Husbands whose wives are victims of childhood sexual abuse experience the trauma contagion of abuse. In other words, husbands can be haunted and taunted by the effects that directly affect their wives. Husbands of victims that I have interviewed listed traumatic effects they personally experienced. You have probably experienced some of these as well.
▪ Fear or terror in regard to your wife’s suicidal tendencies
▪ Shame because she keeps pulling away from you relationally
▪ Anger and hurt when she takes her rage out on you or your children
▪ Sadness and perhaps anger over your wife’s depression
▪ Irritation over the absence of sexual intimacy
▪ Loneliness because there’s no one who understands your situation
▪ Frustration because she doesn’t seem to trust you no matter what you do or do not do.
▪ Isolation because you don’t always know what her therapist is telling
▪ Confusion when her dissociation occurs
▪ Uncertainty because her social anxiety makes your social life unpredictable
The long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse and their related trauma demand courage and perseverance from both victim and spouse. There are times, however, when it seems resilience is in short supply. I found it necessary in those times to have a “go to” truth in order to keep me grounded.
My “go to” truth has been a Psalm of Asaph. We do not know his story but we do know that the events of his life diverted from the way that he thought life should be, just as childhood sexual abuse and its effects divert from how we believe life ought to be.
Asaph’s vulnerability and transparency serve as a mirror so that we can see ourselves more honestly.
Asaph saw everyone around him experiencing easier and more enviable lives. He stated it this way, “For I envied the arrogant . . . they have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong” (vv. 3-4). I am embarrassed to say that I remember going to community events and envying people who appeared to have no trauma in their lives in spite of the fact that I also knew they were pushing God out of their lives.
Asaph’s exposure of his envy was not to excuse his envy. His words serve as warning to guard our hearts. Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). Psalm 73 has been a “go to” truth for me so that I’m not eaten alive by envy.
Asaph said, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure . . . all day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishment” (vv. 13-14). Asaph’s evaluation of life was based only on what he could see. When we live only by sight, our reasoning leaves us in the dark.
In the dark, Asaph failed to see even just one thing for which he could be thankful. It was all bad in his mind. All-or-nothing thinking is a clue that we are entertaining distorted thinking.
Looking back, I know now that I failed to recognize many good things that were true even in the most troubling times. I believe that gratitude would have instilled renewed courage.
Asaph said, “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply” (v. 16). Jesus made it clear that envy is sin. Distorted thinking can easily lead to sin. In my view, perplexity is not sin. It’s okay to be perplexed. Why would sin make sense? How can childhood sexual abuse ever be rationally explained?
As the husband of a victim, we can be perplexed. But if the perplexity begins to take us down the path of despair, then it’s time to get help (2 Corinthians 4:8).
Envy, distorted thinking, and perplexity invade our reasoning when things are not as they ought to be, when the effects of childhood sexual abuse sabotage any hoped-for intimacy with our wives and tranquility in our homes. In an odd way, I am comforted because I learn from Asaph that I am not alone in my thoughts.
But God did not leave Asaph in his futility nor does He intend to leave us in ours. In my next blog, we’ll explore how Asaph came to the conclusion that, “My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability” (v. 26).
Reflect on the following questions. Take it even further by interacting with me through the Comment section on this website.
1. Who are the people that I tend to envy?
2. What boundaries can I put in place to subdue the envy?
3. What are the good things in my life? Make an accumulating list
4. Why do you think Asaph started out his Psalm the way he did in verse 1?
5. What is your “go to” truth?