As the husband of a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I’ve gone back to a counselor at different stages of my journey. Because of multiple situations converging in my life, I’ve been seeing a counselor in the Milwaukee area in recent months. I’m passing along to you some of the principles he has been working to instill in me. These principles apply to any individual and marriage relationship. But for me, many of these principles address unhealthy patterns I had developed as the husband of a survivor.
It may affect me, but it’s not about me.
Wives who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse experience a wide variety of effects that include depression, suicidal tendencies, sexual promiscuity, sexual aversion, anger and rage, unpredictable behaviors, and social anxiety. In marriage, the expression of these effects can be alarming and bewildering to a husband. My unhealthy response has often been to think that I must have done something wrong when these effects occur. I’m not saying that I’m never wrong or that I never cause any problems for my wife. But husbands do not bring on the effects of childhood sexual abuse unless they are the abusers.
My counselor has often reminded me that the effects of childhood sexual abuse may affect me, but they are not about me. This principle leads to the potential of healthier interaction for husbands and wives.
What is it like to be [your name]?
The first time my counselor asked what it was like to be Bill, I had to really concentrate in order to come up with an answer.
Here’s what can happen. Husbands of survivors can become so enmeshed in their lives that we forget what it is to be “me.” We become disconnected from ourselves. Lack of self-awareness can lead to all kinds of unhealthy patterns and decisions. It’s a real danger zone.
Take a moment to see if you are well connected with yourself (i.e. self-aware). What’s it like to be [your name]?
I’m not sure of what’s happening here, but we are on the same side.
Conflict occurs in every marriage and some arguments can be confusing. Sometimes we need to take a break and come back to the issue when we are in a better frame of mind. In marriages affected by childhood sexual abuse, the conflict can be over very delicate issues and both partners can be feeling pretty fragile.
It is important during these times to assure our wives that we are on the same side. Whether or not they agree, both husband and wife need the reminder that we refuse to allow anything or anyone to come between “us.”
So to wrap up, when I am aware of what’s going on inside of me, I am better able to protect and provide for us.