Celibacy Period: Results for HerJun 06, 2023
The following statement is written by a woman who collaboratively entered a Celibacy Period with her husband while under the care of a therapist who understood porn/sex addiction, betrayal trauma and complex marriage dynamics.
See the results for yourself...
A Celibacy Period Story
I vividly remember the day someone said “If your husband was addicted to cocaine, would you give him just a little bit to make him feel better?” My husband and I were maybe a month or two into taking his pornography and sex addiction seriously at that point and something clicked in my brain. A celibacy period, something that had previously seemed unnecessary (and frankly, impossible) now was clearly the next best step for his recovery, my recovery, and our marriage.
I was nervous to have the conversation about starting the celibacy period with him, but with the image of a cocaine addict in my mind, we talked that evening. We didn’t have sex for the next four-ish months. Over the next few weeks, with support, we created and signed a “Celibacy Contract” that clearly outlined what the time would look like for us.
After the initial conversation with my husband and him agreeing to the period of celibacy, I remember an overwhelming feeling of relief. For much of our 14 years of marriage, sex had been about his needs. My desires to be seen and known in our marriage remained unmet, drowned out by his addiction, my codependency, and our enmeshment. It took months to unravel why I actually felt that relief. The unraveling wouldn’t have been possible without the space and time provided during the celibacy period.
Throughout the four-ish months we didn’t have sex, I dove deeply into exploring my own story, learned about healing, and took a hard look at the systemic harm done to me in the way Christian culture has taught about and talked about sex. Some of the most impactful books I read during that time were Try Softer by Aundi Kolber, The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Great Sex Rescue by Sheila Gregoire, and Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen.
The beginning of our celibacy period was really difficult. We were removing a tool in our marriage that I had used for years as an instant conflict silencer. I quickly learned I had been using sex as a way to avoid having to be transparent and honest about my feelings while still making him “happy,” at least for a day or two. The untangling of our emotional lives was painful, and eye opening. I had to reteach myself how to listen to my body and pay attention to what it was telling me.
Relearning what true intimacy looked like, felt like, and sounded like gave me hope that our marriage could heal. I was finally able to see clearly how unhealthy our marriage was even when we were all the things we had been led to believe made a marriage healthy (having regular sex, attending church regularly, committed to a small group, etc.). I had hope that we could flourish one day and there was hope that as each of us healed as individuals our marriage would also experience healing.
That hope absolutely kept me buoyed though many extremely difficult and triggering conversations. It was incredibly heart wrenching to hear my husband tell me that a part of him really wanted a divorce a month or two into the celibacy period because of how difficult and painful the experience was for him. It was so hard to see him struggle and spiral into shame when he heard me honestly express how much harm has come to me because of his addiction. Together, we had to wade through how over all of the years we had been married, sex had really been separated from true intimacy, and we both had to face up to how we were complicit in that.
We learned to be curious and compassionate with ourselves through this process. I started to recognize I often criticized or shamed myself when I felt scared/enraged/lonely/(insert “negative” emotion here). I learned that shaming myself for having that emotion, or punishing myself for being human wasn’t working. Once I started practicing being curious and compassionate with myself, I found it easier to offer that same curiosity and compassion to my husband.
Through the first weeks of our celibacy period, I started to see tiny glimmers of my husband’s true self, the man experiencing freedom from his addiction for the first time in many many years. The man Christ made free for living an abundant life. Through LOTS of conversations (I do mean SO MANY), the tiny glimmers grew brighter. We both learned that by being committed to the process and each other, being honest about our own emotions and needs, and owning what was ours to own, we were able to build a level of trust and safety which I didn’t even realize had been missing from our marriage all along.
Reengaging in physical intimacy was scary for me. We were finally, gloriously, experiencing true intimacy for the first time with each other without physical intimacy; was sex going to mess that all up? During our celibacy period I had waded through the ways sex had never really been connected to safety and emotional/verbal/intellectual/spiritual intimacy in our marriage, and ultimately how much harm had been done to me by the messages I had heard and believed about sex and in how I experienced sex in our marriage.
But, with guidance and support, we were able to use the tools and skills we had built over the past few months to slowly, deliberately, and with a ridiculous amount of communication, reengage physical intimacy into our marriage. The work we had done during our celibacy period to cultivate true intimacy and connection made a world of difference! Sex in our new marriage system can be described as mutual delight- something that was unimaginable in the old system.
A year out, we still have much to learn- about ourselves, each other, and intimacy. We have both been a part of groups that have supported our healing. We are making healthy choices and cheering each other on as separate but intimately connected people. Our marriage is completely different than it was 18 months ago, and I can honestly say that our celibacy period was one huge catalyst in that change.
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