It is not uncommon for individuals to think of marriage as a cure-all to their troubled lives. I see this often with young men who think that marriage will automatically cure their pornography addiction – it doesn’t. I also see this in relationships where one spouse has experienced the horror of sexual assault in the past. There is a belief that marriage to a loving, kind, and tender spouse will erase the pain of past abuse – it doesn’t. The persistence of abuse’s impact does not mean, however, that there is no hope for couples. In their wonderfully sensitive and instructive booklet Nate Brooks and Anna Mondal provide readers with a guide for navigating the difficult terrain of sexual intimacy impacted by past abuse. This is a robust booklet which provides both practical help and hope for couples dealing with past abuse.
The Lifeline Mini-Books are a wonderful series produced by Shepherd press. Not every volume is as good as the others, but overall this is a useful resource for counselors and sufferers to consult. This particular volume is fantastic. Help! Our Sex Life Is Troubled By Past Abuse is a very thorough book for such a short format. Within its 56 pages the authors cover things like the Bible’s teaching on sexual assault, confusion about God in light of sexual assault, the impact of trauma on the body, the nature of God-honoring sexual intimacy, and growing marital intimacy. There’s obviously much more that can be said about any one of these topics but readers will be given a decent introduction to each.
In addition to the breadth of topics covered, the booklet speaks to both the abused spouse and their partner. Practical guidance is given to the victim of abuse, giving them both direction and encouragement. The authors are highly sensitive to the impact of abuse on individuals and never condemn or guilt sufferers for their struggles with intimacy. They also give guidance and encouragement to the spouse who is struggling to understand. They are sympathetic to their desires but also quick to highlight the importance of their role in caring for the victim. Each will leave this book with practical next-steps in their dynamic.
This is a wonderful resource and one that provides much needed wisdom on the topic. There are very few books from a Biblical counseling perspective that address this issue – in fact I don’t know of any other work on this specific subject. The booklet, however, is not merely useful because it fills a gap in the current literature. It is useful because it is wise and careful. Readers will find both hope that their marital intimacy can improve, that they can heal or grow, and they will learn practical steps to take as they work towards such healing and growth. I absolutely love this work and cannot recommend it enough.