PTSD Flashback Sex

Over at Dalrock’s, Isa asked the following question.  Since I’m on record as saying that wives should obey their husbands without exception, I thought I should respond to this delicate issue here.

Just as a more personal question, when would it be acceptable to withhold? If I know that engaging would cause ptsd flashbacks etc. I of course say no (I’d rather not crush his soul into tiny tiny tiny pieces).

I think part of the problem is that women really have no clue how important sex is to a husband.  Even the ones who think they know only grasp it partially.  When you deny your husband sex, that “crushes his soul into tiny tiny tiny pieces.”  You may think it would crush him to be inside you when you have one of your flashbacks, and you may be right about that.  But denying him over and over devastates him too, and perhaps worse.  Only he can know that.  You can’t.

Lying next to the woman you love, smelling her, hearing her breath and movements, and not being able to have her, is torture.  If you have no choice — if she was in a terrible gymnastics accident that broke her vagina so it had to be removed — you can roll with that; at least you’re in it together.  But when you can’t have her because she denies you, then she is the one torturing you.

You’re saying that sex (often) is torture for you.  But being denied sex is torture for him.  Is it fair to subject him to torture to save yourself from it?

So my short answer is: it’s never acceptable to withhold.  It’s just not.  Aside from the fact that Saints Peter and Paul didn’t say, “Be subject to your husbands except when it would be really horrible for you,” it’s the most destructive thing you can do to your marriage, short of cuckolding him in public.

Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with asking for his understanding.  A man who loves you doesn’t want to put you through torture just to get himself off.  I assume he knew about your issues before you married, so he expected to have to deal with this.  I don’t see anything wrong with saying, “I’m in a bad place right now; could I have a rain check?”  He’ll probably agree, glad that you’re communicating, as long as you don’t overuse it.  Just make sure you keep that rain check, and show him a good enough time that he’s glad he waited.  If there are times that you feel like you’d be okay, seize the opportunity by seizing him.  If he asks you to do anything to help with your fears — counseling, praying together, medical treatments, sacrificing a chicken first — do it without complaint.  Be the best wife you can be in every other way; sandwiches and a clean house won’t make up completely for lack of sex, but they can help.  Pray constantly for release from your demons, and pray for patience for your husband.

Frequency of sex is important, but perhaps even more important is that a husband never feels like his wife is using her issues, whether headaches or flashbacks, to deny him or manipulate him.  If there are times that you just can’t do it, apologize, beg his forgiveness, and make it up to him as best you can.  But when you can grit your teeth and bear it, do it; don’t abuse his consideration.


The lesson here for unmarried women:  if damage from your past, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others, makes you feel sick at the idea of a husband pulling you into the bedroom and tearing your clothes off whenever he feels like it, don’t get married.  Don’t even date, because you’re not ready to marry.  And don’t think you’re going to find an understanding guy with low libido so it won’t matter, because what’ll happen is a guy will fall in love with you and claim he doesn’t mind, but he’ll really be thinking, “My kindness will heal her wounds, and soon we’ll be humping like bunnies,” and he’ll resent you when that doesn’t happen.  Get help for yourself and heal those wounds first.  If you can’t, well, that’s a tragedy, but marriage isn’t for everyone.


30 thoughts on “PTSD Flashback Sex

  1. If you can’t perform the one thing a guy wants from marriage above all else then you should not get married.

    There really isn’t any reason for a guy to get married, except if he believes its the only moral way to have sex. He can get everything else without it.

  2. Ras Al Ghul, exactly. It’s not that there aren’t other benefits of marriage. There are, and they’re great. But sex is the one thing (if you’re a Christian) that you can’t get anywhere else. You can make friends, adopt children, hire housekeeping services, but sex requires marriage. St. Paul said it’s the one reason to marry. It’s the one thing that scripture explicitly says both spouses owe each other.

  3. Good post.

    There is literally nothing more cruel and inhuman that a wife can do to her husband than to deprive him of sex or say “no” to him for no good reason when he wants sex. Requiring a husband to continually qualify for sexual access to his wife is the depths of depravity and cruelty. To me, it’s grounds for divorce.

  4. Good post Cail. You have a really good presence on Dalrock’s blog and I’m sure others as well.

    I would encourage you to keep posting your own original content here. It is really enlightening and another great Christian perspective for those who seek to reconcile that faith with the real world.

  5. To me, it’s grounds for divorce.

    Are you Christian, deti (seriously, I’m not sure)?

    If so, do you mean civil divorce?

    I know we disagreed on the topic, but much more fundamentally if you’re a Christian and talking about divorce that’s more than just civil, well, it’s pretty unambiguous, even for Protestants, that lack of sex isn’t grounds. It’s not adultery, which is the only exception Jesus gave (as far as Protestants understand…I’d argue a mistranslation, but I’ll grant that He means adultery for the sake of argument).

  6. Malcolm

    Yes, I am Christian, and yes, I mean civil divorce.

    I can tell from the rigidity of your discussion and from your disclosures elsewhere that you’re a young, never-married man.

    I speak from experience on this topic. I’ve been through exactly what’s being discussed here– a wife’s deprivation of sex. It is cruel. It is inhuman. It is torture. I would rather have not been married. Had things not improved, I’m sure I would have divorced her. Would that have freed me up to remarry? No. But it would have been preferable to live alone in celibacy and peace, and distance myself from the source of the torture, than be tantalized and taunted day in, day out, with something I had to pay for but was not permitted to touch, feel or own.

    I’m one of the lucky ones, by God’s grace. If you have a choice between marrying poorly and not marrying at all, choose the latter.

  7. Malcolm:

    I know that when you and I are talking about “marriage”, we’re discussing biblical marriage. And in a biblical marriage, the man is entitled to sex from his wife (within reason — I am NOT saying he can rape her; I am not saying she has to sex him while she’s projectile vomiting).

    So a wife who deliberately and willfully refuses sex is in rebellion, and is not holding up her end of the marriage. Period. Full stop.

    You willfully refuse to do what the Word expects of you when you’re married? Then you don’t get to be married. If I can’t have sex with my wife, then she is not acting as a wife and is not a wife, and therefore I don’t have to “husband” her.

    Actions have consequences.

  8. You are correct that I am young and not married (I don’t try and hide it).

    However, I am not the only one who holds this opinion. I tend to be black and white in my view of morality, mostly because I think that the rest of the world is using shades of gray as an excuse much of the time.

    So, black and white I am, and unabashedly. I could elaborate more but that’ll do for this tangent.

  9. By the way, you are absolutely right that people should not get married if they can’t find a good wife. As St. Paul said, it is better to stay a virgin if you are a virgin anyway.

  10. On reflection, my thoughts on morality more precisely:

    Just because situations are very difficult or very complex or both, does not mean there isn’t a right or wrong thing to do.

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  12. I’ve experienced the torture you speak of. Going through it now. Again. Started having sex again in February after a 2-year drought and here we are in the same place. It’s not that she won’t – she started again because the pastor’s wife told her it was “important,” but after several months of duty sex from someone who isn’t even trying and just wants it to be over… yeah, I can do without. Denying me while giving herself to me. Ain’t that a kicker?

    I decided to comment when I saw the bit about the hypothetical gymnastics accident.

    As background, my wife has a large list of things that she is “uncomfortable” with (wearing lingerie, me touching her breasts or vaginal area, sex toys, sex with the lights on and more). Top of the list is the idea of oral sex. Me? I’m down (or up) for anything, but I have never requested or placed any expectations about her doing anything she was uncomfortable with.

    I don’t recall how the conversation got started, but during one of our many talks about our sexual problems, the idea about what would happen if she became paralyzed from the neck down.

    Her: What if I died? You’d go without sex then. And what if I was paralyzed from the neck down? You’d go without sex then, too.

    Me: No I wouldn’t.

    Her: (shocked) You’d have sex with me if I couldn’t feel it?

    Me: That wasn’t what I was thinking of. If you were paralyzed from the neck down, I’d expect you to do what you could with what you’ve got.

    Her: (doubly shocked) You mean you’d expect me to do oral sex!?! No way!

    What can you do with that? A woman who would expect her husband to live out the rest of his life sexless when she has the ability to do something about it. Of course, this was before the two-year drought began, so maybe she was proving her point that I could go without sex. Now we’re sexless again, but this time it’s by my choice. She wants a roommate instead of a husband? She’s got one now. Makes me really sad it’s playing out this way, but it is what it is. It’s in her power to turn it around.

    I’ve given a lot of thought to those verses in Proverbs about “better to live in the corner of the attic” or “better to live in a desert.” Because I feel like finding a little spot to call my own. I hate having to share a bed with her. It’s still torture.

  13. malcolmthecynic says:
    July 24, 2014 at 11:32 am


    If I recall correctly, you are Catholic, right? I pray that you do a lot of reading and prayer before you ever get serious about marriage with anyone – and find as conservative a mentor as you can to help you (as far as internet sages go, Cail is as solid as they come). Here’s my own take (informed by what Ithink is a pretty good grounding in RCC doctrine).

    You are correct that the RCC recognizes no severing of validly contracted marital vows. Ever. Period.

    The church will tolerate the separation of spouses (with ecclesiastical approval to do so) from the conjugal life (up to and including civil divorce) for a prescribed set of circumstances (see canons 1151 to 1155), one of which a situation where one spouse is causing grave danger to the soul of the other or making the common life too difficult (1153). Having endured a marriage like this (like some of the other commenters here), I can think of no worse cruelty (making the common life too difficult) than a spouse withholding the one thing they were to openly share (and exclusively so) with the other. It is torture, as Cail intimates.

    In practice, what you will likely face as a potential Catholic married person is the following:
    1. A downplaying at minimum of any traditional notions of marriage from any church source (e.g., role of husband and wife); you may actually hear some heresy, and for almost sure, you will never hear about the idea of the marital debt, despite that fact that the Church’s teachings on this matter have not changed since the time of St. Paul.
    2. If your marriage does run into trouble, expect to be shuffled off to a secular counselor, maybe even one who is putatively Christian/Catholic. Don’t waste your time – counseling is by and large a process of ganging up on the man (who is almost unversally idenitifed as the only possible source of marital strife) and giving the woman cover for her desire to divorce.
    3. The clergy has throughly abdicated its role in adjudications of separations from the conjugal life, and actively encourages divorce if through no other mechanism than its dispensation of easy annulments (combined with the requirement that a civil divorce be executed prior to an annulment even being considered). The US church has made its peace with the liberal granting of annulments as a pastoral tool to deal with the flood of divorces it unwittingly prompts.

    Marry a fellow Catholic. A real one.

    Best of luck.

  14. hurting,

    You are correct that I am a Catholic, and the advice is much appreciated. Thank you. Come Fall, when I go to a Catholic University, I will start serious consideration of the Priesthood. This emphatically does NOT mean I WILL become a Priest, but we’ll see what happens.

  15. I am curious as to who marked my comments thumbs down and why, though. That, I will repeat again: I believe, as I’m sure a great many Christians do, that just because a situation is difficult or complex it does not mean there isn’t a right or wrong thing to do.

    I don’t feel as if this is the most ridiculous position in the world.

  16. There is some truth to deti’s position, although under the old law:

    Although sex is the woman’s right, she does not have absolute discretion to withhold it from her husband. A woman may not withhold sex from her husband as a form of punishment, and if she does, the husband may divorce her without paying the substantial divorce settlement provided for in the ketubah.

    Though the New Covenant is pretty clear that it shouldn’t be this way, knowing historically why things where the way they were is important.

  17. Practically speaking, I wonder how the complete withholding of sex is different from the abandonment described in 1 Corinthians 7, where the spouses are said not to be bound.

  18. And I don’t think there is any such thing as PTSD from sex, so the premise behind this whole post is completely ridiculous. I would not trust any woman such as that one, who asks such a foolish question about reasons to deny sex.

  19. Deep Strength, keep in mind that modern Jewish law/culture regarding marriage is not necessarily the same as it was during the time of Jesus. The Rabbinical period followed the destruction of the 2nd Temple, which was also after Christianity arose. That page you cite is based heavily on rabbinical teaching that expanded on and interpreted existing Jewish law. All of which is to say its not clear that at the time of Jesus actual Jewish practice matched up with what you’ve cited.

  20. If the Pharisees’ question to Jesus (“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” ) is any indication, then the state of marriage was no-fault divorce if the man wanted to be rid of his wife.

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  22. Just saw that. Thanks for your input and thoughts. It wasn’t not an issue generally (i.e. perhaps once every two months with a decrease in frequency over the course of our relationship, and yes, I keep track of that with the help of professionals). However, I require continual level of sexual/physical interaction to remain stable. He recently took a job requiring traveling for upwards of a month at a time, so the intense ramp up when he does come back does me in a bit. And when I said flashbacks, I meant flashbacks accompanied by running away, curling up in a corner crying, and being generally resistant to any and all physical touch until I have calmed down. That is the soul crushing bit, the woman he’s in love with acting as if he’s a violent predator. So you see, I probably beat myself up far more than you might think.

    And as I also stated, I am perfectly willing to use a nice bit of xanax, but he doesn’t want me to. So I’m at a bit of a loss.

  23. Thanks everyone for this discussion. A few of you have read my backstory on Dalrock’s blog:

    (I have taken my blog offline based on the feedback from some others, no need to post it up there publicly now that I’ve had some help.)

    deti, you wrote above: “I’ve been through exactly what’s being discussed here– a wife’s deprivation of sex. It is cruel. It is inhuman. It is torture. I would rather have not been married. Had things not improved, I’m sure I would have divorced her. ”

    How did things improve? What did you do to improve your situation?

    UPDATE: I feel the same way. My situation hasn’t changed too much, except for the fact that I’m waiting to see what happens. I’ve been slowly working on all the advice given to me by Dalrock, Cane, deti, and many others.

    Great blog Cali, it’s been really helpful to me.

  24. PE:

    “How did things improve? What did you do to improve your situation?”

    Dread. One day after a big blowup, I told her something like this (paraphrasing): “If you’re so unhappy with me, maybe you’d be happier without me. I’ll do whatever I have to do to protect myself. If you don’t like being married to me, let’s end it. I’ll go to the banks tomorrow and start separating out the bank accounts and see a lawyer. Let me know what you want to do.”

    I’ve proceeded from there within a frame of “I won’t stay in a marriage in which I am not getting what I need and at least some things that I want.”

  25. deti: how do you keep the dread? did she change overnight? How do you keep the changes going?

    I feel so deflated. After 16 years, I can hardly recognize this woman anymore – she is a totally different person, not just in terms of sx but the way she lives her life, almost an overnight change. (I’m sure it wasn’t overnight.)

  26. ” if damage from your past, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others, makes you feel sick at the idea of a husband pulling you into the bedroom and tearing your clothes off whenever he feels like it, don’t get married. ”

    What if you have no problem HAVING SEX by itself, and even have a normal to high libido, but the specific situation described here makes you feel sick, NOT because of the sex, but because of the dominating behavior (being “pulled,” having clothes torn off, the “whenever he feels like it”)? I n other words, what if you would be okay having sex often, but not doing stuff that makes you feel like you’re being forced against your will? The type of sex can be the thing that causes PTSD issues for some people, not just sex itself.

  27. Ugh, I’d say that comes down to the individuals. As I read the very clear admonitions from St. Peter and St. Paul, we’re required to give our spouses sex whenever they want it, but that’s not all. Wives are also to be subject to their husbands in all things, so if a husband wants rough sex, that’s his prerogative (and note I’m not talking about anything sinful here, just style differences). So I’d see nothing wrong with a woman seeking a husband who likes to be gentle, and letting him know that that’s what she finds loving, as long as she gives it up whenever he wants it. Most men would happily make that deal.

  28. PE:

    “ how do you keep the dread? did she change overnight? How do you keep the changes going?”

    I didn’t change her. I changed myself and the way I act and react/respond. I just had to remind myself and her that I won’t tolerate disrespect, and I won’t remain in a marriage where I’m not getting what I want and need. She had to change herself, and that was by deciding that remaining married to me and/or for the kids was more important than her demands or than getting what she wanted all the time.

    “I feel so deflated. After 16 years, I can hardly recognize this woman anymore – she is a totally different person, not just in terms of sx but the way she lives her life, almost an overnight change. (I’m sure it wasn’t overnight.)”

    I don’t know what to tell you there. Perhaps she hasn’t changed. If I remember right, you’ve recently moved and your wife was going to Crossfit all the time. (I could be wrong). If so, you might need to consider whether there are emotional or physical affairs going on or in the past. Could be a lot of disillusionment and frustration on her part. It might not be salvageable.

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