For His Eyes Only

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. It isn’t the only one his eyes have gazed upon. That number would be in the hundreds. Likely thousands. Maybe even hundreds of thousands. There becomes a point where the amount becomes meaningless. The magic number is one. Me. Anything beyond that is inviting someone else into the center of our marriage. Into the core of his heart and mind. Where only I am supposed to be.

My husband has been successfully battling his porn and sex addiction for 3 ½ years. He hasn’t done it perfectly, but neither has he had any serious relapses. Occasionally, I ask him when the last time was he masturbated. Or looked at sexually explicit or arousing images. (You know, just in case we define lust and pornography differently.) I am pleased with his answers and trust their truthfulness. He has received such healing and freedom from his addiction that his heart change is evident. In the way he loves, cherishes, admires, serves me. How he spends time with me talking, hanging out, laughing. The hugs and kisses. His presence emotionally and physically. Our growing intimacy. Behaviours and attitudes that were glaringly and painfully absent throughout our porn ravaged sexless marriage.

One of the most terrifying things I have done in my recovery from sexual betrayal trauma, and at any time in my life, was undress for the first time in front of my husband after twenty five years of his sexual shaming and rejection of me. I fought my fear and anxiety as I vulnerably and shakily removed my bra to expose the breasts that had so often received his undeserved criticism. Knowing that if I caught even a fleeting look on my husband’s face of disgust, disapproval, disappointment or an attempt to conceal any of those reactions, I was risking further damage to my soul and the possibility that any hope of building intimacy could be lost forever.

My husband didn’t laugh, or gag, or cover his eyes, or run from the room screaming. He slowly smiled. Slowly, not because it seemed that he was trying to find an appropriate response. Slowly, as if he was drinking in and appreciating this new sight. I relaxed slightly.

But a problem remains. Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. And his apparent disinterest causes my heart to ache. Still.

I have asked my husband why I never catch him either obviously or surreptitiously watching me change or undress. Although I don’t want my body to be sexually objectified, I still need assurance that my body is noticed, admired and desired by my husband. I want to feel pretty and beautiful and sexy, not just through my own eyes, but my husband’s as well.

He told me that he is trying to be respectful. It’s hard to argue with that. But I wonder if the reason he offers is just a morally acceptable, and perhaps kind, deflection of a disinterest or aversion to my body. I have also questioned whether it is related to the recovery tools he uses to overcome lust and his porn addiction. That in his attempts to rewire his brain, he exorcises my body along with the fantasies. I never received a satisfactory answer. Which makes the first scenario the most likely. And also the most hurtful.

If, and when, I accept the respectfulness factor as the truth, that leaves me with another shaming dilemma. I enjoy looking at my husband’s naked body. And though I don’t lustfully gawk and ogle, or say anything distasteful or inappropriate, I don’t hide the fact with my eyes or words that I am admiring what I see. But logically, if he believes it is disrespectful to look at my nakedness, then it is also wrong for me to look at his.

Either way I feel shame, guilt and disappointment. That my husband declines to behold my nudity, even knowing that I welcome it. That I take pleasure in the sight of his. And that this is one more way his sex addiction has stolen freedom from our bedroom and my ability to express and experience healthy sexuality.

I no longer take my time openly undressing, hoping to notice my husband peeking at my body with desire and appreciation. I have returned to my old habits of changing in darkness, with my back to him, under the covers, removing my bra without removing my shirt. Whatever it takes to conceal the vulnerability of my physical self.

As we lay in bed talking about our day, I now refrain from strategically lowering the blanket and positioning my body to offer a glimpse of what is underneath my pyjama top. Instead, I tuck the quilt under my chin and over my shoulders completely covering my body from exposure to my husband’s eyes. Ironically, he finds this look adorable.

Mine is the only naked body my husband is allowed to see. My hope is that one day that will be a joy filled reason to celebrate rather than a reason to cry.

Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. Proverbs 5:18,19

39 thoughts on “For His Eyes Only

  1. I can understand his response of wanting to be respectful. The smile he gave does mean he likes what he saw.
    But…well you know me…would it not be respectful of him look at your body.

    I, mean no disrespect for you or your husband. You know that. And I know we each recover in our own ways as there truly is not set design other than seeking forgiveness and allowing God to make us new.

    Here is what I think. He is still ashamed of what he has done. He knows God and you have forgiven him. But I’m not sure he truly has forgiven himself. He must process his shame and forgive himself. And he must, as the leader of your family act as such and realize that he is sinning by not having sex with his bride.

    Just my thought. Sorry if it comes off as harsh

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, it doesn’t come off as harsh. And I always appreciate bluntness. However, I really do trust my husband’s recovery. His heart change has been incredible. I feel deeply loved, cherished, admired and respected. He has become my best friend. We laugh, kiss, hug, hold hands every day. He connects and engages with me throughout the day. Perhaps he still experiences personal shame and unforgiveness. But it just seems more to me like he lacks sexual desire for me. Either way, there is not much I can do about it. I have no control over what he should or shouldn’t do.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I am very thankful that he has become your best friend again and for the physical affection. There are a lot of marriages that lack that aspect.

        I just hate to hear of marriages without the deep intimacy that only sex with one another can bring. Could be a fear factor for him…not the intimacy aspect but the physical act itself.

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      • I think fear remains a factor for both of us.

        I am thankful too. Our marriage has grown and healed exponentially. So much so that I feel guilty for even wanting and expecting more……

        Liked by 2 people

      • One step at a time. Something I need to reminded of. I forget sometimes that everyone recovers at their own pace and that not many are where I am.

        Don’t feel guilty for wanting more. It’s how God created us. To deny that is to deny what God created.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Cynthia, this struck such a chord with me. Because of the trauma, the length of time Will gaslighted me, the total lack of trust that I still have for him in the intimacy department, we have not been able to be intimate since D-Day. (Except for a few trauma blurred desperation attempts by a drunk me in those early PTSD months.) But once the real healing began and recovery began to really change us both, we have not been intimate at all. I do not dress or undress in front of him. We are nothing more than like we were in our early dating days. Hugs, snuggles, kisses and hand-holding. I am terrified, yes, terrified to go the next step. In fact I don’t even know how to try. But the thing that I do know, is that it will be a disaster. Will is not a good lover. He never was because he really has no clue how to make love. Only how to satisfy his own sexual needs. This scares me as well. So, up to now, 3+ years after D-day, we seem to be stuck. I am participating in a webinar tomorrow on exactly this problem and hoping so much that it will help me forward. If it does, I will let you know.
    God is aware of you and me and our struggles and I know He will help us find a way back to having that full marriage we both desire.
    Much love ❤️

    Liked by 4 people

    • Yes, please let me know about the webinar! I truly hope it brings you the hope and peace you are seeking from it.

      My husband and I are sexually intimate. We have a sexual agreement which is mostly followed. Which completely feels like obligation sex to me. Not what a rejected and betrayed wife needs to feel from her husband. In hindsight, I feel like we began being sexual too early in our recovery, and without proper support and guidance. It has been frustrating, disappointing and mostly discouraging how long it is taking us to find any semblance of mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy.

      I completely understand your belief that it would be a disaster for you. Hopefully, that word is a little strong. But yeah, sadly, in my experience it is pretty darn close most of the time. I will choose to believe along with you that God will bring us back to a marriage that we both desire. To a marriage as God designed it. xo

      Liked by 3 people

      • This is what I fear…that it will feel obligatory. That’s how it felt while he was in his addiction. Although, he rarely desired me during his active addiction.
        I just finished with the seminar and it was not very useful. Although I will say that they diagnosed our lack of sex as a result of me not feeling safe. I think the truth is that I truly do not know what “safe” feels like. I don’t know that I have ever felt that.
        So, I am still at a bit of a loss. Trusting in God that I will someday understand that feeling. God bless you, friend.

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      • How disappointing that the seminar wasn’t very useful. *Sigh* But not surprising really. There are quite a few good resources to help us partners through the initial trauma, and direct us on to a recovery path. But then helpful resources seem to fizzle out for us in this stuck in between place of not being where we were, but still being quite far from where we should be. I have all this recovery head knowledge, as does my husband. But it hasn’t all settled into our hearts yet. And especially with sexual intimacy. We need more than lights on, eyes open and talk to each other rhetoric. I don’t think I know what “safe” feels like either. As long as sex continues to feel like something my husband is supposed to do, rather than something he wants and desires to do with me, I will never feel safe to fully enjoy or participate even though my heart yearns for that intimate connection.

        It’s a struggle to keep trusting in God for sexual healing. But if we let that go, we really don’t have much left. Blessings to you to my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This post makes me so sad for you. One of the biggest hurdles we betrayed spouses must clear is the feeling that we are not good enough, not attractive enough, not sexy enough for our husbands. Why else would they act out with all those other women? It is very sad that your husband has not given you this reassurance. Im sure you were a beautiful woman to him when you met and married. I hope he can find a way to validate you again. It is so important to your healing for yourself and your marriage.

    When my husband was active in his addiction, we did not have sex for more than 2 years. I felt hideous and did everything I could to make myself more attractive to him. But of course nothing worked.

    Today in his recovery he is always complimenting my appearance and expressing his desire for me. Unfortunately I am still not completely ready to trust that he is making love to me and not just satisfying his own desires. I don’t undress in front of him because any nakedness is somehow interpreted by him as an opportunity for sex. If it was up to him we would have sex every day. I know that I am the one who is holding back now, and I am working on changing that. I am curious about the webinar mentioned by Leigh in the comment above. Maybe it can help all of us in some way to heal from the damage that was done to our sex lives. Please share with us Leigh!

    Liked by 2 people

    • “The damage that was done to our sex lives.” That is what is so often forgotten by our partners, and even our counsellors sometimes. We don’t just have a broken heart from the betrayal and rejection. We are created as sexual beings and that was destroyed too.

      It is so important for us to hear the compliments and expressions of desire. That is lacking in our relationship, even though I have asked several times. It makes me wonder why he can’t or won’t say it. However, us partners have learned through their addiction and gaslighting that words are essentially meaningless. It is the believable behaviours over time that will win back our trust. And yet for me, I seem to need a combination of the two.

      There are so many layers to unravel and rebuild in regards to sexual intimacy. What is making love and what is just having sex. What is desire for us, and what is just desire to fulfill their own needs. What a long, slow process. Often doesn’t even seem worth it…… But then, like you, in our own healing and recovery, we understand that our own holding back doesn’t solve anything. We need to be a part of the change too. As difficult as that is.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. A very honest and vulnerable post. I can hear the rawness, pain and longing behind your words. Bittersweet, because on one hand, you finally have the friendship and connection you were longing for all these years, but not the deep connection that is found in sexual intimacy. You are beautiful my friend, keep believing it. Praying for you, as your marriage story continues to unfold.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you my sweet friend for these encouraging, kind words of understanding. I often feel torn between the gratitude and awe I have for the incredible redemption story of our lives and marriage, and then the discontent, pain, guilt and bitterness of not being satisfied and wanting more…..

    Thank you for your prayers. You are right that my marriage story continues to unfold. There is more to come 🙂

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  6. I’m not trying to side with him, because I don’t think these things should really be seen as taking sides, but I’ll share a truth with you….sex scares the hell out of me, and I don’t if that’s ever going to change. I have massive PTSD when it comes to bedroom issues….and I wasn’t even a sex addict, it was just porn.
    When my wife changes in front of me, I look away most of the time because I’m reminded of sex, which brings me to the stuff I did to get arrested, which brings me back to the anxiety-creating 22 months I lived not knowing my sentence and 6 months of anxiety being in jail. I know those are a lot of logical leaps, but that’s where my head goes.
    I don’t know what’s up with your husband, and somebody may have already said this as I only read about half of the responses, but seeing a real-life naked woman in front of him, especially the one who was the brunt of his addiction and poor decision making could simply be too much for him.
    I’m not going to get in many details about my personal sex life out of respect to my wife, but it’s largely non-existant. There’s a piece of me somewhere in my head that broke during my entire ordeal and I don’t know that it’s fixable. Maybe this is in the same ballpark as your husband.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think of it as all as taking sides. Rather it is gathering information from all possible angles, and I truly appreciate you sharing so openly and personally with me. What you wrote makes a lot of sense, and I heard a ding, ding, ding as I read your words. I do know he has fear, but in my pain, perhaps I haven’t understood the depth of his. I have done a lot of work on healing my sexuality, and have gotten to a point where I feel the majority of the problem is no longer me, or a combined us, but my husband. I have expressed this to him, and he agreed. But alas, just agreeing with me, and not attempting to articulate his fears to me or addressing them with our therapist just causes my pain to linger. Maybe, like you, he feels there is a part of him that isn’t fixable. If that’s the case, I would want to know so I can learn to accept and adapt to what is, and what will never be, rather than continue to be caught in this agonizing limbo.

      Liked by 1 person

      • But look at limbo…it’s purgatory. It’s half way between heave and hell. For him to leave there, it goes only one of two ways, and sometimes when you’re not sure which way it’s going to go, it’s easier to stay in purgatory. He doesn’t want to open the Pandora’s Box that ends with him in hell and you in even more pain.

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  7. Cynthia, your anguish leaps off the page here. It sounds as though perhaps you have an agreement that outlines or schedules your sexual intimacy? I can see why that could feel forced or obligatory. One of the blogs I read is by Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist. She just wrote a post on just this issue and gave me a new perspective on it. In her words: “For many people, making the decision to schedule sex feels like an admission that your sex life is officially dead.

    But is that the truth? Is scheduling sex only for desperate, incompatible couples?

    Of course not!

    In fact, the people who schedule sex tend to be incredibly intelligent, dedicated, and thoughtful partners who understand the reality about how sex works in relationships. Here’s the thing – sex never really is all that spontaneous! Even at the beginning of your relationship.

    When you first start dating someone new, your entire relationship is foreplay. You’re planning dates. You have days or even weeks at a time where you’re building up anticipation for seeing each other again. When the day comes, you’re distracted all day long, thinking about what the date is going to be like. You might spend hours getting ready. Then you spend a day or an evening together, letting that anticipation build and build even more.
    By the time you finally taking your clothes off, it feels like you’re practically going to burst with excitement.

    There is nothing “spontaneous” about that. There are days – or even weeks – of planning and anticipation for that date you scheduled.”

    While I love a good date night with my husband, having to set aside a night and planning ahead of time that it would culminate in sex always seemed forced and frankly awkward to me. This post let me start to look at it in a new light. Maybe there are ways to make what is outlined in your agreement seem less like a weight on your shoulders and more like something worth looking forward to?

    Xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do have a sex agreement that addresses frequency, initiation, positions, acts, locations, flirting, pretty much anything that would be related to our sexual relationship. The intent is not to be restrictive, but rather to create a safety in knowing and understanding each other’s expectations, needs and desires. We have revisited it several times as our healing journey changes and evolves. For example, when we first began having date nights again, we quickly realized that we just had to learn how to be comfortable and enjoy each other’s presence without the pressure and anxiety of sex looming over us. We have since lifted that boundary and a date may or may not end with a sexual connection. What is most important for us is the need to make sure it happens on a regular basis. Because my husband withheld sex from me for more than 20 years, it is essential not to fall back into any pattern that would slowly lead to that possibility again. We have also had to rework what that looks like. Initially, we had a set day of the week, but found that caused more anxiety and dread for both of us than eager anticipation. Now we have it where sex must be initiated within 7 days of the last time. It usually ends up being the same day (if not longer, yeah, he has admitted to pushing it as far as he reasonably can) but somehow it seems to provide a semblance of more freedom. So we do adjust things occasionally. But again, only when I bring it up. It would likely be a good idea for us to have another review. We certainly need to find a way to bring more lightness and enthusiasm to our bedroom.

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  8. Cynthia, your words ring so true for many, and I’m so sorry you’re still struggling with this.

    I can absolutely relate pre-dday antics of casually pulling down the covers and/or leaving part of my body exposed in bed HOPING (please please please) he would slide his hands over my body and something would start – but he never did. We have always slept naked and there were times I would even wear pajamas wondering if he would notice – but he never did. I would always undress in front of him, or maybe wear a tank top bra-less with cute little shorts – NOTHING. ZERO. ZILCH. Cue heartbreak, overthinking, wondering if something was wrong with me/him/us, making up stories in my head that maybe he has low testosterone and whatever else I could come up with to rationalize the lack of sexual innuendo, initiation and desire.

    Today, I can’t say much is different except if I was to wear pajamas to bed. I did do this once after dday and he immediately asked what I was doing.

    Despite him acting out with women in some shape or form every day and withholding sex from me as a result pre-dday, the frequency of our sex life today is not more or less. All of these similarities in his initiation/desire pre and post dday tell me 100000% that this had nothing to do with me, my body, my beauty, my sex or our connection – and absolutely positively NOTHING to do with sexual desire for anyone else – because he is not acting out in any way which includes masturbating.

    One may think that the cessation of acting out would increase the desire and frequency for the spouse, but unfortunately that is not the case. In many cases, it increases the shame which decreases the desire.

    I truly believe he is attracted to you, loves you, finds you sexy and loves your body. I also believe he doesn’t feel he has the right to express sexual desire for you because of shame.

    If he was to create a sexual schedule/contract that he could fulfill, what would that look like to him?

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    • I’ve been contemplating your last question about a sexual contract that he could fulfill. Of course I have many answers to that myself, but am wise enough to know my answers are based on my own fears, insecurities and version of the truth and not on his. I have brought up the topic with him a few times, though not recently that we adjust the frequency and such so that he doesn’t feel pressured, and I can have a more realistic and honest expectation of what our sexual intimacy will be at this point in time. But he insists it is fine like it is. So, logically, he should be able to fulfill it then. Hmmm.

      “One may think that the cessation of acting out would increase the desire and frequency for the spouse, but unfortunately that is not the case.” Oh, so true! And I think what I was hoping and expecting and still have trouble understanding. How he could sexually act out every single day with porn, fantasy and masturbation, and now that he is sober, have such little need? desire? to be sexual with a willing and waiting partner. And if I dare say, beautiful 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your H wasn’t acting out because of a physical desire, it was an emotional need to escape – and he doesn’t need that escape any longer. It’s so confusing because we think it’s a feel-good physical release, but it’s not with addicts. It’s all about the escape.

        Does being sexual cause triggers from something that happened in his past? Or does it cause him triggers because of his shame?

        I also wonder if he truly understands that his inability to fulfill/be excited about an upcoming sexual intimacy date on the schedule is causing you to question your own sexual attractiveness and worth? Does he know that despite him saying nothing needs to change on the schedule, it needs to be revisited because his inability to be excited about it is causing you harm?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think he does truly understand how much this hurts me. A few months ago I told him that everyone time he tells me that he is happy with our intimacy as it is, he continues to invalidate my needs and reinforce that they don’t matter. And when he encourages me to be content and accepting of what we have achieved (which is actually a lot considering we were completely void of sexual or any physical connection for over 20 years) that I continue to feel shame from him for expressing any sexual needs and desires. I wrote this post knowing he would eventually read it…….

        Liked by 1 person

  9. What a vulnerable and honest post! I am guessing that your husband would not agree if you told him you fear he no longer desires you. Of course, I do not know him or how he feels, but have you talked to him about your feelings around this? I find the best way to regain intimacy is to talk and talk and talk– about everything, especially the hard subjects. Is it possible he feels unworthy to look at and desire you, as the person who has hurt you so much? My own sex addict husband has expressed thinking of himself as a monster! 😦
    The self-hatred that drove them to try to escape through sex is so hard to overcome, but with the right therapy and support team it is possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My husband does tell me that he desires me. He seems surprised that I doubt it. But even though I hear those words, the believable behaviours are too often lacking. I receive mixed messages now, and even the positive still isn’t strong enough to overcome the very solid rejection message I was given for 20+ years.
      I have talked to him about this. Many times. But it mostly frustrates him because he says he does desire me. I think he is tired of trying to convince me. So, the talking has definitely become less frequent. Which in his mind, likely means he thinks everything is ok. And then when I broach the subject again, the cycle continues……

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      • Oh dear, that sounds very hard. I’m so sorry for all the rejection you dealt with over the years. That is a huge obstacle to be overcome. I imagine he would probably need to spend a lot of time and energy and earnest effort sending you a message of love and acceptance to drown out that former message that is still ringing in your ears. 😦 Prayers for healing and true intimacy!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Cynthia. I was browsing through posts here on WordPress when I came across yours. I honestly believe that you should not look too much to your husband to validate your body, God has already validated it by making it his temple. Praise be to God. Also, sometimes, when we want someone else to like us or want us, we might come across as needy and that can be unattractive, even if this person is our spouse. Many are blessed, but they do not know it. Your husband is blessed with you. Time will make him realize that. Keep praying for him and supporting him, but do not let his criticisms get to your heart. God bless you 🙂

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    • I have spent much time reflecting on your words and my heart motives since I read your comment earlier today. For that I am appreciative. As a Christian, I do believe that my body is God’s temple. As a woman, created by God, I also believe that God has planted within my soul the desire to be pursued, loved and desired by my husband. It is natural and normal. In my past, I have definitely sought validation of my body through the eyes of my husband and other men. But now, I am quite comfortable with my body image and the good things that my body accomplishes. What I desire is a husband who appreciates both my outward and inward beauty. God is in the continual process of showing both my husband and myself each other through His eyes. It is a slow and gradual healing process that must overcome 20+ years of criticism and rejection, that yes, battered my heart. Although I receive your words in a spirit of encouragement and love, I question your understanding of the devastating effects of sexual betrayal trauma and caution your attempts that invalidate the pain and presumptuously offer pat answers to a situation that has none.

      And yes, I agree that my husband is blessed with me. As I am with him.

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  11. Pingback: Please Don’t Silence the Courage of a Whisper | Tears in a Bottle

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