Sex in an Abusive Marriage, Part 3

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Around the ten year mark, I knew—really knew—I could never please that man in bed or anywhere else. I decided to focus my attention on pleasing God instead. In seeking the Lord with all my heart, fully believing that in Him is fullness of life, I would be a better wife, a better mother and whatever problems I had in bed would eventually be addressed as I grew in grace and truth.

The problem with that? My husband was not growing in grace and truth. He was headed the other direction entirely. He was drinking again and his use of pornography continued. He was busy raising his hands and singing in church every Sunday and terrorizing us the other six and a half days a week. I suppose I thought my gentle and quiet witness would eventually win him over.

It did not.

 Second Decade

Things ebbed and flowed. Some years were better than others. I did my best to perform on autopilot. Most is a blur.

I remember horrible things vaguely, routine things not at all. Gradually over the years frequency diminished. With newborns, colicky babies and toddlers scared of the dark it’s not surprising but it always, always made the beast angry. He thought I should leave a hungry infant crying and hop in bed. That was not going to happen. He believed I should leave three children under the age of seven unsupervised, their little paws banging on the bedroom door while we locked ourselves inside and got busy. Not in a million years.

Looking  back, I set boundaries and imposed limits but I did not feel one bit good about the process. By this point I knew I’d feel bad no matter which decision I made and the beast would be unhappy either way. If a man’s going to be angry no matter what, what’s the point?

Always the focus was on him. His needs, his demands. At some point, I told him to quit talking about my appearance and get use to it. I was getting older  and I wasn’t going to morph into Cindy Crawford. If he didn’t like me at a hundred pounds, he wasn’t going to like me after three kids and a hundred and fifty.

Rather than concede that I’d insisted he shut the crap up, he reframed this as some sort of major concession on his part, another proof of his great restraint and self-sacrifice as he refrained from speaking of my deteriorating physical appearance. He did however, decide to become overly concerned with my health and came up with all sorts of creative suggestions on ways to help me tone up and lose those extra pounds and inches. I stopped listening. One time I counted. He told me to work out on average five times a day. He also had plenty of pet names, each highlighting some feature he found repulsive. If I asked him to stop he said I was too sensitive, he was just joking.

Decade Three

Around year twenty,  I had major abdominal surgery that went terribly wrong. After surgery, I went septic. I came within inches of dying and to this day, I believe the only reason I stayed this side of the veil was sheer determination. I wasn’t leaving my babies, not with him.

A year later, I could barely stand long enough to cook dinner. Damage to my internal organs caused chronic pain that never let go. I came dangerously close to an addiction to narcotic pain killers, tempting for more reasons than one.

I was home less than two weeks before the beast began asking for his marital rights, said I couldn’t possibly be in that much pain. We resumed sexual relations after three months and I thought I would die. Nothing—and I mean nothing—was ever okay after that. My internal organs were broken. My lady parts damaged. But worse was the emotional backlash—I  almost died and I could not understand such callous disregard for something that kept me bedridden for months from someone who said he loved me every single day.

He thought I was slacking, that I could get up and do my job if I wanted. His anger during that year permeated our home, taking what had always been bad to ever higher levels. He resented everything. He took to finding fault with the children while they tried to cook or clean, punishing them as a way to get me out of bed, an over-exertion I paid for days afterward.

By year twenty five, other body parts are starting to scream in protest. Joints, neck, back. I lived with chronic sciatic nerve pain and ongoing issues from the botched surgery. Migraines came without warning and stayed for days. I had all sorts of symptoms of auto-immune disease but I knew the truth. My body was turning out the lights and I knew it.

God Knows My Heart and I Am Screwed

By this point, I’m numb. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if I please God, I don’t care if the earth opens up and swallows the beast, I don’t care if it swallows me. Sex is no longer an issue because I hate it with everything in me. I take off my clothes, do what I have to, say no to anything I don’t want to do anymore and flip him off as I walk out of the bedroom.

I am angry. It takes me days to recover afterward. Sometimes I curse him in my head the entire time he’s inside me, then repent until I fall into a stupor. I decide that if God is going to send me to hell for this, it doesn’t matter because I’m already *in* hell and it can’t get much worse.

Occasionally I try to talk to this person I’m beginning to suspect might not be human.  He refuses to address anything going back more than a few weeks saying I’m being unforgiving, he said he was sorry and bringing something up for years back is proof I’m at fault. Nothing’s changed. I shut up.

The last year, for reasons that have everything to do with the mercy of God Almighty and nothing to do with anything in me, the Lord mounted a rescue operation. Hopefully I can tell that story someday.  The point is this: When the Lord arrived to deliver me from my oppression, I still shouldered all  the blame. I saw myself as a whore, as an unclean, unlovable woman. I was ugly, defective. No one would ever love me, no one ever *could* have loved me, so what was I complaining about?  Something was desperately wrong with me. Why else would this have happened?

But when God shows up, His goodness comes along. Healing began, starting with  those tears I’d bottled up for close to two decades. The love inherent in the Lord’s sweet presence awakened all those emotions I’d stuffed for years.

Emotions are Pesky Things

Now that my coping mechanisms were starting to fail, I couldn’t function sexually, even in the limited damaged capacity of years before. Frequency dropped. When I couldn’t figure out one more reason to say no, I’d sit on the toilet afterwards leaning my head against the tile trying to will his semen into the sewer where it belonged. I scrubbed myself raw in the tub an hour at a time, then head to an upstairs bedroom and cry myself hoarse screaming silent into the pillow. Still, I was too afraid to stop having sex with him entirely.

I prayed and prayed beforehand. I begged for divine help. I prayed that God would deliver me somehow, someway, whatever it took. Somehow, it never occurred to me that God had already given me a way of escape–something called, free will. I had the power all the time. I had the right to say no more.

I did not know I had a right over my own body. That I could refuse and if that jerk didn’t change, I could continue refusing until he left. In the emotional, mental state I was in, I had no business trying to service a man who I suspected was servicing half the town anyway.

But I was afraid. I knew deep in my heart that if I ever stood my ground, there would be hell to pay. I knew he was dangerous and I sure knew he would never put up with me cutting him off. I knew that whenever I refused his demands, the kids paid. I was weak and afraid.

God provided a beautiful little home, a sweet place to stay. He prepared the heart of someone to take us in. All I had to do was the hardest thing in my life. I had to walk out.

As I pulled out of the driveway, one of the first thoughts I had– I’ll never have to have sex with that jackass again.

Summing Up

If you read part two, you’ll note I got stuck somewhere between Wife Gives Up and Husband Blames Her Forever. I spent the last two decades in a quagmire that wrecked havoc on my soul and didn’t fix anything. Its an ugly place to live.  I allowed someone who despised me to abuse my body, to assault my inner being over and over. Physical intimacy should never be forced. Thinking about it makes me sick to my stomach.

The sad truth? I’ve heard stories much worse than mine.

Don’t tell me a man can’t rape his wife. Don’t tell me a man can’t sexually abuse the woman he married. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve lived through the fire. I’m a mild mannered woman but I will shut you down if you’re ignorant enough to try to argue with someone who lived through the hell and knows firsthand. Honestly,  I really don’t care anymore, but I’ll go to the wire on this one for every other wife who’s whispered her story in the dark.

For those who’re reading, all I can tell you is this. You cannot fix what you did not break. I tried to please my husband. My husband did not try to please his wife.  All his focus centered on his wants, his needs, his desires. Never once do I remember any consideration for my needs or desires. He was a horrible lover. Why did that never cross my mind? I don’t know, but it didn’t. I thought it was my job to take care of him when in truth, it’s husbands who are repeatedly instructed to love their wives.

The problems were not mine. A woman cannot respond when there’s nothing to respond to—no love, no tenderness. I did not ask for much. I didn’t ask him to keep his hair or have a killer six-pack. I never asked him to buy me flowers or take me on dates. I asked for kindness. That’s all. . . just a little consideration but apparently that was way too much for him to give.

Did I do everything I could have those last two decades? I don’t know. I did everything I was capable of doing. I wasn’t mentally, emotionally or spiritually able to do more. I’m not trying to justify my decisions and it sure isn’t fun to tell this story. Believe me, I could be graphic but I still have to look myself in the mirror.

If these men are this miserable, why don’t they just leave? I came to the conclusion my husband did not want to be happy. More to the point, he did not want *me* to be happy. He fed on my misery.

Shame on him.

I’m tired. Very tired of carrying this. I don’t enjoy bringing up the subject but ignoring the gorilla in the pantry doesn’t save the groceries. I write this story to say you are not alone. If you see yourself somewhere in my story and understand  it’s not all your fault then it’s enough reason to stand naked in the kitchen and brave the monkey.

That’s it! Thank you for your prayers. At some point, I may revise this but for now, let’s call if finished.

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15 responses »

  1. You are a HEROINE. You protected your children. You survived. You lived with a narcissist and literally lived to tell the tale. Thank the Lord.

    How do you feel about others re-posting your story? It’s your story, so you are in control.

    Praying for you this morning, knowing that what you have written is another chapter in that book that has to be published. Every pastor, every bishop, every counselor ….. has to read it.

  2. Thank you Morven. I hit the ‘publish’ button last night and made myself go to bed and think about butterflies and kittens. So glad to see you here this morning~!

    Anyone who’d like to repost has my permission. It’s not a pretty story, but if it will help others, I’m all for it.

  3. Hi, my name is Kristi Timbrook and I work in central Ohio as a domestic violence advocate. I also have started a blog. I would like to post your blog link up on my blog–would you mind? (My blog is: It’s Pretty To Think So. I believe you are a follower of my blog, thanks!)

    Thanks for your voice and I’m in awe of your courage.

    • Hi Kristi,

      I am indeed a follower of your blog. Went poking around, reading your excellent writing just yesterday. Wanted to post a comment on your sweet story about your mom but couldn’t quite figure out anything comforting to say.

      I’d be honored if you posted a blog link over at your place! Thank you.

      Once I came out as a survivor, people started talking, telling me their stories. Its appalling how common– and how similar– these cases sound. After going to a counselor for awhile and learning some on my own, I became convinced that abuse is a continuum and violence is just a matter of time and circumstances. I wanted to help but I’m not a teacher. All I really have to offer is my story.

      Some of the ladies who hang out here encouraged me to write but I can tell you, I don’t feel one bit courageous. I’m hoping these articles will point those who might recognize themselves to sources that can truly help. And maybe like the cowardly lion, I’ll grow some courage on the way 🙂

  4. I have read all three parts now, and I know you won’t be surprised to hear that our stories are similar. Actually, I must admit that my ex was not as cruel as yours, but I guess that made it harder for me to see through the fog. He never criticized my weight or bodily features, but he was demanding and the journey of my reactions paralleled yours. In the end, I really couldn’t stand him touching me. Yet, like you, I found it hard to say no. Not surprising, given that I was once taught at a womens seminar that Christian women cannot say No because men need sex. Or maybe it was because I knew it was futile – he never accepted no. He would still grope all night or force his way (covertly). And if he knew he went too far by even my standards, he would apologize, then justify it.

    I hope many pastors and friends of survivors read those posts because it was very hard to explain that even if I could be forced to make the concession that the verbal, physical or emotional abuse could be “forgiven” and tolerated, there was no way I could ever live in the same bedroom as that man again.

    Many bystanders tried to find out if he had been physically abusive, as if that was the worse form of abuse. Sexual abuse is not often highlighted, so nobody thinks to ask if the perpetrator is sexually demeaning. Once people begin to understand what victim-survivors struggle through on a daily basis in the bedroom, they may re-think their vigorous stance on pushing for reconciliation.

    • Brandnewlife: Thank you ~! It helps so much to hear these stories from others who understand.

      Condensing three decades into three posts means a lot gets left on the cutting room floor. I’ve purposefully left out some of the more confusing parts to get past all the crazy-making stuff. Those are the parts the beast would be sure to point out. How he said I love you every day. How he brought me flowers (when he’d acted like a complete jackass and knew he’d crossed even my soggy lines.) Those are the parts that kept me confused, bleeding and *there* in that horrible situation without a real choice and without a voice.

      My story may seem heavily weighted with the most abusive aspects but I’m not sure its so much worse than others. One of the hallmarks of this sort of thing is the confusion, the fog, the whatever-the-crap that is that keeps the victim from thinking straight and recognizing that someone else has taken complete control.

      You wrote, “I hope many pastors and friends of survivors read those posts because it was very hard to explain that even if I could be forced to make the concession that the verbal, physical or emotional abuse could be “forgiven” and tolerated, there was no way I could ever live in the same bedroom as that man again.”

      Exactly. There came a point where it became physically impossible. The twelve apostles could show up, tell me to return and I’d have to (politely) decline. I’m sure the women who followed Jesus would be happy to explain why 🙂

  5. A slave to Christ or a slave to a husband who didn’t care if he commanded me to disobey Christ in order to please him “as a man”? For so long I thought that by pleasing him no matter what he demanded I was indeed pleasing Christ. May every copy of every book with a wrong view on wifely submission disappear forever before they damage another woman the way they damaged me. It took God a long time to break through the garbage I believed and endured (thanking Him for His patience with me) but He finally got through to me. A slave to man no more; a slave to Christ forever.

    I applaud your strength, your courage, your determination to survive. May God bless you, my dear, dear sister. ~ Anna

  6. Dear Ida Mae
    I wept and almost stopped breathing as I read this post. It’s hard to put into words what I feel. So much to say that each thing is crowding out each other thing. And simultaneously, so awed by your raw and brave (yes) honesty and that every word and phrase you’ve chosen in this mini masterpiece is utterly apt, charged with shivering, inexorable truth.

    Thank you so much for doing what so few have done: speak the unspeakable, proclaim it from the rooftops, open the bedroom door and display the torture chamber that is behind it.

    I will be publicising your three-part post far and wide.

    I dare any pastor to read it and then tell a victim of abuse to go back to her unreformed husband!
    Shame on the false teachers, shame on the stupid authors of so many marriage books. But no shame on the survivors!

    BTW, I read somewhere in the secular domestic abuse literature that survivors say they would LIKE counsellors and support workers to ask direct questions about sexual abuse. It’s hard for a survivor to raise the subject, but if a support person asks the direct question, the survivor will feel free to open up.

    God bless you, sister. Many ((hugs)) to you and to all survivors out there.

  7. I read all 3 parts of this article. I could identify with so much of it, including what you said was one of your first thoughts after leaving. I also like what Barbara said above about survivors wanting people to ask specific questions about the abuse because it opens the doors to being able to talk about the abuse, and therefore begin to heal.

  8. I literally just sobbed through this. I am 30 years old and my divorce has been final for one week. I was verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused for 3 years. He only physically abused me twice. I left the second time and never looked back.

    I knew things were not right but the “fog” was heavy. Compounded by growing up in southern baptist “purity culture”. Like you, God intervened to get me out. He orchestrated a series of events over three days that but for, I never would have left. It would be me writing your blog after three more decades.

    I discovered I was being verbally and emotionally abused long after it began, and it didn’t take me long to devour everything I could find online about it. The more I read, the more devastated I was about what I had let happen to me. I was being destroyed. And I was letting it happen. And I hadn’t even understood how bad it was. For me, it was “normal”.

    The sexual abuse is something that is just now dawning on me. And by that I mean, just this week. I am in the process of “devouring” all over again. Again, I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know how bad. All those raw emotions feel fresh again. I had only had one boyfriend before him (that I never had sex with- my husband got to take my virginity) and my husband made me think that my previous boyfriend was just that, a “boy”. A real “man” has needs. This came after he informed me that I was not allowed to make him hard and not finish him to completion. (Making him hard could happen with a inncocent touch, handholding, or kiss on the cheek. Needless to say I stopped wanting to touch him at all.) This information was delivered by him screaming at me in rage. The first time was while we were still dating.

    If I showed any kind of hint that I did not want to participate, I would have to sit on the bed and read to him the verses about how my body was his and I could not deny him. I would let him take me. He would be angry that I was not more happy about it. Like you, I deserved an oscar. I faked every orgasm. Every. One. I faked them to get everything over with quicker. His anger was unbearable. The screaming was constant. I know what it is like to give him what he wants just so you can sleep. (He didn’t have a job so he could afford to berate me all night. I was the sole provider and needed the sleep to work 11-12 hour days.) His appetite was insatiable (after I came home from 11-12 hour days). His manipulations were vile.

    I just looked back at everything I wrote and realized how long this is… I didn’t mean for that to happen. But I can’t delete it. It is the first time I am saying it publicly. I don’t know how you did it. I truly do not. You are incredibly strong-there are no words to describe how my heart hurts for you. For every girl out there who has or is going through this. Who feel like God and the church abandoned them. I would cry to Him most nights. Sob. Even knowing that many others had it far worse than me. That made me feel even worse.

    Thank you for sharing. I identified with far too many things you shared. I needed to know I wasn’t crazy.

    • That’s an incredible blessing, to know that something so ugly can help someone else. Thank you for commenting– you’re so brave and I know your transparency with help others.

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