I toy with emotions that mean nothing to me. I torture him. His heart. His mind. His soul. His body. I talk a big game but I am not a fair opponent. I change the rules. Without warning. And when he insists we play the original terms, I turn into a nightmare. I react with a force that rivals hell on the bad days. I force his hand and demand new rules. I have no intention of ever letting him win. And I do this day after day. Month after month. Year after year. Until he decides to quit playing the game. And leaves me standing. Alone. Then I decide to play the game where we both win.
I’ve been careful what I do and do not share about our story. It’s not easy to admit that I was the abusive partner. It’s not easy for the husband to admit that he was abused. But until we were both truthful about the source of our problems we couldn’t heal. I am not proud of my behavior, even if it is explainable. I manipulated him to keep me comfortable, safe and secure. I used threats of suicide and offered sex to get what I wanted. And when that didn’t work, I’d explode and verbally abuse him. And I guarded my secret. I had the power to change our lives, but I remained silent.
When the truth of my past began to unfold the husband’s response angered me. I didn’t quite understand why he saw my silence as intentional deception until I recently asked him to answer the following question: “What upset you most about not being told before you were married?”
Lots of things because this thing has had an effect on our entire relationship and continues to do so. The lack of transparency, feels a little like being lied to. In one sense marriage is about building a life together now and in the future not about the past however, having this get uncovered later on has forced our entire family to look back on these things.
The ripples of a choice, that neither of us made, still threatens the harmony of our marriage. We still deal with emotional triggers, situational depression and flashbacks. Anxiety still overwhelms me, causing verbal, abusive, explosions of emotion. I swing from trust to distrust, confidence to insecurity and love to apathy. I embrace sexual intimacy with no shame, but struggle with the feeling that I’m sexually abusing my husband. Conflict causes such anxiety that I avoid it until necessary and then, I explode. I’ve come so far, but I still have so much further to go.
Most sexual abuse survivors will tell you that silence and secrecy are vital tools the abuser uses against them. The victim is either threatened into silence OR their silence is bought with rewards. It’s one reason why the first time a victim will speak about their abuse is well into their adult years. They learn that silence keeps them safe. The younger the victim, the stronger the silence.
Once I broke my silence, the hidden damage became obvious. What happened to me, at 7 years of age, changed not just my life, but my husband’s as well. He made a commitment to me and entered a nightmare. That reality…breaks my heart more than I can ever express.
I did ask the husband if he would he have married me had he known the truth. He refuses to answer the question. That’s a hypothetical question, he tells me…and he doesn’t deal with hypotheticals (except at work).
I can’t go back in time as much as I desperately wish I could. I can’t go back and tell that scared little girl who arrived in Portland that she is safe and she can share her secret. I can’t go back and warn the man who fell in love with her to run. I can’t go back and undo every hard word, every lie, every blow I took at his heart and his soul. I can’t go back and stop the way I threw away friendship and love and locked myself into a prison. I can’t go back and change the past.
What I can do is use the lessons learned and move forward. I can embrace the life I have been given. I can love, when I want to run. I can refuse to let abuse define who I am. I can forgive myself for mistakes, past and present. When the past screams loud, I can drown it with thoughts of my Jesus who rescued me and my Abba who loves me and the husband who looks at me and wants me, despite the pain. And I can continue to refuse to let silence keep me safe. I can continue speaking our truth, sharing the brutal reality and educating people about the horrific crime of sexual abuse.
I can choose to let the past open the door to our future.
The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings. ~Ralph Blum