In Part 1 of this blog, I noted Jesus’ self-care leadership with his disciples and highlighted that self-care is a non-negotiable for husbands whose wives are survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). If we neglect self-care, we’ll pay for it in some way sooner or later. Part 2 continues with further self-care attitudes and behaviors that can be implemented in our lives for healthier living.
Don’t shut off your feelings
From childhood, most of us guys have been taught the same thing. The verbal teaching may have varied – “Buck up!” “Don’t cry!” “Be a man!” But the lesson was always the same: “Don’t feel!” So we do all we can to stuff our feelings.
For most husbands of CSA survivors, the truth is, it’s embarrassing! That’s a feeling. We too, experience shame from our wife’s abuse. Some husbands would contend that, for them, sexual intimacy seems to occur as frequent as the Cubs winning the World Series. The perversion of sexuality that heaped shame on a wife results in an infrequency of intimacy that heaps shame on the husband.
Self-care does not mean that husbands shut down by not feeling. Self-care means that the healthy thing is for husbands to get counseling for themselves. Self-care recognizes our personal coping limitations and willingly seeks out a counselor who can be our competent confidant.
Do what you love to do
What do you enjoy doing? What activity brings a feeling of “I’m glad I did that!” when it is completed? Some husbands of survivors have been addressing the needs of their wives for so long, that they cannot remember the last time they just relaxed and had some fun.
So, what do you enjoy doing and when is the last time you’ve done it? In case it’s been a long time since you did what you love doing, here’s a list of possible stress relievers: golf (not on my personal list), fishing (nope! Not that either), hiking, motorcycling, cards, reading, community recreational leagues, movies.
I’m suggesting that you establish some agreement with your wife and that you take time, individually, to engage in some healthy activity on a regular basis that will offer fun and replenishment. It is necessary for your own individual growth and the health of your marriage that you express your own needs.
For some of you, I know that expressing your needs like this to your wife is an intimidating idea. From my conversations with husbands, I know that some of you might hear, “What? You are concerned about your needs? So tell me, how have you suffered?” I’m sure it must be tough to receive a response like that. If that happens to you, it’s time to go back and draw lines of responsibility. It is ironic that men, who are taught to be tough, can have difficulty expressing their own needs. Dr. Noelle Wiersma has done some terrific work on this matter of expressing ourselves in marriages affected by CSA. I’ll discuss this in a future blog. I hope you keep up with these blogs.
For now, being faithful in your marriage does not mean being negligent to your own needs that come with being human. Self-care means regularly engaging in activities that are appropriate morally, healthy physically, and replenishing emotionally.
Daily time alone with God
Countless times, I’ve told God everything that was going on. Even though He already knew what was going on, He listened. There have been other times when I’ve vented my frustration to Him. He listened then too, but He also pierced my thoughts with His response. I remember crying out to God in pain for how marriages affected by CSA have to endure times when the survivor seems so distant. God responded, “I totally understand,” and I knew He did understand because there have been times when I’ve been the one distant from Him.
There’s not an event, attitude, or behavior that God has not already experienced Himself. I’ve yet to think of one. Because of His identification with us, He has told us, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help” (Hebrews 4:15-15, The Message).
We also need the daily intake of His Word. Don’t read for information. Read to know God. Don’t race through His message. Read slow and listen. To be in His presence is to receive the best self-care available.
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