And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones. Most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs - Daughter
The first five years of my marriage, I believed the incredible anger I felt during sex was normal - an annoyance. I never thought about how it normally happened when I was woken up out of a deep sleep or how the anger wasn't ever directed toward my husband. I just assumed everyone felt this way and I needed to grin and bear it so to speak.
Slowly, the questions started. Why did I hate sex? I waited. It was supposed to be amazing, right? We were supposed to have these incredible nights of passion. Friends would make quips about being married and enjoying the "perks" and I would smile, nod and join the conversation knowing I was lying. I didn't get the perks. I hated the perks. The perks made me cry.
I felt broken.
I loved my husband and felt incredibly attracted to him. There were moments in which he would do something that would set the mood perfectly. And then - and then - the brick wall. And for whatever reason I never thought I could say anything. It never occurred to me that I should mention, "Hey. Whenever you do this? It pisses me off and I kind of want to punch you. I can't explain why but this can't be normal, right?"
And let me say here, on behalf of my husband, this wasn't anything of his making.
It took five and a half years of marriage (and twenty-seven years) for me to understand some of the memories I have growing up aren't just memories of hiding things under covers and playing touch this and see what happens. Every single moment of manipulation, shame, coercion and secrets came rushing back and it all made sense.
But here's the issue. Before, I felt broken and couldn't explain it. Now? Knowing the anger and disassociation held roots in sexual abuse broke me. Every touch, every scent, every sensation - it sent me reeling. When I found out even my skin held memory, I lost it. Crying in bed, wrapped in my husband's arms, I never felt more incomplete and worthless.
I couldn't help but wonder: all those years I waited was a lie...
Now I knew why sex was the biggest hurdle in our marriage. I knew why I felt dizzy and anxious whenever the mood shifted as we headed to bed. And I hated it. I hated this story I knew was my own because how could I be the wife I knew I needed to be - the wife I was taught about in high school and college - if I couldn't offer my husband what he needed without falling into a frenzy of triggers?
I heard the voices - the ones telling me if I didn't "give it to him" he would run somewhere else. The ones warning against withholding sex even if I wasn't in the mood because it was my biblical duty as a wife. I heard them and I internalized them and I made them my truth...
...not understanding I was believing a lie,
...and that the safety I felt with my husband was true,
...and that sexual discovery with and for and beside my husband was worth celebrating, ...and that speaking up despite the pounding of my heart and the threat of misunderstanding that I just can't right now meant more for my marriage than any other speaker or Christian professional could offer with trite statements and over-generalizations.
You see, there's danger in a single story and this - please hear me - is the problem with the purity culture.
Growing up, I was told things in earnest. Don't give part of yourself away to someone else who isn't your husband! Your heart will be like these papers glued together and ripped apart! You'll always think of this person when you get married and have sex as God intended!
And this whole time, no one spoke of what happens when these things are taken. No one told me how to handle my body if I didn't feel as if it were mine to own. No one whispered how breaking the bondage of abuse would hurt like hell and the mess would spill over into my marriage bed. No one told me that it was okay, that I wasn't less than, that there was goodness and bravery in figuring out the dust of belief left over from His fire burning through the lies.
So here I am, speaking it to those who were forgotten.
- If sex makes you feel as if you're drowning
- if you feel an anger radiate from within you for no reason
- if it's almost impossible to stay present and aware during sex
- if you feel dirty and conflicted and less than because of someone else's mistakes - you are not alone.
I'm through with others trying to tell my story. I'm so tired of those who approach the table with a flippancy and an air of superiority thinking the answers are plain as day and fit everyone like a glove. I'm here to tell you this just isn't true and if it weren't for the incredible patience, understanding and gentleness of my husband - our marriage wouldn't have made it.
I waited but sex is still scary for me. I still hesitate when it comes to the perks of being married. I never know when my body will take over and initiate memories held too long on the surface of my skin but slowly - and through my husband's touch and the restoration of One who makes all things new - I'm beginning to experience restoration. There is electricity and heat and friction and messiness and holiness in the midst of sex - and it's for this very reason the Church must approach it with humility and awareness.
And for you who know - for you who hide - for you who wonder: there is hope and healing. Your story belongs at the table as well.