why is it after marriage that now the woman has to “pay up?” Should not the wooing continue, to the point that the offering of her body is not something she does as a duty to him, but as a response to his intimate, personal, and wise continuation of that wooing process, whereby he enables her to feel treasured, wanted in a way that makes her feel free and secure all at once, and where they create a world together? Sex cannot be the goal or the arrival point. The real obligation upon a married couple is to build a realm of true “knowing” of each other in the deepest way, and for many this includes sex, but when sex is getting in the way of that deep connection, should it not be thrown aside for the season and considered a mere interference? I worry about virgins who go to their wedding nights thinking that what has been forbidden shall now be instantly required, instead of the wedding night being a continuation of whatever intimacy has led them up to this point, with no one having any expectations of the other in what physical treats shall be given but where the true consummation of their union is whatever they decide to create together with no rules restraining them nor demanding anything of them when they share that exclusive place of hidden intimacy with one another. We push people to go beyond the truth of what intimacy they have developed with one another, intimacy that if developed without coercion from a pulpit or a spouse’s expection, will eventually create a world that will push out any other world that has been created for their sexual identities, a world of safety in the midst of whatever storms or fears had been created by any other parties. But if what is “truth” between them in that moment is simply to hold hands and stare into each other’s eyes, have they somehow failed to be in true union and consummation with one another, or are they discovering it in the truest way possible? Paul’s words about not depriving one another are couched in the language that the two always have the ability to create that world together of mutual consent, of each having total authority at the same time. There is so much more I can say, but I’ve gone on so long already…

      Reply
      • Sarah

        Dear Mary, (I hope it’s okay I’m speaking to you so informally)
        Thank you for writing this post. My heart is very saddened that you went through this. and at the same time, so joyful that God is bringing you through. I hope you write that book. I would like to read it.

        I was working in a kitchen once as a line chef, there was a guy there who was 7 years older than me, and apparently was interested in me. One day when we were working the line he started faking a hand to fist fight. I told him to stop and pushed a garbage can between us and he leaned over and bit me on my shoulder. I was 18? but I felt like I had just been put in kindergaten. I didn’t even know enough about sex to understand that what he did was wrong. and counted as sexual harassment.

        Even though I enjoy healthy sex with my husband, there are still times where this is brought back to mind and it gives me an inability to even mentally be in the room.

        In addition to that, your title really strikes a cord in me. I feel like we could take out the word sexy and replace it with ‘the (fill in the blank) I can’t be.

        It’s a little bit scary how much a mans opinion of me means to me, and how much I want to be ‘enough’ for them, for God, or for myself. I remember also struggling with depression (not soley related to the previous incident) and wondering as so many (if not all) do as to whether or not I was loveable. There were young Christian men in my life who tried to speak to the things that were broken in me, hoping they would get better, and hoping I would one day not be so selfish as to stay depressed. Didn’t I know that it wasn’t honoring to God? didn’t I know that a fruit of the spirit was joy? didn’t I know that it was so tiresome to be run around by the new emotion of the month? Didn’t I feel guilty for not being the woman God wanted me to be, and for not cultivating holiness? a gentle and quiet spirit they said. A proverbs 31 woman they said.
        “Sorry for trying.” I said.

        I absolutely love this thought from Cara.

        “Why have we been told that our sexuality (or worse our virginity) is the most precious part of us? Where does the Bible say that? Isn’t our being made in the image of God the most precious thing about us?”

        God has brought me through a lot of healing and restoration and is continuing to. But as some of your commenters have said, “When I first read this my reaction was right on. Some standing up and going against the crowd, but then I stop and tried to think why is it wrong to want to make you husband happy. I came to the conclusion it was not, it is normal. The problem is not with those who want to be good wives & lover for their husbands, it is that the author has had bad experiences, that is unfortunate, but that does not mean that other should stop trying to be good wives and make a happy home. it is neither hyper-sexual nor immoral for a women to want to be a good lover. Just because you can’t or worse don’t want to, does not make it wrong for other to be good spouses. Trauma is unfortunately, but the healing that come in Christ is to restore people to god’s normal pattern and sex is part of that normal pattern. If you have not been healed I am sorry for you, but don’t squash the joy other are having because of your brokenness. focus on the healing and normal pattern god has made, not your brokeness. It is like focusing on being fat in order to get skinny. you focus on health in order to be healthy.”

        This is exactly the heart of what caused so much trauma for me. I wanted to be joyful, but of course my inability to when they wanted it meant that I really DIDN’t want to. Unfortunate how the broken’s journey to healing is treated like nothing else in our world is. Quickly, and without hiccups.

        I’m slowly learning what “made in the image of God.” means. Wholly and Dearly Loved.
        Then, Now, and someday when I see His Image in my brokenness.

        Reply
        • I do believe all this stuff roots back to our identity. That it’s not that we try-try-try harder, but that we begin to believe our worth.

          Reply
          • You are spot on in more ways than you know, Mary! Thank you so much for your vulnerability. Please write that book! I am a psychologist, a Christian, and have advanced training in sex therapy including sexual abuse and sexual identity issues. I cannot tell you how important your words would be for some of my clients. Many blessings on you in your endeavors.

            In Christ’s love…

          • That’s encouraging to hear from a psychologist. I am going to write that book, Lord willing. You might point them to this post, too: http://www.marydemuth.com/2013/03/how-do-you-forgive-a-sexual-abuser-by-writing-a-letter/

          • Gwen

            Sad.

      • This is so beautifully written. Thank you. I think you should copy and paste this into your own blog post!

        Reply
      • Well said. And I will say that my husband is really, really great about telling me I’m pretty (even this morning) and courts me still. It makes it easy to love him.

        Reply
  125. Jim Lockhart

    Mary,
    I would encourage you to write your book. However, when you do, my suggestion would be to avoid the hackneyed descriptive of “sexual abuse”. Abuse, to me, is akin to treating a chair carelessly or using a piece of steel wool to clean a piece of fine crystal. What happened to me was not abuse; it was brutality. That it happened to be by sexual means only intensifies the effect of the brutality. If we do not describe what it means to be powerless while having our bodies savaged in ways that unwounded people cannot, and will not try to, comprehend, the church will never be able to see the true nature of sin and the damage wrought by violence. I have come to see that while Satan cannot create, he can mimic God by damaging men and women through violence in a way that creationally disorders them. To be filled with fear and the memories of unwanted bodily intrusion alters the sense of goodness with which we are born. The damage wrought by sexual brutality causes us to move away from God’s good intent for us into a distortion and, in some cases, a complete negation of the possibility of becoming who we ought to have become. The damage is wrought by what we do to and in ourselves as we struggle to both forget and insure that what came for us never comes for us again. Thus, in a sense, we become different and it can make it a bit harder for us to find all of the goodness of God. That brutality is the Satan’s design and instrument is something the church continues to ignore. While we speak of sin and sinners, we rarely consider how some may have come to be in the sin they find themselves. There are things we would rather not look at because, after all, what came for me could come to you and no one ever wants to consider that possibility. However, we, as the church, need to see it with more clarity than we have and each book, each testimony, and each witness brings that clarity closer. So write the truth and write it with the words that need to be said, words that speak the truth. My prayers will be with you.
    Your brother in Christ,
    Jim

    Reply
    • Jim, this is so well put. I agree, the terminology has become a bit neutered. Brutality often fits. What I encountered was utter brutality, and it scarred me for life. I’m grateful for healing, so so grateful, but I hope I haven’t painted what happened in an “easy” stroke. Not at all.

      And to be honest, I’ve run into folks in the church who simply want to plug their ears and say lalalalalala, ignoring the pain I’ve been through. If they ignore it, it will go away or it doesn’t exist.

      Reply
      • Brent Johnson

        First off, yours is needed sharing. As a young man it was very difficult to help my wife through the needed steps in this area and we didn’t know where to turn. After 25 years we’ve learned much and praise God we have a relationship that is very healthy in the bedroom but boy, those first steps were tough.
        Go easy on those gals, we live on a sex saturated culture and it’s easy to get caught up in it. We also see the joy of sex demonstrated in Song of Solomon so there is a place for it and I bet if you’d humbly brought up your concerns many would’ve rallied around you at that conference. I’d like to see you write the book, you have a wisdom that is wrought in the crucible and God will use it.

        Reply
  126. You’ve inspired me to write a blog post about the topic from a bit different perspective. I am praying for complete healing for you, sweet friend. (((HUG)))

    Reply
  127. I’ve never read a post like this. I have, however, sat through many a session like the one you described and felt so defeated. God hasn’t given me the courage or the words that he’s given you in this area. All I can say is please write that book. I will be first in line to purchase a copy.

    Reply
    • The consistent message seems to be: write that book. Scary! Hard!

      Reply
  128. I have not been abused…but I have been in or put myself in? situations that felt abusive. I am so thankful for your voice Mary. You are blessed with such courage and you are willing to use it. How many do you bless with this gift? It brings me to tears. Yes, I think you should write a book. Bless you my friend!!

    Reply
  129. As someone earlier stated, I feel a little silly adding to this incredible steam of comments, however as a Marriage and Family therapist who stumbled on this post from my social media saavy brother/mentor, John Bergquist, who sends me amazing posts like this all the time, I just have to say…WRITE THE BOOK! As a therapist and speaker at conferences, I feel I must admit, without being a survivor, I NEED your wise counsel and perspective on how to sensitively approach people like yourself who are dealing with the aftermath of horrific abuse (in any form).
    Thank you for your courage to vulnerably be the voice of healing that so many need!

    Reply
    • Sabrina, your words truly impact me because 1) John rocks and 2) You’re walking people through this maze as I type this. Thank you. I’ll be chatting with my agent this week about this “book.”

      Reply
  130. Chrystal

    Thank you for sharing so vulnerably and freely about your abuse. This is something that I have struggled with in my marriage, along with being sexually abuse, I was also spiritually abused which made it even more difficult in my relationship with Christ. So when these conversations came up about my lack of “freedom” in the bedroom, I would condemn myself and begin to shut down with God, because I couldn’t “get it right”. I went through an amazing workbook for ALL abuse called Mending The Soul, and that truly helped with my spiritual abuse I’d experience. But, a book that specifically helps with the practical things women can do to work toward restoration would be amazing. I appreciate the theological and mental clarity the book and workbook gave, you should look into it and possibly use it as a source. I still use the tools that it gives, but I want NOT look at the scripture “your body’s not your own” through the eyes of those that took my body as if it was theirs. So please WRITE THE BOOK!! What you wrote is exactly what has been in my head throughout my marriage. And, though I have a very understanding husband, I desire to further grow in liberty in that area. Thanks for sharing again!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the heads up on the book, Chrystal, and thank you for sharing your story.

      Reply
  131. Wow, Mary. This blows me away. There is no question in my mind that God will use your journey to build up others traveling the same road. Only someone who has experienced that kind of violation can minister to fellow sufferers. Write the book.

    Reply
    • I feel mighty small to minister to such a large group!

      Reply
  132. marshall ackerman

    When I first read this my reaction was right on. Some standing up and going against the crowd, but then I stop and tried to think why is it wrong to want to make you husband happy. I came to the conclusion it was not, it is normal. The problem is not with those who want to be good wives & lover for their husbands, it is that the author has had bad experiences, that is unfortunate, but that does not mean that other should stop trying to be good wives and make a happy home. it is neither hyper-sexual nor immoral for a women to want to be a good lover. Just because you can’t or worse don’t want to, does not make it wrong for other to be good spouses. Trauma is unfortunately, but the healing that come in Christ is to restore people to god’s normal pattern and sex is part of that normal pattern. If you have not been healed I am sorry for you, but don’t squash the joy other are having because of your brokenness. focus on the healing and normal pattern god has made, not your brokeness. It is like focusing on being fat in order to get skinny. you focus on health in order to be healthy.

    Reply
    • Thanks Marshall, for your perspective. I agree with you. My point in telling the story was to highlight how that kind of advice feels to those of us who struggle. I have been healed. I am being healed. The sheer beautiful fact that I can enjoy sex is testimony to that. Which is why I went to that conference. However, my growth in that area will seem small next to someone who didn’t first have violation in their life. I hope that makes sense.

      Reply
    • anon

      If only it were so easy to “focus on the healing, not the brokenness”- as if it were a choice. It doesn’t quite work that way. Nor can it be compared to focusing on being fat in order to get skinny. Wanting to be a good, loving wife who can engage sexually with her husband and having unwanted bodily reactions, fear, and flashbacks is very difficult. There is no choice of focus here. It is all unwanted. And I believe Mary’s urging the church to address US too, when speaking to women who want to improve their marriages, is very fair and very needed. It is not about squashing joy of others. It is about desperately wanting that joy, too, and wanting to get there, but not knowing how.

      Reply
      • Thank you, Anon, I appreciate your words here.

        I’ve spent years so discouraged, truly WANTING to be free, asking God for healing, only to realize how slow the healing can be. I have a limp. And no amount of wanting to or gumption has changed me overnight.

        Reply
        • Anon

          That’s where I am too. Your work has helped me have hope. It’s a hard road. I’ve been walking it for 11 years and want it to be easier but it never really is. I want to be a better wife. With everything in me. So many, I’m seeing, want the same thing. Your work is so important. Thank you for your bravery and I’m sorry for what you’ve been through.

          Reply
  133. Bless you Mary for sharing. I am so very sorry that those things happened to you. I know that you know it was undeserved and that you have nothing to be ashamed of.

    I also know the pain and the shame and the burden that is carried when we have been assaulted. I too was molested by neighborhood boys from right before Kindergarten into the 1st grade. After which time my brother (who’d participated with the other boys) continued the abuse until I was 10.

    I have done a lot of healing work and have walked the long journey to creating a normal existence. And yet…

    The craziness I feel when it comes to sex and sexual things is unmistakably alive and well. I have at various seasons struggled with pornography. And then have felt the need to RUN whenever a man wants to get intimate with me. I’ve detached in the midst of sex. I’ve felt violated after. And I’ve felt loved and appreciated. And my ability to gauge my response is VERY low and terrifying. So much so that I’m 37, single, and not sure which is more terrifying…being alone for the rest of my life or dealing with these issues with a partner.

    Sad. Damaged. Redeemable. But true.

    Reply
    • I’m just so sorry you walked through this. It makes me want to cry. Yes, redeemable, but still so very hard.

      Reply
  134. Hannah

    Write the book. Please. It is desperately needed. Perhaps add parts directed towards the spouse seeking to help their loved one heal. Or maybe…that needs to be whole ‘nother book. Thank you for your honesty.

    Reply
  135. Mary, what a great post. I hurt for the women who daily live with the memories of past abuse and it makes me sad when I hear a speaker fill our lives with more ‘shoulds’. Of course we want to make our husbands happy and have a great sex life, but it only makes it harder when we have to shovel past the guilt and shame to do it. Thanks for being open and real.

    Reply
  136. Bonnie

    If it’s not too late, I’d like to add my voice to the chorus thanking you for writing this post, denouncing the “Christian hottie” meme, and encouraging you to write a book! Perhaps the meme began as a reaction to the notion that Christians are prudes, but claiming “hotness” instead is not the answer; it’s merely a response on the same level: shallow and worldly. Also, as far as I’ve seen, most of the advice out there is one-sided, centering on what wives should do for husbands, often on an adolescent level at that. I see very little directed at husbands *from a woman’s point of view*. There is little that validates a woman’s sexuality, especially from a non-stereotypical standpoint. I would love to see more on the topic that helps a husband and wife learn how to mutually serve one another in Christian unity, not out of lust, pride, or greed, but from their souls, serving the whole-person package in an edifying way. A difficult thing for any couple to work out, I would imagine…I say this as someone married for 25 years who had little prior “experience” and thankfully no abuse. But it has still been difficult to deal with male-female differences, differences in upbringing, and cultural baggage. The problem is even bigger than harmful church teaching and sexual abuse, which must add immeasurable difficulty to an already challenging situation! Thanks again for being willing to speak up and address this topic.

    Reply
  137. Sami

    Let me say first of all that if anyone brought this up before, I apologize. Reading through 300+ responses is making my eyes do strange things. :) I have been married for coming up on 19 years, many of which my husband struggled terribly with pornography. He told me before we got married that he had been into it but was not at the time, and I naively thought that would be the end of it. Little did I realize how addictive it is and how devastating it can be in a marriage. That, coupled with some damaging teachings on sex and sexuality in my very conservative upbringing wrought all manner of confusion for me. I was not abused in my youth but I can so identify with this article. Even as I started into reading it yesterday I could feel the shame just rising up within me. This is a much needed message, not only for survivors of abuse, but for those of us who have an unhealthy view of sex. I have been here: “I honestly have to cry out to Jesus to give me a healthy view of sex. It absolutely does not come naturally to me. My fallback is revulsion.” Thank you so much Mary and I look forward to the book!

    Reply
  138. Mary

    Hi Mary, it’s wonderful that you’ve shared this with others, we all need to know we’re not alone, and truly we’re not, as you’ve reminded us, Jesus mourns with us. My mom used to sing this song to me:

    For Those Tears I Died

    You said You’d come and share all my sorrows.
    You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows.
    I came so close to sending You away,
    But, just like You promised, You came here to stay.
    I just had to pray.

    Chorus
    And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by my side.
    I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied.
    I felt every teardrop, when in darkness you cried.
    And, I strove* to remind you,
    That for those tears I died.”

    Your goodness so great, I can’t understand.
    And, dear Lord, I know that all this was planned.
    I know You’re here now and always will be.
    Your love loosed my chains and in You I’m free,
    But, Jesus, why me?

    (Chorus)

    Jesus, I give You my heart and my soul.
    I know that without You, I’d never be whole.
    Savior, You opened all the right doors.
    And I thank You and praise You from earth’s humble shores.
    Take me I’m Yours!

    (Chorus)
    And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by my side.
    I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied.
    I felt every teardrop, when in darkness you cried;
    And I strove* to remind you,
    That for those tears I died.
    And I strove* to remind you,
    That for those tears I died.”

    Words by Marsha J. Stevens
    Music by Russ Stevens
    (c) 1969

    © 1972 Communique Music, Inc.

    Minus the copyright ofcourse.

    My problem with being a fruit platter for my husband and with the joy of sex, is that with my health problems and medications, I not only have a libido of nil, but the energy or physical ability is not there. I work hard at not letting guilt consume me for this as my husband is wonderful and supportive and I love him and wish I could be that sex kitten for him! :)

    We are constantly working through this and looking for ways that both he and I can feel safe, loved, and supported.

    I recently read an article about the responsibilities of wives to look our best for our husband, to be the wife if his dreams, to make sure we have our hair fine and make up on for them when they come home from work. This prompted a conversation between us, I asked him if there were things I could do, or wear that would show him that I truly did love and value him, I told him about the ladies suggestions of clothes and make up.

    His response, was so good, but personal so if you want to hear his wisdom I can send that privately, but essentially, intimacy with me did not need to be sex, (mainly) it has more to do with my being real with him in ways that I’m not with others. This means, he gets to see the “real” me, in make upped, crying to him when I’m upset, snuggling with him on the couch and the topper? Feeling free to burp when we’ve skulled coke too quickly! He just wants me.

    Sex is a part of marriage, INTIMACY, is a much bigger part.
    Blessings to you all.
    And do glad to hear Mary that you’ve stayed away from wearing the camel skin and eating bugs, it’s so overrated!
    X Mary

    Reply
  139. Sue

    Mary,

    First of all, many blessings. You are right when you say that few people address this in a way that is life-giving. What saddens me about the seminar that you attended is that it sounds like the speaker was not in tune with the story of our times – that many women in that audience were sexually abused and are dealing with the repercussions. I would give her a pass, but I’m 53 and have been dealing with my abuse by my father for the last 21 years – slowly regaining memories, sensations, and hope. So, no pass. Forgiveness, yes. Pass, no.

    I am finally at the point of wanting to embrace my sexuality, my self as a sexual being. I even bought a copy of Kama Sutra:). That’s saying a lot for me. There is so much shame surrounding my body, my life, my desires – this has been a long, long walk and continues to be one. My hope is that there is hope – that sometime, as life progresses and the shame continues to be shed like so much dead skin, the desires that pulsed even during my abuse will be enlivened by the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. I understand that those might be fighting words for some, but they are words worth fighting for. I refuse to let anyone take away my right to my body, my life, and my pleasure. But I am 53, and it has taken a very, very long time to get to just the beginnings of those thoughts.

    Your book will be read by many and will offer comfort. I am hopeful for the second (or third) book about the resurrection. I never thought it would happen for me, and lo, and behold, here I am.

    Sue

    Reply
  140. Thank you!!! Yes, we need you to write the book. It is time.

    Reply
  141. Anonymous

    I was molested at five years old and raped repeatedly by strangers from 12 to 16 years old for monetary gain. I married when I was 18 to escape home. At 25 years old, I was raped, conceived, and pressured into aborting my twins. I seriously struggle to have a sexual relationship with my husband of 24 years. He has given up on me. I would love to read any book you write on this topic.

    Can you please make my comment anonymous? I am not yet ready to share this publicly.

    Reply
    • What a painful, painful story. I’m so sorry.

      Reply
  142. Mary,
    I hope you do pursue a book. Along with addressing the journey of healing, I sincerely hope you address the wrong-headed counsel that’s being given in the name of “Christian” womanhood. The condemnation isn’t coming from God’s Word! It’s coming from the extras folks have tacked onto God’s command to love our husbands.

    Reply
    • Honestly, I think my husband is offended when some folks portray all men as a certain thing, and that they simply can’t help but be demanding sex.

      Reply
  143. Donna

    Recently I’ve become cold about sex because of things my husband says. Before I was more addicted and wild about sex. I was also a fatherless girl and lived in a neighborhood full of boys. I was abused by the boys as we went through puberty together and because I wanted to be liked and loved so much (my mother didn’t show affection towards me) I became a willingly participant by age 12. Now I have a 12 year old daughter and I think that is making me recoil from the requests that my husband makes of me. I can’t stand his juvenile way of approaching or mentioning sex and I fear talking to him of my past. He knows I was no virgin and neither of us came from a religious family who worshiped the virginity of the female. But, still telling him I lost my virginity before I became a teenager is too much for me to bear. You think by the age of 40 and all the life experience I have had and the forgiveness I have received way before now I would not be so affected. Like I said though, I think it is seeing my daughter at the age I was and trying to keep her protected and innocent as long as I can has really changed me. Thanks for giving me, a stranger, a place to share.

    Reply
    • I am praying now for a holy boldness to be honest with him. I have a feeling once you do, you’ll experience freedom. What you did then is not you today. And if you can’t share your past with him, try to muster up the courage to tell him what triggers you. Believe me, he will want to know.

      Reply
  144. Victoria

    Hullo Mary,
    I am a young twenty something’s, unmarried, a virgin waiting for marriage and have never been sexually violated. Despite all those differences, I am still broken over your story and the negligence of the church. And I can, in some small way, relate to you as a woman. Perhaps it’s because of societal attitudes and the corresponding pressures, but I often feel like I’m just a glorified wedding present wrapped and saved for the wedding night. Despite my lack of experience, I still feel like a victim of abuse. Like all my worth as a wife will be found in that marriage bed and this is what women were made for. Society has some seriously flawed ideas of what sex and sexuality look like, but the church’s counterattack has not been exactly healing either. All that to say, I think you should write your book. I think even the women who don’t share your experience are bewildered, wondering if the problem is with them. Call out the lies for what they are. Let light fill the deepest crevices of all our hearts.

    Reply
    • Really good points here. There is more to men and women than sex. So much more.

      Reply
  145. Kristen

    This blog title caught my eye, because I am currently reading a (widely popular and admittedly fantastic) Christian marriage book and am JUST to the chapter on “Women! You better give your men the sex they need!”…and was feeling totally down on myself. Not because of past sexual abuse, but because of health issues (I live with pain–and my hubby is a “physical touch love language” guy too! Ugh.) I literally CAN’T be that sexy wife I feel like I *should* be either. And it’s frustrating when Christain leaders hammer this and hardee-har-har over this without a thought to the MANY MANY of us who would LOVE to give freely the gift of sex…but just can’t that easily.
    So thanks for being sensitive and brave enough to call out this kinda out-of-balance teaching in Christian culture today.

    Reply
    • Thank you. And I’m sorry about the chapter. I would’ve closed it too. I’ve found, actually, that God’s healing and wooing in this area is so much more effective than a Christian leader or a book telling me something I should do. Shoulds don’t motivate me, but Jesus does.

      Reply
  146. C

    Mary,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you for making yourself vulnerable to the whole wide (internet)world! You are a beautiful, courageous, and lovely woman. Thank you for being real, for sharing your heart.

    I would absolutely love to read your book, should it come into being, and I would give copies to quite a few people I know. In the meantime, a link to this article will suffice. I have no idea what form or shape this book will take, but I would be absolutely willing and delighted to help in any way, shape or form, be it by filling out a questionnaire, by sharing my thoughts on certain aspects of the topic of sex after sexual abuse, or by being a cheerleader for you along the way.

    My dream is to be a wife and mother, yet I have never been on a date, been asked out on a date, or asked anyone out on a date. I’m almost 30. I’ve been told that I appear “so normal”, that my lack of dating experience doesn’t make any sense. But it does: I was sexually abused for several years as a child, and emotionally abused and neglected for most of my childhood. I survived using maladaptive coping mechanisms for as long as I can remember, and thankfully, with lots of love and help from friends, and through His grace, I am on a journey of healing.

    Sex, arousal, bodies, body parts, masturbation, desire, marriage, children… it’s a giant ball of tangled up emotions and picking it apart is difficult, to say the least, but incredibly freeing.

    Your openness and honesty is refreshing, and has given me another nudge towards sharing my own story (there have been quite a few nudges lately). I’ve tried to find information on the aftermath of sexual abuse, specifically regarding sexuality, and the resources are very sparse, and almost exclusively secular. I’m learning that the only way to bring these issues out of the dark is to talk about them, and only then will the shame and stigma around these issues start to decrease.

    Thank you!
    C

    Reply
  147. Emilia

    I am so impressed with your honesty and even with the way I have related to it. I have tremendous guilt from my life before marriage. I have not experienced abuse but the emotional toll and the guilt of having given my heart away and taken risks with my heart, mind, emotions, and body has been paralyzing at times. It is hard for my husband to understand since I never faced any tragedy or crisis. The choices I made were my own but I have paid for them terribly in my marriage and so has my husband. But I thank you for the freedom in knowing that it is okay and that there is healing to be found in Jesus. My challenge will be communicating with my husband and trying to help him understand. There are so many women who need to hear this message, including me, so I thank you again for your honesty and vulnerability.

    Reply
  148. These kinds of stories are what God used to call me to become a sex therapist. Too many Christians have been broken and sinned against in ways that have prevented them from having God’s best. Sex is just one of those areas, and we need Christians who can provide help so that women, men and couples can embrace their sexuality as God’s gift, and overcome the pain and suffering sin has perpetrated on them.

    I have seen God work miracles in people’s lives, as they have overcome sexual abuse, pornography and other distortions of God’s gift. And it’s not all just this kind of sin. The brokenness of the world means sexual problems like painful intercourse and other physical barriers to sexual intimacy also trouble God’s children. I have seen God’s hand work through the physicians with whom I work to resolve the pain, with the result that couples who never had sex were able to consummate their marriage pain-free and go on to the richness God had in mind for this area of marriage.

    I believe sex is a vital part of marriage for both men and women. It is the sign and seal of the covenant of marriage and given by God as a gift of blessing and pleasure to His children. I believe it is an aspect of the image of God in us, reflecting the intimacy, communion and joy of the relationship among the Three Persons of the Trinity in One Being. For this reason, Satan has directed some of his greatest venom and violent attacks against this aspect of human nature. And for this reason, I see my work as a Christian sex therapist as being in the thick of the battle to turn back the effects of the Fall and restore sexual relationships in marriage to what God intended.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you’re a sex therapist! Amen!

      Reply
  149. Heather Evans

    Thank you for your honest post. As a counselor, I would love to see you write a book on this issue. I have an outline for an article or book sitting in my computer entitled “Redeeming Sexuality from the Grip of Sexual Abuse” because I don’t think this particular issue is addressed deeply and thoroughly enough to help survivors know they are not alone and approach sexual healing in a redeeming way. Thank you for you being vulnerable to encourage many others.

    Reply
    • I’m so glad you have an outline for that article! This gives me hope that God is speaking to many about this sensitive topic.

      Reply
      • Heather Evans

        Mary, Now I just have to take the time to write it! Your post certainly re-inspired me to write it. However, I may just wait for your book to come out! :) Maybe we could work on co-writing something!

        Reply
  150. I was lucky that I was never molested, but I grew up in fear, because of my stepfather revealing himself to me at a young age and asking if I liked what I saw. When I finally told my mom, she left for a month and she went back to him. I spent the rest of my life growing up, feeling like she wouldn’t protect me, so I felt that I had to protect myself.

    I lived many years in fear that he would have his way with me at any time. I was aware of every time that they fought. When they would fight he would all of a sudden start being very nice to me, start talking bad about mom, helping me to do my chores, trying to rough house with me, which would result in him touching me. I rarely allowed him to touch me…I used my baby sisters as protection..in such a way that I was not left in a room alone with him.

    But then I felt guilty, because I should have been more concerned with protecting them instead of using them to protect myself. I feel like I was severely stunted in my growth processes growing up. I have never really dated, although he died when I was 16. I have a hard time letting guys inside my tough exterior to down below where I care. But more than that, I fear that my first time will be rather fear filled, if not awkward at best because I have spent so many years trying to protect myself. I was always careful to dress in ways as not to attract attention, because when I tried dressing like other girls, I got more attention than I was comfortable with.

    I never had a positive male role model growing up, and my family tends to look down on men in general. Many men in the family were not to be trusted. So it has been a journey just to getting to where I even begin to treat men respectfully. But there is still a great fear for me when it comes to even thinking about intimacy with someone. And I have some serious trust issues, at just letting any guy close enough to be a friend.

    Reply
    • I’m so sorry to hear about your negative male role models. There’s such an aching need for good daddies.

      Reply
  151. Joy

    Mary: Your openness to something that makes you so vulnerable is amazing. Thank the Lord there are people like you who do not hide it all. I have not been through what you have experienced, yet I would like to suggest a possibility that perhaps your “inability” in this area of “being sexy” for your husband may not be an inability at all. What if it is the real you, the person before this all happened? What if you are demure, gentle, loving, reaching out to your husband in ways that affirm your love for each other? What if he loves you the way you are? When we love each other deeply and are secure in that love, then we express that love as we celebrate our oneness with each other, a oneness that we have with no one else. The “strawberry” ploy and the other example have no attraction to me at all. But then I am not one to conform to what “should” be, though I really don’t think what they’re teaching as a “should” is really that at all. Every couple has their own preferences. I hope you will be able to accept that you “can’t be sexy for your husband” without feeling that you are “less than.” Who says you have to be “adventurous and wild”? Personally, I don’t believe it. Remember, you are the beautiful you whom Jesus has made, and your husband loves you!

    Reply
  152. Joy

    Mary: Your openness to something that makes you so vulnerable is amazing. Thank the Lord there are people like you who do not hide it all. I have not been through what you have experienced, yet I would like to suggest a possibility that perhaps your “inability” in this area of “being sexy” for your husband may not be an inability at all. What if it is the real you, the person before this all happened? What if you are demure, gentle, loving, reaching out to your husband in ways that affirm your love for each other? What if he loves you the way you are? When we love each other deeply and are secure in that love, then we express that love as we celebrate our oneness with each other, a oneness that we have with no one else. The “strawberry” ploy and the other example have no attraction to me at all. But then I am not one to conform to what “should” be, though I really don’t think what they’re teaching as a “should” is really that at all. Every couple has their own preferences. I hope you will be able to accept that you “can’t be sexy for your husband” without feeling that you are “less than.” Who says you have to be “adventurous and wild”? Personally, I don’t believe it. You are the beautiful you whom Jesus has made, and your husband loves you!

    Reply
  153. Well, maybe a lot of us men ought to take to heart the admonitions to regard our wives–however they look–as joint heirs of the grace of life. We need to be rebels against the six-inches-deep-and-a-mile-wide-at-the-mouth sound bite and image culture. Hmmm. Didn’t Jeremiah say that the image is the teacher of falsehood, too?

    Reply
    • I love this, Kepha. Thank you.

      Reply
  154. When I read the words “I sat in the audience, taking notes, my heart sinking deeper into itself,” I almost started to cry. It brought back memories of a conference my husband and I attended when I was eight months pregnant. It was a conference on sexual abuse and the family. The night before, in our hotel room, my husband shared with me about the sexual abuse he had suffered, it’s effects and the confusion and pain it had caused.
    It explained some things about our relationship that I had never quite understood, but I had no one to really talk to. So, as my husband began a traumatic journey of healing, I was alone in supporting him. Well, close friends were compassionate but they didn’t know exactly what was going on. As a pastor, my husband felt ashamed and afraid that people would be disgusted in him.
    The first five years after this conference were very difficult. My husband began to open up and I began to grow up. There are still scars but my husband has a compassion for sexually abused and sexually confused young men and women that has helped rescue lives.
    I think it is incredibly brave and powerful that you were able to share what you really felt in your blog. It’s exhausting and depressing to have to pretend so hard not to struggle. There is a lot of pressure to be “perky” spiritually when God just wants us to rest in Him, just the way we are. Sometimes it’s not pretty to the people around us but I think it draws the heart of God to us.
    I’ll never forget how alone I felt in the meeting the next day after my husband’s revelation of his past. He stood up at question and answer time and asked “If an adult has been sexually abused is there any help or hope that he can be normal some day?” the speaker explained about how it takes years to work though the trauma of sexual abuse. He was compassionate but didn’t give any quick fixes. I just sat in cried. If was like we were two hopeless little people all alone.
    I wish I could have read this back then. It would have given me hope, alleviated some of that I-feel-like-the-star-of-a-freak-show feeling. God is so good.
    Not only did our marriage survive but we quit pretending, became real. Funny thing is, people quit pretending around us. They felt comfortable to share what was really going on in our lives.
    There are some really courageous people out there. You are one of them.

    Reply
    • What sweet words, and what a difficult journey you’ve been on. I feel privileged reading your story. So thankful you’ve both walked through healing.

      Reply
  155. Tanya

    I sent this article on to my husband. I am struggling so much with the consequences of abuse. It’s overwhelming at times. I wonder if my marriage will ever survive this. I’ve told so many people my story, yet never found someone else where I am in life. This is a lonely place. The thoughts and feelings – I’m not even sure they are safe to share – anywhere. Thank you for your words, for your courage.

    Reply
    • You are NOT alone. You are NOT alone. You are NOT alone. Read through the comments. Many many struggle with this.

      Reply
  156. audrey

    Mary,
    Thank you for this post….it is very timely for me. Even after very good counseling (for childhood sexual abuse), sex is one area that I still struggle with. I feel your pain that I have been robbed of one of God’s wonderful gifts. I love the idea for your book and think it is very needed.

    ~audrey

    Reply
    • I am confident that just you knowing this as an issue is a HUGE first step toward significant healing.

      Reply
  157. BaschaW

    I was abused when I was 11. My father split when I was 12. I went through Junior High terrified of my “boyfriend”. I dated him in 6th and 8th grade (last day of school 8th grade we held hands… first time we ever touched in a romantic way) In 7th grade (I was 13) I dated a boy that was 18, and was probably as messed up as I was, b/c we never moved past the late night hours long phone conversations. (my mother dealt w/ me as best she was able) I’ve always had a boyfriend, and when I felt my interest in one boyfriend wane, I started up a relationship w/ a new boy. (effectively “cheating” on the previous one) I was so terrified of not having someone with me.
    I turned towards the “addict” portion. I started having sex at age 20, and was pregnant shortly after turning 21. I married the father (he was my first) when I was 23. He cheated on my with my best friend shortly after we were married. within the month. Of course, I had already been grooming a different boy, so I was able to cheat on him shortly afterwards. 5 years later we moved towards an “open relationship” We’ve been married for 11 years now, and I just don’t have sex often enough. But its not just the sex I crave, it’s the texting someone 30 times in a single hour, the thrill of it all.
    I don’t even know how to reconcile my Christianity with that… so I stopped being a Christian.
    I have no Greater Truths or Words of Wisdom, but for my husband and I it kind of works, so I’ll run with it, for now.

    Reply
    • You’ve been so very wounded, then you took on the mantle of wounding yourself. Sometimes we feel “safe” in that wounded position and it’s terrifying to step outside of it. Jesus loves you. You can’t do anything that will change His affection for you. But He needs to be what truly, deeply fills you. Not men. Not flirtation. Not the rush of texts. I’ll be praying for you. You are loved.

      Reply
  158. Tista

    If I be true,fortunately I didn’t have a troubled past like many a woman out here.Though I’m afraid,I might have to suffer in the same way,someday.I guess, your fear is not just your own.There’s many who feel that their lovers will make them do things they aren’t into.It’s so common that almost everyday I hear someone saying about their miseries in this male dominated world.Of course like everyone I have my own stories,concealed for ever in my heart.But I am surely pleased to see someone like you who have the courage to open up.

    I work for women and so there’s none who better knows about their day to day emotions.And what’s more is that,I am one among them too.So I’ve finally decided to start an ezine solely for women.I’m willing to work actively for their empowerment in long run.I hope if you ever go through my E MAG,you will find a lot more womanly secrets than you ever came across.

    Anyways,thanks for sharing such a though-provoking blog post.

    Reply
  159. Mary, I don’t know whether to cry or throw something! There are waaaay too many of us who experience the ‘sexy wife’ guilt. Thank you for lending your words and your pain to the reality of living this out.

    Reply
    • You are most welcome, Nichole. You, me, all of us, are not alone.

      Reply
  160. Cas

    Listening to your story of Christian women trying to be a “hottie”… kind of disgusts me. Our culture and world is becoming such sexual parasites and predators without consciences, the women coming up in the younger generation is is for total struggle… maybe a conference on how to discern whether your “lover” is a predator or not. Christian men AND women can be addicts, and fall into relationships with hidden addicts with some pretty terrific problems and crookedness. I always seem to want to warn because of experience… remarried my ex after we became “Christians”, and had close contact and counsel from 3 different “qualified” counsellors… one a Christian youth counsellor with psych. degrees, and two long time pastors. Looking back not one asked us when we told them we were getting married, why we divorced in the first place. We were baby Christians just starting down the road of restoration, and I for one was in for shocks as in more than many. I knew my husband looked at porn, but didn’t know how deep his addiction was until I married him the second time. I was sexually molested as a child by my father, and experienced numerous date rapes in school and as young adult so I was prime territory for an addict. I had no idea what end was up in my life. I trusted these pastors and counsellors. Like I said not one asked why the first time. Then I found out one of the pastors stepped down because of a homosexuality. The other pastor (easy 40 plus yrs in ministry) stepped down later because of porn addiction. I just want to shout from the mountain to Christian women and girls… know Christ and learn to hear his voice before you get involved sexually. It really is the safest place to be. Ps 91

    Reply
  161. marci

    Hi Mary,
    So amazed at how much pain is caused by this topic. I am one who has also overcome the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and know it is hard to move beyond the pain. But, I really think that this is a trust and forgiveness issue rather than “why I can’t be a sexy wife” issue. It think there is so much focus on being what the world calls sexy ..especially in how a woman dresses and what makes her a hottie, but often the word sexy can be replaced with the word “trashy”. I have no desire to be what the world says is “sexy” because it would feel disrespectful to myself and dishonest to my husband. I don’t expect John , after 28 years of marriage, to waltz into the bedroom like a Chippendale stripper, and he doesn’t expect me to pop out of a birthday cake wearing nothing butt strategically placed tassels. Yet..isn’t that what would be “sexy”? How many magazines do you see on grocery store displays that shout out …”Improve you sex appeal!”, how many talk about the value of being charming…yeah I haven’t seen a lot of “charming lingerie” displays in J.C Penney’s.

    I asked my husband what her thought of this topic and he responded that “If you are not having fun with your spouse with your clothes on..you will probably not have fun with your clothes off!” Basically, intimacy and oneness starts way before the bedroom door is closed. Trying to be something we are not only adds to the confusion of dealing with the forgiveness of our past, because it confuses the issue. I have no desire to be something I am not.

    I know you will continue to reach others who share in this pain, I hope that we, as Christian gals, can pass on a healthy view of what makes a woman sexy and attractive to our sons and daughters… I know I hope my sons chase after a woman who loves the Lord over someone who is willing to take pole dancing lessons. I hope my daughter finds a man who value her for who she is, not how she can please him sexually… but those examples start with us…not the Kardashians.

    Face it, it is hard to be Midge in a Barbie world…but that is where we are at as a society. Thank you for being a light in a dark place.

    Reply
    • I agree with what your husband said. It’s about relationship outside the bedroom.

      Reply
    • Marci Seither

      Yikes! so sorry… I sent my sloppy copy comment instead of edited version! Sorry for the mess!..

      Reply
    • Emily

      I loved this! Especially “waltz into the bedroom like a Chippendale stripper”! I asked my husband if any of the men’s conferences ever encouraged him to put on a thong and oil up his skin and dance for his wife. He laughed pretty hard.

      Reply
  162. b

    mary, please write a book on this…i know several women who would benefit greatly knowing they are not alone in this situation…please write this book… you are inspirational to me in your testimony. i know it has to have helped other women. god bless you for your testimony that god is and always will be the one to make things right…

    Reply
    • I am doing that right now! On chapter two. I’ll probably self publish it.

      Reply
  163. Karen

    Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you!!!! Finally someone who knows how I feel. I am not sexually free, for other reasons my framework of what sex should be was “rapped” from me from when I was little, starting with my dad commenting about a contestant on a pageant with such enthusiasim and desire “Isn’t she beautiful”. I’ve never heard those words ever be spoken to me from my dad. I was also suppose to be the boy of the family, then to many betrayals, over the years, whether from relationships or just through friends: through porn, other women etc.

    Then reading “Every Man’s Battle” – has left me with no hope and more anger. I wish we were taught right by the church instead of it being shoved down our throats that marriage is good and making it seem that it is a christian duty and you’ll be a better christian for it. It should be taught that this is a mission field no different than going to Africa and THIS is how you’ll have to prepare for it.

    I don’t know of how many times I’ve cried during sex, since I know I’m no Victoria Secret Model. I want to scream when there are jokes and laughter about christian couple sex – I don’t find anything funny about it, it sickens me!! I don’t know how many times during sex I’ve said “Why God?”. I wish I could be sexual free, I also know that no matter how thin I get – I still will not be sexually satisfying to my husband. I also am not 18 anymore – my husband is human and therefore will never be satisfied by me. I know God desires me – I just wish here on earth we could be truly desired by our husbands as God does.

    Reply
    • Jesus, please work on Karen’s husband, to give him contentment and joy in the wife of his youth. And please heal Karen as she walks through this season of stress and worry. Bring her rest. amen.

      Reply
  164. Emily

    I haven’t read all the comments here, so if I repeat something someone else said, forgive me.

    While I do not have a history of abuse trailing me, I do have a history of being a female in this culture. I grew up safe, and I wasn’t bombarded with sexuality or even the belief that I was created to be man’s arm charm. But as I was growing up, let’s face it, it’s hard to keep anyone away from sexuality in our culture, and it affects women and girls HORRIBLY. Via media, females are made to believe they are supposed to look a certain way, be a certain way, and generally, I think we come to a conclusion that we as women are not good enough – sexually especially. (Even Christian men are devouring porn, and while they say it has nothing to do with the woman in their lives, it still scars these women and makes them feel vulnerable, cheapened, used, and ugly.)

    Because of the sexually-saturated culture we live in, all females have experienced some sort of emotional upheaval, slight or gigantic and every degree in between.

    Currently, male church leadership seems intent on telling women, “Get out there and enjoy sex with your spouse! Be what your husband desires! Enjoy sex! He’s sinning, and you can save him if you just have sex and lots of it with him!”

    I’ve heard it from my own conservative pulpit. And apparently, children are beginning to also be a reason for man’s sins (since you know children detract from the attention a man might receive from his wife). (I predict that is the next trend to grow.)

    Women cannot save men from their sins, sexual or otherwise, and I’m sick of the unmerciful pressure on women to save men through this act. When men and the male leadership exercise a little tenderness, mercy and compassion towards women. . . well, that’s when men on the whole might just actually get some of the respect back that they believe women having sex with them will give them.

    I’m really fed up. I never really thought of those sitting in the pews next to me having to deal with sexual abuse and having to listen to these “have more sex” sermons. It makes me even sicker about the whole mess.

    I have privately questioned my pastor on some of these things, and guess what? He won’t answer my private concerns. I’m leaving my church.

    Reply
  165. A.S

    Thank you so much for sharing. Please write a book… It’s nice to know someone understands…

    Reply
    • Laura

      Yes, please write it. When you write it, I will buy it.

      Reply
  166. Can you please please please right a book on this.
    I need it so badly.

    Reply
    • It’s written. I need to take it through the editorial process first.

      Reply
  167. Tara

    I’m curious how long it took you to reclaim your sex life? I know I’ll never be the “it” girl, but after a year and half of therapy and a loving partner I thought I would be closer than I am now.

    Reply
  168. Chuck Rose (@crose6584)

    What a powerful story. Thanks for sharing your heart, and your past, Mary. Guessing from what I have read here, your husband knows what a treasure you are and does not need the “hottie” images that the conference speaker spoke about. May God continue to heal you, and bless the relationship you have with Him and your husband.

    Reply
  169. Thank you for sharing this. It is encouraging. Thanks for speaking out. I would love to read a book about this.

    Reply
  170. AKP

    Thank you doesn’t even begin to describe how thankful I am for this article! You story echoes mine. I was 4-5 years old and abused by a pre-teen neighbor. It so refreshing to hear I am not alone. When I hear men or women talk about being “hot and sexy” and never saying no to their spouse, my emotions range from anger to guilt. Thank for being willing to share! I want to read your book!

    Reply

Leave a Comment

You may also enjoy...