For a while my wife and I were down to having sex a handful of times a year. Birthday sex wasn't even a guarantee! I hate my birthday for various reasons as it is, but those years were extra low. I'd say 95% of the time I feel guilt & shame before, during and after sex. I told my wife that I've noticed her dissociation during our encounters (it's felt clinical and cold). That often times I've felt like a dirt bag afterwards.

When that isn't going on I often feel as though the guy from my first sexual abuse is standing in the room still laughing today. I want that bastard out of the room or at least some duct tape to shut him up!

I've come to learn that sex is a healthy need. When it doesn't work in the marriage, it is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. I used to believe that sex was something that had to be done/ suffered. It was a source of manipulation and not intimacy. I felt bad about my fantasizing as well. I've been told that fantasizing is our bodies way of telling us we have a need to be met. The reason you aren't fantasizing about your wife is because she has become an unreliable source for sex. The mental games are blocking true intimacy from happening between you.


It is very common for people to enter relationships with those who have similar wounds and issues. I often see couples where one has been sexually abused and the other has their own sexual issues and it does not surprise me as a therapist. When you say your wife exhibits clinical and cold behaviors I would not take that personally. My guess is that she is struggling with her own sexual issues. I wonder about any past sexual abuse on her part. Does she have a lower libido? What are her sexual attitudes? Have you both talked about any of this?

That said, her sexual behavior (or lack thereof) needs to be addressed. You are very courageous to have told her about your noticing her dissociation during sex and that you feel like a “dirt bag” around sex. Most men don’ t to this because they feel so much shame and loss of masculinity to talk about this so openly. You have open a door which needs to be walked through.

What you don’t say is what her reaction has been to you when you tell her how you feel? Is she cold and clinical or is she empathic and validating to how you feel?

You are right sex is a healthy need. The fact that you still feel shame and that you still experience your perpetrator in the bedroom laughing tells me you need more therapy and perhaps specialized therapy to work out the abuse. What we know is once the sexual trauma has been worked through, the perpetrator will not be standing and laughing at you or anywhere near you.

In terms of fantasy, no one can say what is right or wrong for you. However, I do agree that you might not be fantasizing about her because he is not accessible and giving you the message of “hands off”. I would ask you to consider that you chose a wife with this message as an unconscious way of avoiding sex and intimacy because of the sexual abuse. It is not uncommon for me to see this in my office. That said you both need to do more talking and there is plenty of hope as long as you both keep an open dialogue and get some marital therapy.

Dr. Joe Kort

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