Does Sexual Fidelity Matter? The sexual experience is an ecstatic experience in its own right when the joy is shared between two spouses in a sacramental relationship. It is an experience of absolute worth that further opens them to the mystery of participation in God. Thus, it is truly ecstatic, involving body and soul. Within sacramental sex, spouses can experience God. One of the reasons the Cath1olic Church is so touchy about divorce is that the sacramental marriage is viewed with God as one of the three participants. It is a form of trinity in its own right: God, the wife, and the husband. One ought to be careful about divorcing God.
To this end, many PTSD-afflicted men and women have problems with relationships and sustaining them. The need to feel alive can push some to adultery and other forms of unfaithfulness, e.g., pornography. PTSD devastates relationships in terms of fidelity and trust. Is it inevitable? No. But one must be careful.
Breaking trust through infidelity, even though the person felt extra alive for a few minutes, causes increased soul damage to the PTSD-afflicted person’s already wounded soul. It leads to a spiral of damaging behaviors where they feel less worthwhile after every effort to feel more worthwhile by having sex with whoever is available and willing. Thus, the addiction model can apply here: Doing it more and getting less satisfaction each time.
What About Forgiveness? Can I be forgiven for damaging my spouse or partner through infidelity? Yes. But building trust will be very difficult. The spouse needs to understand the PTSD-Identity and help their loved one avoid the situations which could lead to infidelity. They need to know that in most cases love and lust have nothing to do with it.
If one remembers that the PTSD-Identity seeks to isolate the person, then it easier to know that they will be tempted into behaviors which damage trust and relationships. Is it inevitable? No. Can they be forgiven? Yes. But they present real challenges to those we love and who love us.
How could I EVER Forgive THAT?! Some things are easier to forgive than other things. Sexual sins strike at the root of our own self-worth, vulnerability, and trust. To start to forgive them requires an act of our personal will to forgive, but it also requires divine intervention, grace, to forgive.
I spent two years in an act of will trying to forgive someone who gravely damaged me. In those two years I also prayed for the grace to actually forgive that person (not to only forgive them as an act of will, in word only, but to really mean it). One day I woke up and discovered that I had actually forgiven them. That ultimate forgiveness was due to grace, God’s help, not by my own act of will. But I had to persevere in asking God for the grace, that’s where my will came in.
As a person who suffers from PTSD I constantly have to fend off the PTSD-Identity. Not only do I need to forgive others, I need to forgive myself of some my own actions. While I may have sinned due to the PTSD-Identity, I am still personally responsible for those sins, for those wounds I inflicted on others. So I pray for the grace to forgive others, and I pray for the grace to forgive myself.
When Jesus asks us to pray for others or to turn the other cheek, it is never with an asterisk. That is, there is no asterisk at the end of the verse which says forgive everyone except the person who harmed me. If Jesus can forgive his torturers from the cross, then we can try and forgive others and ourselves. It is hard to do, forgiveness, that’s why it requires perseverance and grace.
Sacramental Sex Can Heal the Wounded Soul. The soul wound of PTSD can experience healing in the grace, love, trust, and vulnerability of sexual intercourse within its sacramental context. While this may not be the most popular view in today’s culture, it is alas, true. The PTSD-afflicted person can experience ultimate relationship with God and their spouse through marital fidelity. These relationships and their expressions rebuild the healing community of the soul.
Even outside the Catholic sacrament of marriage, a committed loyal marriage, where the partners can be open, vulnerable, trusting, and gracious to one another will contribute to healing the wounded soul. Healthy relationships help to heal our wounded souls.
Semper Pax, Dr. Z