A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

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the husband
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Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:11 am

A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by the husband »

I plan to summarize my story so far, but I'm not in a good space for it at the moment. For now, please see the archive:


**Triggers- Mature Sexual Content, PA, SA**

January 2010

I am the husband of a survivor childhood sexual abuse. I am starting to see how I got here. I don’t think it “just happened”.

My mother is a career alcoholic. My father is extremely controlling of every aspect of our household, and went so far as to banish the kids from the main part of the house in the evening. I used to think he did this because he hated us, but now I’m starting to think he didn’t want us to see what a mess our mother became at night.. He always seemed pissed off at us, shouting, menacing, occasionally slapping with little provocation – always the face. He never raised a hand or his voice to Mom, but she never defended us.

My relationships with women fell into a pattern: I’d choose a smart, shy, kind, natural-looking girl who needed me. I ’ve come to realize that probably ALL of them had been sexually abused. The girls I thought were different back then were exhibiting sexually compulsive behavior. I recently read that it isn’t uncommon for children of alcoholics and other survivors of trauma to partner with sexual abuse victims. Eventually I learned to recognize when I was perpetuating unhealthy relationships, and I initiated the break ups.

I met my wife about 17 years ago. She was different. She seemed strong, capable, determined, competent, so on the ball. An early sign of trouble: one time sex was painful for her (not uncommon with SA, I now know) and she began to cry. I felt so terrible. She told me that she had been raped as a teen and let me know of some triggers to avoid – even long kissing. I learned that she was in therapy for some issues with her crazy mother.

Sex slowed down for us. I made the usual mistakes of suggesting, hinting, cajoling, arguing and pushing for sex. It wasn’t good, but everything else was. We married, and life events kept us so busy that we didn’t really focus on ourselves much. Babies, renovations, schooling, tragedies, vacations and careers all took precedence. Months would go by without sex. I tried to initiate it, but was always rebuffed with every imaginable excuse. I tried to talk to her about it, but she became defensive and angry each time. Part of that was my fault, of course. I felt rejected, resentful, hurt, inadequate, childish.

I tried taking all the pressure off of her – no initiating on my part, no doing anything that might be perceived as pressure, no comments that might be construed as suggestive, no touching that might seem like an invitation. At the same time, I withdrew emotionally to escape the hurt. Sometimes she would see that I was upset and would initiate sex, but it was brief and not fulfilling. I came to realize that she was not enjoying sex anymore. She was enduring, and was checking out. Finally, she told me that she thought she was abused by her stepfather and was remembering little things. She couldn’t tell me much – it was too difficult.

She tried to set up sex on a 2-week schedule. It could only be under certain conditions (nobody else in the house, time-limited by the imminent return of people, dark, everyone totally healthy/rested/stress free, etc.), and if those conditions were not present, there was no sex until the next scheduled date. The sex was short, always the same, and there was no time for cuddling after. I didn’t try to change our repertoire because I wanted her to feel safe and in control. Besides, I was tired of being rejected. Around this time, I noticed that she wasn’t present during sex, which was an awful realization. I tried to talk to her about it, but she became tearful and just couldn’t tolerate it. I should mention that our daughter was getting to be about the age when my wife thinks she was when the abuse began. We went on like this for a while, but we continued to slip apart. With no sex, no kissing, nothing that could potentially lead to sex or kissing, no talking about the elephant in the room, I was feeling frustrated more often than not. I had to mentally prepare myself for work, and then prepare myself to face the kids at home. She suggested therapy...but only for me! I resisted because I figured I knew what my problem was, and would be unable to fix it without her participation. That may not have been the best decision, but at the time I felt that going to therapy about this alone meant that I was being asked to accept the situation as-is.

I wrote a letter to my wife (posted here later). I had read a book that outlined how to have a safe conversation, so I took a few days to draft something that I thought would be clear, concise, and as devoid of shame and blame as possible. Shortly after I had completed it, I read it to her. The timing was good: we were “scheduled” to have sex. We would have had sex, but instead of climbing into bed, I sat down on the edge and asked her if we could talk instead? I think she suspected what was coming, and she said we could talk. She listened calmly and thanked me, but then began to panic because she believed I had said I was going to leave. To her great credit, she got us referrals for a therapist who specializes in couples. We see her weekly, and then each of us sees her weekly on our own.

It was tough to start with. She was reacting to my frustration, how unfair it was that I was mad, etc. Actually, I feel far less angry now that we’re doing something. It is a rough road anyway. She still struggles to talk, still believes I’ll be mad at her for sharing something from her childhood. The abuse began early and went on for years. She may have been traded for gambling debts and drugs. There may have been filming. She gets locked up in therapy and just cries. She doesn’t want me to try to comfort her. I feel rejected repeatedly. Sometimes she lets me in on a whole bunch of memories and I experience the sadness of hearing them, but I welcome the lost intimacy of sharing. On top of this is the specter of my wife’s deceased mother who seems to have had a least a serious personality disorder and may have enabled or somehow participated in the abuse.

I love her more than anything and will do anything for her. I don’t want to give up the intimacy that we once had. I wish I could just give it up, to say it’s okay. I know that sex and intimacy have been all mixed in with badness for her, but it is all mixed in with goodness for me. I want that closeness in my life again, and I can’t have that with anyone but my wife. As long as we’re working on this together, I can hang in there. I know she often wants to quit therapy and go back to where we were. Unfortunately, where we were was a sinking ship. I need us to continue therapy so that I have some hope.

January 2010:
This is the "letter" I mentioned. It's more of an outline, but I delivered it nearly verbatim:

I Don't want: To make you feel defensive or upset.

I Do want:
• To make this safe for you.
• To let you know that, while our relationship is generally sound (and I’m not going anywhere) - we are not meeting my needs for affection and sexual fulfillment.
• To tell you that this is not about “getting off”. I can do that myself. This is about maintaining an emotional connection with you in a way that I committed to have only with you.

We have very limited affection (brief kissing, hugging, and holding hands). Prolonged affection is generally only out in public. I've assumed that this is because it's the least likely to lead to sex. I’ve done my best to curtail anything that would seem to be a sexual advance in hopes that that we could have “safe” affection at home. We’ve made some headway with this recently, and I believe we talk more when we’re snuggled up on the couch as a result.

We have very limited sex in terms of frequency, repertoire, response, duration, and conditions under which it could occur. It seems to me like there are more constraints than there used to be, and that you are less present when we do have sex. I find myself torn between giving up on sex, and knowing that to do so would not be healthy for our marriage.
I struggle to remain connected and emotionally available when these needs are not met. People can and do exist without sex and affection, but generally not married people at our stage of life.

• To have more affection for each other without fear that it will lead to pressure to have sex.
• To have a light-hearted, playful, relaxing sex life that is safe to discuss.
• To learn what my role is in this process.
• To discover if I am not meeting your needs.

It's interesting to look at this again. I've since moved from frustration to sadness. I'm sad for her, for me, for us. I compartmentalize very effectively, but reading all these forums has kept my thoughts on abuse. I believed I had emerged mostly unscathed from my childhood. Now I can see that, while I'm doing very well overall, I've been on the same flight path as many other people who had a similar upbringing.

Currently I'm rethinking my earlier belief that I'm always the little boy who can never get enough affection. Now I'm seeing that this is only partially true - I truly don't get enough because I have been accepting of partners who have been unable to provide the...customary amount. Jan 2010

I'm the fixer, the rock. I think sometimes my wife feels I'm too even-keeled and that she is always the weak one - the "identified patient". I initially accepted individual sessions for support and to be able to express the things that I really shouldn't say in our couple's sessions yet. As we move past the anger, I'm finding I'm using the support for sadness.

Though it appears that the lack of sex drives the search for change, I see it a little differently. I see it like a car that has been losing bolts and small parts for years, but still runs. We get busy and don't really notice the smaller things. One day a door falls off, and then we have to deal with it. Looking back I can see all the small things that were lost, but it wasn't until intimacy overall stopped happening that I knew we had a serious and lasting problem. I look forward to any sort of safe contact.

Thinking about cheating is probably natural, but that's not me and I know it wouldn't result in what I actually want and need.
Jan 2010
We snuggled up on the couch with the TV tonight, which is our only safe contact now. She fell asleep, which is nice as it indicates she's feeling safe. Eventually I gently woke her up because it was late for her. She simply said "Good night." and headed off to get ready for bed. Typically there's a hug and kiss, but not tonight. I'm opting to go with the idea that she's just overtired and forgot... and we do have a lot going on. It's just that we have so little affection right now that a missed opportunity takes on a disproportionate significance.

Addendum: We had a few minutes to talk this morning before we got the kids up. The topic was how tired we are, so I went with something along the lines of "Ya, you were so tired last night you didn't even kiss me good night." She agreed that she was a zombie and just fell into bed. No big deal.
Feb 2010
I'm feeling great tonight after a really great therapy session as a couple. She was present the whole time, able to share so much, so coherently, and was able to accept my comfort. She was amazing, so courageous. I had hoped we would get to this point, but never imagined we'd get here so soon. I know that it won't always be like tonight, but it makes me believe that we WILL get through this and move on to something better.

It is probably important to note that my wife's surge of progress was after a difficult week of feeling bad, feeling a lump in her throat, feeling stuck in therapy, being tired, and feeling moody. She had also felt somewhat exposed at work because her coworkers could see she had been upset. Last week our therapist had actually offered the thought that sometimes pauses herald progress, and she was certainly right this time.
Feb 2010
This morning I could tell she was awake and mulling something over. She was very still, her breathing very shallow and quiet with the occasional larger breath - almost a sigh. I snuggled up to her, but there was little movement to acknowledge me. Then she was eager to hop out of bed and start the day. She's still distant and says she's irritable (in truth, she's managing the irritability rather well).

I get it - she was done with her thoughts and it's best to get up and get moving through a normal routine. It may come to pass that whatever she's mulling over will come out next week and could be quite helpful. It has me down for the moment though. It's hard to feel vulnerable again, but putting my guard up won't help us.

Feb 2010

I was right - a new memory has been unearthed. We have both been out of sorts today and opted to go to a favorite neighborhood restaurant in lieu of making an actual decision for our date night. My wife made it most of the way through dinner, and then it clearly became too much and we left. She told me a bit of the memory, and I can extrapolate from there. We both cried a bit. Crying's new for me. I'm working on capturing what exactly gets me to cry - obviously the situation warrants sadness, but what thought exactly? There's so much welled up it's hard for me to say. She was concerned for me, but I told her that I've dropped my defenses and she may not protect me. "All" I ask is that she allow me to support and comfort her, to stick with me. She said that would mean she needs to stick with herself.

Feb 2010
My wife is remembering and sharing a lot with me right now. I'm both proud of her strength and deeply saddened. I don't know what to do either. I listen, I hold her if she'll let me (more now than before), I cry a bit recently, and I let her know that the news doesn't change how I feel about her. I don't think she believes that last bit, but it's true. Mostly I think "I wish I had known how that makes her feel years ago". Is that the right thing? It seems like it is for now. I've come a long way from the guy who was just trying to get his sex life back. Now I see how many other ways SA has been a barrier to my wife's happiness and well-being. I'd still like to have physical intimacy again, but that's not The Goal anymore.

Feb 2010
I've been unsure about showing emotion. It's safe enough in therapy because the therapist is able to help my wife see what I'm feeling and why. I sense that being sad is appropriate and okay, but I worry.
I've been telling her that the memories don't change how I feel about her.

Feb 2010

The image my wife shared with me the other day is in my head. Resignation. Devalued. Vulnerable. Couple's therapy tonight. I feel that my wife wants to share the image again, but fears it too. I don't think she realizes how much I was able to extrapolate from what she gave me already.

**Triggers - SA, Rape, Mature Sexual Content**

(Later) She actually had me tell it, which is sort of a mixed bag. She trusts me to speak it, but I worry I'll get the wording wrong or color it with something that was unsaid. We do move faster this way - the memory gets spoken with no chance of her getting stuck before it is said. I hate writing this because I know there's so much shame attached for her. The image indicated that she was probably "loaned" to a stranger for sex. This is not a revelation, but the physical position and the fact that the location was possibly not a private residence add an even more demeaning quality. Worse, she is concerned that I might be angry with her because she had sex with strangers but won't have sex with me. She's not yet able to recognize that she was a young child then, that these people committed sexual acts upon her, and that there was a clear difference in power. There probably were times with her stepfather or other abuser when she enjoyed the closeness, was aroused, or had an orgasm - but these things do not bring what happened anywhere near the actions of an adult who consented with full knowledge and equal power. She was a child. I did tell her that sharing her memories with me does not change who she is, and that I love her. I'm angry at all the people who did this, knew, or should have known. I'm clearly depressed. I'll work out in a few minutes because that always helps, then bed. I have an individual session tomorrow.

She was prostituted by her stepfather, who repeatedly raped her and I assume trained her to pleasure others. She was in elementary school. All the while he was her most present and functional parent. What a terrible position to put a child in. This is a time of duality for us. I want to hold her, but don't want to trigger her (and I think she feels unholdable - dirty perhaps), I want her to have privacy and not have me look at her when she's unclothed because I know she feels objectified, but doing so make her think I am repulsed by her body. I want to talk to her and keep clarifying how I feel about her, trying to dispel what she believes I feel - but we need to put it back in the box so we can function.

How can she even look at me and not be repulsed? Can she? I try to find comfort in the idea that there was a time, before the memories returned, when I wasn't repulsive and she wasn't just enduring. My shame at focusing on the loss of sex is compounded by knowing what I know now. But I didn't know then and I'll have to cut myself a break. I'm glad I know. At least I don't feel rejected. Everything I've said previously about wanting sex again someday is still true, but it's sort of the least of my thoughts for now. My wife has given me the gift of trust, of knowledge, of having the opportunity to try to understand. I think that many Loved Ones will never get this far because it's so hard all around - and I'm not done. We're not done. I still have hope...but now it's just for a better life than when we started this.
**End Triggers**

Feb 2010
I think my wife was ready to start healing, but she needed me to show up with my emotions ready so we could work together. ALL of the emotions, not just the "strong" ones.

Regarding touch, I've taken to asking if a particular touch is okay, and making no assumptions that what was okay last month would be okay now. I'm also trying to be aware of what sort of touch might have been involved with the most recent memories. She's been able to tell me a few times when something would not be okay, which I do appreciate. It's better to be told than to feel rejected by a flinch or a "freeze".

It's very easy for me right now to completely vilify her stepfather and to believe that their every contact was a frightening trauma, but I know children can and must adapt to get their basic needs met. There must have been moments of pride, closeness, love (hard to type that here), tenderness... These feelings may have been eclipsed later as she realized how he had betrayed her, but they were probably there. (*new thought: sexual behavior between them may have been "special", and what about when he gave her to others? Another betrayal and another implication for our relationship and the idea that maybe it's not real and will one day fall apart?*) And they were reasonable, given her situation. I really have to sit with this, because I think that both of us acknowledging positive feelings for her abuser will be another important hurdle for us.

Feb 2010
My mind has been blown wide-open with the understanding that her stepdad was not a terrifying monster to her all the time. I'm having to reshuffle lots of assumptions.
Feb 2010

need to realize that my wife very likely had positive feelings for her stepfather, considering the situation she was in. I think it has to be part of the story because I think that the good feelings worsen the feelings of betrayal. In our couple's session I expressed that things had been done to her and she had no say in the matter, but the therapist introduced the idea that even if my wife was sometimes a willing participant, it was still wrong of her stepfather to take advantage. I think she may feel she had more choice than she actually did, and that she was a willing participant in something that she later learned was bad - and is therefore also bad, shameful, and has no reason to complain. At one point when we got near this idea, she said "Everyone has their price" - as if a child could understand the price yet. It's like trying to buy something in a country with different money and being cheated because you didn't know the value of the currency. She could see how any other child would be blameless, but has been unable to forgive herself. Fortunately (for him) we do not have contact with the stepfather. I don't know where he is, and I don't think my wife does either. He may have left the country. He is not on the national registry of sex offenders.

I told her the other night about how sex is no longer my focus. I think it was confusing for her. She said "I'm not even sure why we're doing this now. What are we trying to achieve now?" I don't think she's able to see how SA has hobbled us all along, and her own discomfort is not reason enough to open this can of worms.

Feb 2010
I'm revising my foreign country analogy. I'm a child who has woken up starving in a foreign country. My only possession is a piece of unfamiliar currency. I go to the only store in the area and I ask for a little food because I am starving. I hand over the money. The clerk takes pity on me, gives me the little food I had asked for and then throws in a little extra. I am so grateful and go on my way, happy that I won't be hungry today. Later, I find out that I had given the clerk enough money to have fed me for a week. And everyone in the store knew. They did nothing. I see them looking at me when I walk down the street.

I've been thinking about why I'm not pissed about my sex life right now. Some of it, as I've said, is that some of the emotional intimacy is back. I've realized that another big piece is that I no longer feel rejected. It's very clear to me now exactly why sex has become difficult as these memories are shared. I can't imagine being physically intimate unless these memories lose their potency. I hope they do for all sorts of reasons.

My wife struggled to sleep the past few days and also had to work. The sleep issue is related to something she experienced in EMDR - she was temporarily unable to move. It sounded very similar to sleep paralysis to me, but it really upset her and made it difficult to fall asleep at night. She hadn't shared this with me before, but I think that this is not what I was feeling on the horizon earlier.

We're in a bad spot right now. We can handle anything together, but this thing really works to divide us. She's feeling so bad that really nothing I express to her is responded to on more than a superficial level. It's like dropping a coin into a dark well and never hearing a splash. I'm choosing to keep "dropping coins" anyway, as long as I can manage it. There's so much guilt there, and a sense (this would be my own sense - she hasn't said and I don't know for sure that she feels this) that the nature of her abuse is more shameful than others. It's hard for me to know that my love was mistreated.

I realized that it's probably been about 8 months without physical intimacy. I'm not particularly upset about it right now, given everything that we're faced with right now. Knowing more about the abuse, though it haunts me, goes a long way toward helping me to understand and accept our current state of affairs. Make no mistake: if I didn't know or we weren't doing something about this then I would be frustrated.

It's the emotional intimacy I'm missing at a time like this. I made and wrote in a nice card, I said (and meant) some very positive things about the past year...but my efforts were only minimally returned. It was like she could only go so far and then would stop at some invisible boundary. It makes me feel awkward, like we're unequal and I'm trying too hard.

I asked her if one of the things holding her back is the thought that there might not be a 14th or 15th year, because I have every intention of sticking around and working through this. She said she was working to believe that. I guess that will have to do.

Mar 2010
We left our couple's session early today at my wife's request. There was some talk that sounded like quitting therapy, but she later said she wasn't quitting. Talk of decreasing visits instead of quitting actually seemed to piss her off, like we were giving up on her instead of trying to be supportive. I think we'll be attending as per our schedule, but it was tense.

***Triggers-SA, rape***

One big problem is that she's having trouble getting to sleep - the images of strangers raping her as a 10 year-old child come to her as she's about to fall asleep. She usually goes to bed at a different time than I do, so I suggested that I go to bed at the same time and that she could fall asleep as easily as she does with me on the couch. She has politely declined a few times, but today I got the distinct impression that she actually does not want me to do that. I think there's something about shame, or of protecting me. I asked, but she said she didn't know exactly. We left the session early after that. I hope it will be for the best.
**End Triggers**

Affection is in short supply. I kiss or hug her sometimes and get nothing back. This morning she actually thanked me instead of returning a kiss. It's hard to initiate affection knowing that there's a fair chance that it won't really be received or reciprocated.

My wife and I are hanging on. I think we're on the cusp of another jump forward, but are stuck sitting on a lot of stuff because our insurance company is being difficult. They've stopped authorizing visits and have limited my wife's EMDR sessions to less than an hour (which is not terribly useful given her complex PTSD - it takes longer to wrap up). Apparently the reviewer feels that EMDR could be harmful here. Luckily, the insurance company's website differs from that opinion, as does pretty much all of the literature. We've also engaged the help of a sympathetic psychiatrist who is willing to help us fight this fight. Honestly, we just want to do this thing without having to hold back in fear of losing coverage and being without support. If they could just let us do our thing for 6 months I think we could get the biggest stuff out of the way - we're that motivated. We could pay out of pocket for a little while, but my wife is having none of that so far. We'll see how the next 2 weeks pan out for the case reviews.

April 2010
Our EMDR therapist suggested that she could slow down if she wanted to. I supported that idea. My wife became really pissed at both of us, apparently for "giving up" and said she would not slow down or take a break. Be that as it may, you may be right. One way or another, there will be a break. I've made it clear that I would like her to continue with EMDR on a private-pay basis - that I don't see the value of savings if we're not happy. I'm striving to leave it alone and let the rest of the support system step in. I believe it is very possible to push too hard and make this about me, to our detriment.

I've been worried about this since the beginning, as I've said to many of the Loved Ones around here. The loss of insurance coverage was not her choice, but she is making a choice not to go private-pay. I am trying to be mindful that this is about always having to pay in some way for what she should simply have been given, and about not being believed, and about being in control of her treatment, about concerns over financial responsibility, about her feeling like she's not worth it, and perhaps about needing a break.

This in mind, my wife has agreed to return to EMDR treatment. MY hope is that the insurance company will provide some additional coverage, and that my PTO will protect against any future lapses without any real hardship. What a relief! I was getting pretty worried about our marriage and her safety.

May 2010
Things are grinding to a start for me. My wife is back in EMDR and we've been able to discuss a lot of what went on with her resistance to returning to it when our insurance balked. I believe she will continue on a private pay basis while we do battle with the insurance company, but things may change if/when we lose the appeals.

She has come clean that she was suicidal with plan when EMDR and our therapies were abruptly pulled. This was a bit unsettling because I didn't know she had a plan. I have ample cause for insurance grievance and review, but it won't be helpful if my wife is dead.

I'm still seeing the same therapist on a private pay basis while I appeal the decision that I must seek a separate therapist. The insurance case manager had suggested the current arrangement, and I'm not going to be uprooted if I can help it. Ultimately it will cost the insurance company less if they'd leave it alone. I could trial a bunch of therapists before I found a fit, and then I'd waste time tying to get her/him up to speed. I also found a workshop for loved one in my area - I hope I'll gain something from it.

I may have gotten close to this thought before: I used to think that sex was the only thing that kept me close to my wife, but now I realize that she was really only physically affectionate once she had decided we were to have sex. Any other time she feared that affection would lead to sex. It was the daily lack of affection that was really weighing on me. Now that we have a moratorium on sex, the affection is greater than it has been for a few years. I like it. I do miss the sex, but now is not the time.

On the positive side, my efforts to get us back on the therapeutic track have been successful. Also positive is that my wife was able to be present throughout the session.

On the negative side, my efforts to get us back on the therapeutic track have been successful. Tonight we dealt with physical boundaries. One was that my wife stated that I grabbed her hand and told her I just wanted to be hugged. Perhaps she didn't say "grabbed", but that is my recollection. The thing is, I don't recall that at all, and I certainly don't approve of that behavior. I didn't bother to argue or clarify - I will simply avoid doing anything like that in the future. There's no need to make her wrong when the message is clear enough. Don't do it. Okay. The other thing is the boundary of nudity when changing clothes. On one hand, she has noticed in the past that I have been leaving the room or have been otherwise avoidant when she is changing. She's told me that I don't have to leave or hide, so I've been staying. But what to do with my eyes? I think my wife is beautiful, so I certainly don't mind seeing her, but I don't want her to feel uncomfortable. Tonight I asked if she does feel uncomfortable with me there after all, and eventually she stated that she does. I do appreciate that she told me, but both issues shake my confidence in my understanding of the boundaries.

I'm annoyed, too, because (I think - I'm still working on this) she really didn't/couldn't give me anything to work with. I wanted to know what I can do, or what I should avoid, to make her more comfortable. She said "Nothing - it's just me." Unfortunately that leaves me rather ignorant and prone to cause her discomfort again. I hate that. It's a real answer, but I could do with some instructions here. And really, it's got to be more than just her to make this work. My solution, for now, is to find something to do elsewhere well before and after there is any disrobing.

May 2010
My wife doesn't really know what she wants or needs from one day to the next. Part is the sa, part is the EMDR moving her through the cycle of dealing with one set of memories and dealing with the next batch. I know there will be cycles, but they are tough to face - particularly when we move from a peak to a valley. It was interesting that you mentioned the writhing snakes - we have the very same ones here.

I don't actually recall the grabbing/hugging incident at all. I started down the road of trying to pinpoint the what/when/where of it, but I realized that it might seem defensive. Anyway it was belaboring a point that was pretty clear: don't do anything like that until further notice. If she perceives something like that again, perhaps she'll be willing to point it out in the moment. I agree, there was something there that was intimidating. I placed a moratorium on sex a little over a year ago and have stuck to it, so intellectually she would know that I wouldn't mean more, but perhaps there was a trigger or distortion in play. I don't know if her abuse started out with hugging - the specifics are a little too much for her to tell me for now.

I adore my wife, and she's worth everything I can do to help us through this.

A few things have happened for me since around that time.

One is that I have become far less anxious. My wife was not completely aware how anxious I was, assuming I was angry at her or resistant when I was actually covering my anxiety. I was sometimes paralyzed by indecision, and I was overwhelmed about going on vacation - let alone planning one. I was also worried about disapproval from my wife, who I viewed as somewhat rigid about the way things should be done.

Another thing that happened is that things became too much for my wife. I've described earlier in this thread how our relationship quietly unraveled, but she was also having trouble with day-to-day things. Her pain was slowly taking over, and neither of us could ignore it anymore. I was moved to action first.

The last important step is that I finally agreed to individual therapy as an adjunct to our couples therapy. She had suggested I go to therapy before, but I felt like I was being off to accept the status quo and I wasn't having it. Once we got down to business in couples therapy I knew I needed support. I began to explore my own feelings (still working on this - I was suddenly sad in therapy this week, but unsure why.) and I began to see my role. I don't think it's just by chance that I ended up with a survivor - there was an affinity or perhaps a need in play (don't get me wrong: my wife is an incredible person and totally worth every bit of effort I can muster). Would a woman who is emotionally available want a man like me, a man who actually has to learn and concentrate on social norms that most people are born with? How long can anyone tolerate living with an anxious spouse? Hasn't she (unknowingly) supported me through my rough times? One thing that I have found is that anger from either partner, while reasonable, is not helpful.
It's is absolutely OUR problem. We have children and we agreed that we would give them the parenting that we should have had. It's also my problem because she's the love of my life and I plan to spend the next 50+ years with her in relative comfort.

The "price" is a recurring theme in my wife's sa recovery. My wife was just saying in therapy that she'll know she's doing better when we have sex, which puzzled me. I said I'd know she was doing better when she felt better, and then we could talk about sex. She definitely feels that she is obligated, and I suspect I have subtly supported that thinking, though far less than a year ago. I could probably do better. Yes, I would love to have that part of our life back - but I would love even more to help my wife feel better. I'll be thinking about this...

In other news, we appear to have been successful in our appeal to reinstate EMDR. I say "appear" because the insurance company has been quite slippery and has not been following their own published regulations. They appear to have overturned their denial, but I sense that our victory will be short-lived. I'm pretty sure I had them on the ropes this time and they had to give in, but next time they'll probably be more careful.

I DID tell her the truth as I now understand it: that I will not leave her over the lack of sex. We've made huge strides in communication and affection, so things don't feel as dire as they once did. As long as we're still communicating and working on us together, I'm in. I still want a sex life together, and I was pleased when she told me that she wants that too.

Jul 2010
The insurance thing has been worked out and it looks like they'll let us do what we're doing for 6 months. I have to admit that that is more than reasonable.

Something new: I earned this week that my wife feels that, once she is feeling better, that she owes me a huge debt for my support - and that debt will be repaid in sex. All I can think of is how horrible that must feel right now - the dread. It's hardly worth getting better if all that were true. It all goes back to the distortion of having a price, having to pay to get one's needs met. I told her there's no debt. I'm already paid in personal growth, a closer relationship with my wife, and in seeing her begin to feel better about herself. She still can't cut the little girl that was her a break. She's still stuck on the idea that she had a choice back then - when the truth was she was too young to know what was going on, and her abusers kept her disoriented in so many ways.

I also learned from her that she harbors some doubts about my statements that I will not leave her. She recalls some statements I made early on in this process. I did say that, sort of, but my perspective has changed radically since then. I'm in for the long term. To be fair, she has talked about leaving me, and about suicide. I guess the nuance is that my statement was about her, while her statements were..about her also.

Aug 2010
I recently admitted to her that I have felt that perhaps she finds my body repugnant, and I've been sort of hiding out. She told me that she does not find me repugnant, but that she finds anyone in the house in any state of undress to be anxiety-provoking. It makes sense. Without discussing it further, I've noticed that we are both trying to normalize being undressed near each other when changing or around bathing. It's a bit awkward because she's so beautiful that I want to look at her, but I'm also acutely aware that it would make her uncomfortable...as would avoiding looking at her. We'll work it out.

I've mentioned that our couple's therapist also does my wife's EMDR and has an individual session with me. You all can make what you like of that, but it works well for now. This week I asked the therapist where she thought my wife (and I) are along the continuum of recovery - at least the more acute phase. I was not pleased to hear 1/3 to maybe 1/2 way along. We've been at this mostly full-throttle for about 14 months. Still, I sense that it is true. I know we aren't halfway there...whatever "there" will look like. I guess "nearly half" will do, and who's to say that the other half will take as long or be as difficult all the time? We've made it this far, and we're the better for it.

We've embarked on a plan to sell our house and move to a neighboring city. It's a quality of life move ultimately, but for now it's insanely stressful to prepare a house for market. Crazy, right? But then again, it provides a distraction, gives us something to look forward too, and allows us to function as the unstoppable partners that we have always been. Our current home is not yet sold, so we're not halfway done with that either. She can't do as much to help as she used to, so I'm shouldering quite a burden. I'm not resentful though - she's doing some big work that I can't do for her. I know she feels guilty that she isn't helping more. I appreciate the thought, but it really is okay. I really want to look forward to a new house though - the strain is wearing me down and I could really use a short-term goal to focus on.

Aug 2010
I have a great deal of shame about this, but I'll go ahead and get it down in the hopes that it will help somebody:

***triggers-mature sexual content***

My wife was looking for something in our computer's recycling bin last week. She found some pornographic images that I had deleted several months ago, but had failed to fully delete. She was quite upset, but sat on it a few days. It continued to bother her until she couldn't stand it anymore, so she told me. In a restaurant. We were there celebrating my birthday - hadn't even finished our meal. Luckily, we were alone. She's had difficulty in telling me exactly why it upset her so much. There's the obvious reasons that any woman might cite, some idea that she may have been connected to porn in the past, and some thought that this would not have happened if she were a "good wife". And something triggering that led her to panic then, and again in our couple's therapy. It's something too big for her to handle all at once.

I feel horrible that my actions led to triggering her. Also sad, ashamed, exposed, embarrassed, resentful... I could go on. So yes, I do look at images. I don't think an explanation is in order (to you, gentle reader), nor an excuse. My own sexuality is so cumbersome now. Most images are upsetting to me in terms of how women are portrayed or treated. Sometimes things that were okay before are truly repugnant now...some of you know all to well how that is. The ones my wife saw seemed fairly "safe" to me. I don't think she actually saw more than a thumbnail size - but that was more than enough. I understand that people with "normal" sex lives look at porn, so I'm not convinced that our sex life has led to this. Now I'm all conflicted over it. I can't really fantasize about her right now - the reality of our work in therapy is just too close. Fantasizing about somebody I know feels tantamount to cheating. I was trying to deal with my own needs without involving her...or anyone else. That's where the resentment comes in, like I've been painted into a corner, and now they want to paint the corner.

We're working on it. My shame will eventually fade as we work on whatever the memories associated with the trigger are. One day we'll be able to enjoy birthdays and houses selling. These should have been a great last few days, but there's such a pall over everything right now.

Aug 2010
Things are still tough. I'm feeling less ashamed as I recognize that I really didn't do anything wrong. I still hate that I had a hand in a triggering event, but I'll have to get over that at some point. There will be triggers, I will avoid them as best I can, but I can't get all freaked out when something inevitably crops up. With that though I am moving through some resentment.

I realized that I'm feeling now the way I did back when I wrote the letter to my wife. After more than a year with sex out of the picture, it's much clearer: I feel alone, uncared for, adrift. We are existing in tandem. I know that this is normal for the healing process, but I wasn't expecting such a low. It may be artificially low, given the sheer magnitude of external stressors we've had recently. I guess the difference is that I have hope this time, and we have more safety than we did before.

Sept 2010
This thing we've uncovered is big. Too big to understand, or speak of yet. It is smothering us like a thick blanket of despair. I continue to feel guilty, but I also see that the situation is way out of proportion with what I did. I've inadvertently awakened a giant. We would have encountered it anyway, but I wish we could have chosen the time.

She's angry - at everything. She's also passively suicidal - at least I think it's passive at this point. She feels so bad that she is unable to recognize the progress that we have been making. She said "It's like being on a path that turns black behind me, and disappears. I can't remember where I've just been. And the path is on fire. I can either disappear into the darkness, or walk through the fire." She said she wishes she could make it end, but she stupidly made too many important commitments. I can't really do more than I'm already doing for her. I would do anything, mind you, but there's nothing more to do. Our EMDR/couples therapist is going to be on vacation soon, so I think that the work will be to find safety for now.
**End Triggers**

This should be a happy time - we've sold our house and our offer on the next house was accepted. I've come so close to saying "If you're going to leave me, this would be the time." but that would be a horrible thing to say - especially now. I suspect she might say the same to me, and I have no intention of leaving. This is hard, but I believe life is better with her than without. I know she would disagree, but that's what this is all about...right?

I'm just going to put this out there: since I mentioned the pornography thing, none of the usual sas folks have commented at all. Perhaps this is a coincidence, but perhaps not. I wonder if you are disappointed or angry with me. I certainly feel like I deserve it. I hope that you will post if so - I think I could understand better if you would. Don't worry, I'm strong and I can take it.
Last edited by Aspen on Mon May 07, 2012 9:09 pm, edited 5 times in total.
Reason: Per our guidelines, added and edited trigger warnings
the husband
Posts: 521
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:11 am

Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by the husband »

Sept 2010
The thing that brought my wife around was my willingness to do the work to fix myself. She's been the identified patient for too long, and when I started participating in my own treatment, there was a major shift. As I see it, I have to get healthy for any eventuality. If she does leave me, or this mortal coil, I'm going to need to be healthy for my kids and my future. I don't think it will ever come to that, but why not get my sh*t together now?

Her abuse began at an early age and continued for many years - she never had a chance to develop her own sexuality. It was always a commodity. I once thought that we had a healthy sex life to get back to, but I am learning that we probably never did. I don't really believe that sex will ever be wonderful for her, but I do hope it can be mostly safe and a way to stay bonded. I was just scratching and massaging her back this morning and realizing how close I felt to her, probably due to the skin-to-skin contact.

I'm so glad we lost out on another house we bid on. My wife made a seemingly off-hand comment that a paneled room looked like someplace where you would shoot kiddie-porn. Not just porn, but kiddie-porn. That really resonated with me, and later seemed to take on more significance. The house isn't far from where she grew up, either. I hope that she will feel secure in our new digs.

She does not seem suicidal now, and I have not asked. Our work together has been slower while she works through this latest thing, bu she isn't getting stuck in couple's therapy. I think she has been grinding down the trigger in EMDR. The therapist is going on vacation, so we're kind of putting things back in the box for the interim.

Nov 2010

My wife is preparing to tell her father of origin about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather and mother. Her father is worthy of some of the blame because he lived nearby, seemed quite disinterested, and knowingly left his daughter in the hands of a crazy mother and a slime-ball stepfather. I think he has an inkling of what is coming, because I tried to get him involved a few years ago, but I'm afraid he's going to be too defensive to respond in any valuable way. My wife seems to know this and is going through with it mostly to get it done. The current plan is that I will be there to attempt to mediate. I am professionally experienced in this role, but there is obvious bias in play here. Before this occurs, she will be speaking with a sibling who she knows was also abused. She feels she has to because she will be exposing some shared experience and wants her sibling to know ahead of time so that she won't be caught off-guard if he approaches her about it. Perhaps there's some fantasy that the two of them will meet with their father together, or simply that her sibling will discuss the abuse with her - something she has been unwilling to do. This will be a time of upheaval, but there's no denying the progress that has allowed my wife to get to this point. I'm more proud than worried. I feel a little safer knowing that the anti-depressant is working for her.

She did talk to her sister. On the good side, her sister verified what had happened to them. I don't really think there should have been any question in anyone's mind, but I do understand that denial, self doubt, old messages, and the wish that it wasn't true are all in play. On the bad side, her sister claimed that she's over it/it happened a long time ago/she never thinks of it/why are you letting this bother you now/what do you want?/why bring it up?/nobody is to blame/if you blame everyone you'll have nobody left/etc.. She really got my wife doubting herself and wondering why she couldn't be strong like her sister. Except, her sister is living a lie. Her life is deeply impacted as evidenced by the choices she makes for herself and her children. I was initially angry that she admonished my wife instead of nurturing her in some way, but now I just see that she was scared. I think my wife will take some time to rejuvenate, and then she'll deal with her dad.

Dec 2010

I keep meaning to mention something I learned during this episode: overreacting in defense of my wife in the past has led to her feeling that she has to be careful what she tells me, otherwise I might "needlessly" complicate matters. THIS time I was careful just to listen and be supportive. I didn't say anything negative about her sister - in fact I brought another perspective wherein her sister's actions were kinda sad instead of offensive. I think it was a better way to go.

To be clear, my wife has not asked me not to react. I have noted that seemingly reasonable protective responses don't result in her feeling protected and secure. She instead moves to peace-keeping, or perhaps taking my anger on herself. If I were to respond to reports of her sister's behavior with something like "Wow! What a b****!", my wife would likely generalize that to herself, and/or avoid sharing such things with me in the future. She has said what she needs to say to her sister. The initial price was a feeling that her sister does not care for her and was mean. I reframed her sister's behavior to allow for the possibility that she was mean because she was frightened. The alternative for my wife is that her sister was mean because my wife is unworthy somehow. I have asked the question: "Why would a reasonable person act this way?" and have supplied a possible answer. At any rate, the sister was warned and my wife feels that she has done the right thing. The sister has been revealed as a hindrance rather than a nurturer.

The current plan is for me to mediate a meeting between my wife and her FOO. My goal is that my wife will get to say everything she wants to say. I will manage the discussion such that they both stay until she is done. I don't really care what happens with her FOO after that. I expect him to react out of defensiveness instead of concern for his daughter. She'll cut ties with him once she's done what she needs to do, if necessary.

I didn't go on a tirade about her sister, but I did gently point out all the ways her sister truly is impacted by the abuse she endured. I'm not sure her sister's life is all bad, but it is certainly a very small and sheltered life by my standards and those of my wife. I focused my comments on how the sister pushed my wife into an old and unwanted role, and how the sister did not actually fit the role of nurturing older sister that my wife had imagined for her. Because I didn't get outwardly pissed off and potentially set things in motion, I think my wife felt more supported and less anxious about the fallout.

I'm a little pissed off. It both is and is not reasonable.

For the past week or so we've been very busy. So busy that our usual communication has suffered. I've put it down to the holidays up until the past day or two, but it started to feel very familiar when we hosted a dinner party. Things that she had taken on were left undone, and she didn't tell me about other things she had done. I began to have that sinking feeling that we were no longer on the same page - and I had no idea what was going on.

We had couple's therapy tonight. I was worried we'd be mired in small talk, but she came right out and said our communication had been suffering and that she had been trying to deal with issues on her own. I kind of knew, but I didn't know that she was aware of it. I was hurt, and kind of pissed. Now? After all this? On the other hand, contact with her sister has dragged her into some old roles - it's understandable that she would revert to some of the old coping strategies. It was amazing how quickly her sister knocked her off her game. I believe it will be temporary, but it is shocking how easily our family or origin can do that to us. When my father uses that threatening tone in his voice, I still have an almost reflexive shudder. On her behalf - I understand. On my behalf - I reserve the right to be pissed for the moment.

Wrapped up in this is my own shame. I had been feeling needy - reaching out to touch her more often, getting one more quick kiss. I was a little ashamed. Now I see that I was needy because she was absent. Who's donning old roles now, right? I must admit that tonight I found myself touching her and was getting no response (no snuggling up, no hand over mine, etc.) so I stopped reaching out. She fell asleep, I think, while I was caressing her face tonight. Normally I would kiss her once more before leaving the room (I stay up later than she does) but instead I just left. I don't know if she was awake or noticed - but I confess it was an angry gesture. What am I? 5? No matter - I'm just feeling the feelings for the moment, which is something I have not been doing enough. My individual therapy is tomorrow and it looks like I have things to talk about.

My wife emailed her Father Of Origin (FOO) the other day. He's a techie, so email is his medium of choice. She laid it out for him with just enough detail so as not to leave her feeling exposed and just enough restraint in letting him know how he enabled her abuse so as not to destroy any possibility of dialogue. She showed me before she sent it and asked for my feedback. It was nearly perfect and I simply helped her fix some grammar issues and hone it down to just what she wanted. That was late Thursday. He has yet to reply, despite the fact that he surely got it and , being retired, has plenty of time to respond.

Tonight she emailed his wife in reply to her prior questions about what gifts our kids want. They haven't actually seen our kids in a year, despite living nearby. She said the kids don't need anything, but offered suggestions. She also said that she would not stand in the way of them maintaining (I thought that was kind, given there is nothing to maintain really) or developing a relationship with our kids, but that her relationship with her FOO and wife would depend on their response to her earlier email. I like it because they cannot now pretend that one didn't tell the other, or some such nonsense. It also puts the ball entirely in their court.

We fully expect them to pretend nothing happened. Another likely alternative is that they will entirely botch it and become all defensive. I once tried to help her father through this, but it is clear that his heart is not in it. He wants companionship and to be cared for - but he didn't provide that to his children, did he?

My wife's FOO responded to her email on Monday. His response was in the Option #2 category: he became all defensive - but seemingly in response to things that my wife did not even imply. At one point in his email he was vehemently denying that he ever took credit for her achievements - but nobody ever said he did! Weird. He did not acknowledge her statement that he had some responsibility in what happened to her, and in fact did not seem to be responding to her letter except where he quoted a phrase or two. My favorite part was when he wrote "I know you are hurt and upset - because you said so." What is THAT?!?! Wow, he's the next Oprah or something. He was supposed to be the "good" parent, but I guess we were starting to see that he wasn't so good after all. He got to be the good parent relative to the identified problem: crazy mom, and her new husband the slime-ball. Overall he was absent, uncaring, dismissive, self-centered, and now entitled. I could go on and on about his letter and we could all be shocked and appalled together, but the point is that he was finally exposed for everyone to see in print.

My wife feels that a response is in order, mostly to say that she put forth her best effort toward resolution with him, but he does not appear to be participating - so he needn't initiate further contact with her. She does want to leave room for the possibility that he can have a relationship with our kids. I was not thrilled by this, but it's probably a non-issue given that they live 20 minutes away and have not seen the kids in a year.

I'm not sure (yet) how much pain my wife's FOO and stepmother deliberately cause - but they are INCREDIBLY narcissistic.

He responded to my wife's email to her stepmother (separate email address, but I guess she forwarded it to him for handling) and, as predicted, he declined to have a relationship with the kids. Of course he tried to make it my wife's responsibility and made it sound as if we were after free babysitting (they've never spent ANY time with our kids without us in 10+ years., and NOW we're going to start? I don't think so.) . It seems so abusive: "Okay you've lost your father and stepmother, and now you are causing your kids to lose their grandparents - don't you think you should give up on this nonsense now?" he seems to say.

My wife has been working on a reply to his past email. She's on to something. He says he's available if she wants to tell him, but he never says he wants to listen, or converse, or talk. Tonight she pointed out (to me) that she HAS been talking to him - but he's not ready to listen. It's an excellent point. Time to put it back to him: She'll talk more when he's ready to listen.

Jan 2010

The work has begun again, now that the holidays are over.

My wife has not yet responded to her father's recent email. There's no real rush, since nothing will change. There will be a wait, probably mimicking the amount of time she waited, and then he'll try to dump the issue back on her.

The big news is that she told me in our couple's session last week that she hasn't forgotten about working on our physical intimacy. I told her, essentially, that I would like that too - when the time is right for her. I was pleased that she was still thinking of it, but not sure that she meant we would work on it any time soon. We started talking about it during this week's session. We couldn't focus on it for very long as it got too overwhelming for her. We did agree that it was a scary topic for both of us, and that we didn't know where to start. We also agreed that we probably had already started by discussing that much. My wife seemed like she was wanting to know if there was something she should be doing physically to start, so the therapist asked her what she thought the first physical step might be. That's when she became overwhelmed. The therapist directed us back to things that are going well between us (of which there are many).

She did say that one thought she keeps coming back to is "You don't do THAT with someone you love". I get that. I told her I even told somebody else that here the other day. It really is a difficult position. I know she never had a chance to develop positive sexual attitudes and behavior, and that sexual behavior is scary, humiliating, shameful, etc. for her. I have developed positive sexual attitudes and behavior and I strongly associate sexual intimacy with feelings of closeness and love. For awhile, we had that together, but that seems to be irrevocably lost. Or is it? Perhaps we can regain something that works for both of us. I really want to be able to say "You know what? f- it. We haven't had any sexual contact in nearly two years and clearly I can live without it. Let's just forget about sex, okay?" I want that to be totally true, but it isn't. At least not yet. Maybe I'll lose interest in sex as I get older. Maybe she'll learn to be more affectionate in other (non-sexual) ways and I won't crave contact as much. If she could casually touch me more often, or kiss me for more than a half-second... As it is, there's a very real barrier that we work around. I love her like crazy, and I hate that barrier that continues to separate us.

We heard from my wife's father today. An email. He was expressing disappointment that she had not yet responded to his earlier email. He seems to think that she should have done if by the new year. There was some revisionism in that he now seems to be asking if she gave any thought to going to counseling together - but before it sounded like he would accompany her to a counselor. Perhaps the difference is subtle, but it supports his many implications that this is her problem. He states he misses us, which is odd because he hasn't seen the kids in a year.

I think she's grinding away at our issue in EMDR, but we won't have a chance to talk about it for awhile due to our schedules. We're still strong though.

We had a therapy disaster this week.

On Monday we had a couple's session. My wife shared that she had looked up her abuser on website that aggregates information from the web and sells it. She went there to opt out of the service at the advice of a friend and was shocked to see how much information there was on people for free, and then gave in to the temptation to look up her abuser. He apparently still lives nearby, actually quite close to the house they lived in. We didn't know this and assumed he was out of state.

She had already been feeling unease because she was contemplating sharing more details that she had recalled from her childhood abuse, and those old "don't tell or else" messages were gnawing at her. The thought that he might be nearby was more fuel to the fire. She began feeling like he might be watching her, ready to harm me or the kids. It wasn't a rational fear, in my opinion, but certainly a reasonable one given the situation. The therapist asked if my wife was considering any action, now that her abuser's location was known. My wife said no, she wasn't ready to face that. The therapist then offered to make a report for my wife, which my wife declined.

Then it got weird. The therapist then sort of talked herself into the idea that perhaps she was required to report, and perhaps had been shirking her duty for some time. My wife, understandably, started to panic at the loss of control of the situation. I stayed calm, but kept clarifying what we thought we were hearing. Eventually the therapist said she wasn't sure what the reporting obligation was, that perhaps it wasn't an issue, and that she'd call us before she reported anything. I pointed out that this was not very reassuring, as that left us in a panic - just a phone call away from losing control of the situation, alerting my wife's abuser, putting my wife in a position of having to prove herself beyond doubt, and placing her back at the mercy of her family who might choose not to correlate her story. My wife likened it to poking a beehive. Remember she was already scared, so this was sending her over the top. She felt like she was being punished for looking him up, and perhaps for contemplating telling more. She wanted to end the session, but I kept after the therapist for a while and sort of guided her into expressing her anger at the therapist. By the time we got home, the therapist had called to reassure us that she had made an anonymous inquiry with CPS and was told there was no obligation to report - unless there was reason to suspect that children were currently in danger. I looked this up and found the same.

I met with the therapist for a private session the next day and calmly explained how she had truly screwed up. I expected her to be an expert in reporting regulations, and if she was unsure then she ought to have kept quiet and looked it up later. She had damaged the therapeutic relationship and had thrown us off track. What's more, she has probably caused us to waste our limited approved visits for no damn reason while this gets dealt with. Lastly, my wife may choose to end therapy with her. She was apologetic. She later told my wife that she had been ill and not on her game. Anyway, I told her I wasn't going to pay to be mad at her for an hour, and that she was still our best shot, so I accepted her apology and moved on.

My wife met with her today for an EMDR session, though there was obviously no EMDR. I was glad that she went, as she had been considering not going. It sounds like they continued to process the trust issue. I think my wife will probably continue treatment with her, but it's not a certainty. There's a whole thing about her not wanting to continue a pattern of doing things to keep the peace and placate others involved ("Like having sex with you before" she said. I was glad that she felt she could say that to me, and I already knew it was true - but it was hard to hear). I said that I thought this would be different because she actually gains from this relationship. She's thinking about it.

So,what about me? She knows that I want to continue. I am respectful that this was a major insult to her trust and safety, so obviously I can't blame her for not wanting to continue with this therapist. We do have nearly two years with her though, and we have made huge progress. My wife says she doesn't know if she can start over/again with her. So if we can't start over with somebody we know, how would starting over with a stranger be? That would certainly be a slow process, and I question whether she would try. I've been trying to stay calm, despite my fear that everything will come crashing down. I've made no threats, no plans as to what to do if she stops going, no speeches, no convincing. Right now I'm just trying to be supportive during a crisis. With luck, we'll get back on track and I won't have made any missteps that will have cost us more time. I know my feelings are important, but I don't think now's the best time to express them - particularly if things are going to work out. It's difficult not to jump in on something that has a major impact on my well-being, but I feel that this is the best course of action for now. If she chooses to stop, I don't know what I'll do. I'm not even letting myself go there, except to plan to get in to the therapist ASAP. I think that would be a free session, don't you?


Tonight we had our first couple's session following last week's disaster. We've each met with the therapist separately, but this was the first couple's session since. It didn't go well.

We've each said what we needed to say, but my wife is still very much feeling the loss of trust.It's all wrapped up with a long history of trust and betrayal, and of making decisions to placate others. All that seemed to left for her to do was to move on and to express thoughts and memories that she had been unable to speak aloud for months...in the presence of somebody who had just monumentally gone off the rails last week. She started to shut down, but did share that she was mad, and wanted to be able to just be mad. I began to intuit that what she really wanted was to stop therapy with this therapist. I asked if it would be helpful to stop EMDR and couple's therapy for an indefinite time. She agreed that it would be helpful. I understand that these are powerful thoughts and feelings for her. I can't relate, but I believe that the feelings are real and are strong.

It seems selfless, that I'm not working to get my needs met, but I think I took the long view. We've said what we needed to, but the feelings are still strong. The missing element is time. The sessions were not going to be helpful for awhile, she would be going because others expect her to "do the right thing", it would not be about her, and she would come to resent it and perhaps quit entirely. This way she gets a break and starts again, for her. At least, that's what I told myself n the way home. It was all intuition at the time.

It may have worked out for me. She told me later tonight that she was not giving up on us, but that she needed a few weeks off to do the necessary work (she has another therapist). She even suggested that we use the couple's time (and babysitting) to go out to dinner and talk.

I guess the moral of this story is to remain calm, think about the long view, and provide what is needed for the common good. This is different than constantly denying one's own needs to keep the peace.

Feb 2011

Things have been interesting. My wife has ceased her EMDR and our couple's therapy with the therapist who committed the big faux pas I described previously. We have used the time to go out together twice so far. We've talked about general stuff, and then she brings up a few important things near the end of our time alone. I think it has actually been a good compromise of slowing down but still working on us. This week's question was how I felt about going back to therapy with the aforementioned therapist. I said that felt that the therapist had helped us a great deal up until then, and that trying to forge a relationship with a new therapist would probably take longer than repairing what we had built with the existing therapist - but that would be up to her. Then she asked me when we should start. I said the sooner the better, but that I was prepared to wait a few months because I knew that she was stressed about money and might be wanting to focus on picking up extra shifts at work. She said she was surprised by this and said she was thinking a few more weeks, though she is stressed about money. She said she felt she was stagnating in her recovery (I actually disagree, she's been making extra effort to reach out to me). We tentatively agreed to restart couple's work with the therapist.

Possibly in the interest of ending the feeling of stagnation, my wife sent a new email to her father of origin (not her abuser). She's been wanting to talk to him about what happened to her, but he is so evasive and defensive about his role in the whole thing that it has been very frustrating. She had been working on the email for weeks and had run it by me and her two therapists. It was a good letter that was calm, straightforward, not blaming, and laid out what she hoped to achieve. Considering his last "reply" seemed to have nothing to do with her previous email, it was probably futile - but sending the email was really about her knowing she did everything she could (in a healthy way) to salvage a relationship. We haven't heard from him, but we did hear from his wife / her stepmother. The email was not sent to her and was not about her, but she was moved to respond. It was a sickening combination of admonishments about the "tone" of my wife's emails (which actually we're quite reasonable in tone, I felt) and vague canned "sorry to hear that happened to you, shouldn't have happened to any child" stuff that might have been merely inadequate if not for the other BS. It was more clear than ever why my wife and her sister didn't feel like they could go to these people for help when they were little. I'm pissed, but I won't involve myself there unless asked. I think it would be better not to have them in our lives anymore, and stirring the pot will just prolong the contact. They won't get the point anyway - too defensive.

The fun continues.

My wife's father of origin left me a message. He said he wanted me to help him encourage my wife to speak to him directly because emails were not working, and would I please call him. First I called my wife and discussed whether I should call, how she wanted me to answer his obvious questions, and what not to share. I pretty much knew, but we're maintaining the trust around here.

I'm glad I called him, because now I have an understanding of where he’s coming from. Sadly, he's coming from down an emotional well where insight and learning do not shine. He was angry about he had been treated. Admittedly he has no concept of the comparison between his experience and that of my wife, but he knows something bad happened. He has black and white thinking about blame - there are no degrees of blame: you are either innocent or fully guilty. He is blameless so far as he's concerned. He also has no concept of the difficulty survivors have in telling. I explained as best I could and I sent him some links to read. He couldn't understand why there were no red flags. There was a whole sea of them, but not the made-for-TV-movie variety. He got dangerously close to questioning if this all really happened, and I took him to task. And he was angry, for himself, about the failure of his marriage and loss of his family. He at least offered some insight that some of the anger he has been feeling was left over from that. I was affable enough to keep him on the line, but I didn't spare his feelings if he got off track.

I learned that he visited my wife's sister and asked if my wife had been "molested". She confirmed that my wife had, and may have said that she was too. That was something (though it would have been sisterly to give my wife a head's up), but I get the idea that he's telling himself the "molestation" wasn't severe. I wanted to tell him if he got a call with an offer for free tickets to Oprah, he might want to dress up.

I think I said what needed to be said, without sharing too much and without unnecessary anger. I doubt he'll get it, but I know I put in a good effort. He wanted to know when he could speak to my wife. I told him when he could come to her without anger, without doubt, and without defensiveness - then he could participate in real change.

I recorded my side of the conversation with him (totally legal) and was up all night converting it to a listenable format one night, and then making a written paraphrased transcript the next night. I've been exhausted and my vocabulary was shot. It was necessary to do it all right away so that my wife could go over it with her therapist.

I would be happy to do without him and the stepmother. My intent was to make sure in our own minds that we had taken reasonable steps to create a healthy relationship. My last act will be to send him a list of resources to read, and a referral to a knowledgeable therapist in his area. I'll make it clear then that the onus is on him to do the work - and not to make contact until then.

Her FOO wrote her late this afternoon. Interesting that he bypassed me this time, despite saying he appreciated my guidance.

We learn that he didn't know of the sa until a few weeks ago - which I know is not true. We discussed it in somewhat vague terms, but the content of his response made it clear that he understood. My wife says she told his wife - though perhaps my wife's experience of the event was skewed back then.

We learn that my wife is angry, despite both of us patiently explaining that she just won't maintain the facade that everything is/was fine anymore, and that she doesn't want to spend time with him if he's going to be stuck in denial and always trying t cram her in her old "angry" role. Mostly she's disappointed that he won't change.

We learn that he takes responsibility for his actions, but none of what happened was his fault.

We learn that he is seeing a therapist who is allegedly experienced in dealing with sa, and that the therapist invites her to see him with or without her FOO. Wouldn't one expect better boundaries from such a therapist?

It goes on a bit. The hell of it is that he's doing what I expected, making half-asses attempts without using the tools and information he's been given. He has no idea how bad he is at this, and how clear that his actions are still all about him right now.

My wife and I have set a date to go back to couple's therapy. Things have been okay between us, but we're not progressing as quickly as we could be with a therapist. This is the same therapist who provides the EMDR, so perhaps trust will be reestablished and that can resume as well. I think it the grand scheme of things this was a blip that happened at a time when a break was needed anyway. We've had the time and energy to tackle some other important matters unrelated to this whole business, but it's time to get back to it. I believe she has more she wants to tell me.

Not sure what we'll do about the FOO for now. I think we're agreed that he doesn't get to decide when things happen and we'll deal with him later. It's not about him, much as he believes it is.

My wife has been getting better about giving and receiving verbal expressions of affection. Recently she has been more physically affectionate. Just last night we went out and she wanted me sitting right next to her. It was very nice and cozy. I was thinking I'd share the progress here. Then it got complicated. She's feeling anxious and depressed, and maybe a little paranoid. She thought the guy sitting near us might have been her abuser for awhile. She identified that this is the sort of thing that goes on when some new thought is surfacing, or when she's processing through something and ready to go to the next level. We shall see. On the plus side, this is the sort of situation where she would normally isolate from me - so it actually IS good news in that she can seek comfort from me now.

My wife's father-of -origin was (is!) behaving as an enabler. It's almost as if he were her abuser step-father's wife and had been living in the home with them. There's the same revisionism, the same denial and fluidity, the same defiance of logic.

I disagree that there is an inflated self image...or perhaps I disagree with the term "inflated self-image". My experience is that people who present with an inflated self image are hiding a very pathetic self-image underneath and want us to buy into what they are putting forth.

Anyway, I'm not optimistic about his willingness to see where he's gone wrong and to put the work in to fix it. I would prefer he just f-off, but my wife will need to come to that decision. The point is somewhat moot for a little while...but her birthday is coming up...

Mar 2011

We return to couple's therapy next week. I know she has things to share, but I don't know if she'll feel safe enough with the therapist again.

We returned to couple's therapy tonight after a long break after an unfortunate incident with the therapist. It seems that all is forgiven, and perhaps some of the energy behind taking a break from therapy and EMDR was because it was all really becoming too much anyway.

So we're back on couples, and she'll be going back to EMDR. We'll be doing an every-other-week instead of weekly schedule for the couple's and EMDR - it was just all-consuming for her. Totally understandable as it was an ambitious and grueling pace.

She's eager to be "done" and to have her life back. I'm thinking "done" for us will mean that we'll have knocked down enough barriers and learned enough skills to continue to progress on our own. We did pretty well during the break. There will probably always be therapy of some sort for one or both of us, but probably not on this scale.

She didn't initially acknowledge to me that she needed help. She suggested that *I* get therapy (though admittedly she was already in therapy - but not working on sa directly to the best of my knowledge). I think the feelings of being unworthy have been there, but the more pressing issue was the fear of releasing all this and being unable to control it anymore, of going crazy, of being publicly shamed and rejected, of being revealed as a liar and manipulator, and so on. I do a tremendous amount of work both at home and in therapy in order to support her. I think the fact that I rolled up my sleeves, went to my own therapy, and took care of things at home so that it would be okay if she was not functional sometimes brought her around to safety.

I went to weekly therapy with the thought of "Well, if this doesn't work out, at least I'll already have my head right." My thinking was that we I chose survivors for a reason - something I need or am comfortable with. So I started to take care of myself emotionally at the therapist, and physically at the gym (because then I wouldn't have to wait to get in shape, see?). I think my wife saw something there. Maybe she saw I was working to get healthy, or that I was committed to my own therapy, or preparing for the worst. I don't know, but we're on the right path.

All that said - I'm lonely tonight. She's distant. She's a little ill and that may be part of it. Restarting therapy may be bumming her out. I feel like there's more. Sadness. We talked a bit about things that she had not revealed yet and probably would not in order to keep from damaging others. I told her I wanted her to tell me if it was something she wanted to tell me or thought I should hear. I agreed that there is a cost to the knowledge, but also a benefit in the form of understanding and support. That will have to sink in over time.

The few household responsibilities she has been handling are not getting done. I can do them, but it's just a shock to find out by accident. Could be the advent of restarting therapy, her birthday, or whatever she's been working on for awhile now. I'm to handle some year-end financial tasks she has always handled and has been more aware of. I'm apparently expected to find documentation of events I was unaware of in to-be-filed piles I did not know existed. I am less than pleased, but it will be handled soon and then I can be prepared for next time.

Tonight she asked me to rub her neck in a way that sounded a little tentative, like I might say no. I replied with something like "Have I ever refused you?" in, I thought, a tone that indicated that I was looking forward to it. She said it made her feel bad, like I just didn't want to say no and that I was too nice. I told her that I love her, massaging her makes me feel close to her, and I like it. I never refuse because I always like to do it. I might decline if I was injured, but that's about it. She seemed to accept that, but was quiet for awhile.

She definitely is overwhelmed and can't deal with what's on her plate, no doubt about it. Today she will restart EMDR and I feel like there's been something looming for months. I think she's going to take a shot at it tonight.

April 2011

Well, we're back to couple's sessions. There is indeed something big looming. I recognize where we are in the cycle. She's a little stuck, right on the brink of something that is upsetting, yet liberating once she shares it and sees that she is still valued and loved. I'm sure it will be something that is upsetting for me, and yet I will be uplifted as she breaks free of whatever it is.

One thing I keep coming back to recently is: though we DO have very rewarding safe touch - I'm nearly always the toucher. Mind you I love touching her, but I would enjoy her touching me more often. **triggers**
There is still a lot of early programming to overcome regarding her role in her abuse - that she was manipulative, provocative, or liked it in some "adult" way. The truth is that she was a child with a need to be loved and cared for, and those needs were manipulated in order to provide sexual gratification for adult criminals.

For the past 18 months or so she did not want me to touch her when she was upset in therapy. She said my arm made her back uncomfortable - but I know that old line. More recently she has been scooting closer to me, first touching at the hip and then sometimes with a leg overlapping mine. When she began crying this week, she finally leaned into me, rested her head against mine, and let me put an arm around her. It felt so good to give her comfort in the moment.

Last session was about us - and very honest. I asked about my wife's obvious discomfort with responding to my verbal and physical (non-sexual) affection. She said she knows that my verbal expression of affection should make her feel something...but it doesn't. She also said that she isn't physically attracted to anyone, me included, and that looking at bodies feels unsafe. I knew this, but it's hard to hear.

Couple's tx tonight was interesting... She put it on me to lead into a topic, so I took the lead. As I've mentioned many times, I love to touch my wife. It can be just touching her arm when we're sitting together, back massaging and scratching. She requests the scratching and massaging. So I asked her how it would be for her if she touched me more often. Predictably, she felt guilty and said she'll try harder, which is not what I was asking for. Eventually we got around to something along the lines of her initiating touch was her "job", both as a child and then somewhat as a wife. We clarified that I was talking about non-sexual touch of the type I had been providing, that I did not expect reciprocation and that I did not expect it to lead to anything sexual. We started to run out of time, so we laid it to rest for now.

Later we were hanging out in bed and she got in the "massage and scratch me" position just like always. It was nice, as always, very relaxing for us both.

**Triggers-mature sexual content**

This time, and the last time or two, she asked me to also massage her (clothed) tush. Apparently she's a bit sore from exercise recently. I have been avoiding the "underwear region" for obvious reasons, but here we are. I kept it very focused and clinical, but internally it's rather sensual for me, and she would know this. I assume that we're expanding the borders of directed safe touch, and I am expecting no more than that for now.

**End Triggers**

Her real father emailed her again. His attempts are improving, but he still managed to get in a scolding about not writing back yet (though he claimed to be giving her space), suggested that they see his "counselor" though I have explained that this would not be appropriate, and performed his usual parting shot with a closing sentence that basically says he's eager to work on whatever her problem is (not exactly those words, but he always manages to put it all on her in the last sentence). I guess by "improving" I mean he is saying less of the crap he ought not to say. Unfortunately he has not added anything that would indicate progress toward building a relationship.

I'm tired of him popping up at random, so I drafted a polite but direct response saying that his random emails were unsettling ME, laid out that he sounded like he was scolding her, laid out that they would see HER therapist when the time came, laid out what he could work on to pave the way for that meeting, explained how his closing statements can be perceived, and I edited his email down to what I wish he would have written instead. Oh, and I told him that *I* would go to see his counselor with him, though I would not disclose anything my wife had wanted to tell him.

I shared it with my wife, and sent it off. I got back a businesslike response saying he was sorry it was unsettling to me, thanking me for my "effort", and letting me know he would take it up with his "counselor"

When we snuggle in the morning, my wife and I take turns holding one another. I love it. When it is my turn to hold her, we both lay on our right sides and I drape my left arm over her. She takes my arm and positions it across her chest and sort of hugs it. Usually she puts my hand on her right upper arm, but recently it's more on her chest. I have made no indication that I have noticed difference because: 1) it's subtle and I could be wrong, and 2) I think she is best served if I roll with it and see where she takes us.

The interesting thing is that I assumed that the progression would be that she would get more comfortable with touch and then begin to initiate touching me more often, and then we would progress to physical intimacy in the usual way. But given her history of having to please others, maybe the progression is that she will continue to have me please her through our existing touch and beyond, and eventually will initiate touching me more often. I could do that.

Apparently it was the right choice.

**Triggers-mature sexual content**
This morning we were snuggled up in bed, me behind her with my left arm draped over her and my hand on her right shoulder. She seemed to purposefully shift so that my hand was on her breast.
**End Triggers**

We snuggled quietly like that until it was time to get up, when she hugged my arm to her in such a way that it was clear that she felt good about it. We didn't talk about it - I just rolled with it.

This is important because that sort of touching was always part of sex or a request for sex, to be rejected or endured. It was never safe touch before. I know it might not be safe all the time, but it feels wonderful to know that another barrier to being close to her has been breached. I was able to hold my wife in a very natural and comfortable embrace without having to avoid accidental touch.

I imagine she will experiment with creating healthy boundaries around it. I will do my part by assuming nothing, following her lead, respecting her limits.

June 2011

My wife and I had some time to talk the other day. She's telling me that she is tired of working so hard in EMDR and the therapies, but that her priority is to work on our physical relationship now, for me...and us. She added, as she always does "Whatever that will be". After that, she says she wants to close this chapter and take a break from working so hard on her abuse issues for awhile.

I am somewhat heartened by her priority, and I think her plan to reach a goal and then take a break is reasonable. I guess we'll know when it is time to pick it up again.

I'm not sure what our physical relationship will look like either. It really is up to her. I'm probably as worried about it as she is - we have something really nice going now, and I fear the specter of sex will change things. We have some very safe touching that we developed when there was really no chance of it becoming anything else. I guess we'll just need to have good communication and clear signals. I also worry about triggering her, which WILL happen. I look forward to her starting to define her own sexuality in some way.

We had a rough patch the other day wherein she got stressed and didn't orient me to all the things I needed to know about an event. As a result, I didn't do some of the things that she wanted me to do, and was even more stressed. Others could see that she was upset with me. I started to defend myself, but then I just politely told the others that I had not been told of these things (for instance, she left the tickets for the event for me in the house, but failed to tell me that she had done so - so I showed up without anyone's ticket. We got in anyway.). I did not enjoy the event much, as I was quite distracted by being sort of falsely judged as failing to do these things. Luckily it was a performance so nobody was looking at me. I chose not to react and was surprised to note that she didn't seem the least bit mad at me and made no attempt to discuss the issues. I guess she either realized that she hadn't communicated, or "forgave" me. We used to dissect these things, but I guess they pale in comparison now.

Couples' therapy tonight. We used to drive in together and would check in with each other to see what the topic of the night would be, but since we now have to come separately we have lost that. Instead I asked her this morning. She said she wanted to talk about our physical relationship. I thought that was a good idea.

When we got in to the therapist, my wife was quite chatty. I could tell we were not going to discuss our physical relationship tonight - and we didn't. Admittedly we have some other stressors right now, and my wife is feeling their weight.

It dawned on me that I was feeling some old anger about this. I think it goes back to when she would tell me we would have sex that night (probably to try and force herself to follow-through) and then it either wouldn't happen, or it would be clear that it shouldn't happen. I think today was similar because she told me to lock it in, and then backed off. I'm disappointed, but then again I don't want her forcing herself to do something because she feels obligated.

We'll get to therapy and my wife will begin the session with a recap of everything unrelated to the issues. I can't rush things along and tell her, "Let's focus on the main issues," because I don't want her to feel like I don't think what she has to say is insignificant. She has been forced to feel that way her entire life. Perhaps, just by talking about life in general, it shows that she is comfortable taking to the therapist and it may be easier for her to get through some harsh stuff when that time comes in therapy.
I do know that the initial chatting is just a part of getting comfortable and situated. I hope I'm not coming off as complaining about that, because I do accept it and I suspect it is quite common. For me the issue was the dawning awareness that there was far more than usual this time, and that my wife was not feeling ready or safe enough to deal with the topic she had suggested.

We've got a lot going on and haven't had much time together. I was involving myself more in my solitary projects and feeling irritated by interruptions - when I realized I was feeling disconnected from her. I made a point of having some time together to catch up and snuggle. That made a big difference. This is reminiscent of a few years ago when we had no safe touch and sex was infrequent. She would initiate sex, though she didn't really want it, because she thought I was angry and perhaps sulking and that sex would fix it. It worked, but it was because (I now realize) I was needing contact to reconnect with her. Now that we have the safe touch, I find that works very well. I may try to tell her when we get more time, but I may have to wait until our couple's session as this is the sort of thing that gets confusing for her.

For those of you who have been playing along at home: my wife and I are still on a hiatus from our couple's work and her EMDR in order to concentrate on a potential health issue regarding our young daughter. The issue is nearly resolved (one more system to check - expecting another clean bill of health) and we had agreed to restart therapies this coming Monday. She was upset with me when I asked to set a restart date, saying I seemed to be doubting her commitment.

I saw our therapist last week and she had asked if we were still planning on returning on that date. I said I'd ask. I did check in with my wife, carefully delivering my well-rehearsed inquiry. She responded in a way that seemed perhaps evasive and annoyed. Checking in with her later, she confirmed that she had felt pressured by my inquiry. *sigh*

Later she said she had a lot rolling around in her head after we had talked. Back-tracking briefly: a few months ago she stated that she wanted to make some progress on our physical relationship and then be done for awhile. Back to the present: It became evident that her goal had been to resume having sex of some sort, but was anxious and unclear as to how to start. Both the therapists and I had indicated before that this may be an indication that it is not the right time to work on this goal. I hadn't realized that she was trying to work out having sex again as a short term goal! She generally can only kiss me for a second or less, and she rarely will massage me even when I'm in obvious discomfort (though I massage her at least daily). In short - we're not ready for sex. She did have an interesting idea about maybe needing to address her own sexual development first, seeing as how it was interrupted and co-opted during her childhood. I agree with that wholeheartedly. It also became clear that she's back to seeing all this as a quest to start having sex for me again, which I have worked hard to dispel. I told her that my goal was to overcome as many of the barriers between us as possible. I said that this couldn't be about pleasing me, and that perhaps her goal was too much for the short-term. I said we seemed to have gotten by without sex for awhile now (almost 2.5 years now, though I didn't say THAT). I also said that I thought her idea about her own sexual development was a good one, and suggested that she and I had other barriers to attend to before we could even consider sex.

All that said, I'm full of mixed emotions. I'm mad. All this time wasted because she was hesitating at a precipice that she is not at all equipped to jump from. I wish I had known. I'm mad because she said she was committed to a goal and was angry with me because she thought that I was questioning her commitment - but all the while she was questioning it - and with good reason. I'm mad because I've been working my @$$ off doing both her tasks and mine in order to unburden her to do this work - but the work has stopped and I'm still working my behind off. I'm mad because I want to just tell her to forget sex, that I love her, that I'll never find the all good things about our relationship with anyone else, and that I won't leave her. Yet I don't want to say that. I DO hope to have a physical relationship someday, and I fear I will be resentful if there's no progress - or HOPE of progress. Really it's the hope that I need. If we shut it down, what then? For how long? How will I mourn and cope with that loss? I honestly don't know. I don't think cheating would be of any use - I want a close and committed relationship that includes sex. The latter is no good without the former, and I could never take the chance of hurting her or my family. I've got young kids who are our top priority. I don't want to hurt her, and I want to be emotionally available to her.

I'm hopeful that my wife will gain some clarity on this, but I think that the idea that she is doing all this in order to prepare herself to have sex with me is rooted deeply. Realistically, she needs a different short-term goal. One that is achievable and is about her. Maybe then she won't feel so much pressure and can make some sort of progress.
Last edited by Aspen on Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: Per our guidelines, added and edited trigger warnings
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Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by ladysslipper »

I have a number of thoughts to share with you that may help you understand what is going on in her head. Unfortunately it will be a long post and I do not have the time right now. I will come back later and post it for you. I just wanted you to know I hear you.
carpe diem
member since June 2007 more then 2000 posts
the husband
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Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by the husband »

Thank you ladyslipper. I'm fighting for a new perspective here.
the husband
Posts: 521
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:11 am

Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by the husband »

Tonight my wife and I were cuddled up, talking about our kids. Apparently our young daughter was asking my wife about divorce (a distant cousin's parents are having trouble - she's very fond of the cousin) and my wife assured her that we would be together forever. I was pleased to hear that, because my wife has rejected that sentiment from me in the past. I took the opportunity to reiterate that we would be together forever, and that she wouldn't need to do anything except to be who she is to make that happen. She said she knew that. This is a change from her earlier stance that she must prepare herself to have a sexual relationship with me - or lose me. This is also as close as I've come to saying that I am prepared to abandon hope of sex. I don't want to let that hope go, but the truth is that I am willing to let it go. That's not my preference, and there is considerable loss of connectedness involved, but frankly our relationship is amazing despite all the barriers. I confess to harboring some small hope that letting go will bring about change.

Edit: "Abandon all hope" isn't exactly what I mean to say...but I'm not sure how to say it. I don't want to give the impression that I doubt her resolve - I'm just not sure it's reasonable to expect a sexual relationship, and perhaps the pressure of it is keeping us stuck where we are.
the husband
Posts: 521
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Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by the husband »

We returned to couple's therapy today. It went well. She's going to be using therapy and EMDR to delve into her stolen sexuality. No couple's sessions for awhile, since my participation won't be needed just yet. I will continue on in my own therapy. I did tell her that sex should no longer be considered a goal or destination. We'll look at it again if and when the time comes.
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Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by Inka1 »

the husband,

I think removing the pressure is the best thing you could have done. I admire your resolve and restraint in this area. I don't know if this will help but I'm going to endeavor to put forward some of the things I struggled to cope with in my marriage. Not necessarily understanding my reactions but they were there all the same.

Not just in my marriage but in my relationship now, any hint of pressure when it comes to sex has an immediate shut down effect on me. It stirs a panic reaction. Whether it is to do with the abuse as a child, later rapes or not, it probably is, but the fact is, it doesn't matter how safe I feel with a person, partner instigated sex by verbal suggestion is a no no. It makes me feel selfish, ashamed and confused, which then in turn makes me put pressure on myself to 'perform'. Then its just a disociative event from which I'm absent, hence more guilt and shame and so the cycle goes on.
I could go into more detail here, but I think I've just exposed enough for now. Sorry
Never look down on anyone unless you are helping them up
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Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by Silent »

Hi The Husband,

I just wanted to say that you seem very caring and loving and seem to love your wife a lot.
It must be very difficult.
It seems you never wanted to pressure her but she pressured herself. I imagine too that regardless of what you say or do she will always have in the back of her mind that this is a hope of yours as it is normal and natural that it would be. That knowledge alone is enough to trigger me many times.
I imagine that is probably v common and agree too with Inka that any tiny sign or indication of pressure (even when my H does not intend it at all) just freaks me out and sets me back. It sounds right that she needs to work on some of the trauma first.

When digging things up I find this a no go area but imagine there is always hope if she works at resolving her trauma (I am guessing that is what you were alluding too at the start of the thread). Working on the bad stuff can be like decending into Trigger RA**
hell though so it is not always possible to be brave and plough through.
End Trigger **

At the moment I desperately want to be better but am avoiding going back to t as it is so v painful. So what I am getting at is that she may be really commited to healing for both your sakes but still find it impossible to do what she must at times. Its a horrible process and I am afraid the best you may be able to do is be endlessly patient and try to get the joy you can out of your relationship whilst she travels her v painful journey.

Abusers steal so much more than the lives of those they abuse don't they?
the husband
Posts: 521
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:11 am

Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by the husband »

Inka1: Thank you for your perspective. I sort of know that any pressure from me, or any perception that I expect this of her, is too much - but it helps to hear it put the way you have. I appreciate that you extended a little out of your comfort zone there, and I think it's okay. A cautious "therapeutic use of self" can be very effective without being too exposing. I don't think my initiating has ever been successful, but I'm sure I've tried anyway in the past. I will remember, knowing what I know now.

Silent: My wife is my best friend and the love of my life. I know that may sound syrupy, but it is the truth. She is totally worthy of my all that I feel for her and all that I do for her - though of course she doesn't see it that way. Again, I will heed your warning about avoiding any suggestion of pressure. I think I'm pretty good at keeping the pressure off for the most part, given that I've had a few years of avoiding any hint of sex between us, but I'm sure this would be more challenging if/when we get closer to regaining some sort of sex life.

She does describe her EMDR much as you say. She's definitely been digging things up - and she's so tired and raw from it. I think she's hoping her new path will be a different kind of exploration that won't be quite so harrowing. I expect it will sad more than anything, but it seems appropriate to mourn a loss that has been ignored for so long.
the husband
Posts: 521
Joined: Sat Jul 23, 2011 6:11 am

Re: A Husband's story (formerly "the husband's story")

Post by the husband »

There's seemingly not much going on with us, as she's doing EMDR weekly but we're not doing couple's therapy for now. The idea is that she has some things that she wants to work out for herself and will include me when she's ready. I continue to go to individual sessions, though I'm needing to take a new path in the absence of couple's therapy to process.

Something is different though. When we cuddle in the morning it feels more...genuine. I feel like she's really sort of melting in to me, enjoying the contact. It's nice.
Last edited by Aspen on Mon May 07, 2012 9:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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