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The lurking demon that took away our sex life

Original Source: TIMES: 15 MAY 2011
The Sunday Times Published: 15 May 2011

Unable to show any intimacy in the wake of the tragic loss of her daughter, Kate McCann was worried that her family might fall apart

Happier days: Kate and Gerry McCann before Madeleine was kidnapped (Transworld Publishers)

 After Madeleine was taken from us, my sexual desire plummeted to zero. Our sex life is not something I would normally be inclined to share and yet it is such an integral part of most marriages that it doesnít feel right not to acknowledge this.


Iím sure other couples who have been through traumatic experiences will have suffered similarly, and perhaps it will reassure them to know that they are not alone. To those fortunate enough not to have encountered such heartache, I hope it gives an insight into just how deep the wounds go.


Apart from our general state of shock and distress, and the fact that I couldnít concentrate on anything but Madeleine, there were two reasons for this, I believe. The first was my inability to permit myself any pleasure, whether it was reading a book or making love with my husband. The second stemmed from the revulsion stirred up by my fear that Madeleine had suffered the worst fate we could imagine: falling into the hands of a paedophile.


For a while after she was stolen, paedophiles were all we could think about, and it made us sick, ate away at us. The idea of a monster like this touching my daughter, stroking her, defiling her perfect little body, just killed me, over and over again. It didnít make any difference that this might not be the explanation for Madeleineís abduction (and, please God, it isnít); the fact that it was a possibility was enough to prevent me from shutting it out of my mind. Tortured as I was by these nauseating images, itís probably not surprising that even the thought of sex repulsed me.


I would lie in bed, hating the person who had done this to us; the person who had taken away our little girl and terrified her; the person who had caused these problems for me and the man I loved. I hated him. I wanted to kill him. I wanted to inflict the maximum pain possible on him for heaping all this misery on my family. I was angry and bitter and I wanted it all to go away. I wanted my old life back.


I would lie in bed, hating the person who had done this; the person who had taken away our little girl I worried about Gerry and me. I worried that if I couldnít get our sex life back on track our whole relationship would break down. I know there is more to a relationship than sex, but it is still an important element. It was vital that we stayed together and stayed strong for our family. Gerry was incredibly understanding and supportive. He never made me feel guilty, he never pushed me and he never got sulky. In fact, sometimes he would apologise to me. Invariably, he would put a big, reassuring arm around me and tell me that he loved me and not to worry.

I was determined not to be beaten by this, not to accept it as just one of the unfortunate side effects of this tragedy. 

Gerry and I talked about it a little, but mostly I analysed the problem in my head. I also discussed it with Alan Pike, a trauma psychologist who had been helping us. He assured me that, like my ability to relax or enjoy a meal, it would gradually return and that I shouldnít fret about it too much. But I did. I even considered seeking specialist help. 

Deep down, though, I knew there were only two solutions: bringing Madeleine back or conquering my mental block. Since the first was not within my control, it was up to me to try to train my mind and my thought processes. So that is what I applied myself to doing.


I took a cognitive approach, concentrating hard on what Gerry means to me, as a husband and as a friend; on the love we have for each other and the three beautiful children we created together; on our unity as a couple and as a family of five. It seems to have worked. If my mind ever starts to wander down dark alleys, I fight against that, focusing on what I have that is good and important. And I tell myself that I cannot, and will not, allow this evil person to destroy anything else in our life.


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