marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reply to question regarding sexual abuse and PTSD affecting sexual intimacy



April asked:

"What if the spouse has had severe sexual abuse and has severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Is she still supposed to just do it, regardless of consequences? Consequences to her I mean."


The quote in question was: 

"Some spouses wield monogamy like a bludgeon, battering their partner with their commitment in ways never intended by marriage vows.

They say, 'You promised to love me for better or for worse - and that includes my (sexual) limitations!'

Yes, we all marry 'for better or for worse,' but the assumption is that spouses will do everything possible to overcome their limitations - not simply demand their partner put up with them!"

- Dr. David Schnarch, Passionate Marriage


Hi April! Great question!

I believe the key phrase from Dr. Schnarch is "...the assumption is that spouses will do everything possible to overcome their limitations..."

I know of very few who get married to remain celibate afterwards. If there are issues such as sexual abuse or PTSD that happened before marriage and affect the individual's ability to be sexually intimate, wouldn’t you want this to be disclosed to you before you got married? Especially if sexual intimacy was something important to you?

That being said, people don’t always realize the extent of a problem before they marry. Sometimes marriage itself brings out repressed issues. Everyone comes with baggage. Making a successful marriage is about finding someone who loves us enough to help us unpack.

Through the covenants we make with God when we get married, we also have a responsibility to be sensitive to each other and help each other through life’s challenges. This is how we grow. Also, according to Dr. Schnarch, conflict is necessary for intimacy to happen. When we overcome the conflicts as husband and wife, that intimacy intensifies.

There are many couples who experience pain where sex is involved. Take dyspareunia, for example. This is where interaction with the genitals is just plain physically painful and sometimes penetration is even impossible without causing physical damage. Even though both may be aroused, common courtesy and the spirit of the Word of Wisdom says “do no permanent harm to the body.”

Both spouses still have the responsibility to troubleshoot the issue together and see what can be done. Even if nothing can be done, there are other options.

An emotional dysfunction is no less serious, but also doesn’t have to mean that sexual pleasure for both is unattainable. There is competent professional help available, and I would encourage anyone in these circumstances to seek that help.

Is this a challenge you are finding in your own relationship? If you feel this too private to discuss here, anyone may free to contact me privately at SAMZARAGOZA@SBCGLOBAL.NET. All conversations are kept confidential and my consultations are free.