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How to Avoid a Marital “Heart Attack”

One of the most significant, and hardest, parts of my marriage has been dealing with my past. Like so, so, so many people I was sexually abused as a child. It wasn’t until my 30s that I was able to identify what happenedĀ as sexual abuse and begin understanding how it affected my life, and my marriage.

How I’ve processed my specific story is a blog for another day, but as I spent time with God this morning I thought about all of you, the Thriving Marriages family that extends around the world. In my 10+ years of vocational ministry I discovered that every marriage contains pain from the past. This pain is usually from before the marriage existed, and often hasn’t been recognized, grieved, and healed. Because of this, most marriages are experiencing an “intimacy blockage.” Think of this like a blocked artery, you can survive with one, but probably not for very long, and it could be fatal. One of the most important keys to marital health is not just identifying what these intimacy blockers are, but why they exist. In the same way a clogged artery indicates a diet that needs changing, and intimacy block indicates a past wound that needs healing.

So what are the different past wounds that create intimacy blockers in your marriage? Here are just a few possibilities:

  1. An emotionally distant parent
  2. Any sort of sexual abuse, no matter how “small” it was.
  3. A period of intense rejection from people close to you
  4. Your parents’ divorcing
  5. A hyper-critical parent
  6. A physical or verbally abusive parent
  7. The death of a loved one
  8. An emotionally, sexually or physically abusive past boyfriend or girlfriend
  9. And unstable home life, such as moving frequently as a child or an unpredictable parent (bipolar or alcoholic, for instance)
  10. An unloving or distant step-parent
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Usually when I talk with people who have experienced one of these wounds, they’re quick to tell me “… but it wasn’t that big of a deal” or “a lot of people go through stuff like this.” Sadly, that second was is true, but the first one is not. Just because these wounds are common doesn’t make them any less of an intimacy blocker. So what do we do about them? Fully answering that would take far more than this email, but here are two important places to start:

  1. if a wound from your past stood out while reading this, forward it to your spouse and talk with them about it. Don’t dismiss the moment or act like it’s “no big deal” or they might not take the moment seriously.
  2. Pray together that God would show you both how this wound might have become an intimacy blocker in your marriage. Pray that if there’s anything that leading you toward a potential marital “heart attack” that God would expose it, heal it, and bring even more intimacy to your marriage.

I believe from the bottom of my heart that God loves hearing and answering this prayer. Remember, God is your marriage’s #1 cheerleader and the one person capable of truly healing it. So come to him with your wounds and ask him for his help.

Praying for you today.


Joshua Pease
Josh is a writer, pastor, and journalist passionate about discovering a more compelling vision of God's kingdom. You can read more of his work at