The Trauma Survivor’s Guide to Sex vs Intimacy: Ditching Trauma Bonding for True Connection

Sex may feel good for a moment, but intimacy is lasting.

Don’t get me wrong. I like sex. I am a human being, and God created me to enjoy sex within my marriage. There’s nothing shameful about that, but what I didn’t realize that I was lacking for years was intimacy.

In my first marriage, I thought I had intimacy. I fought so hard for my relationship, and I tried with everything to be a godly wife. He told me sex was a way he felt loved, so I never denied it and tried to show affection in that way. The problem was that in so many other areas of life, he hurt me repeatedly, so when we did have sex, it often lacked that feeling of wholehearted connection and trust. It felt like an act or the toxic way that we made up after days of fighting, and I desired more.

My now-husband, Tim, was different.

Sex may feel good for a moment, but intimacy is lasting.

Of course, I was sexually attracted to him. He was handsome, fit, and physically, my type. My past taught me that the way a man feels any form of affection with you is sexual. I was so guarded by the time that I met him because I was so fearful of vulnerability. I didn’t know what his intentions were, so I was hesitant to let him in. I couldn’t even see at the beginning that I was stepping into true intimacy because I didn’t know what it was.

Anyone can have sex, but not everyone will experience intimacy. It’s a closeness and a connection that is built over time. It’s trust and safety in the person with who you are in a relationship with. When you are intimate, it’s not just the act of sex. It’s two becoming one, and that’s exactly what God created it for.

I am not saying that every time that you have sex within intimacy that fireworks will go off, and time will stand still. There are kids, jobs, housework, etc. that can be a distraction, but there is a vast difference when you are sexual with someone having that connection and when you don’t have it. It feels like home, a secure place where you can be yourself and let your guard down. For survivors of trauma, especially those who have been abused, that safety means everything.

When you are intimate, it’s not just the act of sex. It’s two becoming one, and that’s exactly what God created it for.

Intimacy and toxicity cannot coexist. When it’s a false intimacy that is mimicked through the chaos and roller coaster of emotions that is abuse, most of the time, it’s more of a trauma bond than anything else. A trauma bond is an attachment that is formed between two people that is unhealthy and abusive. That connection feels like it’s chained, locked, and welded together so that it can never be separated. The sex in that kind of relationship can feel like a rush because when the person is mean to you or is distant and is suddenly giving you attention, it feels comforting to the one who is being abused. That’s why you often hear the phrase “make-up sex.” I’m not saying all make-up sex is indicative of a trauma bond, but it occurs frequently in that honeymoon stage of the abuse cycle.

Even God calls us into an intimate relationship with him. Of course, that looks different than intimate relationships with human beings, but what he longs for is for us to have that same level of faith, confidence, and way of truly knowing him more than just acting like he’s there but never interacting with him. You have to think how badly that must hurt his heart when we do treat him that way. I experienced it myself as a human being, so I can imagine the feeling of abandonment and disappointment that must be. I’m so thankful he loves us regardless.

Intimacy and toxicity cannot coexist.

The fun part about intimacy is that you can have it all: great sex, security, trust, and true love. I have never felt freer to be myself than with Tim. Sadly, I allowed men to use me in this way before him where I believed being sexual was the gateway to intimacy when, in reality, it led to them discarding or mistreating me. Now, through healing, I can rest assured that when I am intimate with my husband, it’s more than just a physical connection. It’s a way that we express our love to each other, but it’s a bonus to all the other ways we do as well such as affirmation, balancing and running a home, raising kids, planning dates, being a shoulder to cry on for each other, and many more actions.

The fun part about intimacy is that you can have it all: great sex, security, trust, and true love.

There’s no shame in saying that sex is fun! There’s nothing wrong with trying to “spice things up” with your spouse or admitting that they turn you on, but what’s even more attractive is when that person is your intimate partner. Now that is just downright sexy.

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