Childhood sexual abuse produces effects on the survivor and poses affects for the spouse, husband in my case, of the survivor. For students and writers, the difference between affect and effect is grammatically important. For husbands whose wives are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, the difference between the two is relationally important.
Bear with me for a really quick grammar lesson. Grammar websites agree that “affect” is usually a verb. It refers to impacting or changing something. “Effect” is usually a noun. It is the result of the impact or change.
There are effects – results – that our wives endure because of childhood sexual abuse. These are the result of the abuse’s impact on their lives and the change it has inflicted. These effects have an affect on us as husbands. We are affected – impacted or changed – because of the effects. Okay, enough of the grammar.
Now to the reality of where we live. It is very important for us, as husbands, to understand the affect of the effects. This is why the mission of Marriage Reconstruction Ministries is “helping men and women rebuild marriages affected by a wife’s childhood sexual abuse.”
The effects of childhood sexual abuse are numerous and varied. A list of effects includes but is not limited to:
- Anxiety disorder
- Panic attacks
- Eating disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Suicidal ideation
- Sexual dysfunction
- Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or simply list Dissociation
- Self-injurious behavior (SIB)
- Substance abuse
- Somatic disturbances (affects the body, immune system, etc.)
- Interpersonal problems
Husbands of survivors are affected in numerous and various ways by these effects. The affects – or the way husbands are impacted or changed – include but are not limited to:
- The sense of rejection stemming from their wife’s emotional distancing
- Frustration resulting from unpredictable behaviors and situations
- Emasculation resulting from a dysfunctional sexual relationship
- Rage towards their wife’s perpetrator(s)
- Dealing with their wife’s eating disorder or other self-injurious behavior
- Fear over their wife’s suicidal tendencies
- Confusion from their wife’s dissociation
- Marriage books and conferences that fall short in addressing the unique needs in marriages affected by CSA.
So why do I say that the difference between effects
and affects is relationally important for husbands?
There are two reasons why the difference between effects and affects is important to husbands.
- So that we can identify how we are affected by the effects.
Identifying how we are affected is not so that we can complain or wallow in self-pity, which I have done my share of in the past. Rather, it is so that we can deal with ourselves, something we can control, rather than attempting to fix our wives, which is something we cannot control.
I am a big believer in the importance of self-awareness but I have not always been very self-aware; perhaps that’s why I now see its importance. In the past, I would just get angry about the effects. I called it “being frustrated,” as I also hear other husbands doing, but it was anger. I was angry. My anger was a very damaging response. Even though I was not speaking angry words to my wife or yelling at her, my generalized anger made her feel all the more beaten down. I was adding to her abuse. I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve heard from many husbands and I know this is what we do. Our generalized anger is like spraying water all over a neighborhood without aiming it at the fire. This leads us to the second reason why the difference between effects and affects is important.
- So that we can work towards a healthier response to the effects.
When I identified how I was affected, I was then able to focus more on what was happening, how I was feeling, and then work towards healthier responses to the effects. Many of these responses have been the subject of my blogs on this website.
As noted, we can be affected in various ways. So our response will not be a “one-size-fits-all.” Responding to our fear will be much different than how we respond to a sense of rejection. Some of our responses will be a call to action. For example, if your wife is talking about how she might take her life, it’s time to call for professional assistance. Other responses will not require immediate action but will be a call for personal reflection. Our rage towards our wife’s perpetrator(s) will require some introspection of our own attitudes and then eventual action of forgiveness. Emasculation resulting from sexual dysfunction may likely include good counsel for ourselves and finding ways to establish reliable accountability for our own thoughts and actions.
When I identify how I am affected, I can then focus on a constructive response. It prevents me from placing blame on my wife or attempting to control her and prompts me to take responsibility for me.
[My next blog will be posted in October. I’ll be taking a break until then in order to recover from left knee replacement surgery. My right knee was replaced in early July of this year.]