It’s just incredible that a month has passed since I wrote about my niece-in-law. After the initial upset and bringing it up in my own counseling sessions, it hasn’t popped up again as a significant thing outside of praying for the whole family during bible study. I guess a part of me thinks that suffering within my husband’s family should be a bigger deal for us, but it’s difficult to keep that sensitivity when you’re building boundaries within a dysfunctional family. This is a prime opportunity for, “Let go, let God,” as God works on both my husband’s family and my husband and myself.
Within counseling, there have definitely been some breakthroughs for me. I go about once per week and each session is emotional and draining. Last week we focused more on career issues I am having and some confidence and authority problems I’ve had since my bad teaching experience. After one session, a lot of my anxiety around my current business just dissolved! So, I am officially a convert of EDMR style therapy.
Without consciously doing it, I have been taking a break from the sexual side of my issues. Within few EDMR sessions I definitely saw improvement in my desire to have sex and my anxiety around sex itself, but I still have the sperm issue.
I am so, so grateful that EDMR seems to work just like glue solvent where you don’t really feel huge changes but things just seem to be less charged, less painful, and less of a big deal. It hasn’t happened yet, but I have it in mind that that’s what will happen with my main problem (ejaculation) and one day it just won’t be a big deal that my husband and I complete the sex act together.
A girl can hope.
Until then, my health is giving me more than enough to contend with, and I’ve been feeling way more peaceful about the idea of being childless. God asks us to give up our plans for our lives, and I have been really feeling peaceful about that process lately, even though I put up more of a fight last year. When I look at the blessings in my life, I can see that it is more than enough to warrant a long, happy, and fruitful existence with or without children.
And honestly, I want to poll some more women on this subject. I really don’t see myself as carrying a child or being pregnant, despite coming from a large family and large families coming from my brothers. When I look in the mirror, I just don’t see or feel that process to be aligned with my path. I guess there are always surprises, but I wonder how many other women really felt like they *knew* they would or would not be pregnant in their life, or got pregnant after feeling distinctly that it was not something they would experience. (Outside of the whole secular “I just don’t want to be a mother” sentiment, of course).
That’s all for now! I have a feeling I’ll be digging into the sexual side of things again soon and that my brain just needed a break from the intense reading I was doing at the start of the year. I also have a dear friend coming over for dinner tonight and, if the mood is right, I may share my story with her so we can grow even closer.
She was with me before, during, and after the abusive relationship occurred, so I will be very curious to hear her thoughts on it. She is also not Christian, so that spin on it will be interesting, too. And, to not be too selfish about it, I wonder if this will inspire to share some of her own wounds from that time period, because I think we were both suffering with sexual relationships and emotional abuse and not talking about it.
God bless you all, and keep me in your prayers if you have an empty spot on your list!
PS Catholic Twitter is seriously hilarious. Join us!
My husband is on the phone with his sister right now, trying to convince her that she has the right to tell her two daughters “No.”
In this case, it’s about the mother finding prescription drugs and a pipe in 17-year-old Kid A’s purse (“No, you cannot work at that bar anymore.”) and finding out that 15-year-old Kid B is having sex with her older boyfriend (“No, you cannot see that boy anymore”).
I want to give my sister-in-law some credit; she is an alcoholic and we suspect that she was sexually molested as a child. She is also married to an alcoholic who is dying of liver failure, but who won’t stop drinking. She has a household full of challenges, and I am sure it is easier to feel powerless than it is to feel powerful when she faces what she faces every day.
This time, my husband’s weird family dynamics hit me right where it hurts.
If you’re following along with my own drama, you know that I engaged in a sexual relationship with an older guy at 15 and it’s lead to countless problems in my current (married and Catholic) love life.
Because of the growing drama over the last few years, we haven’t seen the nieces much. The last I really remember hanging out with them we played a care-free game of basketball. And now we’re watching — what feels like helplessly — as they both grow up in all the wrong ways.
I know it’s not all about me, but learning that my 15-year-old niece in law is having sex with her older boyfriend (and that her older sister was given condoms by her mother) activates a lot of anxiety for me.
It’s hard to describe the feelings that come up from this perspective, watching the cycle repeat itself with someone we watched grow up.
This struggle is only unfolding now, but here are some things to keep in mind to lower your blood pressure if you ever find yourself in a situation like this one:
1. You could say everything right, and this still might be meant to be.
My husband and I both want to be life-changers. But even if we gave a 100 percent, primo, amazing speech about Catholicism and premarital sex and anti-drug use…. it still might be out of our hands. You have to do everything you reasonably can, but then you HAVE to let go and let God.
2. Stress is thinking you’re in control; peace is knowing God’s in control.
Thanks to Scott Hahn’s Facebook feed for this one:
But honestly, I really struggle with this because I know what the consequences of my niece’s sexual activity could be. I want to save her from all of this pain and what’s to come, but I have to accept that it’s not my right to do that. God will find a lesson in here for her, and he will make this right because that’s what he does. The rest is up to her and God.
3. Boundaries protect you from yourself.
The impulse to help is powerful, and sometimes we can’t control it when it comes to our families. Thankfully, my husband and I are well-versed in the Boundaries book and we know to evaluate our behavior from a biblical perspective.
In this situation, we’ve tried to reach out to our nieces several times and they don’t respond or engage (to the extent that one of them blocked me on Twitter several years ago).
We can try to stay in touch and let them know we’re here for them if they ever want to talk about things, but we can’t drive over to their house, pick them up, and take them to a convent. It’s out of our hands, and God made it that way so that we all would have free will to choose him. My husband and I need to find peace with that.
I’m sure there’s more to learn from this situation, but I’m exhausted and stressed out about the whole thing (especially considering I was in counseling for my own sexual relationship as a 15-year-old this afternoon!!).
What would you do in this situation? Have you dealt with a similar experience?
I’ve never had a photographic memory.
That said, I have two degrees (one a Master’s), I work for myself, and I’ve been known to give some thoughtful advice.
But lately… yeah, lately I feel that kind of going down the tube as my chronic health issues flare into some kind of psychological snowstorm that leaves me feeling a bit less like this:
And a bit more like this:
This all came out in counseling yesterday, and it was really intense. I went down a path of feeling fear for my decline in health.
Not because I’m tired a lot of the time and on a careful meal plan (which I am and have been for a long time). But because after a lifetime on counting on my brain, my mind, and my intellect…. I kind of feel that going, too.
I still feel pretty “with it.” But it’s little things like not being able to remember what I want to say in conversation, or having a tough time rephrasing what I’ve read recently.
Over the years, I’ve always been able to rely on my brain. No matter what was happening, at some point, some how, I would think of a solution and everything would be okay. The idea that my brain might not be there for me, that I might not be able to think my way out of a problem is uncomfortable.
So once I tried to dig a little deeper into that idea, I realized (of course) that it’s a deeper spiritual problem: my rational mind has always been on my team since the beginning. And the rest of “me” has always failed me.
- My emotions failed me when they lead me to endure an abusive sexual relationship for 3 years and then into sexual relationships with the men I dated after that.
- My body failed me 1st when I was overweight as a child, 2nd when I developed autoimmunity, causing me to gain 100+ lbs and struggle with fertility, food intolerances, and chronic fatigue, and 3rd when I panic at the thought of semen entering my body, which, you know, makes it kind of hard to get pregnant.
Yesterday was my 4th EDMR session. While it feels weird to jump right into the results (rather than lay the foundation over several blog posts), that can’t be helped. The story takes too long to tell.
Here’s the short version: in 2014, my husband and I started learning about Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the Creighton Method (CM). At the time, we were married, practicing Catholics using condoms. We made it about six months through the NFP practice before our conversations about and understanding of sex radically shifted. We weren’t “trying to conceive,” but it quickly became clear that a healthy, happy marriage does not stand on birth control.
Then we started having sex all the time without a condom. Easy peasy, right? Not so fast.
Fear of Sperm
The first few times we tried to have sex without a condom in 2014, I freaked out. I couldn’t pinpoint the issue, but when the moment arrived for us to follow through with the whole sexual act, something inside of me spazzed and I couldn’t do it (no pun intended).
Starting-a-family anxiety? Parenting issues? That’s what I assumed at first. I googled everything I could think of, starting with “Sperm is gross” and “Fear of sperm,” hoping to find camaraderie in a pregnancy forum. But I only found one comment about it and it was pretty innocuous (“Does anyone else think sperm is pretty gross?” “Yeah, ew! But whatcha gonna do?”)
However, when I started talking about it with a counselor it quickly became clear that I had an awful lot of negative associations with the sexual act and sperm in particular. And in January of 2015 (this year) I realized that what I thought was just a crappy first relationship at 15 years old was actually sexual abuse.
A Bad First Impression
I never thought I’d be someone who suddenly “remembered” being abused, but that’s exactly how it happened. In the course of one 60-minute counseling session I went from “Yeah, I dated a jerk,” to “Oh, I remember X and X, and it was consensual, but looking back I would never do that and I would be disgusted by anyone who asked me to do that.”
I’ll leave the details for another post, but my first introduction to sex was as far from Catholic as possible. It was secretive (I snuck around my strict parents to make it happen), it was selfish (on behalf of the guy), it was not loving, and it was as far from respectful of of a woman as it is possible to get without getting into forced rape territory.
It was also calculated, inspired by his desire to experiment and act out scenes he enjoyed from pornography, and inappropriate based on our ages (he was 19, I was 15, a senior when I was a freshman).
Forgiveness & Recovery
I won’t get into the guy too much — looking back, what he shared about his sexual compulsiveness indicates to me that he was sexually abused as a child. And no matter how inappropriate, misguided, or uninformed I was, it was also always “up to me” what we did.
Instead, I’m drawn to how this story impacts my understanding of femininity, my ability to be open to life within my marriage now, and how my husband and I will approach pregnancy staring down this less obvious form of psychological infertility.
The more I unravel this situation in the EDMR sessions, the more clearly this becomes a far-reaching theme into the secular history of my body, including the following:
- The respect/love my body didn’t get from my mother (because of the respect/love she did not give her own body for being overweight, abused, and prone to overeating)
- The teasing I received in middle school because I was overweight
- The abusive relationship I entered into in high school
- The dramatic and sexually-active relationships I maintained through high school and college (even with my current husband until we were married and then entered the Catholic Church)
- The chronic illness that became active in college and after college
- The current sense of “invasion” at the thought of completing the sexual act (a million sperm verses just me)
In each of these segments of my history, my body was the enemy. I was not a spiritual being working with a physical body, as CS Lewis says. I was a spiritual being burdened by a crappy body that didn’t work properly (it was too fat, too sick, too abused by someone else).
It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t me. The me I held on to and cultivated was the me of the mind and the intellect. I was me in spite of my body not because of it. The two were separate, and the one (the mind) was preferable to the other (the body).
Beyond Plugging the Hole
This is where I hope the abuse ends. Using the Church’s teaching and sacraments, I want to get to the bottom of this and merge the two again. I want to find away to accept my sick, broken, and abused body, and love it again. Because, honestly, I don’t think I do.
Reading Women, Food, and God helped me stop hating my body. But it mainly just plugged up the abuse. I didn’t take the next step to actively love or accept my body. I just moved on to other things, grateful to ditch my body issues once and for all. Cue the phrase, “The opposite of hate is not love, it’s apathy.”
But as anyone who moved to one town to escape relationships in another, you know that ditching the issues is just the first step. There’s also a lot of work to be done with digging out the rotten roots and filling it with something that will let your body heal. If you don’t, you’re just building your emotional house on sand over and over again.
How the Church Saves
I think that something that can fill me and let my body heal is Jesus Christ. Someone who came to us with a perfect body, a perfect intellect, and a perfect spirit… and submitted to God to watch it all be broken and torn apart in full confidence that it was for the best.
I might think I am suffering and I might be afraid of the sacrifice I would have to make as a pregnant woman (the overshadowing, the submission, the loss of control), but I would not be the first, the last, or even the most notable.
Jesus already showed me how. Mary already showed me how. But no one can do it for me. I have my own cross, my own trial, and my own issues to overcome (because yeah, I haven’t met anyone else with a fear of sperm yet!). It won’t be easy, but at least now I can see the path laid out before me instead of wandering alone.
Step one: I ordered an introduction to Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. I’ll be reading it and writing about it in hopes that I can unravel these complicated emotions and embrace the simple heart of the Catholic Church: a respectful, loving, life-giving marriage.