About 6 months ago, after a pretty heavy discussion, the husband made what I thought was a passing remark.”God must have a purpose for this pain. Maybe he can use this to help others.” A couple months ago Abba spoke about his plan. I waited a few days before speaking with the husband; I wasn’t sure if he would agree. Surprisingly he said yes. I developed the idea. Sought input from others. Prayed about ramifications and asked for wisdom. The time has arrived. After years of privacy, the husband is breaking his silence.
I will share the husband’s side of the story over the next few months. The plan is to write about disclosure of the abuse, behaviors, marriage, sex, communication, parenting and advice for husbands married to sexual abuse survivors. To facilitate the process I developed a set of interview questions. His responses will be shared either word-for-word or in summary depending upon the subject matter. Our hope is that our transparency will enable others like us to find healing for their marriage. So…let’s dive in shall we?
Abuse survivors do not just speak once they feel in a safe place. They typically “act out”. Often the behaviors will have no context and can leave the other person scratching their head, hurt, confused or angry.
When did you first realize something was “wrong” with your wife’s behavior (even before marriage). Did you consider exploring? Why or why not?
I don’t know if I understood something to be wrong necessarily. We were both very naive when we first married. I didn’t like certain behaviors…..throwing garbage everywhere, buying things we didn’t need or could afford, withdrawing, curling up in a ball (like a potato bug), not dealing with problems as an adult. I noticed others were blamed for problems and obstacles to success were continually set up. Negative attitudes, anger, hostility, lack of trust, yelling at me and blaming me for things that I had nothing to do with. I was always compared to her dad even though I am nothing like him. These attitudes and behaviors have been a very common component of our relationship. I didn’t know the reason for them just that they were there. I tried to help countless times but it was always temporary and never really worked.
Reading this is not easy but it is the absolute truth. Withdrawal, impulsivity, curling into a ball, avoiding responsibility or conflict, negativity, anger, hostility, lacking trust, blaming, sabotaging success….all are common behaviors of a sexual abuse survivor. The temporary fixes never worked because the problem was deeper than I would admit. As long as I kept my secret we stayed stuck in a pattern of dysfunction.
My inability to trust him, my fear that he would abandon me, my demand that he protect me at all costs…that is how I compared him to my father. I unfairly punished him for what my father did to me and I expected him to make it right. This is tough stuff to admit, to understand…I’m thankful for grace.
Before you were married, what did you know about your wife’s past abuse? When did you find out? What was your reaction to learning your wife was abused?
I knew next to nothing. Over the years little things were mentioned but never in a cohesive story. She seemed to over react to small things and exaggerated what I thought were just normal youth type of encounters. I never did understand her issue. Only recently have I found out what really happened and it’s still coming out so it’s an on-going process. When I first learned of the abuse I didn’t believe it because her stories previously didn’t seem to have much truth in them. At first I thought she was over reacting or misunderstanding what had really gone on; now I have come to understand that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of psychological and emotional damage.
It wasn’t until my father went to jail that I was able to articulate my story into a cohesive manner. It is easier to share my story with strangers than with my husband. I can only share so much before my body threatens to panic. I want to protect him from the ugliness. I am terrified he will say, “Enough. I can’t do this anymore.”
The husband is realizing the depth and complexity of my issue. He is asking the hard questions and I’m answering them. Recently our conversation became too much and I felt panic welling around my heart. He realized this and stopped, “It’s ok. I sometimes forget this is hard for you. You don’t have to talk about this.” But I did talk about it. And as he held my hand I was able to calm my heart.
We have a lot of healing left; Healing is a long journey and it may never be completed this side of eternity. I’m thankful that the last couple years built a foundation of love giving us strength to endure the hard things we must face.