My Sexual Abuse Invaded My Marriage

Feb 18th, 2011 | By | Category: All Posts, Guest Blog

by Linda Pittman

When I first met my husband, I was keeping a big secret—the story of my childhood sexual abuse. I couldn’t tell him until I felt safe and sure of his love—if that was possible. He is a good man, gentle, kind, intensely loyal and trustworthy. Sometimes it is still hard to believe that I have such a wonderful spouse.

My husband responded to my history with the expected concern but he really did not understand the impact that this secret would have on him:

• I would need constant reassurance of his love. No matter how many times he would declare it, I could never believe it.
• No matter how hard he worked at the relationship, I was too afraid to let the intimacy happen.
• There would be others who would share our bed, my former abusers and my wounded child in my adult body.
• This adult child inside of me would not know how to control my feelings or my body and sometimes not even be present in my body.
• He would not know what an unworthy, shameful and dirty person he really married. (This is how I really felt.)

I couldn’t let my husband know everything because he would probably reject me if he really knew the real me. I needed him and wanted him so badly. I couldn’t be dishonest; I just would leave out some stuff—it wouldn’t matter—it was in the past anyway.

My sexual abuse does matter and has had such a great impact on all my relationships—especially my marriage. I realized that my husband would not be able to stay with me unless I got help and worked on recovering—serious recovering.

My first husband was physically and mentally abusive, making the damage to me even worse. He needed to leave because he was not healthy for my children and me. As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, I had a tendency to choose abusive, manipulative and controlling partners since I had not experienced any healing from my childhood sexual abuse. During my first marriage, I could only acknowledge that the abuse had happened to me.

I had to learn to drop the fairytale “happily ever after” crap and realize that all marriages are hard work. As an abuse survivor my second marriage would be even harder work, but it could work. I owed it to myself, and my spouse, to do the healing work.

I was sexually promiscuous and aggressive while in our courtship as a way of hiding, but the business of real closeness presented itself to me now. I couldn’t continue using the excuse of what happened to me as a way to hide from a sexual relationship or emotional intimacy. I truly cared about my husband and I needed to be honest with him. My marriage needed this to survive.

I went to therapy for myself and involved my husband later, to help him understand the impact this had on me, and to teach him how to help me. I even found counselors who worked on a sliding scale basis.

I became aware of the lack of intimacy in our relationship because we had settled into an “all or nothing” way of relating to each other. We got together to have sex but we were not taking the time to talk, touch and just be close without sex. We did not talk about joint goals and how to get to them together. We did not have that deep intimacy that we needed to strengthen our relationship.

I began to feel resentful of this “all or nothing” thing and I realized one day that it felt just like the way my abuser treated me. My abuser never wanted to have anything to do with me unless it was sexual. What a wake up call that was to realize that my husband was nothing like my abuser but I was relating to him as if he was.

I knew that all my talking about my abuse was not enough. I needed help to learn how to relate to my husband and I had to learn how to change my perception of him. I went for individual therapy because I realized that the problem was mine, and that he could not fix the damage from the abuse—only I could do that.

I became aware that my husband was not able to know how I felt because I could not say or show how I was feeling. I wore a mask that had been in place for years to keep others away and to keep me safe. This mask made me feel less vulnerable. If I didn’t show others my true feelings, I couldn’t be hurt so easily.

The trouble was I also did not know my own true feelings. I had learned to “feel” the way others thought I should feel or what I thought was expected of me. My feelings had not mattered for so long. I had buried them so deeply that they were hidden from me as well. I could not let down the wall to trust him or myself.

I realized that to let down the wall between us and to trust him was to take a big risk. I learned all the head knowledge of my abuse not being my fault but I hadn’t accepted it nor had I learned to love and accept my body or me either.

My past taught me that I couldn’t trust anyone. My parents had betrayed me and so I couldn’t trust them. My first husband was abusive to me and had broken my trust again. I stayed behind that wall because I was afraid to trust my current husband fully. This inability to trust my husband would forever limit our relationship to a superficial level unless I dealt with it. The one thing I wanted was to be able to love and trust deeply, and I was the one who kept the wall up.

I went to group therapy for incest survivors, which helped me to go back into my childhood and to heal the child inside myself. I had to look at the ugly reality of what was done to me and how I had adapted to survive. There were memories that I had to look at that were terrible, but I was able to look at them as an adult. I was no longer that helpless child. I also had to get over the shame I felt and the shame of looking at my body.

At the end of the group therapy my husband was given the opportunity to learn about how the abuse had affected my relationships and me. He was able to tell me once again how much he loved me and if I would allow myself to trust him, he would work on giving me the things I needed from him. I had to commit myself to this agreement too.

I also learned that it was up to me to let him know what I needed and wanted and how to communicate by talking in feeling statements. I had to say things like, “I feel scared”; “I need you to just hold me”; “I do not like that”. I finally felt safe enough to trust him.

From time to time, we fell back into patterns where we were not practicing this communication of needs and I would have to stop and talk about my feelings. Sometimes life’s problems would cause us to focus more on them than on us. In the bedroom, I had to learn to tell my husband what I wanted and didn’t want without feeling guilty about my feelings or needs. I had to stop worrying about what he needed and wanted all the time and concentrate on my feelings. I had to do this slowly with little steps, as I felt comfortable to move forward. I learned to let him look at my body and feel safe.

We practiced lots of touching, talking and holding each other that was non-sexual. That was what I needed to build the intimacy in our relationship. I learned that intimacy is not just sexual, but involves the sharing of my whole self with another. This building of intimacy was a necessary thing for me in order to be able to fully trust him and to be more open in sexual intimacy.

I found that my husband really cared about what I wanted and needed. His love and caring was genuine, I just needed to believe it. When we were going to be sexual we had to talk about it beforehand, plan it, and anticipate it. We moved slowly at a pace I could be comfortable with. With each little risk I took, I became less and less fearful of being hurt. I learned that sex is a two-sided encounter, not just what he wanted but my wants also.

I had to learn to experience the thoughts of the abuse and my former abusive marriage and to not allow them to interfere with what was going on in the bedroom with my current husband. When those thoughts and feelings came, I needed to look around me and remember where I was and whom I was with. I gave myself permission to start over with my current husband, to learn a new and better way to be sexual, than what I had learned before.

If my husband had not been willing to be right there with me, I would have had to look carefully at the relationship like I did with my first husband to decide what was best for me. My marriage benefited so much; opening up the communication and my relationship and it gave me the best chance at a solid foundation of trust. There are only two people in our bedroom now, my spouse and me.

I found that to begin to heal my relationship with my husband, I had to start with me first. The most important thing I have learned is that as a survivor, I had to learn to know my feelings and myself. I had to accept myself and then begin to unravel all the false things I learned so that I could begin to heal.

It is hard work to get past all the ways I hid from myself and get rid the untruths I believed. Being honest with myself was the hardest of all because I spent years doing just the opposite. I found it is necessary to really have an identity apart from my abuse, it is there inside me and only persistence would help me find it.

Developing trust has been difficult but trust is mandatory for me in my relationships. I deserve to be happy, but it is up to me to choose happiness. Happiness comes from the inside of me and can come out when I feel safe, and can learn to trust. I have learned how to keep myself safe and to trust again. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world!

Related Posts: Dating After Sexual Abuse: Is This Love?
How To Support A Survivor of Sexual Abuse
Overcoming Sexual Abuse: My Healing or My Marriage?

Having experienced healing from sexual, physical and verbal abuse, Linda Pittman has found joy in encouraging others in their healing journey and tells people that it’s never too late to start. She’s been married to her husband for twenty-one years and has four adult children.  

     

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56 comments
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  1. wow, linda apart from the fact ive had only one husband, that is almost my story. it took my husband 6 months to get me to agree to go on a date let alone think about a long term relationship or marriage. he has been with my through some hairy healing situations as i pushed my way through barriers and behaviours to become the person i wanted to be and not what i ahd been trained to be by my childhood. when we were younger i told him the general facts as i knew them about my abuse, as that is all i had then. yet still am not in a place that i can go into detail with me let alone him. i so want to be able to feel the love and phyiscal side of a marriage, yet i feel i am role playing in roles of wife and mother because of what happened to me as grandkid, daughter,sister.
    my husbands childhood also wasnt very happy so he had some idea of why i am the way i am and after a while he catches on to what i am trying to achieve behavioural and the gap between us lessens till i spurt again and communication gets better for a while. then the cycle begins again. it can be hard when they dont see how they do thinks an dtry ot make the other person take the responsibiilty for everything. i am struggling with that issue in alot of areas but i am slowly gettign there.
    thanks for sharing linda

  2. Carol, yes it is sad that this history of ours affect our relationships so much. The relationships that we really care about can be so impacted by our abuse. We can role-play a lot and in doing so we cannot really feel that we can be ourselves. All relationships ebb and flow, even our marriages. Ultimately we have to do the healing and our marriage can benefit from the work that we do. Sometimes it is as simple as really giving yourself permission to open up all the way. Keep working at your healing and you will find the way. It can happen for us when we are ready and really want to be whole. :)

  3. Linda
    What a great, fantastic, excellent post! I brought all my abuse into my marriage too, all the big secrets I kept because of the shame. What I didn’t realize was that my husband had secrets of his own. He was emotionally and physically abused by his parents. We were often times relating to each other as victims towards our abusers. What a mess. I was so dissociated that I realized after a couple years in therapy, that I had NEVER had sex with my husband without dissociating and it felt like starting over, and it was overwhelming. The fears were huge. To make matters worse, there was some emotional abuse (he treated me as though I was less important than he was and I had accepted that for many years) so I had additional trust issues with him that were not about my past. BUT we kept going, doing many of the same things that you write about here in your post, and our relationship got stronger and stronger and our kids got stronger and stronger along with us. We still work on the intimacy part of our marriage and we continue to grow in a healthy relationship, based on real love and equal value. And like you have said, it has been so worth the effort!
    Darlene

  4. Darlene, my first husband was emotionaly and verbally abused and possibly physically abused also. Because we both had so much baggage I think we could never get past it together. He was not willing to even look at himself and his issues. Thankfully I had the courage to leave that relationship and to believe that there was something better out there. It is all about our willingness to heal, isn’t it? I am glad you have found your happiness, you deserve it!
    Linda

  5. Wow Darlene, you and I have a very similar story. Even our husbands share similarities in their abuse. People may think I am crazy, but you understand. It was worth it to me to stay and fight for us. Things are getting better. It’s like you said, you find a balance and one is no more or less important than the other anymore. Glad to have some confirmation that I’m not alone.

  6. Great blog Linda. And boy can I relate. The only difference was that by the time I found this husband, I had already learned to love myself and realized that my needs were important. I started out by giving him a list of those needs and boundaries. We had already talked about my past abuse and I felt comfortable in telling him when I needed to be held, and what I didnt like or what I did like. I think the important thing I learned in this was that it takes two. It’s so important to have the right person in my life. One who did care and wanted to help as well as please me. I know that the others didn’t nor would they care about my needs.

    Thanks for this powerful blog. It is jam packed full of powerful information. ((hug))

  7. Patty, thank you for your support. I am glad you finally found someone to support you in your healing. It sure was tough negotiating our relationships, but perserverance really pays off when you are determined to heal. Learning to know who is right for us and working with them is life-changing for us. ((HUGS)) right back at ya!

  8. This is somewhat of the things I have been experiencing, but I don’t ever really think of the abuse and the things that happened because I was very young. I don’t blame me, I am way over that and I don’t think about the abuse, even when being intimate. I just find that I don’t like being intimate and I hate that feeling of not wanting any intimacy! I think it is because of the abuse that I feel that way and it sucks! How do I go back in my mind and change the way I perceive intimacy? I really think my abuse messed my brain up and it doesn’t seem like I will ever think of intimacy as a clean, sacred act. Everything always seems to be about sex and it’s always dirty or embarrassing to me. I wished I could change that and feel the same way my husband feels about it, or even women who have never been abused I guess. The only women who seem to have problems with intimacy and sex are the ones who have been abused. I would love to be able to want it and enjoy it like I should and not have everything every where revolve around sex. Well that is my ranting and I just wonder if I am the only one like this. How do you not hate sex after you have been abused I guess would be my question?

  9. Briannie, Yours is a very good question to ask and I think the core truth you have to explore is how do you feel about youself and your body and sex. I learned this when I had individual therapy. It has to be someone you can put your trust in. I had a female therapist so that helped me immensly.The other core thing that you have to do to get past these issues is to finally decide to trust him without turning your body off to feeling and emotions. Many of us relly do that and it is tough to learn a new way. There is a good book on the resource page called ‘Ghosts in The Bedroom’ that can help also. the key question has got to be do you relly want this to change for you? It is hard to get past this unless you want to more than anything else. You are not defective, it is what has been done to you and you can get past it. It just doesn’t magically happen without some work. There are also people who have problems with intimacy and sex that have not been abused, they just don’t talk about it because it would not make them feel good about themselves. There will be more articles coming and do see what other women are saying in the discussion area, too. You are not alone in your feelings. ?

  10. Briannie, you are not alone. I was lucky enough that my husband has learned to understand, but my abuse caused a lot of problems in the intimacy department. I don’t see it as dirty, but it triggers a being used feeling. It’s not that I don’t feel safe. I have no interest in it, and could probably go the rest of my life without having sex ever again. I don’t think he would like that too much, but he understands, and hopes that one day we can work through it.
    Linda, I would love to read more articles on this subject too, can’t wait!

  11. Reading your story sounds so familiar in many ways. I to had a first marriage that was abusive. It was only mainly verbally and emotionally but it did much damage. Between my marriages I was raped by a boyfriend. Of course that did not help and has been kind of creepy also. But that is the least of my problems at this moment. I dealt with that. Never turned it in but dealt with it. My biggest problem now is dealing with the abuse I had done to me as a child. It happened for years, not sure how many. I dont know much or remember much. Just know it was done and a few other details. My sister did something that caused it all to be real to me. I mean it was always real. I always knew it happened but it was so distant that it didnt effect me. I told people but it was like noone cared so why should it be a problem. Then my sister, who was also molested, did some things and made it all there. And it has messed me up ever since. I have had many problems dealing and coping. I started counseling but that at this time is all I have. My husband knows but Im not sure how it is effecting him. He was raised different than me and feelings are hard for him. I do know when I sleep I must have nightmares or something, my counselor says night terrors. I am mean to him. Tell him I dont love him and call him by my ex-husbands name. I am assuming it is due to night terrors and I hurt so bad that I do it. I cant figure out how to change it. I thought it was getting better. It was then it gets bad again. I am so scared I will lose it all. Ok sorry to babble on. I am glad you are doing well and healing. It is great..

  12. Hi Chasity, you have a lot of trauma to recover from. I think the biggest fear we have is being real to our spouses and risking rejection because we still feel shameful, dirty and used until we do more healing work. I do reccomend getting “The Courage To Heal”, and looking at some of the partner info together. Some partners do not want to face our abuse and to really help but they just want it to go away. The problem with this is that our abuse will affect us all of our lives but not so intensely as we do our healing work. At some point you will have to decide whether you trust him enough to tell him about your fears and night terrors and if you think he will leave you. Our need to be safe sometimes results in building walls that keep us prisoners instead of boundaries that we can control and move past as needed. I hope you counselor is really helping you through this process and if you feel that isn’t the case, maybe another will be better. Not all therapists know how to help victims of sexual abuse with the right tools. You don’t have to tell your spouse all the disgusting details but he needs to know about your fears. Hope this helps and you can talk about your issues and questions at any time. We really do understand here at OSA. :)

  13. Thank youso much. Its funny actually I have that book. My counselor had me get it. She also has the workbook and copies me stuff from there. I started to read it and had a meltdown and yet to go back to it. He knows about the night terrors. I have told him what the counselor has said and that, but he is just upset due to I keep calling him my ex husband. It is SO hard to get thru that part. I dont know what to do with that. He actually told me that I need to work on it and not let it go. I tol dhim I didnt think I could do it and wanted to put it back where ever it came from. He said no you need to get it taken care of. So he is helpful there and suppoortive to a point.

  14. Hi linda,
    Im not sure if you can help me but i guess its worth a shot lol. Im a gay female who has recently come out of a relationship with another girl 6 years younger, im 32 shes 26 i loved her and still love her very much however our relationship was littered with arguments.
    I was aware of some kind of abuse from her past (since being 4 she screamed at me in an argument), i never pushed her into telling me any details like who and what kind of abuse, i soooo hoped it wasnt sexual but it was :( as that came out in yet another argument.
    After that revelation we kind of never spoke about it and i was scared to 4 fear of triggering off yet another row as most of our arguments were based on my past and the fact that i had been married to a man i didnt love as i knew i was gay i dont even to this day know why i married him and had a child who is now 7, i think i maybe just did what i thought at the time was the correct thing to do to please my family who are not strict as such but very decent and i was brought up without an understanding of anything to do with ur sexuality son i spent many years confused until 1 day i realised that i am who i am and got up and left.
    Because of being married to a man who is the only male i have ever had sexual relations with my ex partner constantly started arguments over this saying im not gay im this and im that and dont you dare say its in my head and then she would say im sorry i told you about me being abused coz you think im a freak a weirdo to which i never did.
    She also has ocd again i tried to learn more by going on sites to get information, it wasnt the obsessive cleaning kind of ocd it was more disturbing thoughts would enter her head and she’d have to say it there and then again alot of the thoughts were about the man i married :(
    In the bedroom we were as close as anyone could ever be, we were intimate i always wanted to please her and make her happy, i always checked to make sure she was ok, she does admit to finding it hard to letting herself go in the bedroom as she would get thoughts in her head.
    I do realise that as a person she is controlling and possesive and doesnt trust me at all, no matter how much i did for her or told her i loved her i dont think she ever believed me.
    I dont understand how we got to this point, i have felt like i have relived my past with a man in most of the time i have been with her (i do think her issues over men stem from the abuse but again i dont know).
    I know she loved me and wanted the world with me im just left confused and wondering why my past has ruined my relationship with her.
    She had therapy a cpl years ago and she stopped it coz she felt better her words and she is now waiting for therapy again as she feels she needs it, i actually know she needs it.
    Im probably waffling away on the wrong site and everything lol..i just love someone so much with all my heart that im just finding things difficult to understand at the minute and its left many things unanswered also to the point were i think it must be me..maybe im the 1 with problems i just dont know anymore please help me? xx

  15. Sarah, it sounds like your former partner has a lot of issues yet to work through. It is’nt so much about you and your former relationship but about her, her self-esteem and how whe has or hasn’t dealt with the abuse issues. We can love people so much but love alone is not enough when there are things that they are struggling with. We can try to be everything to them and give up our own identity in the process. I have been there on the giving up of self, believe me. I think you are hoping that in the future this relationship might work again. If your partner does more healing work, that may change the dynamics alot and not always in ways you want them to change. Until we are at the point that we want to deal with our own issues, there is nothing that others can do to make that happen. There are some really important things that you can read for partners and general information on abuse in “The Courage To Heal” book that is listed in our resource area of the website. Helping a partner is hard and demanding stuff and the partner has to let you in to help. I wish you the best with this no matter what happens. :)

  16. wow,thanks for sharing your story,Im in the same boat but it gets better every day

  17. Nikki, your’re welcome and yes it does get better, we just have to be willing to do the work to get ourselves there. It is not as horrible as we imagine it will be. Sometimes it is a matter of believing that we deserve to have better in our lives. :)

  18. Linda,
    Thank you very much for sharing your story. I am a 41 year old survivor who was abused by my step-father for many years. I have had 2 failed marriages and I am currently married to a wonderful man but I am struggling with intimacy. The difference with me is that I have been through many years of counseling but for some reason my abuse has worked its way back into the forefront of my life. I feel consumed. I’m not sure that I ever concentrated on the intimacy factor during counseling. I have always been one to be very sexual in the beginning of the relationship but usually about 6 months later I retreat to not wanting to be intimate at all. I think that’s because it becomes “expected”. I have a huge fear of losing my husband over this. Just this morning I told him I needed him to help me. He just doesn’t know how. I don’t sleep at night and I think sub-consciously it’s to avoid the nightmares. I can sleep great during the day but I think it’s because most of my abuse happened at night. A huge problem for me is feeling like I never got closure. My abuser passed away last year and I never had the chance to confront him. My family always thought it best to just “leave it in the past.” Without hearing him acknowledge what he did to me and the family “sweeping it under the rug” how do I ever get closure? Many times I have thought of writing an e-mail to his oldest son who never really got along with his dad. I sometimes thought he might have been abused himself. But how can I do that if I really don’t know. I really don’t want to offend him. Oh well, sorry for babbling but I’m just so lost right now. I really thought I had conquered this demon.

  19. Mitzi, You do not need the closure to heal. My primary abuser, (father) never was punished or even acknowledged that he ever did anything wrong. He abused all six of us children. He died in 1995 and made sure that his will disowned us all (we didn’t want any of his stuff, anyway) by saying for reasons known only to himself. He had disowned us long before that, it was as if we never existed. The issue for me was trust and being able to finally take the risk to open up all the way. There is a big risk and it is so very scary to be totally open. Sorry but your family invalidated you by covering and refusing to help you heal earlier in your life, mine did the same. I found the work I had to do was my own, first. I did not know me or my feelings or how to express them. My husband couldn’t help me with that. My closing off was so bad that I had to practice in front of the mirror to learn how to show feelings on the outside.My husband couldn’t help me until I could know myself. Find the little child in you that is closed off and help her to know you will protect her and help her to trust again. Please keep coming back and letting us know how we can help and how you are doing. We can encourage each other. :)

  20. Thank you Linda! I wept as I read your response. I think mostly because I knew exactly what you were saying to be true. I guess I was trying not to face it head on and actually needed to hear it from someone else. I will definitely visit the website quite often as I think it can be of a lot of help to me. I have been looking at the website for a couple of months. It just took a little while to get the courage to ask for help. I have read many books but still read more, and just received “Secret Survivors” last night. I also printed out information for my husband to read and he is willing to do whatever I need. I think sometimes I just need to tell my story to people who will truly understand (maybe for that validation). Right now that just seems too daunting of a task but would like to some day.
    Thank you so very much!!

  21. Mitzi, You do not need the closure to heal. My primary abuser, (father) never was punished or even acknowledged that he ever did anything wrong. He abused all six of us children. He died in 1995 and made sure that his will disowned us all (we didn’t want any of his stuff, anyway) by saying for reasons known only to himself. He had disowned us long before that, it was as if we never existed. The issue for me was trust and being able to finally take the risk to open up all the way. There is a big risk and it is so very scary to be totally open. Sorry but your family invalidated you by covering and refusing to help you heal earlier in your life, mine did the same. I found the work I had to do was my own, first. I did not know me or my feelings or how to express them. My husband couldn’t help me with that. My closing off was so bad that I had to practice in front of the mirror to learn how to show feelings on the outside. My husband couldn’t help me until I could know myself. Find the little child in you that is closed off and help her to know you will protect her and help her to trust again. Please keep coming back and letting us know how we can help and how you are doing. We can encourage each other. :)

  22. I was sexually abused when i was younger and alot of the stuff you were saying i can relate to. I married my husband 3 years ago but from an early stage i told him about my past but i feel because i have had 3 children for him he thinks my past is behind me were i the fact is i think about it every day. I worry about my 3 kids, i feel i have to have sex to prove i am over my past when in fact i am only really understanding the past to this day. I know i need more help but i feel that because i got help when i was 8 or 9 i now feel i have dragged the abuse through my life instead of getting over it!!!! I dont even think my abuser got jail and don’t know how to find out.

  23. […] Posts: My Sexual Abuse Invaded My Marriage Dating After Sexual Abuse: Is This Love? Do Kids Miss Out While Parents […]

  24. Edel, I think that is common for us to have sex because it was expected of us. We usually defer our needs to others and deem ourselves the least important of all. I think there is a lot more help out there than was available when you were younger. Because it is a platitude that is said by others that do not understand the effects of our abuse, we try to “get over it.” We do not forget our abuse or get over it, we work at healing and minimizing the effects on our lives and we work at finding ourselves. Whether our abusers are punished or not we can heal. I went to a survivor group and also individual therapy to help me with my issues and then was able to involve my spouse. I think first and foremost working on things that will help you will begin to show you where your issues are. I would recommend looking at our book list too for support resources for you and your spouse. OSA has many discussions that are really helful too. Keep working at uncovering your true self.

  25. I recently told my husband, we have been married over 10 years. He feels like I’ve lied to him, while I don’t agree with him I can understand why he would feel that way. We have had a “normal” sex life up until when the disclosure. I realize I can’t give him what he wants and he has said he can’t help think about what happened to me while we are having sex, so it is not enjoyable for him. I love him so much, he has offhandedly mentioned maybe if he went out of the marriage to get his physical needs met it would be beneficial for both of us.. It wouldn’t be a relationship with anyone else just the physical aspect. It hurts my heart to think about it but I can’t think of anything else. I’m afraid if I don’t let him the marriage would be over. I’m in therapy and he has went a couple times with me but he says it doesn’t help him.

  26. K, wow that is pretty abusive for him to treat you that way and to say those things to you especially when you are struggling to recover. That would have litterally blown up my relationship because I would be even more self-consious about having sex with my husband from that time onward. It would cause me to feel even worse about myself. How dare he degrade you to suggest he get his needs met outside of your marriage, like you are not good enough any more. I am sorry k but he does not sound like he is supportive of your healing and you deserve to have support from your husband. It is bad enough that you have to fight to recover and it is worse to have someone abuse you further. Honestly an ultimatium like that would make my marriage over. ((HUGS)) to you, stay with us here as you need good support to help you to make good choices for you in your recovery.You deserve respect and caring people in your life.

  27. K,
    I’m so sorry your husband reacted in such an abusive way. To accuse you of lying just because you didn’t feel secure enough to tell him about your abuse until recently is horrible! Seeing how he reacted, I completely understand why you were relunctant to tell him. You deserve to be treated better.
    Hugs to you,
    Christina

  28. K that hurts to hear that he is being so careless with your emotions. You deserve so much better. Abuse can already make a person feel worthless and like their only value is sex, and the way he reacted can’t be helping you. He didn’t ask to be married to someone who was abused, but you didn’t ask to be abused either, and what you are dealing with is much harder than the couple effects that spill over into his life. I don’t know if you’ve read Allies in Healing by Laura Davis, but it’s a book written for survivors of abuse, geared towards helping couples work on healing together. If you chose to stay in your relationship, it might have some helpful information for both of you.

  29. I appreciate the comments and support. I was taken aback by his request,
    it was totally out of character for him. We have talked and he said he didn’t
    realize how hurtful it felt to me. He has legitimate issues and concerns was curious if anyone else had a similar experience with their significat other suggesting something that is a little unorthodox. My therapist did give him some books to read, including Allies in Healing. I think he is just extremely frustrated and is abit put off by the amount of time it’s taking is all. I told him a few months ago, even though I’ve been therapy for it almost two years. He thinks I should be further along. I’m going to stay with him. I won’t divorce him. And I didn’t want to leave the impression that he was a
    complete SOB. But I am very grateful for the protection I felt from you all, it was a little like circling the wagons even though I don’t know any of you. It’s
    something I don’t want to talk to my friends about and quite honestly I
    probably won’t say anything to my therapist about it, I’d rather not cast an
    unflattering light on him over something that was more thoughtless than malicious. Thank you and thank God for anonymity of the Internet.

    the wagons even I never met any of you. And quire honestly I didn’t want
    to bring something like that up to my friends and in fact will probably not ieven mention it to my therapist. I don’t want tiunflattering view of him. Once again thank you and thanks for anonymity

  30. k, I understand your feelings completely. Your therapist is there to help you. The pressure that is being put on you is hard to bear in silence and you might even feel shame for your husband’s suggestion and not be able to tell this but it is not YOUR shame. It is very common for us to have subsequent relationships that are abusive because we lack self-esteem and boundaries when we are abused as a small child.Part of the healing process is learning to develop these for ourselves. Your needs and desires are important and if you are being pressured to do or tolerate things that make you feel shame or blame or discomfort, you have a right to say no. Even to your husband. I wonder if you had suggested something like this that he would feel that it was ‘thoughtless and without maliciousness?” Of course this would be difficult to talk with your friends with, especially if they never suffered sexual abuse. They would not understand and probably might even say more unhelpful things to you. Your gut instinct of who is safe to talk to, is usually right. Of course he should have reactions to the information but his reaction needs to be supportive and loving and respectful of your healing, needs and feelings. You have to have trust inorder to get through this. Protecting him from your therapist is a pettern of being silent that keeps the shame and blame on you and I know that you feel lots of hurt and confusion because the person you fell should love you would do or say these things. The one thing I can tell you is that problems in a marriage cannot be solved outside of a marriage and both people need to be committed to solving them for the marriage to be built on trust and to succeed. Keep working on your healing and keep being truthful because the lies of abuse are very destructive to us. Taking care of you is a good thing and you have moved in that direction. We are committed to healing here and remain supportive to all survivors.

  31. K, your husband’s response sounds a lot like the one I got from mine when I told him – we had been together 8 years, married for 3, before I trusted him enough to share a little of my experiences. He didn’t accuse me of lying to him, but he felt betrayed by my lack of trust in him and our sex life changed forever.

    We are still working on getting back to, or at least somewhere close to where we were in the bedroom and, like Linda wrote, there are now others who share our bed, my former abusers and my wounded child in my adult body – these were there before, but my husband didn’t know about them (although he had a hunch something wasn’t quite right) and now that he does, he struggles with images of my past which become much stronger when we get intimate.

    His knowledge of my abuse affected him in a way I never imagined. Before he knew, there were occasions when I went from red hot to clam shell in the space of seconds – he didn’t know what triggered that reaction, and for that matter, neither did I. After my revelation, he became self conscious, afraid of doing or saying something that hurts me, he is no longer my relaxed, care free lover. We didn’t have sex (it certainly wasn’t making love) without both of us having a lot to drink and the morning after one of our sessions, he suggested we shouldn’t do it again, that he’s got a healthy pair of hands and a great imagination. I was really upset that he could reject me like that and never thought for a moment he was trying to protect me “because I don’t deserve protection”.

    The subject was dropped and we went through about 3 years like that, getting drunk so we could attend to his physical needs. Slowly but surely, he’s becoming my spotlight – aware (in a way I am not ready to be because I haven’t learnt not to dissociate myself as soon as he becomes affectionate), of every minute movement and sound which causes me to either cool down, or go into complete shutdown.

    Now, 4 years after I told him, we’re coming back together in a much more connected way than would have been possible, had I kept my abuse secret. There are a number of things he has helped me figure out and things he avoids doing now – he used to love the reaction he got when he jabbed a finger into my sides – his intention, I know, was playful teasing. I would twist away and scorn him through screwed up eyes but never told him it evoked a fight or flea response in me and that it took an hour or more for the “on edge” feeling to subside. I didn’t understand it myself, how could I explain it to someone else? I let him believe I perceived his jabbing as playful (protecting the abuser, I think) and when he continued to do it, maybe 3 or 4 times a week (along with all the other stuff he did without realising how hurtful it was for me, I started building up a resentment towards him I couldn’t “reasonably” justify. It wasn’t until he noticed me cool down every time he touched me between my hips and ribs that he made the connection and he wept as he apologised for all the times he’d done it.

    Through all my waffling, I think what I’m trying to let you know, is that if your relationship is important to both of you, you and your husband can get through this! It certainly won’t be easy and it is going to take time, but it will be so worth the effort and really rewarding for both of you. And thank you so much for sharing your story, it helped me to make connections I hadn’t seen before – another step on my own road to recovery. Thank you K.

  32. Dear Hurt Again,
    It sounds like you have worked very hard to get through some tough stuff in your relationship. For me the turning point was when I decided to risk trusting my husband. After making that decision, I think that helped to open up the communication between us in a way that we had never shared before. Abuse causes us so many problems and many we can’t begin to identify until we are ready to face them and to work through them. I am grateful for the peace and contentment I have in my marriage and life.It gets ‘bumpy’ at times because changing how you learn to deal with things is somes very hard. I found I wanted to go back into the same patterns of relating and communicating that didn’t work. Sharing what helped and the truths I uncovered along the way may make a difference for someone else. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, also. I am sure when others read your replies, they will benefit from the things you have learned along the way too. It took a lot of courage to share these issues here and it is shows what a strong person you are. Going through what we have has been difficult but when you have a chance to connect with other great people, it makes the journey less lonely and so much more full of hope. I wish you and your husband all the best.

  33. Hurt again,

    Thanks, its strange after reading your comments. We have very similar stories and for me getting drunk helps at least for now. My husband thought everything was good too, our sex life, our relationship but he couldnt see what was happeneing with me. he seems to think when he first became aware of the abuse is when i first became aware too

    . My mother came to visit a few weeks ago, he asked if i would be alright. Even though my mother had nohting to do with the abuse he feels as if she should have known, be a better parent, but in reality she had no idea, it wasnt her fault. When i asked him what he meant by “would i be alright”, he said arent you angry and dont want to see her. . i have been dealing with this for over 30 years, its easy to hide and keep it away from the surface. The hard part is when someone knows. He just said that was very sad to have to hear. We still are struggling with alot of things. He sees my abuser as a competitor, a past suitor that he has to contend with. It hurts me when he puts it out there in that way. I don’t like it. But i cant change it.

    I will go now, wanted to write you back hurt again, been struggling on what to write. But thanks I feel less alone.

  34. Hi, I can relate so well to what you are talking about in your story. I am still struggling with my abuse from my ex-husband 16 years later and struggle with intimacy and sex with my present husband. I want to heal and be able to experience intimacy and truly enjoy sex, but can’t seem to find a counselor to help me work thru the issues. :( Its frustrating.

  35. Tonya, I am sorry that you have had experiences that make it so that you can relate to this struggle. I am also glad that you have found OSA and a very caring and supportive environment. I found that doing individual work for myself was what helped me to begin to work on the relationship and sexual issues. Wanting to heal is the most important first step. Learning to talk openly and to take the risk to trust and open up all the way is hard and very scary. Sometimes we instinctively do not do this if we have doubts about the relationship and/or ourselves. Having a counselor to help you uncover your true feelings really helps. Once you can see and experience those, then you can begin with a whole new knowledge and confidence. Keep searching for the answers and read all you can to help you, too. OSA has a great resource list of books and the first one I can reccomend is “The Courage To Heal” if you don’t already own it. They have a workbook, too that is fantastic. We can seem to be so open in many areas of our life but we can be closed down in others. Don’t settle for less than you deserve in life. :)

  36. I am sad to hear there are so many of us who have to live with this. I was physically abused by my parents and sexually abused by a family friend and neighbor for years. I have been married for 16yrs. I never disclosed the sexual abuse to my husband. I only recently told the counselor I have been going to. My husband is unaware of the counseling too. I feel horrible lying to him but can’t bring myself to tell him. He knows about the physical abuse. I have been fulfilling my “duties” in the bedroom but not without issues from time to time. We love each other very much but I know he’s not happy with the way things are. I want to be able to enjoy it and not go into auto pilot. I am so afraid of how he will look at me if I told him. It is encouraging to hear some success stories and know I am not the only one who struggles w this. I have felt like I should have been able to get over this by now. Instead things seem to be getting w

  37. D, I am so sorry that you have had to endure not only the abuse in your life but the feelings of shame for something that was not your fault. I found that I could disassociate in order to get through sexual situations but alway felt cheated for not being able to feel and really be present. Like you describe in “auto pilot”, this disassociation kept me protected and was a coping tool that I used from childhood to help me through the terrible traumas. It becomes a way of life until we recognize and are able to change our reactions and behavior. Like me you are now aware of how you cope and the way I found to get past the blocks I put up was to go back to when I first learned how to do this and uncover the truths of what happened. Then I had to learn to express the appropriate feelings and reactions. The emotional healing was a key to being able to share my deeper thoughts and feelings with my husband. To learn to recognize “safe” and to take the risk finally of being totally me. This is very hard to do when you still carry the shame of your abuser. Letting go of the shame and blame are very important steps as well as expressing anger, grief and many other things. I needed the help of a counselor because I discovered that I was very good at concealing my emotions, event to myself. I hope this helps you to understand that really getting to know, accept and love yourself, is the key that will open up your relationship.You will know when you are ready and the results will make your life into something you have longed for a very long time. Having support on OSA to talk about the things you feel and experience helps so much. You will be amazed at how many share your feelings and reactions. You are not alone. :)

  38. Amazing story. Whilst I am now separated from my marriage of fifteen years, I believe I have worked Dan hard on becoming a survivor. I am a survivor. The only question that now remains for me: I am 12 mths separated from my first and only husband, and I don’t know whether I truly just love and enjoy having sex with different men. I seem to attract younger men ????? Maybe I will never have the capacity to have a fulfilling relationship. Maybe all my hard work on self has not been enough?
    My own answer to this is, I am enough.

  39. Gina, I am sorry to hear that you have had so much difficulty working on your healing and that your marriage has sufferd too. I did not have a teenage life with dating and the relationships that most teens learn to negotiate, I married at 19 yrs old to my first husband who was an abuser. I can understand why you are enjoying the differences with other partners but not enjoying a fufilling relationship. It is easier when I felt I could control things and I felt safer that way. I still longed for a fufilling relationship but the risk scared me very much. My husband is younger than myself and what happend for us is that we grew up together as I worked on my healing. I also secretly felt that I had missed out on what it was like to enjoy sex because of the abuse. I think that you will find what it is that will bring you to where you want to be if you learn who you are inside and what you really desire. I spent a lot of time running away from me and meeting everyone else’s needs without really facing my own. Avoiding me was easy, and I could be so much to others or so little, when i began to discover I had choices. I had to slow down and find me and my emotions. I too am enough and I had to keep looking inside to find all the parts of me. I hope you will keep working toward what really satisfies you inside.

  40. I’m a 37 year old male, survivor of sexual child abuse by my grandma’s boyfriend. Though I’m married, with two children and I try to have a normal life as much as possible, I can feel the shadow of the abuse darkening my life. It’s not letting me be who I want, my peers reject me and I think I have periods of depression coupled with other specific disorders like post traumatic. I’m a strong guy, physically and mentally. It’s just that sometimes, the demons are stronger. Good luck all.

  41. I have read nearly all forty messages here and some on other sites. What does a guy do that marrys a gal and two years into a 12 year marriage, is told to, …..”….you go into town for that”…… (sex)? “…..just remember where home is.” Before I could ask “what?” – she added that, …..”…. we weren’t having any kids either.” I was lost and felt rejected. I decided she just needed time and brought it up once or twice a year until the 9th year – then I was getting really frustrated and pleaded and begged her to go to counceling – with or without me. She got increasingly agitated and insisted I was making a big deal out of nothing. I’m 54 now and 23 years have passed – I left her and moved out of state to start over. I have returned to our home town to find she still insists I am screwed up for still thinking something in her past needed attention. See, after I filed for divorce, she first tried to say she would have kids but I had to tell her I was not doing this to coerce her into doing something she did not want to do and wouldn’t dream of putting her or my own kids through that. Later, she met me and handedme a 5×7 card with a list of about 25 names of men on it, saying it was a list of guys that had either raped her, molested her or otherwise sexually assaulted her from the age of nine when her parents died in an accident and she became orphan, being passed around from place and extended family member to another.
    She asked me what I thought of that. I looked the list over more carefully and said the next time I see her half-brother I was going to knock him on his arse! She immediately was angry and told me that that was why she never told me. (My fault some how?) To this day, she insists that rape and molestation is no big deal and had nothing at all to do with our marriage ending. I felt betrayed. I felt angry at the men on the list – particularily the ones I and come to know through our marriage and had sat at our dinner table or invited to parties! How coud it be more important to protect them than watch me beg and plead for her to get counceling? It was irrational and selfish of her. This is not to say that there is any way I could ever understand what she went through. Empathy is a strong suite with me – and a curse. I put 12 years into that marriage and wanted a family but respected her enough NOT to make a deal to have kids and not leave her. This a small dairy town region and everyone knows everyone else and tend to take particular interest in other people’s business. When I left, I did not move back for 23 years – our friends were allowed to think the worst of me when I was not there to defend myself. This neatly fit into her need to suppress the truth – but she continues on with it by denegrating me aloud at her tavernto clientelle. “Whoa is me (her)?” She’s told me “…….they expect this….from me.” I’m afraid she’s gonna crash very hard one day – so I ignore her feined hate of me. She knows I know and am the only one she has told. I would not be able to be there for her if and when she crashes to support her and encourage her. It may never happen too. I have some mixed feelings of course – but life is not fair, it’s what we make of it. I want her to understand that and also that though I have returned her, I may meet someone I want to spend the rest of my years with.

  42. Bill, I am so sorry that you have had to bear the pain of your wife’s abuse. One thing I know is that the problem began in her life and until she is able and has the courage to face these things and heal, all the work that you do is in vain. I went to a group of survivors and watched many drop from the group because they were not ready to face these things in their lives. I was already in my late 30’s and watched many younger women who had a chance at making their lives better, unable to do the hard work it takes to heal. I remembered how long it took me to get there and how much I wanted for them to not suffer the years of dysfunction and pain that I had gone through. It seemed so unnecessary but until they were ready, nothing changes. You see things clearly from the outside but can’t force someone to heal. They have to want it more than anything else and they have to recognize their need to heal. Victims use denial and they also disassociate from a lot of their abuse because it helps them survive. Just surviving is not always a quality life but many feel that they deserve so little and do not know how to love themselves. When you do not love yourself, you can’t begin to give love to others around you nor can you get close to others. There is a guarding that is a form of self-protection that is hard to overcome for so many. Only those of us that are willing to do what ever it takes to heal, will be able to overcome these things. A marriage cannot be made by one person nor sustained by on person. It seems that you have offered your love and support to her and she has choices to make but the choices she makes may not be what you wish to happen in your relationship. There is a book that deals with the partners of abuse victims called, “Ghosts In The Bedroom”. I believe it is on the reading list here. I know that you wish for her to have a better life but you also need to find your happiness if she chooses not to face this. I wish you the very best, no matter what happens in this situation. Being the spouse or partner of a victim of sexual abuse is a very challenging role. It takes two together, to make the relationship work.

  43. I have just recently been sexually assaulted by one of my husband’s good friends. My husband has distanced himself from me extremely and is saying that he isnt sure if he could remain married to me. He is trying his hardest to be there for me and help me through this but I know and can tell that he is in a lot of pain and confused about how he should feel. I dont know what to do to get my relationship back to how it was and how I help my husband in recovering from this trama that has happened to our lives. Do you have any advise in what I should do?

  44. Jessica, I am so sorry to hear this has happened to you. I can imagine the impact on your relationship. Some men believe deep inside that it was the woman’s fault and that we could have fought back. The anger at the perpetrator then is aimed at the victim. I think that if you have a rape crisis center close to you, that contacting them would be helpful. Both of you can benefit in some counseling to help you in this situation. Centers usually offer help not only for you but your partner. Sometime your county will have a victm’s program. You will benefit, even if he refuses to go. You have not done anything wrong and you can feel so much better if you can interact with others that know and can support you. As always, your healing is up to you and the choices you make will help you to get through this. Some husbands are so devastated, they are at a loss as to how to comfort themselves, let alone their partners. I wish you the best and you are a strong person!!

  45. Linda,
    This started exactly the same as my story, childhood abuse, lousy parents, abusive first marriage,wonderful, loving 2nd husband. The only difference was I remembered nothing of the abuse until 40 years old.
    My life and marriage are in crisis. I am in early stages of therapy but my husband wants total love and. Affection or a new life.
    I have showed him this and I hope he will give me chance with my therapy to rebuild and save our 11years together.
    This is the most difficult and heart wrenching time of my life and I desperately want to know me and to REALLY feel positive emotions rather than constant fear and anxiety.
    Thank you for sharing yourvstory

  46. Hi. I was abused as a child by my foster father for as long as I can remember, it stopped when I was 16 after bringing it to the attention of my foster mother. I thought that was the end of my problems but how wrong I was, it was only the start.

  47. Hi Helen,
    Welcome to OSA. Thank you for sharing that. I’ve heard from so many survivors who have said the same thing about when they disclosed their abuse. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

    Christina

  48. i am currently struggling very much in my relationship to my lovely husband, we are very newly wed- and what should be the honeymoon period of our marriage, i feel is quickly turning into a hellish nightmare for me (and i know it hasn’t been easy for him either)
    i don’t know who to turn to or talk to, where to get help, or even where to start … my world is slowly falling apart around me and i am losing control.
    reading your article struck a chord with me (although my own experiences do differ and are no doubt on a lesser scale) i cant help thinking if you managed to get through this there must be some hope for us, right?
    i just don’t know where to begin…

  49. Linda I am just starting to face my past and I am 46 years old. I am struggling with my current husband and don’t even liked to be touched by him. I am just starting counseling. I am so out of touch with my emotions. I really appreciate this site.

  50. Ashley, I am sorry that you are struggling with these things. It is hard to realize that the fairy tale ideas of love and romance do not come to us, especially when we have ideals because of our abuse. What I found most helpful to me was counseling for myself first to get to know me. I spent way too much time being all things to others and I was able to avoid me for years. Getting to know my needs and wants that are part of me and learning to ask and expect to meet them was a difficult but rewarding journey. presenting yourself to another in the most healthy way sure does help in making a good relationship work. I started with me because I found it unlocked so much more potential to have the life I wanted. My best to you and know that OSA has terrific support to help you along your journey. :)

  51. Cheryl, I am so glad you are here at OSA. You will find many who are struggling along with you here. You will also find many ways and ideas to help you along in your healing. I am so glad you are in counseling as getting to the bottom of the mess and healing from the bottom up is the strongest way to get there. You are doing a good thing for yourself, keep aiming for that better life. In time you will be ready to include your husband in this journey more. Reassure him that you are working on things so that your work will help in your relationship. Hopefully he is kind and patient enough to realize your value and to wait for a stronger you. Good luck on your journey of healing and I hope your marriage will be blessed by your efforts. :)

  52. Linda, thank you for the courage to write about your past abuse experiences. I greatly appreciate all the attention you have given respondents after all these years since you first posted your story.

    I have been in a relationship for 7 years with a woman who was sexually abused as a teenager by someone outside of her family. Sex in the relationship started out very good, but quickly dropped off when I moved in with her. She did tell me soon after about her abuse and even showed me a movie of her bashing a man in heavy armor with a baseball bat during one of her therapy sessions. She had made it sound like she was over the abuse.

    Some of the recurring problematic themes that played between us in the next few years were lack of trust, control, and lack of sexual interest and emotional connection. She was always hyper critical of me and would say things like “you would never make a good father” or “you don’t understand me” or “we just don’t ever connect” or “if you loved me you would…”

    We started our relationship when I was going through my teacher training for certification (2nd career) and her daughter was in the very school I taught. I got my certification and started looking for jobs when the economy collapsed n 2007 and teachers were being laid off. I struggled for years sometimes getting jobs, sometimes part time, sometimes just substitute teaching. She would often make me feel bad for not working hard enough to get a good job as she always wanted an equal partner. When I’d get depressed she made me feel bad for being depressed even though she was always depressed herself and started to drink a lot. I tried hard in many other ways that I knew how to prove I was a good man by doing more than my fair share of housework, restored furniture for her and did things I thought would prove myself to her, including buying her an engagement ring.

    When I bought her the ring she started going back to therapy for her abuse but she also gave up sex completely and her criticisms and jealousy got worse. It got to the point I couldn’t talk with my neighbors because she thought the wife was hitting on me when my mother offered to help buy her a new car she got upset when my mom wasn’t responding quickly enough even though my om made it clear financial help wouldn’t arrive until she sold her old home.

    Concurrently, I was facing false accusations at my teaching job from a female student accusing me of engaging her in sexual impropriety with very little support from my co-teachers, the administration and my partner. Subsequently, I lost all faith in myself, became very depressed and resentful and left my partner to go live with my mom. I even seriously contemplated suicide during the time I was separated.

    Months later I regained the fortitude to contact my partner and talk about getting back together as I knew deep down inside it was the only way to move forward on life and begin to resolve serious issues between us I had left hanging. She let me back in with conditions I’d get a good job and see a therapist. I agreed saw a therapist, and got a job at Home Depot to pay bills and rent. I found a therapist for myself and began to rebuild. We eventually started couples counseling and all seemed to be moving forward then she abruptly ended couples therapy with the excuse I wasn’t doing enough to get a good job and that I wasn’t fighting hard enough for her. She promptly ended the relationship though she allowed my to live in a separate apartment in the same house until I could get myself together more.

    We went on with our lives separately with her saying she was going to start dating and I was free to do so myself, so I started a few months later. When she saw I was going on dates, she started wanting to have uncommitted sex, which became the best sex we ever had. She even was starting to work on treating me nicely and acknowledging things I was doing for her as those were things I did get to express in couples counseling. I started to become very motivated to find a better job and expressed my desire to be help her become more secure and even start doing couples counseling again with her. Then she did an about face and stopped sex, freaked out and told me I had to move out. I told her I found a place and that I could move in this July. Then she told me she a friend of hers (who I knew well) needed to move in June 15th. By a stroke of luck I found a friend who has a place to rent that I could move in sooner. Things have gotten pretty bad between us.

    Interestingly I just started researching traits of sexually abused women in relationships and saw the connection between all her past and present behaviors in our relationship. In so many ways I wish I would have know all of this years ago as it would have shed light on so many problems I couldn’t even begin to fathom at the time were a result of her sexual abuse. Thankfully my counselor was recently able to connect those dots too after revealing this awareness.

    It is so frustrating now knowing what I could have known and how I could have responded in so many ways differently saving my own turmoil in all this. So I find solace in stories like yours that have helped my move forward as in many ways I love my partner and wished I could have had this knowledge to guide our relationship better.

    I want to express to her in some way that I have gained this understanding but also realize emotionally it may be a hard time to do it. What do you think? Would telling her that I’ve been researching the impact of sexual abuse and how to be supportive be too much for her right now?

    Sincerely, Jon

  53. Jon,
    First let me tell you that a spouse or signaifanct other needs to have much inner strength to deal with the effects of the abuse of their partner. You stated that it sounded like she was over the abuse but survivors never get over the abuse, it stays with them for life and affects their relationsips in a profound way. Survivors build walls to keep them safe instead of boundaries. Getting those walls to come down is very hard. A survivor has to decide to let thm down because they finally feel safe enough to do so. Survivors can behave sexually because they can feel it is expected of them but not necessarily feel connected to their feelings or their bodies. The insecurities and fear can remain through all of this as well as the unresolved pain and emotions. This would explain also her reactions after returning to therapy as working on that pain and emotion is most difficult and during that time there is little to give of oneself.The work opens up wounds that only she can work on to heal and it takes a long time for some to go from step to step. Your issues in dealing with an accusation of sexual impropriety at work would be even more scarey for her as she was working to put her this unresolved issue would be enough for me to be able to deal with and I can’t imagine how she could feel trust, especially if you left without fighting for yourself. In many places you also state that her behavior made you depressed or feeling suicidal and I hear what you are saying but also wonder if you are making her responsible for your feelings. I share with you a quote from a very good book called: Ghosts In The Bedroom by Ken Graber, M.A. “Remember that we are unconsciously attracted to others who remind us of our family of origin. If we recognize any dysfunction in the survivor, it is highly likely that we are also the products of a dysfunctional family and have problems of our own. Similarly, recognizing that survivors come from dysfunctional backgrounds probably means that they were attracted by some of the same dysfunctions in us. Recovery works best, not when the survivor is identified as the problem that needs fixing, but when both partner and survivor are committed to personal growth and working on their own issues. Common issues and relationship issues can be worked on together. If as partners we refuse to face our own problems and fail to work toward correcting our behavior and eliminating dysfunction in the relationship, then the survivor in recovery will be the one who outgrows us and leaves.” I highly recommend this book to you whether you are able to keep this relationship or not as it will help you to deal with this subject with so much more clarity. I am not sure that telling her about your research would make a difference or not but what I can see is there is an unwillingness to put trust in you on her part and that is not something you can make happen. Only she decides when and if she can trust and trust is the most difficult thing for a survivor to surrender until they feel completely safe. As a survivor myself, I can tell you that we all want more than anything to trust and feel safe. Whether the conditions are right and we can feel safe enough is up to us and we can’t do things on the expectations of others. We must find our courage and do that for us when we are ready. The fear of intimacy and not just sexual; is very real for both men and women and means revealing the most vulnerable parts of yourself. I wish you the best and whatetever you decide to say or do I hope that this has changed you into a more knowledgable person who can really see the world from the eyes of survivors. There is a good chance you are meeting more of them every day as 1 in 4 women have been sexually abused and 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused. Best of luck to you in the future. :)

  54. I would never tell my husband never ever never!!! He won’t want me if he knew what I did. Or worse he won’t believe me. We already have enough marital issues & he turns on me for petty things and he has a bad temper and a tongue that can slice me to nothing, a few minutes after saying he loves me, so rather he never know I’m not who I say I am. Absolutely No one knows! I don’t need to have anyone look down on me. I have to stay above it & I do. I come from an amazing family my dad was an angel he died 5 years ago my mum is lovely and I have 3 younger siblings, I’m 33 married for almost 10 years and have 2 beautiful sons and a beautiful teen stepdaughter, so it’s a good life, I can’t complain, my husband has a high sex drive but so do I. We have an amazing sex life infact, I see I must be lucky, I thought I had this sexual drive from my issues but I’m reading now lots of girls lose it because of it. That must be awful! Our Sex did go a bit south with babies but it’s back up now that kids are older, I would die without being able to enjoy sex. I do admit I am never fully satisfied despite multiple orgasms, nothing really really fills my need, 10 minutes later and I need to masturbate again. I would never tell him that!! I masturbate a lot it’s my coping mechanism, he hates it if I do. I try explain that it helps me sleep think etc. Ive done it as long as I can remember, I know I was taught to do this to numb me when i was sore or my jaw hurt. I don’t give my husband a lot of oral sex it freaks me out I start gagging and my jaw aches, but I do try now & again. I know I need to stop masturbation and im addicted, it was my “reward”. It’s hard to just stop something that holds off stress. Otherwise, I’m lucky All has been fine I have eating issues but Im tall it doesn’t show to badly and I go back and forth so my weights a constant issue, But I exercise as well and try stop myself bingeing long enough to lose it, I don’t think I’m too messed up, I think I’ve done really well to deal with it, cover it, hide it, even from me :-). I’m really proud of myself that I haven’t let it get me, this is the one & only thing I’ve been consistently good at! I do have insecurities anxiety etc but I’m not depressed.

    So I’m writing here as I found this site trying to get answers, lately ive been struggling a bit, So many memories are resurfacing. I think it’s bcoz of 3 things a. when my teen stepdaughter was at her mothers house a few years ago she was being babysat by her stepdads cousins (neighbours) and woke up to him pulling on her panties, thankfully she rolled over and held the blanket tight & wasn’t touched he was scared off, she only told us the other day, I went cold I thought i was going to faint I’m so angry at that man im scared I’ll hit him or worse if I ever see him. b. recently I found my old primary school “private” diary, I used to dream about being little a lot in primary school it must have been puberty bringing it to surface again, I would write it down and tear it up throw it or hide it. I saw all the torn pages and things started whiz zing around my head and won’t leave. C. A girl at our cell group broke down crying about her abuse from her stepfather and how she can’t forgive him & her family never believed her, we don’t really know her to well, her husband looks supportive but I could see he felt frustrated and sad that he landed up with a mess of a wife, i immediately pitied him but then sort of looked down on her for being so weak and not holding it together and keeping it to herself, and now I find I avoid her, I feel like a judgemental monster! ( ps. I am not this hardcore person at all. I’m shy quiet pretty meek & mild, I cry if people talk loudly to me, but now I just feel like this ice queen when I think about my past it’s like it isn’t me I’m remembering it happening to!)

    So that’s why I’m posting, I’m hoping if I just write it down here, no one knows me, it’ll get it out my system and then I can think straight again and get back to my life! If that’s ok.

    Here goes – I know it happened before I began school they were our neighbours 4 daughters the youngest my best friend. They moved towns when I started grade 1. it happened a lot I have clear memories and vague ones but no memories of the first time/s. so must have been going on for a while before they moved, they moved in my grade 1 year. he must have hurt all his daughters, I knew, they knew but we never spoke about it, if the door was closed you waited outside for your friend to come out. And the one older sister always weed her pants she always smelt like wee. I don’t know if he got my little sister. I think she was to little. I remember often having had bladder infections and thrush often. And I remember the last time he had me to himself as clear as day, mainly because he was so angry and so mean to me, he had always been loving I remember thinking I was in love with him and being jealous of his oldest daughter?!? (Is that normal?). He was always telling me I was his favourite and he loved me so much, so it was more his anger that hurt me that day more than anything. it was my friends 6th birthday party I was dropped off for the weekend. At the party I fed a stray dog a marshmallow through the fence. I didn’t want the marshmallow but the mother insisted I have it, I hated marshmallows they made me gag, maybe because he called his thing a marshmallow, I don’t know if I’m imagining that, I can eat them now though. he and his wife were furious with me when one of the kids ran and told them what I had done, I couldn’t understand if it was for wasting or they just hated stray dogs that made them so mad. I was terrified and hid under the outside stairs, all the kids were looking for me. When they found me they called for him, he took me upstairs to give me a “hiding” while everyone played musical chairs outside. He had always tickled me first and said he’d be gentle before he “cleaned” me. He was so angry he didn’t even let me tickle myself, it was probably the most painful thing I can remember, he stuck a blanket in my mouth told me to bite on it I had been really bad and this wasn’t going to be a gentle cleaning. I could here the music and kids laughing downstairs I was so humiliated. I wasn’t allowed to come out of the room till late that night but I didn’t want to come down ever again or see anyone. I bled in my panties and he came and took them away, and put baby bum cream the smell still makes me ache, I thought maybe he still loved me he was being nice and when he fetched me for dinner he kept me on his lap while his daughters did a play they made up, he was whispering how much he used to love me but how disappointing I had become, I was growing into a horrible little girl, how bad I was and how no one could love me now that I had been dirtied so badly and not even he could clean me. My parents were never going to love me if they knew my sins and how I had hurt him & his family. They would probably be punished as well if they knew what I did. And he never wanted me back. All while hugging me patting my back while I sobbed my heart out right next to his wife. She must have been deaf or really stupid. I remember thinking it would be good to go run away then and there, but I was scared of the dark. my mother fetched me the next day I cried all the way home because I had left my toy clown and I knew I was never going to get it back because he never wanted to see me again. She was furious with me for crying. I thought he was right about everything. And that was that.

    But I still loved him. And I can’t get why I loved him so much. I saw him once in high school at a funeral he was nice to me and I didn’t even flinch when he kissed my cheek, but I felt so dirty that I was attracted to him- an old fat hairy man!!! It scares me that I loved him I know I hate him now but he’s in my fantasies, and that I still feel really guilty but really aroused when a memory comes into me head! My dreams are the ceilings and the walls the pictures all the things I would look at while I tried not to cry. There’s so much that doesn’t add up! Like I can’t handle physical pain now how did I manage that pain! Was I tougher when I was 5! Was it really me, maybe dreamed it all? I feel dirty again like really dirty. I want to climb under my blankets and hurt myself until the burning just stops!

    Is this ever going to stop? how do I make it stop. I’m not going to tell anyone I just want to know if there’s a secret way to make it go away! I can’t do counselling I just need some strategies.

  55. I am currently going through counseling with my husband. I feel everything that you mentioned in your post. I feel so vulnerable right now and I hate it. I learned a long time ago how to control and pouch down my feelings and now I can’t. They are all exposed and raw. My husband says he supports me, but I don’t feel like he does. Like he doesn’t understand, but how could he. I have pushed him so far away that I fear he may be too far gone for us to ever work it out. I hate that my abusers have affected our relationship like this. I love my family and my husband, but I don’t feel like our marriage will survive and that makes me so angry. How do I get through this without losing him?

  56. Hi Jackie, I understand that vulnerable feeling. I found that I had two issues that I needed to work on. When we get into a relationship and we haven’t healed, we sometimes adapt ways of relating to our spouse that don’t help us learn to get closer at all. The self protection and shame run deep. I know for myself and you might need this too, I had to have counseling just for me to help me to overcome my own issues with myself. I was so guarded that I didn’t show emotions on my face most of the time as well as not being able to identify my true feelings. I had learned to keep those feelings hidden so well, I had trouble answering when my counselor would ask me how I felt about this or that. I would launch into a narrative and then she would ask me again because I was not expressing feelings. Choose a counselor just for you and try to find one who has worked a lot with abuse victims. I wish you the best. P.S. Pick up a copy of Ghosts in The Bedroom that will help too if you don’t have one. <3 Linda

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