In the upcoming Body Image panel, Marsha, Donna and I will be fielding a number of questions sent in by Body Image Survey respondents. One of the more frequently asked questions was around re-establishing intimacy when our body image has been eviscerated by our husband’s addiction.
According to the lengthier 2014/2015 survey, the majority of wives put up boundaries in the bedroom after disclosure. I believe the major factors are:
- Damaged body image
- Sex has become a trauma trigger
- Women generally don’t want sex without intimacy
- Intimacy is impossible without trust
- Intimacy is impossible where there is emotional distance
- Intimacy is impossible without vulnerability (and who wants to be vulnerable to the guy who just eviscerated you).
The Jesus Filter
In Beyond Betrayal (coming out in 2016) I relate the story of dancing with Jesus (sounds odd, I know, but read it and you’ll see….). At the end of the story I talk about feeling challenged by Jesus to open up and let Him love me more… and sometimes even through T (my husband).
My response at that moment was less than enthusiastic… but then I was only a few years into my healing journey and T had not earned back any great degree of trust at that point.
Nevertheless, it was this new perspective – that God was loving me through T – that would gradually help me to feel more comfortable being intimate with my husband. With the Jesus filter in place, only the true, the good and lovely passes from T to me in our intimate moments. This means I can let go of the questions like: “What is he really thinking about me?” and “Is he telling me the truth about having been faithful since going into recovery? About struggling less? About being attracted to me?”
Other Elements of Intimacy
Of course this only works because I have no grounds to be asking those other questions (ie no evidence to the contrary, and much evidence to back up the affirmative). If I had, then I’d be to best shelve the idea of intimacy until he's grown into the place where he's ready for it.
Even then, the Jesus filter is only one piece of the puzzle and probably wouldn’t work without some other key elements of intimacy. The first requirement of intimacy is that my husband continue to behave in a trustworthy manner (read Worthy of Her Trust by Jason Martinkus for more on how he can be rebuilding trust). Other elements that have promoted healing of our intimacy include:
- I have grieved the betrayal thoroughly with God, and gotten the support and guidance of counsellors and specialty support groups (most notably Journey to Healing and Joy)
- My husband has owned his intimacy anorexia and understands that he is responsible now to build emotional intimacy and initiate sexual intimacy (though I still have the right to decline if I’m feeling unsafe)
- I have used Emmanuel Prayer (and ongoing “hanging out with Jesus” time) to process my wounds around my body image (I’m also good at avoiding triggers)
- My husband remains faithful to me and continues to seek the support of other men who make fidelity to their wives a priority
- We have gone through a process of sexual reintegration therapy as outlined by Christian sexologist Dr Patricia Weerakoon (more on this in later posts)
- The ongoing evidence continues to point to the fact that he is bonding to me and being transparent and authentic (ie, vulnerable) with me
I’ll post a link to the panel discussion once it’s available. In the meantime, be patient with yourself and with the process. Healing of our body image and of our intimacy can take years. Stay focused on the goal and the One who is always faithful and sees you for who you really are — His beautiful, precious daughter.
Through Your Eyes — Jenny & Tyler