Why Do I Struggle with Sexual Intimacy?

Written by Barbara Wilson

125There’s another way your abuse could be impacting you and that’s in your enjoyment and desire for sex with your spouse. In addition to the ways sexual abuse damages our bodies, spirits and emotions, sexual abuse also damages our view of sex. When we’ve been used for others’ sexual pleasure the experience becomes associated with a negative view of sex.

One of the most confusing things for the sexual abuse victim is how their bodies responded during the abuse. How can something that feels scary, wrong and shameful also feel so good? Often a strategic pedophile grooms his victim by awakening their sexual desire making them a more willing, pliable participant. Now something that God designed for a holy, precious union between a husband and a wife has been seared on the young person’s brain as something shameful, dirty, and painful.

Then they get married to the person of their dreams. They’re madly in love. They want to have sex with this person; except, when their sexual desire is aroused, the unexpected happens. The old familiar feelings of shame, disgust and the sense that this is wrong squelches their desire and causes them to shrink back from the loving touch of their spouse. Or if their abuse was violent causing fear and feelings of helplessness, those same emotions will arise during sexual intimacy, even though this is a safe person. You see, sexual abuse not only robs a child of their childhood, but also steals from their future. The result is an emotional and physical withdrawal on the part of the sexual abuse victim fracturing the marriage union at its foundation.

If this is you, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for all that’s been robbed from you–your yesterday and your today. There is hope for you. It no longer has to rob you of your future. You can choose today to break its hold on you, to heal from the pain and shame to love and live in freedom and wholeness.

I can hear some of you saying to yourself, “But I’ve done all the counseling…I’ve tried everything I can think of, and nothing has worked.” You may not like my answer, but I’m going to encourage you to not give up. Don’t give up. Healing is a journey, a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Along with the support of a professional counselor I encourage you to try the steps of healing offered – “How to Heal from Your Sexual Past”. I’ve seen God transform and heal the lives of hundreds of women as they’ve brought their hurts and pain to Him.

There is hope for healing. God can heal anyone.  He can heal anything. He’s done it for me, and countless others. And He wants to do it for you.

Please, just don’t give up.

For further reading in this series:

Childhood Sexual Abuse: How the past affects the present
How do I know if I’ve been sexually abused?

Why do I feel this way?
How do I know if I need healing?
How can I heal from my sexual past? 

Would you like to talk to a mentor? Just use this form and you’ll get a personal, private response from your mentor, usually within a couple of days.  Can we pray for you?

Recommended Reading:

On The Threshold of Hope by:  Diane Langberg
The Wounded HeartHope For Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse by:  Dan Allender
List of Barbara’s Books  Barbara covers many issues in her books including Sexual Abuse and much more.


17 Responses to “Why Do I Struggle with Sexual Intimacy?”

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    ‘Hi’, you need to get professional help so that you can get past the things in your past. The best part is, that even though sometimes we find it hard to forgive ourselves, when we come to God and accept the gift of His son Jesus, He forgives us which is pretty incredible. As Jamie pointed out earlier in this thread, ‘Jesus once said that the truth will set you free and that has been proven true time and time again. Jesus also said, “I am the Truth” and that too has been proven in so many people’s lives who have been touched by His love. His promise to people who are weighed down by the things that have happened to them and the things that they have done themselves is, “I will give you rest.”

    So instead of beating yourself up, get some help and deal with these issues from your past.

    Thank you that you can free us from everything in our pass and that we reach out and accept Your free gift of forgiveness we can truly be set free. I pray that You would do this for ‘hi’ as well. Amen.

  • hi says:

    When I was young can’t remember but around 4-5 I walked in on my parents having sex I went to my room where I slept with my sister n told her what I saw n showed her action wise nothing happened but like 1 year later my other sister n I had sex one of her friends were there n we had sexI didn’t know any better soon after that I had sex with my cousin. I also ha sex with 2 friends n put.my hand down the pants of another child all before iwas 8-9 I’m disgusted with myself but I’m emotionally cold I’m socially with drawn I am getting better about the socially withdrawn part I’m about to go through a divorce cause I can’t explain my feelings n I’m the one that wants out cause she deserves better than what I can give her

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Dear David and Jess,
    You are on opposite sides of the same coin and in both of your relationships the abused person needs to get professional help. The good thing is that there is help available.

    May I suggest as Jamie mentioned in his comment earlier on this thread that you start by looking through a series of articles that Barbara Wilson has put together about sexual healing. You can see the links on the bottom of this article but one place to start is at http://powertochange.com/family-life-canada/childhood-sexual-abuse. Barbara also has some books that she has written about her own experiences with childhood sexual abuse and it’s impact on her marriage. She will walk you through some steps that will help you be set free from the hold that this experience has on you. Look for Barbara’s books at her website http://www.barbarawilson.org

    As well, there are organizations that deal with this specifically. One of these is RAINN the National Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network which you can find here https://www.rainn.org/ They have hotlines available for you to call in and get some help.

    Please know that you are not alone on this journey. We also have a team of online mentors that aren’t professional counselors but who are willing to walk alongside of you on this journey. You can fill out the form here http://powertochange.com/discover/talk-to-a-mentor/ and one of them will email you back.

  • Jess says:

    I have not been abused, but my boyfriend was abused when he was young and this is causing lots of problems in our relationship. He hardly ever wants to have sex and when I bring it up it becomes a fight. He has never come out and said that he doesn’t want to have sex because of his past, instead he says he is tired or not in the mood or he was going to before I brought it up and now doesn’t want to. After reading this I now realize what the underlying problem really is. But how do I bring it up? How do I say you need to get help? How do I make him feel safe to tell me about it or safe enough for him to want to have sex with me? This is really causing lots of fights and I don’t want to lose him. I love him very much and want him to heal from this. Please help.

  • David Williams says:

    I was sexually abused when I was 6-7 years old. I didn’t think it bothered me. Now I am starting to believe that it does. I have been married for 10 years and I am not able to please my wife sexually. I have anxiety and I think it hinders me from performing properly during our intimate times. I need help

  • Anna says:

    I am a survivor of sexual abuse myself. I struggle with flashbacks at times.
    I recently learned that my boyfriend of 6 years was sexually abused by a female as a child. He was forced to have sex and perform acts of an adult nature.I
    dont know what to do now because he has left me here in his home .He told me he doesnt think he can ever be normal.He wont allow me to touch him at all. He said he thinks i should move on and find someone else. He tells me i should move out of his house then tells me to stay.He is living with parents right now until he figures things out. I dont know what to do ? I told him hes not alone and that in time he will be ok again. I told him im not leaving unless he makes me and my children leave legally. I told him i love him and that this doesnt change anything.By the way last week on wed we had a huge fight. I t was over him never wanting to cuddle etc, I had no ideal that he had been hurt by a woman as a child. For me i had to forgive and find peace with my abusers in my early 20’s. My boyfriend says he cant forgive his abuser. He says hes tried to have a normal relationship with a female but it always fails. I am the first person hes ever told outside of his family and therapists. Yes hes been to therapy but he says they told him he cant be fixed.I dont think any therapist would ever tell a person that.I need advice im so angry and hurt he wont come back home. I just moved back after being gone for a half of year.I thought we were ok and now this.
    Also i feel so different towards him now that i know.I feel closer to him .I now understand why he has pushed me away so often over the years.
    thank you,Anna

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Melindymoo, It is very understandable that your brother’s actions have a long-lasting impact on you. But you don’t have to be trapped there. Let me encourage you to look through a series of articles that Barbara Wilson has put together about sexual healing. You can see the links on the bottom of this article but one place to start is at http://powertochange.com/family-life-canada/childhood-sexual-abuse. Barbara also has some books that she has written about her own experiences with childhood sexual abuse and it’s impact on her marriage. She will walk you through some steps that will help you be set free from the hold that this experience has on you. Look for Barbara’s books at her website http://www.barbarawilson.org

  • Melindymoo says:

    I was abused by a brother for yrs growing up. He was old enough to know better, I was not. When it first started happening it felt good then I realized it didn’t feel good anymore and I didn’t want it to keep happening but it did. Eventually yrs later it lead to actual rape. Ironically enough, it all stopped after that. I believe he was 17 and I was 14. I never told my parents, I didn’t want to bring them that pain or didn’t want them to view me in such a disgusting way.

    I’m not 26 yrs old and am having horrible problems with my fiancé. He knows what happened. But our problem is me, I can’t be who I want to be, I can’t be who I am in the bedroom. I can’t initiate sex with him. It throws me into such a panic and my chest gets tight and everything. I know that it I could just be able to open up he could not refuse me but I just can’t. It’s fear if rejection, fear of him turkey seeing me, fear of intimacy. Just everything. I am so angry that something else has been taken from me yet again. I’ve come a long way and though I was in the clear. I am so so angry, I can’t even be a woman.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Amelia, I would say those memories are already impacting your life. When you feel panic about visiting home there is something out of place. Rather than allow those memories–whatever they may be–to control you it is healthier to face those memories and be able to make healthy, wise choices.

    I agree with Barbara that in God there is hope. By looking to Him to guide your way forward you guarantee that He will help you to make good choices and respond appropriately to the things that you find. Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and weighed down; I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) He can give you rest even when you are uncertain of what is weighing you down.

    Lord Jesus, I pray for Amelia as she wrestles with what to do about her past. I ask that You give her clarity of how best to move forward and that You would bring people into her life who will support and care for her as she goes through this self-discovery. Amen.

    Amelia, let me invite you to connect with one of our mentors. They are safe people who can be a friend through difficult times. Just fill out the Mentor Request Form at http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor and one of them will get in touch with you be email.

  • Amelia Northwood says:

    So I have been struggling with this for a couple of years. Since I moved back to my childhood home town. Around the age of 6-8yrs old it’s sort of a blank. Even after that it’s not as clear.But I have these fragments of a memory of a moment during those blank years.In this memory I get picked or I walk home not really sure, and it might have happened another time before school. Anyways my mom was a single and She worked a full time job and I always came home earlier and later then any of my siblings. So she would have my uncle watch me or a well known man among community and our religious temple watch me. The man sometimes watched me I have this disturbing memory of…I was sitting beside him and his sitting in a chair and somehow someway I don’t know if initiated it but my hand end up touch his groin.I remember having this intense emotion right that moment but I remember home something buts a complete blur.I sort excited….and it disturbs me because I feel like I was curious and that started. But everything is a blur and I know their a few other times but I don’t remember and its driving me crazy.I’m not sure if I want to know, but know that this memory has resurfaced before when I was in my early teens and I must pushed it back.I’m pretty sure that man hurt me(don’t if that’s consider molestation), but I’m unsure of two other, like said before my childhood is a blur.However one of the younger two men is close family friend and we grew up together and my mom told me we were to visit them when we back to my home town, I literally had a panic attack but to seeing him. I have no memory of him touching, but I know something happened.During those memory gapes I remember being quit, disconnected, pushing away my old friends and making new friends who were shy and quit and before then I was really outgoing. I remember craving attention and I thought if I became quit the opposite of who I use to be my family(people) would notice. Soon after I started to gain weight and have been having trouble keeping it off.Around the ages of 12-15yrs I became extremely flirtatious and dressing older…the guys I was talking to were in high school or college. Presently I’m virgin, but I don’t have this aversion to sex or sexual behaviors actually the opposite,I’m “Enthusiastic”about it. I have an aversion to seeing a genealogist and changing in front of people including family.I’ve only told one person about this and I felt really guilty. I don’t know if I should pursue initiating those memories, but I don’t know if I would be better off not knowing.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Allison, Have you been able to look at some of the other articles that Barbara has written? She gives some good ideas about healing from your sexual past. Have you ever talked to anyone about the vague memories you have? Sometimes that can help get them out of the secret places in your mind and out into the light of day where you can deal with them properly.

    Jesus once said that the truth will set you free and that has been proven true time and time again. Jesus also said, “I am the Truth” and that too has been proven in so many people’s lives who have been touched by His love. His promise to people who are weighed down by the things that have happened to them and the things that they have done themselves is, “I will give you rest.” He can help bring rest to the turmoil in your heart as well Allison. He knows the reasons why you blame yourself for being unsuccessful. He knows the parts of your life that you try to keep hidden from other people. He knows all of that and yet still He loves you and wants to bring healing, forgiveness, hope and joy to your life. You just have to trust Him and give all of it over to Him.

    Is that something you want?

    Let me pray for you: Dear Jesus, even I can read between the lines of Allison’s note here that she is not feeling good about herself. You know so much more than and I and even more than Allison knows why there is that pain and shame that fills her heart. I pray that she would hear Your voice calling her to come find rest in Your truth and Your love. I pray that the feelings of uncertainty and fear wouldn’t hold her back from the love and healing that You are offering to her. Set her free with Your Truth, and give her rest in Your Love. Amen.

    Allison, if you would like to talk to someone in more private way about these things you can get in touch with one of our mentors. It’s free and they are good people who want to help be a friend and tell you about how Jesus has made a difference in their lives. Just fill out the Mentor Request Form at http://powertochange.com/experience/talk-to-a-mentor and one of our mentors will get in touch with you by email.

  • Allison says:

    All my life I’ve felt like something may have happened to me when I was young. I have very vague memories, a man on a set of stairs, being in the bathroom with a man, but that’s it. I don’t know if I’m making this up in my life as an excuse for being unsuccessful or if something really happened. It’s hard to move on and try to heal without really knowing. My sex life with my boyfriend is suffering, he’s beautiful and wonderful and caring but I don’t want him to touch me. I don’t want anyone to touch me.

  • Brenda Miller says:

    Erica, I am so sorry for the horrific abuse you have suffered. It is completely understandable that you would be afraid, and that you would also have pain during pap tests. The tension you would experience alone just having a pap test done could result in pain, and it is possible that a medical exam may reveal further reasons as a result of being raped so very young. Erica, I believe you would benefit immensely from counselling to help you overcome the understandably extreme trauma you are suffering as a result of your past sexual abuse, and I encourage you to contact a counsellor as soon as possible. You deserve to know peace, calm, and joy in your life, rather than fear, violence, and anxiety. I pray you are able to find someone whom you can trust with whom you can work through the pain of your past so you can move into a future bright with hope and free from unhealthy fear and anxiety.

  • Erica Gonzales says:

    My struggle iz pain during sex i cant even have a pap because of the pain ive hurted there all my life hw can u make it stop

  • Erica Gonzales says:

    Hello im erika

    i viewd ur sit because i need help i need to move on
    From everything thats happind to me see ive been sexaully abused more
    Then just once ive been sexauly abused my whole life
    When i was 5yrz old i waz raped by not just a man aslo a women
    Me and there sun were hurt by these people till thiz day i
    Remember everything it effects my life deepy because of were it took place
    I have a hard time taking showerz i feel sick and realy weak helpless
    It has effectd me so much i hve a hard time take my dauqhter
    A bath i feel scared itz an awfull feelin i remember wht happind and scared
    For it ever to happin to my dauqhter i have to litterly have my mom helps me
    Somtimesz because i have panic attaccz
    Aslo wen i wasz 7 to 9 my cusin molested me
    Made me lose my trust i never went out as a teen i wasz scared of life
    Till thiz day i still am 16 i decided i need to try it
    I cant stay home 4ever so i went with a frend to the moviez
    I paid for the ticketz and she never told me she invited anyone along
    She called him to the moviez he came but not alone with two more
    Guyz i went because she was going to leave me by my self at the moviez
    So i went we stoped at a park my frend wasz in the back seat with the two guyz i waz infront with the guy whos sapost to be her boyfrend
    He pulled a gun to my head and raped me we were thrown at the park she wasnt not raped if thats what ur thinking she gave them what they want and i struggled for my life i wasz pregnet 16 and scared to tell my fsmily what happind scared for them to know the truth because honeztly u do feel guilty u wish there wasz somthin u could have changed but my daughter was born in feb 2008 i wasz 17 she was so beatiful i forgot all that happind to me when i looked in her eyes and just knew i loved her i knew had to be strong for her but its so hard to do everyday i try & not let my dauqhter know im hurt i try not to let her know ove been hurt i dont ever want her to feel thiz way

    till this day i cant get over what ive been threw i cant move on forth with my life its the hardest thing anyone could get over it can destroy

  • Doris Beck Doris says:

    Stacy Ann,
    I can see how your past sexual abuse would really impact any and all of your current relationships. I guess the very first question that I would ask is whether or not you have sought professional counseling?When we have dealt with difficult past relationships we bring those issues into our present so when it is something that was ongoing for years, it will be even more so.

    You mentioned that your relationships never work out because you can’t get close. It’s because your trust bank is empty. As you get to know someone and they prove that they are trustworthy, that puts a deposit in your trust bank. When they follow through and do what they say they will, that puts another deposit in your trust bank. The fuller that gets, the more you are able to trust others as well.

    But it is much like an onion…..we think we have dealt with the issue. As you said, you have tried giving everything to God and have asked for healing. But then there is another trigger and we find out that there is another layer that we need to deal with. We would like to live our lives as if we are taking chunks out of an apple and once we bite into them they are gone. But instead we find layers upon layers.

    So may I just encourage you not to give up, but to keep giving it to God and keep working on learning to trust again. And like I said, if you haven’t already seen a professional counselor, that’s a good place to start as well.

  • Stacy Ann says:

    My relationships never work out because I can’t even get close. Yes, I have tried giving everything to God and have asked for healing. My past sexual abuse still pops in a lot of things I do or don’t do. I won’t even have sex because I am afraid of being hurt again. (I have been abused from the time I was 2 1/2 on up to the time I was 16 or 17.) Nothing seems to help.

Leave a Reply

Start a Conversation

Latest Comments

  • Eric Bradshaw said: I know this was published several years ago now,...
  • Jamie said: Hi Devisha, which prayer requests are you referring...
  • devisha said: please remove my prayer request as suggested several...