The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Marriage Solutions: Overcoming Sexual Trauma as a Team

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AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

With sexual abuse running rampant in the world today, it is very easy to end up with a spouse who has some extremely negative associations with sexual intercourse and everything that comes with it. Because God has equipped our brains with some very powerful defense mechanisms, it is easy for your spouse to honestly not realize they have a problem until the two of you are in the middle of things. When traumatic memories resurface, it’s very natural for people to have extreme reactions. Being on the receiving end of those reactions can produce some very convenient material for demons to try and use to drive both you and your spouse away from each other. But division and strife and a bunch of hurt feelings are not what God wants for you. Regardless of what kind of mess has already been made, there are ways to move forward and resolve these issues as a team.

DOING SEX GOD’S WAY

We need to start with an understanding of how God views sex. Sex is not just about people getting their physical releases, it is primarily about celebrating the bond that is between you and your partner. Sex is meant to be a beautiful, intimate dance through which you and your spouse express your mutual love for each other. The reason God prohibits sex until after marriage is to give time for a genuine heart bond to be formed. Sex is meant to be the celebration of that bond—the adding of a new layer atop an already firm foundation of commitment and love. Take away that foundation and sex loses its meaning. Suddenly we’re just selfishly using each other to satisfy the carnal lusts of our flesh. This is no good. As Christians, we want to experience sex God’s way, not settle for some cheap rip off. This means we do not want sex to be done in an atmosphere of distrust, hurt, or disrespect. We do not want there to be any element of coercion, shaming, violence, or domination. If we know that we are currently in a place where we cannot treat our spouses’ hearts and bodies with the honor that God says they deserve, we need to postpone intercourse until we can.

Now life isn’t perfect. Problems will arise which create the wrong environment for sex. When those problems come, they must be resolved before sex happens. It doesn’t mean we’re in total agreement with each other about everything, because that’s not realistic. But sex must always be a voluntary act which both partners agree to engage in. And just as both partners must have the freedom to decide when they are ready for sex, they also need to have the freedom to decide when they’re not.

THE IMPORTANCE OF SEX

Sex is a very important part of the marital relationship. God has built a deep need for intimate relations in both men and women. Going without sex for too long only opens up the door for all kinds of temptation and strife. Once we commit to marriage, we are committing to sex, and we should not be shirking on that commitment unless God forces us into a situation where sex becomes physically impossible. But as long as it is physically possible, it needs to be viewed as an important priority and as an important aspect of keeping the relationship healthy and strong. This means that when other types of barriers arise—emotional and psychological barriers—these things need to be viewed as temporary obstacles which we can overcome as a united team. We do not want to run for the hills the minute some emotional trauma surfaces and renege on our commitment to our spouse—this is morally wrong. When we get married we vow to love and support each other through the good and bad times. That means maintaining a healthy, God-honoring sexual relationship by being willing to make adjustments to the pace and style of our intercourse in order to accommodate special needs that arise.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION

God designed sex to be a very positive experience physically, emotionally, and psychologically. If someone is having a negative experience in any of these areas, that needs to be discussed. Open, honest communication is a VITAL part of experiencing sex God’s way. In such a sensitive and vulnerable activity, you can’t afford to be keeping a bunch of secrets from each other and expecting the other person to be able to read your mind. You are the only one who knows what you’re thinking, feeling, and wanting in a given moment. Your spouse is out in the cold unless you use words. Simply communicating through physical cues does not work because everyone assigns different meanings to the same cues. It helps to remember that humans are very self-centered beings. Your spouse isn’t scrutinizing your face for the subtle hints you’re dropping, instead they’re absorbed in their own concerns and feelings. You need to help your spouse understand you through words. If one or both of you has difficulty talking about sex (and we mean talking about it in DETAIL), then that’s the first area you need to work on.

STEPS FOR ESTABLISHING OPEN COMMUNICATION ABOUT SEX

#1: Define a safe environment.

Real life is turbulent and all marriages must weather their share of storms and spats. To establish a safe environment for talking about sex, there needs to be one place that is designated as a place where only sex is going to be discussed. The bed is an ideal place to choose. When you come together to talk about sex, you need to leave the other issues outside of the bedroom door so that you can focus. You can’t expect your spouse to discuss vulnerable subjects with you if you’re glaring at them or if they know that you’re just going to bring up finances or the fact that they disrespected your mother or didn’t do the dishes or some other unrelated criticism. Remember that to experience sex God’s way, it must be done in an environment of mutual respect and positivity. You need to be able to hit the mute button on all the little trivial things that annoy you about each other and agree to stay focused on a single topic: improving your sex life.

#2: Recognize it’s a loaded topic.

You can’t approach sex like you do the topic of what color to paint the house or what foods to put on the shopping list. Sex is a very loaded topic because it causes people to feel extremely vulnerable. If you’re going to develop good communication in this area, you need to crank up your sensitivity to your spouse’s feelings. Feelings are like glass—they can shatter easily. When someone already has a hard time talking about sex, there needs to be more patience, more listening, and more praying. Ask God to help you understand what your spouse is trying to say as you listen. Don’t interrupt before they finish their thought. Be sensitive with your words. Don’t just say the first thing that comes to your mind—take time to form your words and think about how you’d feel if those same words were being directed at you. Here are some helpful communication tips for talking about tough subjects:

  • Use “I” language.

Humans are self-focused and this makes them very prone to misunderstanding each other. When there is tension in the air and people’s insecurities are being brought to the surface, it’s very instinctive to start listening for insults and criticism in what the other person is saying. This is why it is very helpful to use “I” language instead of accusatory “you” language. For example:

ACCUSATORY: “You make me uncomfortable when you touch me like that.”
BETTER: “I feel uncomfortable when you touch me like that.”

It’s your discomfort, so own it. Don’t instantly put the blame on your spouse for trying to make you feel a certain way—such language only raises walls. When people hear “you make me” language, they get defensive. They stop hearing that you are describing your inner world to them and they start feeling attacked, which then makes them start focusing on defending themselves instead of listening to you.

  • Avoid “always” and “never”.

There are very few cases in which such extreme terms are truly accurate. When you’re talking about sensitive issues, extreme language only leads to hurt feelings and misconceptions, so tone it down and be more realistic.

TOO EXTREME: “You always rush ahead of me.”
MORE ACCURATE: “I often feel like you’re going too fast for me and that I can’t keep up.”

TOO EXTREME: “You never listen when I ask you to slow down.”
MORE ACCURATE: “I often feel like I’m not being heard when I ask you to slow down.”

  • Be specific.

The goal of communication is to help each other understand our unique perspectives by describing how we process different experiences. Maybe your husband loves being touched in a certain place but you hate him touching you there. He can’t know this about you unless you tell him. Modeling the specific motions helps. Specifics help. Giving reasons for your requests helps them to be remembered.

VAGUE: “I just don’t like you touching my back.”
SPECIFIC: “I don’t like you touching my back because it tickles.”

  • Adjust the environment.

In cases of trauma, it can be extremely difficult for someone to discuss vulnerable subjects face to face in a well lit room. In general, people feel more comfortable being honest when they have a sense of anonymity. Turning the light off can help foster a more relaxed and safe environment for discussing sensitive issues. Sometimes people need physical space before they can talk about certain subjects. If that’s the case, give each other space. Lower your voices. Turn on some white noise to reduce the feeling that someone else in the house might overhear. Adjust the environment however you need to in order to make it easier to be honest and open.

  • Focus.

Nothing shuts someone down faster than you answering the phone while they’re in the middle of sharing some painful truth with you. When you’re discussing sex, the cell phones need to be off, the landlines need to be muted or disconnected, and you need to be giving each other your full attention.

  • Give “What I hear you saying is…” feedback.

If you don’t already have good communication established, feedback is a very important step in getting there. Feedback is how we make sure we’re receiving the message that our spouse is trying to send us. After your spouse shares something with you, repeat it back to them in your own words to make sure you’ve got the message right. Then they will do the same with you. This gives you both the opportunity to immediately correct any misconceptions.

WIFE: “I don’t like getting undressed in front of you because I feel like you’re always staring at the scar on my chest.”
HUSBAND: “What I hear you saying is that you’re very embarrassed by the scar on your chest.”
WIFE: “Yes, I am. And I feel like you’re always looking at it.”
HUSBAND: “I hear you saying that I’m always looking at your scar, is that correct?”
WIFE: “Yes.”
HUSBAND: “Well, I’m not always looking at your scar. I’m actually looking at your whole body. I find you very attractive. I’ll admit, I do stare at your chest a lot, but that’s because I find your breasts attractive. I don’t even notice the scar.”
WIFE: “I hear you saying that my whole body is attractive to you, especially my breasts.”
HUSBAND: “That’s correct.”
WIFE: “Really? How can you not notice this scar? It’s huge and gross looking.”
HUSBAND: “I hear you saying that to you, your scar stands out as a very distracting feature of your chest. But to me, it’s not even noticeable.”

Do you see how positive this repeating thing can be? Because the wife has the chance to confirm her husband is hearing her correctly, and because he then gives detailed feedback about how he actually sees her, a lot of misconceptions are brought to light. All of this repeating slows down the pace of a conversation, which gives people time to absorb what’s being said. But now suppose the wife hadn’t used “I” language and she hadn’t been so specific. Now a bigger mess gets made:

WHAT SHE SAYS: “You make me feel so gross by the way you’re always ogling my chest.”
WHAT HE HEARS: “You lusty pervert.”

The husband is now going to feel upset and try to defend himself. But even if things start off bad, giving feedback can save the day. Let’s try again:

WIFE: “You make me feel so gross by the way you’re always ogling my chest.”
HUSBAND: “What I hear you saying is that I’m a lusty pervert.”
WIFE: “No, I didn’t mean that. I feel like all you see is this big ugly scar I have.”
HUSBAND: “What I hear you saying is that I stare at the scar on your chest.”

Now we’re back on track and we can move forward with a positive discussion. Giving “What I hear you say…” feedback is a very useful way to keep everyone on the same page when sensitive topics are being discussed.

#3: Set a time limit.

It can be very exhausting to talk about emotionally charged subjects. People are hesitant to get started if they feel like they’re just going to be grilled with no end in sight. Setting a timer that’s counting down as you talk can be a very helpful way to crack open the door on subjects that have previously been kept closed between you. Agree that you’ll talk for 5, 10, or 20 minutes (or however long you’re comfortable with). When the timer goes off, take a break. Come back to it the next day for a single session. This gives everyone a chance to think about what’s been said and collect their thoughts. Trauma can be very difficult to talk about, so easing in is the wisest method. Sessions can be lengthened and multiplied as the two of you become more comfortable.

#4: Give positive feedback.

This is a stressful situation for both partners. Give positive feedback whenever you can. Encouraging words, comforting touches—all these things need to be identified and appreciated out loud. Help each other learn how to navigate through this tricky terrain. Everyone wants to feel like they’re doing something right. Positive feedback goes a long way to encouraging you both to keep trying.

#5: Validate feelings.

One of the biggest roadblocks to strong communication in a marriage is a refusal to view someone else’s feelings as being as valid as your own. Well, they are because God says so. Feelings are not something we have control over. They are often defined by our core insecurities, fears, and wounds. They are often nonsensical, and completely out of touch with reality. But when it comes to working through sexual trauma with your spouse, none of these things matter. The feelings are what matter, because the feelings are stopping the show. The feelings have to be dealt with in a positive way if they’re going to stop being a barricade and the first step of that process is recognizing that they are valid.

“Valid” means “justifiable and logical from the feeler’s point of view”. The key here is to remember that the traumatized perspective is a warped perspective. It is not based on reality. If your wife has been raped and she feels like she’s being raped when you’re having sex with her, those feelings make sense to her for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Her feelings are tied to past memories and the feeling of a body on top of her and the feeling of someone touching her private parts. It doesn’t mean you’re being an ogre, and you’re not owning that you’re an ogre by validating her feelings. You’re just saying “I understand that these feelings are very real for you and they feel overwhelmingly logical in the moment.”

Post-trauma panic is fueled by false assumptions. When a person finds themselves in a certain situation, their brain starts screaming at them that they are in danger and that something terrible is about to happen to them. The panic is extremely real. The fear is real. For you to say, “That’s stupid,” or “I can’t believe you’d feel that way,” is only going to shut your partner down and make the whole situation worse. To help each other move on from the past, we need to validate each other’s feelings. Here’s how it works:

WIFE: “I start to panic when you get on top of me. I start getting flashbacks of the man who raped me.”
HUSBAND: “That was a terrible experience that you’ve been through. I can understand how feeling someone else on top of you can cause you to panic.”

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never gone through what your spouse has. Just LISTEN to what they are saying and realize that their feelings are very real and overwhelming to them.

HUSBAND: “When I see you watching me undress, it reminds me of how my father used to watch me and I feel like I’m going to throw up.”
WIFE: “I’m hearing you say that you’re feeling some overwhelming feelings of dread. Your feelings are so important to me. I want to help diffuse the fear you’re experiencing.”

Validation is critical to helping your spouse recover from past traumas. They need permission for their feelings and perceptions to not have to make sense before you will accept them. One of the worst things you can do is try to tell your spouse that they’re not allowed to feel certain ways, and the main reason we do this is because we feel threatened by the feelings being expressed. This is where it’s important to understand some basic principles of trauma.

PRINCIPLES OF REPRESSED TRAUMA

The first thing to understand is that what your spouse is going through is not a personal reflection on you. You might be inadvertently doing things that are making their fight harder, but that intense backlog that’s roaring to the surface was probably built before you ever came into their life. You need to maintain some degree of separation. Remember that you are two separate individuals who are on your own unique journeys with God. You don’t want to react to your spouse’s internal baggage like it’s a personal insult, because it’s not. They’re getting slammed with tidal waves of emotion that they weren’t able to express back when they first felt it.

Where there is overreaction, there is a lack of emotional processing. When circumstances prevent us from feeling what we need to feel at the time a traumatic event first happens to us, we end up shoving those emotions inside. It’s an emergency measure. It’s like corking a volcano. It feels like a necessary move at the time, because we feel like preventing an eruption is the number one priority. The problem is that all that emotion doesn’t dissipate when it’s been trapped. Instead, it intensifies. By the time that cork finally blows off, we’re dealing with emotions that are far more intense than we’re prepared for. We’re dealing with a lot more volume as well. It’s a very overwhelming situation.

So what causes that cork to finally jolt lose? One scenario is that we undergo a new, unrelated stress. When we try to repress or feel the emotions of that new stress, the strain adds one more crack in an already weakened dam and suddenly the floodgates open. Other times, we find ourselves in a situation that has some certain elements in common with our repressed trauma and suddenly our minds are overwhelmed by a flood of memories that we had managed to completely block out of our conscious mind. With those memories comes a flood of intense emotions.

Why do so many issues come up in the bedroom? It’s that vulnerability factor. To do sex God’s way, we must emotionally and psychologically engage with our spouse. We need to open ourselves up to really bond on a heart level, and once that door opens, we lose control of how much comes through. The compliment in all this for the untraumatized spouse is that by creating an atmosphere of safety, you are helping your spouse deal with emotions that they’ve been unable to connect with before now. Repression is a psychological defense against perceived danger. As long as your spouse is afraid of being punished for honestly expressing their distress, they’re going to try hard to keep a lid on things. But if you come along and start making them feel safe and accepted, the perceived danger level drops and suddenly the fatigue of trying to keep emotions bottled up inside is able to surface and your spouse cracks. It should be viewed as an extremely positive thing when repressed emotions start surfacing. Being felt and released is the only way these beasts are going to stop creating division.

You can’t do your spouse’s internal work for them. Internal healing is something they are going to have to get from God. But you can help the process along by maintaining a safe atmosphere in which your spouse can vent the emotions they need to vent without the threat of being rejected. Let’s now talk about some important principles of working through trauma together.

  • Keep the blame where it belongs.

If you’re the untraumatized spouse, you need to realize that this whole mess IS NOT ABOUT YOU. If you try to make it about you, you’re only going to shoot yourself in the foot. Demons are going to be working very hard to try and swing you off course here by coaxing you to read personal criticism and insults into everything your spouse says. IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, it’s about your spouse trying to get out from under a brick load of painful memories and intense emotions. There is no reason for you to feel threatened by this situation. If you do feel threatened, then that’s your cue to start praying and asking God to show you what’s really going on. When we’re threatened, it’s because our own unresolved issues are getting raised to the surface. God is a multitasker. He might well decide to use your spouse’s processing to help you identify some areas that you and He need to work on. If this is the case, then you want to follow His lead and fill your spouse in on what’s going on with you. But each person needs to take responsibility for his or her own issues. We can’t do each other’s work—only our own.

If you’re the traumatized spouse, you need to keep a firm grip on the fact that your issues are YOUR issues, and they are not your spouse’s fault. If you try to turn this into a blame game, you’re only going to put up walls in your marriage. Your spouse is not the one who trashed you in the past. Your spouse can’t fix you, save you, change the past, or read your mind. You need to be very guarded about the language you use to vent your emotions—remember to put things in terms of “I” instead of the accusatory “you.” Realize that as someone who loves you, it is very stressful for your spouse to see you in trouble and feel like they are helpless to do anything about it. You need to remember they’re working blind—they can’t feel what you feel. When they inadvertently do something that trips some trigger in you, don’t attack them like they’re secretly out to get you. When we’re working through repressed emotion, intense anger is often in the mix. That anger needs to be directed at God, not your spouse, because God is the One who is truly responsible for doing this to you.

  • Look beyond the middlemen.

Maybe your father molested you. Maybe some creep raped you. Maybe a priest groped you. Maybe your mother made fun of your naked body. Maybe doctors experimented on you. Whatever happened, you need to recognize that there were two elements to the scenario: there were the middlemen, and there was the Mastermind. God is the Mastermind behind every event that happens on this earth. God is an extremely involved Creator. He controls the movement of every molecule in existence. Human beings did not assault you while God was vacationing in another universe. Demons didn’t overpower God long enough to stick it to you. God did not abandon you into the clutches of evil beings. God chooses and executes EVERY trial that enters our lives. He is WITH US in our trials—controlling their longevity and severity. Evil doesn’t rule this world, God does. These are critical truths that you will need to come to terms with if you are going to experience complete healing on this issue. Fixating your rage on humans is essentially a copout. The humans couldn’t have touched you without God’s help. Complete processing requires that we face the truth about what happened to us, and the truth is that God is involved in EVERY horrific thing that goes on down here. If this is news to you, we have a lot of material that can help you get a handle on this (see Angry at God).

You aren’t doing God or yourself any favors by downplaying His involvement in your crisis. Denial only causes us to get stalled and stuck. God wants an intimate relationship with you, and one of the prerequisites to forming a close bond with Him is for you to fully recognize and accept His total sovereignty over all things and His intimate involvement in every area of your life. It doesn’t matter what instruments God used to traumatize you. What matters is WHY He chose to put you through that experience. God always has a POSITIVE spiritual reason for putting us through hellish experiences on earth. Often we can’t see those reasons until we gain some distance from the actual experience. But the point is that GOD put you through this for the sake of drawing you and Him closer together in the long-term. Once you realize this, you can choose to become receptive to the positive lessons the Holy Spirit wants to bring out of this for you. God doesn’t hurt us just to smash us or permanently cripple us. He hurts us to force us away from paths that will harm us, to deepen our understanding of critical concepts, and to lay the groundwork for a deeper bond with Him. Processing past traumas is like slogging through a miserable swamp searching for treasures that are hidden in the muck. If you are willing to work with Him, God is going to help you locate the treasures that He has created in the muck for you. His goal is to move you through and out of the swamp. This is not a permanent stop. This is an experience you are passing through so that you can go on to greater things. God does not put us through pointless trials. Every trial is carefully created by Him to result in very positive spiritual benefits later on.

Your spouse is your ally in this struggle, but they are not God. They cannot fix the damage God has done, they can only support you while God fixes the damage. You need to have reasonable expectations about your spouse. They can try to adjust for you, but they can’t be expected to have no needs just because you’re going through a crisis. Balance is needed in these situations: you and your spouse need to work together as a team.

MAINTAIN A UNIFIED FRONT

“We are committed to each other and to this marriage.” This is the bottom line that you need to keep returning to when things get stressful. God has given men and women a need for sex. It is not reasonable for you to demand that all sex be suspended for some interminable amount of time while you process. Cutting sex out of the picture only leaves your spouse open for new attacks. You both need to guard each other’s backs during this recovery period, and there are practical steps you can take to do that.

REVISING THE DANCE

You were doing sex one way and now all of these issues have surfaced. To maintain your sex life during this period of processing, some revisions need to be made. Sexual trauma often centers around feelings of assault and force. The victim feels like his or her control was stripped away from them. To recover and feel safe again, that control needs to be reestablished. Just as we counter lies by rehearsing positive truths, we diffuse negative memories by creating new, positive ones. Let’s look at some practical examples.

  • Slow down and take breaks.

It’s upsetting for everyone when one spouse suddenly gets emotionally overwhelmed. It’s much harder to calm down once emotions are in full panic mode, so the strategy here is to slow down the pace and give opportunity for the traumatized spouse to call the need for a break before things get out of control. This is not the time for some time pressed rush job. This is the time for taking it easy and pausing frequently to ask how the traumatized spouse is doing. We never want coercion to become an element in intercourse, so there needs to be a clear understanding that someone can call it quits without receiving a bunch of attitude.

  • Identify specific triggers.

It is so important to talk together. What exactly is it that causes one of you to start feeling uncomfortable? Identify those touches, mannerisms, looks, words, and environmental cues and see what you can do to change them. Try new things. Don’t be afraid to start from square one. If your husband’s been molested and he suddenly feels upset by getting undressed in front of you, give him some privacy. If your wife needs to wear pajamas to bed instead of coming to bed naked, be flexible. You want to give people breathing room and allow them to have extra space while still maintaining as much touch as you can. You can still snuggle and cuddle with clothes on. Maybe your wife can deal with being naked in bed, but she just can’t handle you watching her undress. Work with each other.

If you need certain body zones to be off limits for a while, then identify the ones that your spouse can touch without upsetting you. Take your partner’s hand and guide them in the kind of touching you like instead of leaving them to figure it out by trial and error. Remember that this is a TEMPORARY situation, so after you’ve had some extra space, start trying to move back to normal by taking baby steps. Try wearing shorts instead of long pants to bed. If that works out, go to a sleeveless shirt, then no pants, etc.. Don’t accept permanent defeat in any area because God is going to move you through and out. If you get overconfident and it blows up in your face, don’t panic. Just back up however far you need to in order to feel comfortable again.

  • Maximize the positive.

What IS working? Those are the things you want to celebrate and make the most of. If wearing pajamas helps you relax and get more into snuggling, then wear them and then go all out with the snuggling. Maximize the affection in the areas in which you can receive it.

Keep the compliments coming. Look for positives in each other. Verbalize your feelings of attraction.

  • Change positions.

Whoever is on top has the most control. Let the person who is having the hardest time try being on top so that they can better control the rate at which things progress.

  • Don’t make climax a constant expectation.

When sex becomes a stress for someone, it’s good to have cuddling sessions in which you both agree that you’re not going to go for climax. The idea here is to maintain positive touch experiences without the pressure of performance. This is especially important if your husband is having trouble maintaining an erection. In the dance of sex, the man can feel enormously pressured to perform on cue and then horribly embarrassed if he can’t. Cancel that pressure up front by reserving times when you decide to just enjoy being with each other without engaging in actual intercourse. If you try again later and things don’t work out, remind each other that this is only a temporary situation. Things will improve, and you’re both willing to slow down and move through this period together. There’s no need to be in a flaming hurry. Use the differences in gender to your advantage. Men might feel extra pressure to perform, but women are wired to get more out of snuggling and talking than  actual intercourse. Husbands, your inability to follow through just isn’t the earth shattering thing to your wife that Satan will try to tell you it is. God has built in differences that become advantages in helping us be gracious to each other in times of stress. We want to make the most out of the tools He has given us.

  • Work out a clear signal system.

Many people have great difficulty verbalizing their distress in the critical moment. Work out a system ahead of time whereby the traumatized spouse can signal their need for a break. When that signal comes, stop immediately and don’t continue until you’re both ready. Restoring a sense of control and choice goes a long way towards alleviating stress.

Code words can be used if forming sentences is too difficult. Touch signals are useful if words are too hard to get out, but touch signals need to be clear enough to be felt in a dark, distracting situation. Gripping your spouse’s wrist, giving a friendly pinch—find a neutral signal that you can both recognize. The traumatized spouse needs to decide ahead of time what is helpful for their partner to do during these awkward pauses. Do you need physical space? Do you need to be held? Should they expect you to cry? Communication is the key—the more guidance the better.

  • Create opportunities for success.

When you both care about each other, sexual stresses can create a lot of guilt and frustration. The traumatized spouse feels bad for not being able to do normal activities. The other spouse feels frustrated for not being able to fix things. It’s important that you both look for new ways that you can succeed with each other. Maybe she can’t go all the way with sex, but she can give you a massage. Maybe he’s unable to maintain an erection, but he can help you climax manually. Don’t leave someone out in the cold feeling like a continuous failure. Create new opportunities for success and celebrate those successes. Remember that you are a team—you share the victories and you support each other through the struggles.

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