Healing the Scars of Sexual Abuse, continued…
5. Give yourself permission to seek the time and space to heal.
As married women, we assume that we’ve signed up to be sexual outlets for life. Sex is simply a wife’s duty, right? But chances are, your husband doesn’t expect you to just be a sexual vending machine. He wants to connect not just with your body, but also with your heart, mind, and soul during lovemaking. He wants you to be present and enjoy the encounter, and he’s most likely willing to give you what you need in order to get there. As I was going through counseling and learning to reestablish sexual boundaries that had been broken down by my previous abusers, I asked my husband if he could give me a short season where sex was simply not an expectation. He was supportive and asked how long I needed. I asked for two months. However, it only took two weeks before I was clamoring for sex with him. Why? Because I felt so emotionally, mentally, and spiritually affirmed when he offered me the time and space I needed.
6. Experiment to discover what intimate acts you do feel comfortable with.
Just because you want to refrain from intercourse for a season doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy intimate encounters and healthy physical touch. During my supposed two-month sexual sabbatical, I followed my counselor’s advice and experimented with things I did feel comfortable with. I felt comfortable laying in bed together. I felt comfortable being naked in each other’s presence. I felt comfortable having Greg caress my arm, face, back, or thighs. I was comfortable with him masturbating in my presence, but I didn’t want to be expected to perform sexually at all. However, as I allowed myself to experience these “safe” activities, my sexual appetite was very quickly re-awakened, and the thought of waiting two months to have sex with this wonderful man who loved me so much seemed impossible. Neither of us cried over this boundary being broken, not even my counselor! Let your husband know what you are comfortable with. Go only where you feel safe, and don’t try to rush the process. But don’t be surprised as your safety zone increases and you find yourself desiring and enjoying sexual activities that you once felt threatened by.
7. Exercise your right to choose when and how you are touched.
The only way your sexual safety zone can increase is if you know you have the freedom to exercise your personal boundaries. But sometimes it’s difficult to find the voice or the words to say, “I’m having a hard time right now!” when we’re not used to having that freedom. Therefore, create a signal that says, “I need you to stop.” A good signal needs to be both unoffensive and obvious, such as a tight squeeze of his elbow. Explain to your husband that this need to stop has nothing to do with him and everything to do with you trying to feel safe and secure in his arms.