Since we married a few years ago, my husband and my sex life has not developed. I think the main issue is my husband’s childhood – though I feel bad for saying this because it is like I am pointing the finger. He was sent to a boarding school where he was abused. I want to be angry at the Government, the Catholic Church, the Christian brothers who did it, his foster family, his real family… sometimes I want to be angry with him and the (selfish) child inside him, but then I feel torn with compassion as it is not his fault what happened. So where do I put the anger? Mostly inwardly... Due to his disabilities, he cannot access counselling as most other people can. My husband is improving but I feel I’m doing the counselling and I have to constantly walk on eggshells. I’m just so tired... and wondering if our marriage will survive.
I so hear your exhaustion at supporting your dear husband. I want to start by saying well done for all you have done. I hear how trapped you feel by your husband not being able to access services as many other people can. Your husband is a survivor and I want to ask you to see him through this lens. See the dignity in him, the coping skills, the beauty, the resilience. He needs to be a man to you, not a child, so you need to start seeing his strength and trusting that. There is a vulnerable child in all of us and there are times in our love journeys where we nurture and heal that part in each other; but you cannot have a healthy sex life with a child. That reinforces the abuse template which is the pattern that was imposed on him for sex. This will make him disassociate and turn you cold. When you make love together it has to be adult to adult, not parent/care giver to child. Take time first to ensure you are both feeling in adult mode and responding to each other from that place.
If you are feeling emotionally exhausted with supporting him, this will bring resentment into your love making, undercut your ability to draw what you need from him and therefore stunt both your sexual responses. I wonder if you could get more support for yourself so that you feel less drained? Don’t let all this bury ‘you’! Abuse is about power more than sex and the power of your husband’s abusers continues to seek to dominate who you both are. Don’t allow this. Actively develop ‘you’, way above and beyond all this. Enjoy hobbies, develop your talents, grow who you are and want to be, breathe the life this engenders.
And then there is the anger. You have a right to be angry against all those involved in the atrocity of your husband being abused as a child. God burns with anger too and will judge (read Revelation 19:11,15). You ask where to put this anger? Be angry at the abusers and those who turned a blind eye. Find constructive channels to express your anger: consider reporting it to the police (it is never too late to report); let your anger out – be that in writing, crying, punching a cushion or whatever gets it out for you. Don’t be angry against anyone whose fault it was not: yourself, your husband, God or any other soft targets. That just perpetuates the damage. But know that anger expressed is a road you have to travel down, it is not the destination. Anger does burn out and needs to do so.
Until you can let it go, your anger will disengage you from your love making and prevent you from focusing on the pleasure. You have all these other people you are angry with crowding mentally around your bed! There will come a time when you will have to let the anger go, hand it over to God and let go of all the people and institutions with whom you are angry, in order for you to move on and set yourselves free. That’s when the power will be broken.
For helpline support for survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their supporters ring: 0844 847 7879 if you are an adult | 0808 802 0808 for under 18s | 07717 989 022 text service | email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See the Life Centre website for useful books and other resources for survivors of rape/sexual abuse