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When You're Stuck in the Sex Avoidance Cycle

I thought I had a problem.

I thought I needed sex therapy.

I had loads of guilt.

I put immense pressure on myself to “power through”.

Maybe if I had sex enough times, my dread and dissociation would eventually go away. (Dissociation in a nutshell is checking out during sex.)

My body felt disconnected from my brain; my brain felt disconnected from my body.

I WANTED to want sex.

Was it emotional? Was it physical? Was it psychological?

Turns out, it was all of the above. Complex PTSD is a b$@*! Trauma infiltrates our entire personhood: body, mind and soul.

This wasn’t “just” from betrayal…this was a complexity with many layers.

Let's start with church.

Being raised in strict fundamentalism, being told my body was shameful, told to always cover up, raised in hearing the message that “sex is sin”, hearing menstrual cycles was because of sin and my body was cursed,…all this and more was firmly entrenched in my soul before ever saying, “I do.”

Then came all the sexual trauma that gives me the ability to #metoo. We don't need to go into details on this blog post, but it was definitely at play into my sexual avoidance.

Lastly came experiencing betrayal by my intimate partner. Ouch. Double ouch. Triple ouch!

It was years of baggage to unpack, then years to reframe and retrain my brain to follow new, healthier pathways.

I spent an entire year of EMDR on a consistent regular basis to aid healing in my brain with the sole purpose of healing my messed up, dysfunctional sexuality. Now I've spent the last several years putting all I learned into practice, and I'm STILL a work in progress.

Guess what? So is Jim.

He heard these same messages growing up in the same fundamentalist church,, then he allowed porn to fill in the giant, gaping holes.

Go figure, he learned:

  • sex is naughty (from porn/church)

  • sex is your right as a man, (from porn/church)

  • your entitled to get sex whenever you want (porn/church)

  • success of sex is calculated by finishing off (porn/Christian authors)

  • sex is a need (Christian authors/church/porn)

  • wives are obligated to give sex to keep their men happy (church/Christian authors/porn)

  • sex will stop your partner from betrayal (Christian authors/porn)

  • sex is required for intimacy (church/Christian authors/porn)

  • …want me to keep going? Cuz I could.

Hmph. Interesting how “Christianity” and “porn” are teaching the same messages.

We wondered…perhaps there’s another way.

Turns out, there is. But it took us an entire year to figure out a path forward for us. A path that considered the many complexities and trauma involved. I’m happy to report, it’s working for us.

It started by REMOVING the pressures of sex. As in, we took sex completely off the table. Multiple times, without any stop/start date. It was just our bodies and brains on a long, healing journey as we started all over, but this time with TRUTH about sex. (And note that safety and trust was firmly established within our relationship and emotional intimacy was solid).

We stopped letting “sex” be defined by what everyone else told us it “had” to mean.

I (Misty) had to retrain my brain. For example, when Jim reached for me, it didn’t have to lead to anything more. (Like it did before recovery.). I could be fully present and learn to love being touched and touching Jim again. We could kiss, give massages, snuggle, hold hands, all for the sake of connecting and enjoying how the other felt and then actually leave it at that. No pressure, no expectations. Simple connectedness with the thought of, “You feel nice!”

While I had to retrain my pathways, Jim had to rewire his. Church and porn, to put it bluntly, messed his brain up. Big time.

Healing our sexuality took a very holistic approach and we had to hit on it from many different angles, one at a time, slowly yet patiently doing the work. Now we are applying all we learned.

If your body is “firing on all cylinders”, meaning, sex is not a mechanical issue for you, and yet you find yourself dreading or dissociating during sex, maybe you are experiencing what we experienced.

Crappy ideology and trauma.

Start with baby steps, get yourself into EMDR/trauma therapy, explore those awful and evil beliefs that church/porn taught you, and do whatever it takes to rewire new pathways.

We grieve it took us this long.

Why? Because sex, as originally proposed and designed by God, is blow-your-mind freaking amazing, and we want you to grow into the best versions of yourself, including your sexuality.

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